Tuesday, November 20, 2007

African Dance Class

Sophie and I took an African dance class which culminated in a very informal show last night with the drumming class. It was a lot of fun and really great for me to step outside my area of dance expertise. It's fun to take something with no expectations but to have a good time. Normally in my dance classes and workshops, I am trying to master or perfect something. For this class, I just wanted to have fun...nothing to master or memorize or perfect. It was extra cool that Sophie and I took it together and got to share a bit with the family at the show.


Sparked by Madeline's graditude post day 2, I wanted to write about my graditude for this amazingly enlightened path we're on. Thankfully, the path has been forged by others. I am but a grateful follower. It's incredible how I continue to grow and learn and make huge leaps toward happiness, joy, and deep loving relationships with my kids. That's what it's all about after all...isn't it?

Max, my dear one, is incredibly sensitive. He feels things so intensely. When he was about 4-5 years old, he was very unsettled regarding death. He felt so strongly and was so sad that one day I would die. He did not want me to die before he did.

Max is also keenly aware of justice or injustice. He becomes deeply committed to an idea of how things should be...even when reality and facts are contrary to his belief. These are the times that are trying for me. Despite knowing it won't help, in times of stress I continue to try to reason with him and get him to understand how his thinking is incorrect.

This past week I did just what I don't want to do. As I was trying to explain and rationalize something to Max that he and Sophie were having a disagreement about, I continued to grow more and more frustrated. He just grew more and more angry. I finally had to leave it alone and walk away. After we both had some time to calm down, I apologized to him. I used the Five Languages of Apology to let him know how sorry I was and I was able to communicate my love for him. I would, however, have preferred NOT to have gotten into the predicament in the first place.

So, moving forward . ..We had several friends over here playing. The kids all generally get along and have fun together. In the basement, Max had his "Petopia" house still intact. One of the kids, aged 4, crashed into his Petopia house while on the scooter. Max told him it was okay, but to not scooter around it anymore. The child then scootered right into it again and destroyed it, saying, "It was just a stupid house anyway".

Max was beside himself. He came to me very upset. Instead of falling back on my previous behavior of trying to make Max not so upset, I listened and tried so hard to validate and hear him and just be there for him. I asked him what he needed. He told me. I did it. It was incredible how much stronger our relationship felt after this interchange than after the last. Even though he was still angry and upset about his house being destroyed, he was able to move past it because I wasn't trying to get him over it. I wasn't trying to rationalize anything to him.

Keep moving forward...my new motto from "Meet the Robinsons". I will never be done growing and learning on this path I've choosen. Is there ever a "done"? What happens when we become stagnant and unwilling to question or analyze our thoughts and actions? I hope I never find out. I'm eternally grateful to be a life learner.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ella's Special Time

Yesterday, we took Ella to Atlanta to have her special alone time with Auntie Nina. We won't see her until Thanksgiving, so this is a big deal.

Ella got some new shoes for the trip and took a picture of them on the way to Atlanta.

Auntie Nina is John's sister. She loves the kids so much and is so good to them. She started a tradition where she takes all of the kids, by themselves, to Atlanta for a very special trip. She takes them to the aquarium, out to a fancy dinner, stays in a fancy hotel, etc. So it's Ella's turn, and she is so happy!

We met Nina in Atlanta at the Center for Puppetry Arts and left all four kids with her to watch the puppet show while John and I did some pantry stocking at the Natural Foods Warehouse.

After the puppet show, Nina took the kids to Centennial Olympic Park for some ice skating.

When John and I arrived, the kids were having the time of their lives. Not only were they loving the ice skating, but they were having so much fun together. They had all banded together to make Ella feel safe amongst all the people. This was the first time Sophie, Max, and Ella had ever been ice skating, and they all helped each other out. Alex and Max worked on some fancy dance/skating moves. Sophie spent the first hour helping Ella around the edge of the rink. When one of them fell, there was always a sibling lending a hand. It's hard for me to describe the overwhelming sense of joy I felt watching my kids be there for each other.

John joined the kids on the ice and showed off his wicked skating moves.

I miss Ella, but am so happy for her to spend this time with someone who loves her so much. When I talked to her this morning, she told me she missed us all but was really enjoying the luxury!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Room with a View

The hill leading to our hiking trails
Looking down on our driveway
Max's picture of his favorite tree
The view from my bed as I wake up
Looking out over the deck off our bedroom View from the laundry line
The laundry line
I love waking up every morning to the incredible view out of my bedroom window. I feel so lucky to have ended up in what I consider paradise. We've made a lot of sacrifices, and have had some good fortune to be here. Almost 10 years ago, we decided to become debt free using Dave Ramsey as our guide. This decision, although racked with several beater cars and living very frugally, was the best decision we ever made. It allowed us the freedom to make choices. Choices that led us to a new life, many new shifts in our thinking and in our parenting, a career for John that has allowed him inordinate amounts of time with us, and finally, to our little paradise.

