Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Family is Family

My family is growing up, we are changing, we are growing - together. We are creating wonderful family memories, and I am just in love with them all. 

the three of us.

All my boys trying to sword fight - even at the beach! 

The kids enjoying their ice cream cones at the waterfront. 

LittleR took this picture of herself. 

The boy loves to be naked!
Unschooling, the theories and practices, are leaching over into other areas of our parenting and it's been wonderful. The kids no longer have 'bedtimes' per se, instead they have a time in which they have quiet time in their rooms. They are welcome to read books, play lego quietly or talk to their sibling. We did this for a couple of reasons. First, it's their bodies and their sleep schedules and they do need to learn some autonomy. Second, there is nothing anymore that says they need to be up at a specific time so if they want to sleep in they can. Third, everyone's sleep schedules are different. Some people need more, some less, some sleep better in early evening, some are night owls - who are we to impose these on the kids, why shouldn't they be able to figure it out on their own. If, when they are older, they get involved in something that requires them to be up at a certain time then that is when they will learn to do that. Part of unschooling is learning how to do things when you need them or when you are interested in them. I would rather my kids know their own sleep needs then for me to arbitrarily tell them they need to go to bed at a certain time because I say so.

They have been swimming oh so many times this year and their abilities in the water have progressed so much. They have gone to water parks, play grounds, beaches. We have taken them on day trips up island, evening visits to another town because we are able to stay up later for these things. We have had picnics and done so many things. Memories are being created.

The three of us are also doing well. We are communicating better and I am getting used to involving glassman in my mental illness so that a) craftymama doesn't have the whole burden and b) we cna begin to build a relationship on trust. We all share a room now, though that has been the case for a couple of months. Glassman still has a room downstairs with his shit in it that is really just taking up space that we could use for something else. We need to fix that. We are happy :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Healing

I started therapy last week. I also had my first reiki session. I am trying to make big personal changes; "take chances, make mistakes....get messy" as The Magic School Bus always told me.

It took a good 4 or more years to get my bipolar under controls, to get the actual hormones and chemicals in my brain to work closer to how they are supposed to. Now I am trying to get my Borderline Personality Disorder things under some sort of management, and to do that I need to face some of my root issues, some of the mistakes that I've made, and some of the mistakes of other people that I have been a victim of.

Therapy will help with the more...surface issue. I am hoping to learn mindfulness. I am hoping to learn some tools to help when things get overwhelming, as they frequently do, or when my gut tells me to do something that I really know I shouldn't be doing.

Then there is my spiritual healing. I firmly believe we all need to take care of our spiritual health, it is vital to happiness and to success. What better way to start taking care of myself spiritually than by having my energy cleansed and refocused through Reiki. Now, do I believe it is the be all end all of therapies? No, I don't think anything is. I merely think it is a tool in a journey.

I am also hoping to do a short mindful self compassion course in October, as well as my Vipassana Meditation in November. I am also really hoping and trying to make the right connections to attempt an ayahuasca ceremony as I have believed for years that doing so would strengthen my core and allow me to grow. I am also attempting to meditate at least 20 minutes per day - though that is proving difficult, and my therapist won't be happy I haven't been doing it because it was part of my homework.

I am also trying to remove negative people from my life, and not let people treat me poorly just because historically that's what I have taken from them. It's a challenge, and it is sad. But it must be done.

On a semi related note, I went and saw the movie Inside Out with BigR and K as well as NanaJ and my niece who was in town. K and my niece had so much fun together, and I know my nephews and my boys would get along together so well, what with their love of soccer and lego - that I have invited them all over to my house for a weekend to hang out. I think it'd be fun and my house is big enough to house them all. I haven't heard back from SisterE yet, but I am hopeful she will let our children be close even if we can't be.

Speaking of Inside Out though, it was a great movie for showing kids how emotions work and how every emotion is valuable and important. There were so many feelings during that movie, and they expressed the emotions so well. It was just such a great movie - I really enjoyed it, even though it is supposed to be for kids.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Then and Now

About 5 years ago
Today





















How the hell did this happen? They are all so big! There is another one of them! Same swings, same kids, same park - completely different life now. It went by too quickly, it always does. In 5 more years, I will look back on today's picture and be amazed at how little they are now. It's all perspective. All the days are painfully the same and yet little by little they grow up and become the amazing people they are becoming. I am so proud of each and every one of them for forging their own path and being their own individuals. They are strong children. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Activities

So we are almost, almost, done signing the kids up for some activities this coming fall.

