Tuesday, February 26, 2008


My friend's little boy died this morning.

I don't know why I woke up early, but I did. Maybe it's the sun... the approaching Spring... but around 5 a.m. I found myself staring at my little family all tangled in sheets as the cracks between the plastic slats of the mini-blinds slowly changed from gray to warm white light, striping across the faces of my husband and Bayba. Usually when I wake up earlier than necessary I get a little annoyed, trying to decide whether to attempt to go back to sleep and feel groggy the rest of the morning or whether to just get up and and get started on the day and then be totally exhausted by noon. This morning I was fine. I cuddled my two-year-old as she softly snored, burying my nose in her soft blond hair. She's still little enough to smell like baby shampoo.

Sometime, between cuddling Bayba and making room for Super G to climb into bed (already dressed for school), in that beautiful transition from drowsy peace to happy interaction, while I was holding my happy, thriving children, my friend watched her seven-year-old son take his last breath.

I have no wise conclusion. No words of wit or solace with which to close this post. Just sadness and loss. Grief.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gestational Amnesia

OK... I wrote the beginnings of a way-too-long-and-wordy blog, yesterday... and it's going to be a while before I can possibly sit down long enough to pare it into something worth posting. Not that I'm sure I'll ever get around to it. So I'm going to steal a few minutes from my needy two-year-old today to try to post the main ideas.

The title was great (if I do say so myself): Socializing and Socialization: Not Just for Kids Anymore.

The huge long rant can be distilled into a few main ideas. At first I recapped the main arguments I've read and heard from pro and anti-homeschoolers about (drumroll) SOCIALIZATION. Ooooooh... If you are interested in homeschooling at all, you've already been introduced to them. So I'll move on to what I think is the biggest legitimate socializing/socialization issue for homeschoolers.


As far as kids are concerned, the world may not be the ideal place full of limitless possibilities - but they probably won't figure that out until they're much older. And at that point, they'll be able to pinpoint every mistake you've ever made, as a parent, and why it's shortchanged them. Regardless of what actual decisions have been made and how much privilege they did or did not have.

Please tell me I wasn't the only teenager to do that.

But until then, the world is full of endless opportunity and excitement. Kids are amazing, resilient individuals who tend to adapt quite well to whatever environment surrounds them. So we, as parents, may obsess endlessly about doing everything right and giving them everything they need... but from what I can tell, mostly kids just need happy healthy parents who love them. The rest kind of works itself out, eventually.

I could argue both sides of the quantitative merits of playground culture and whether a child is better off being thrown to the wolves, as it were, in a public school setting - or whether a child is better off being sheltered at home. But there's no point. It seems to me that, whether playground or backyard, the healthiest choices lie in the middle of the two extremes. The kids who thrive in public school are probably parented in a similar manner to those who are thriving at home. Which is to say that they have involved parents who are involved and protective enough to advocate for the best interest of their children, while having enough of a life and identity separate from their children to be able to give the kids the space and autonomy to work out and process some of their own thoughts and relationships.

I have to admit that the majority of homeschooling parents (including myself) whom I know tend to fall into what I would consider the too-wrapped-up-in-their-kids'-identities side of the spectrum. It's a personal weakness of mine that I tend to default in times of stress or insecurity to a martyred-supermom caricature of myself. Everything is about the kids and what I'm convinced they need - which is always what I most lack. Being human, I tend to think that this is a trait which I manage to keep to a mostly-benign level... there are many moms I know who are much worse than I am. ;o)

But this isn't exclusive to homeschool parents. You'll find plenty of hyper-volunteering stagemoms chauffering their kids to a billion different functions. And you'll find plenty of Soccer Dads ready to beat up coaches or yell at referrees. Same thing. Except *just maybe* the ps kids of these parents might get a little more space during the day to breathe and think their own thoughts. Maybe.

Or there's the other side, which I haven't seen much in personal experience, but hear about endlessly from anti-homeschoolers. Those are the parents who insist that their kids be sheltered from the mean and unrealistic expectations of school and instead spend their days feral, forever stunted because their parents don't bother to teach them anything or take them anywhere. Before my unschooling friends start frothing at the mouth, let me mention that I've read the unschooling books and agree with many of the ideas. I'm not convinced that it works in practice... but I suspect that may be because of the bourgeois ideas I have about what success looks like. Well, I know that's a component of the difference... there are more, but that's a different discussion. My point is that I see this "lack" of parental involvement/direction far more frequently in public schooled kids. And it seems to me that these are the ones who suffer the most from social exclusion and academic frustration.