Traveling Friends

Last weekend started the beginning of two months of us either traveling to see friends and family, or friends and family traveling to see us.
I love traveling, but for people to have us as guests, they have to be willing to be a bit cramped. It’s a lot to ask to put up 6 people. This means that the people we visit have to really want us to come, and we have to really want to be there.
It’s interesting as I think of the folks we have ventured forth to visit. Most of them we see maybe once a year, or sometimes once every 5-10 years. Others, we are privileged to get to see on a more regular basis.
This leads me to contemplate the relationships I have maintained. I truly believe the people in my life are there for a reason….we serve some purpose for each other. The ones we are drawn to, the ones we make extraordinary efforts to see, no matter how infrequently or the distance between us, defy logic, at least to me.
Sometimes, the reasons why I need these people in my life, or they need me in theirs, are not clear. Sometimes, years into the relationship, I discover why this person was meant to be a part of my world. Sometimes, it’s clear from the very beginning.
I am so looking forward to the time I get to spend with some of these special people in the next few months. I am grateful they put up with my whole clan, as well as all of my little idiosyncrasies.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hanging out with Friends

The Belgian and the Englishman
Happy Family
The hostess with the most-est

Gillen with the wind at his back

Friends at the farm
Ingredients for Farm Soup...and of course the Bushmills

Making Farm Soup
Alex's Masterpiece... Delicious!

I was so not surprised to wake up this morning, check my favorite blog pages, and discover Madeline had already posted about our incredibly fun weekend at their house. She's good. What can I add that she didn't already say?
Oh yeah, for those that don't me...I'm a talker. Especially when I have someone who I not only connect with, but have sooo much to share about. I felt like the kid who isn't allowed candy, and then for a weekend, all the candy in the world is available, so he eats and eats because he's afraid there will be no more candy at the end. I talked and talked, afraid of not getting everything said before the end our weekend. Poor Madeline! She had no idea I could talk that much!!!

When I wasn't talking, we were having such an amazing time. Their home is sooo homey and comfortable. It's the kind of home where you instantly feel at ease. This is obviously a result of the people who live there. They make you feel welcome and completely open up not only their home, but their lives to you. And I never saw the old rugs, but their new FLOR was beautiful.

And I loved being understood when we were having meltdown issues. Someone who just let us go through what we needed to go through...I love hanging out with unschoolers!

We had so many laughs. Especially "It's business time". If you haven't seen this Flight of the Concords YouTube video, check it out. Warning!!!! This may not be suitable for young viewers. Don't however let this stop you from watching it. It's hilarious!

I am also all about the stories. I love, and have always loved hearing people's stories. How they got to where they are, how they met their true love, how they decided what to spend their time doing and pursuing, how they came to parenthood, and then parenting, etc. In between all of my talking, I did get to hear Madeline's, and Nicolas's, and Gillen and Jesse's stories. I always knew, even before meeting her, that I wanted to know Madeline. I am so honored that we are friends.

Then there's the baseball game. Madeline and I had to be convinced to go play. I ended up having a blast, and Madeline turned out to be our ace in the hole. She hit more RBI's than anyone else!
Their farm was beautiful, and we loved the personal tour by Nicolas. He's really good at what he does, and is so passionate about it! So much so that Alex was inspired to create his soup later that day with all that he gathered.
I can't wait to go back ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shifting Cycles

Mindy Blogging Alex DS-ing

Sophie on American Girl

Max DS-ing

Ella working on puzzles

We've had a really busy life cycle lately. It's been a time of the kids wanting to stretch and try new things. This usually manifests itself in signing up for various activities that take place away from home. I enjoy these activities and what they bring into our lives. I do, however, get tired of having to be anywhere on any given day.

My life as an unschooling mom has spoiled me. I so love the freedom to do something on a whim, or to do nothing at all, or be industrious around the house. Having set activities limits our freedom, and we all begin to feel the itch when we need our life cycle to shift.

Usually, after a period of time doing lots of activities, we shift cycles into spending a lot of time at home, in our soft clothes (aka pajamas!) This time is usually punctuated by cooking, baking, gaming, watching tv and movies, etc. We are shifting into this cycle right now, as Fall approaches.

We generally get the itch again to shift cycles, and we spend a considerable amount of time traveling and visiting friends and family.

This cycle also ends, with us wanting to spend time at home, again in our soft clothes, with nothing expected of us and with us not having to be anywhere on a regular basis.

Then we're back again, to the cycle of wanting to try new things that take us away from home, out into the community, learning and growing. I love that our life allows for us to do what we know we need at any given time.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Certified Dancer

Well, my dance weekend went better than I expected. I left for the trip feeling worried that it would be about judging and deeming us worthy...the experience was anything but and sooo worth the time away from my family and the money I spent.

I loved getting the opportunity to learn directly from Carolena. All the nuances and motivations behind different moves were made very clear and I loved it. It is humbling to put myself in the role of student...having to get moves or parts of moves and then dance them. I tried to just be in the moment and not worry too much about writing things down. I loved following Carolena. She is such a strong and beautiful leader. I truly felt honored to dance with her.

I also met some very cool ladies from around the U.S. We met up each night for dinner out and had some great conversations that helped me clarify my purpose and future goals as far as dance is concerned. Their wisdom, experience, and advise was an unexpected and truly welcome addition to my dance certification weekend.

Thankfully, in the end, the Certification was not about getting the piece of paper. It really was about experiencing this revolutionary woman in person, and having the opportunity to learn from her and dance with her.