BigR will be doing Boy Scouts. We did originally have him signed up for this while living in Cobble Hill but that troop or group or whatever it's called folded and we didn't find a new one. He is excited to earn badges and really enjoyed going for the short time he went. He is also really into playing guitar, as he was front row at the Keith Urban show at Sunfest this year. Glassman and I will have to break out ours and maybe show him a thing or two - if I can even remember.

K will be doing Girl Guides. We wanted to sign her up for a St Johns Ambulance Cadets Group - so she would learn first aid, and all the medical stuff she has really been interested in but after trying to make contact with them for several months we have given up. Guides will be a good opportunity for her to talk to people, which she loves doing.

M will be going into Soccer. Honestly, I do not look forward to this. Being a soccer parent, I hear, is cold and wet and it's a very long season. But he really wants to do it, so who are we to say now based on superficial kind of pathetic reasons. He is a natural runner for his age because he is so tall and has always loved watched soccer so this will be a good fit for him I think. He is also excited about cleats - he really wants cleats.

LittleR..there is the tricky one. She did the equestrian camp and I would love to put her into that but its out of our price range. She is also doing rock climbing right now (both gifts from grandparents for her birthday) and she seems really good at that - she has always loved to climb. K has influenced her into wanting to take dance but anyone call tell she doesn't actually want to do that. I don't know what to put her in, like at all. We could stick with rock climbing, but it is a bit on the expensive side as well. Ugh, I just don't know - but registration dates for things are closing in on us fast.

As for J..well his interests consists of nursing, cars, trucks, chasing kitties, grandpa, being wrapped on my back and the water. He will continue to do those - unscripted. He is also becoming quite the swimmer - kind of. He is walking on his hands while kicking his feet in the water and when it gets too deep he like flails his arms around, without being scared, to keep his head above water. I am hopeful he will be our kid that won't go through a being terrified of the water phase.

As for activities for the adults...well, glassman continues to work on his novel, or a new one as he finished his first and is letting it sit for awhile before proofing it. He is also working on some short stories. Craftymama is working hard on her center for education - networking, planning meetings, advertising etc. It's really coming along and she is putting a lot of energy into it. I'm proud of the both of them for following their dreams. And me? Well, I'm still plugging along trying to figure things out for myself as a person and what not. So, I don't really do activities, I kind of just exist at the moment.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Piggy Backing on a Previous Post

I posted before about letting our children be their own people. Craftymama has been reading this book about What every parent should know about schools - and I read a chapter of it last night, and was not surprised, but reaffirmed in a lot of things that were mentioned.

One of the quotes that stood out to me was:

"Our lack of trust in our children points to something even deeper - our over-identification with them. "My child is an extension of myself. If they look bad, I look bad. Their performance is a reflection of my parenting""

We don't trust our children, as a society, to pick their own direction, their own educational paths, their own activities - if any. Instead, we thrust them into a building for 8 hours a day for forced education on facts that don't really matter to them, that they will never use, and will forget as soon as it's not needed anymore.

When they do poorly at school, we are embarrassed to tell our family, we shame our children, we may even blame ourselves for not pushing them hard enough, not spending enough time on homework or goodness knows what other reason we, as parents, will find to blame ourselves for. When they do well, we sing their praises - we tell people, we congratulate them - whether or not their good performance was indicative of actual effort or merely luck. We teach them, by our own reactions, that their value as both a student and as a person comes when they perform to a certain set of standards and give the answers that are expected. Their worth as individuals should not come down to whether or not they can regurgitate information onto a sheet of paper, their worth as a person should come down to more intrinsic values (kindness, empathy, compassion, honesty etc) and children cannot and will not learn that if they are not given the opportunity to.

I trust my children to learn these values. I also trust them to fail - which is something very personal I hope to touch on soon here. I trust them to learn the things they need to learn to succeed in life. They are their own people, they are not extensions of me. I may guide them, I may assist them, I may nurture them - but at the end of the day they have to be able to stand on their own two feet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Education Reformation

A few months back I posted THIS entry about letting my kids be their own people, letting them develop their own interests and personality, and being proud of whoever they are and whoever they become.