The bottom line is that I think worrying about which choice (home vs. outside-home) is the "right" one is beside the point.

If you want to make the best choices for your child, you have to start by taking care of yourself. Approaching any parenting issue any other way is absolute hypocrisy.

Every issue and question you have to deal with as a parent on behalf of your child is the opportunity to step back and ask yourself if this is really an issue or life lesson for your child... or if it's actually something you need to figure out on your own behalf, first. Chances are good once you get your own baggage figured out, your child will already have surprised you with his or her own brilliant way of taking on the world.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Homeschooling Manifesto

I believe that the ideal model of education for early to middle childhood is homeschooling.

Does this mean that everyone should pull their kids out of school and homeschool them? No. There are many legitimate reasons for choosing to send a child to public or private school. But in my imagery of a perfect world where everyone was free, poverty non-existant, and everyone treated equally and fairly, there would be (if you'll bear with the cliche) a village supporting the family unit while parents acted as the filters and purveyors of knowledge for their young children.

It might seem strange that I'm such a proponent of homeschooling. My one school-aged child is currently enjoying the adventures of being a public school student and I am adapting to the parenting dynamics necessary for helping a child with that experience. I am also trying to adapt to the idea that all of my children may wish to try the public school paradigm at some point. It's not easy. We're all learning as we go. At this point, my oldest is in public school because I believe in the superiority of homeschooling.

I think the ultimate point of education is to give the person the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in whatever adventures they wish to pursue. When educating children, we also need to give them the opportunity for a broad variety of experiences and the necessary skills to be able to figure out what life offers them and make the choices that will invigorate them and bring them satisfaction.

A potential lack of exposure is probably the primary potential weakness of homeschooling, as I see it.

Therefore, when G announced that she wished to try "regular" school, I agreed to help her pursue that experience. While it seems to me that this choice has seriously slowed her general academic progress, I have to acknowledge that there's more to learning and growth than "the three R's" and perhaps this is a season of her life when she needs to have the time to pursue skills and knowedge that aren't as apparently intellectual.

Meanwhile, she is ever my teacher as well, as attempting to determine how to advocate for her best interest teaches me ideological and emotional flexibility. Not easy lessons, but certainly important ones.

So this entry and those that follow may ramble a bit as I attempt to eke out my thoughts on homeschooling... which may not be of interest to anyone else, but the analysis of such will hopefully help me in my own decisions as time goes by. I'll try to take on some of the obvious and/or popular arguments for and against homeschooling as well.

I think I'll break topics down into idividual entries, when possible, to make for easier reading as well as simplifying the process of finding specific information, later on.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Live Like There's No Tomorrow

I had yet another midwife appointment, this morning. Not very eventful except that they have a midwifery student there today and I consented to let her do the exam (as opposed to the "real" midwife). The student was probably about my Mom's age and wearing a CTR ring. I saw the flash of the shield on the ring as she stooped to squish my abdomen around and asked if it was, indeed a CTR ring. She confirmed that it was and seemed pleased that I knew anything about such things. We didn't get into any deep religious discussion or anything - it was just kind of amusing (in a good way).

After all - I don't look LDS (no garments or flower prints - heck, I don't even wear a wedding ring). So I guess she wouldn't expect much "insider" knowledge, based on my appearance. And due to the environment (a female empowering midwifery practice with Goddess symbolism all over the place), I didn't expect a middle-aged LDS woman to be providing care (especially not as a student).

She did an excellent job; very thorough, good questions, very good listener, extremely competent vibe... I think she'll be a great midwife.

I just love it when people don't quite fit into the neat identity pigeonholes.

My Midwestern friend finally had a chance to update us, yesterday. Her son is still alive. He doesn't really talk much, anymore, and they had to find him a wheelchair because his balance center is too "off" for him to be able to walk. He isn't eating much, and the narcotic pain relievers aren't making as big a difference in his comfort as they used to. The poor little guy is in near-constant pain. All these details just blow my mind.

I can not imagine having to watch my child go through such pain and deterioration. Even trying to imagine... my brain can only follow the sympathy/empathy path so far and then it just shuts down. It hurts too much.

When I was fourteen and my Mom had cancer, I remember wishing that I could take it from her. I wished that somehow we could swap - I would have it so she'd be OK. I don't know if all teens are as ego-centric and self-absorbed as I was. It just didn't occur to me that such a trade probably would have made everything worse for her, not better. Of course, until you have your own children, you have no idea how different and more powerful that love is from anything else in human experience.

I'm so thankful for my children and for the time I have with them.

I've been seeing a lot, lately, about how people should live every day as if it's their last. I have to say that, despite the general timbre of this post, I disagree.

The idea of living like there's no tomorrow imparts a desperation and over-sentimentality that (in my opinion) diminishes experience, rather than enhances it. I absolutely think we can all benefit by living mindfully, being aware of ourselves and the world around us and cherishing life as it happens, rather than constantly rushing from Point A to B and Activity X to Y... assuming that we'll do what we really want to be doing "later" - when we're done with our never-ending lists of Things To Do.

But clinging to transitory experiences like they're our last is not the antidote to this popular way of Being. Living each day as if it's your last is anxiety-producing and sorrowful. It's still a way of moving through an out-of-control world that's acting on you - rather than meaningfully navigating conscious choices and savoring the results.

Yesterday I received the most recent edition of Yoga Journal, and one small article really caught my attention.

Just about everyone has probably read about how to conduct an audit of their personal finances and set a budget, so that a person can take responsibility for their financial life and use their resources more meaningfully. As far as I know, this is something that just about anyone would consider a good idea.

The article recommends doing the same form of audit on our use of time.


It totally makes sense. After all, time is the most precious resource we have - and one that can be painfully finite.

So my project for this weekend is to audit the way I use my time. I don't think I've been doing an effective job of allocating my time. I fritter away far too much of my time on things I don't care all that much about - TV, computer games, acting polite while letting other people bleed time away from things that matter...

It's been years since I opened up my oil paints. Half-written (or - worse - pages upon pages of rough outlines and research) novels litter random binders in dusty boxes of the garage. I don't get enough exercise. I read Yoga Journal but haven't dusted off my mat in months. I haven't been to the library in weeks. Ridiculous.

And if I'm not doing anything to take care of myself, what am I really giving to my kids? What am I teaching them?

This should be an interesting weekend.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Bayba slept through the night in her big sister's bed (as opposed to our bed), last night. I think maybe warmer jammies make all the difference. I'm not in a hurry to boot her out of the "family" bed or anything, but frankly I'm not sure how the logistics would work with having a nearly-three-year-old and and a newborn in the same bed. So we've been putting Bayba down in her sister's bed (after she nurses off to sleep) at night... she usually wakes up around 2 a.m. or so and climbs back in with us... no biggie. I have to admit that she's such a snuggle bunny that it's hard for me to sleep without her. There's something about cuddling with your kids at night that just makes the world seem right.

Meanwhile, my dear friend in the Midwest is watching her son die. It's heartwrenching. Every day I look at Super G - so tough and vibrant and full of life and energy and purpose - and I imagine what my friend is going through, with hospice experts and funeral planning as her seven-year-old boy deteriorates after almost two years of fighting this cancer thing. It certainly puts my own problems in perspective. Meanwhile, my heart aches for my friend and her family. She hasn't posted an updated, yet, this morning... and all of us in this circle of friends know that - if not today - one of these days that will mean we all have to admit the finality of this whole struggle. Not a happy thought.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"24 Hours" is a Couple of Weeks... Right?

It's been a week and a half, now, since Bayba contracted one of those "24 hour" stomach flu bugs. Knowing, as I do that the "24 hour stomach flu" is none of the things mentioned in its name, and that Super G came down with it shortly after Bayba, my first thought was that the culprit was probably the Wal Mart spiral-sliced ham I had skeptically made for dinner (I'm telling you, there was something funky about that ham... I couldn't eat any of it). However, the poor wasted ham (I threw that baby OUT) was innocent. I know because I managed to get this flu, too.

Let me tell ya - puke fests are limited fun at best, but add explosive diarrhea, 8+ months of pregnancy and non-functioning joints to the mix and you have a recipe for a party beyond the pale vestiges of Stephen King's imagination. I'm sure I've maxed the TMI meter already, so I'll leave it at that.

Yesterday I was finally functioning enough to move, so I sanitized every surface of my house as best I could. Super G vomited again, last night, though, so I'm guessing that yesterday won't qualify as my last big cleaning jag of this pregnancy. However, I did let G go to school today. After keeping her home for several days, I kind of reached an impasse. She seemed fine during the day. Pukes at night. I would imagine that all the other parents at the school would prefer that she stay away... but she's begging to go back... She appears healthy. *sigh* So I let her go.