A way we are honoring that commitment to our children is by an education style known as Unschooling. It is something that appealed to me back when K was little, but after meeting Craftymama, and the chaos of having so many kids, we didn't think we could do it. Craftymama had always been into the Waldorf style of learning and after seeing the kindergartens I was sold on it too. I should have taken more stock of the grades program - because that wouldn't have sat right with me. Every child, however, should have the experience of a waldorf kindergarten. Not necessarily in a waldorf school - but the environment of being made to feel important, not less than, developing strength and confidence and imagination - it was a wonderful experience, and I am genuinely sad that we pulled LittleR a year early and that J won't get to go at all.

However, once we got to the grades, all the things that I hated about school began popping up. They even did for Craftymama who wasn't sold on the idea of unschooling when I first proposed it back when we were friends all that time ago, Initially we just pulled BigR out of school and Craftymama attempted waldorf homeschooling him - they were both miserable. Slowly, almost organically, it grew into more unschooling. I will admit, I was nervous. She was so against it before, and to now see her embracing it felt...well...I don't know how it felt, but I was nervous for it's success.

So what is unschooling? Wikipedia tells me that, technically:

"Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including playhousehold responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. While courses may occasionally be taken, unschooling questions the usefulness of standard curricula, conventional grading methods, and other features of traditional schooling in the education of each unique child."

For example, one of BigR's first educational breakthroughs came in the form of a book he put together all about Egypt. He practiced his writing, he learned history, he learned about different cultures - all because he wanted to - there was no force, no coercion - it was pure interest.

When it comes down to it and you really think about it, all the most vital and important skills children have learned have not been forced or coerced out of them. They learned how to suck, whether from bottle or breast on their own. They learned how to roll over, how to crawl, and then how to walk - simply because they had a drive to, a need to. They learn a language, their first language, purely by imitation - on their own. Learning happens organically. By sending our children to school, where learning is something that is forced upon them, we are teaching them that learning, that education, has to happen within the confines of a crowded room, during the hours of 8:30-3:30 5 days a week. By instilling in them a love of learning, we are showing them that this learning can happen anywhere, at any time, from any one. There doesn't need to be a prescribed teacher, a perceived God of knowledge who holds our children's futures in their hand. We can direct our own futures. We are in charge of our own education.

Does this mean that our kids play all day? Well mostly, yes. However, there is a wide spread belief that a large part of learning occurs through play. There are also important, non 'educational' benefits to play as well - they learn cooperation, problem solving skills, group dynamics, conflict resolution and a whole host of other skills that are essential to being an adult. However, they also learn. They learn what they are interested in. They each have different styles - BigR is meticulous and wants to be perfect at something before going onto the next. K jumps around from subject to subject, not really mastering anything but gathering a huge abundance of information about a lot of things. M and LittleR are still little - they have interests, but they are short lived. They are working on reading, and writing - but we don't make them sit at the table and do it all day. They ask Craftymama to make out copy sheets, or read lines from books for them to copy. M is really into Star Wars, I have been learning a lot about Wookies and Han Solo through this.

That's the other important thing. We are not afraid to say "I don't know" to our children. That phrase is a door opening to a whole new subset of knowledge and possibilities for both us and our kids. When we have to go on google and look something up - they learn and we learn. We are showing them that this process never stops. It is never too late to learn something new.

Is this adventure a bit scary? Well yes. We are throwing our complete trust in the education of our children into the children themselves. But there is empowerment in that. Empowerment for them to take control of their own lives. It is a different road, but we certainly aren't alone, there are a lot of unschoolers, radical unschoolers, democratic schoolers, and free schoolers out there - all holding a common child led belief.

If we don't let kids take some control of their lives, their bodies, and their minds now - who are we to thrust that upon them at 18? What skills have we given them when they hit that magical age that will equip them to deal with being adult and being self sufficient and self motivating. It is our job to prepare them. That's why we have chosen unschooling - because we feel it prepares them the best, and gives them the best chance at a happy and successful future.

Monday, June 29, 2015

What a month!

This month has been a whirlwind! I mean, June is already a busy month what with both R's birthdays...but this one takes the cake.

I would like to write more about the kids' education plans, and I hopefully will - but for now..just the bare bones.

At the beginning of June we lost our second car. We had already lost old crappy, and then the cradle on the white car rusted out and was shot. It would have been over two grand to fix it and the car isn't worth that much. It was crushed into a cube. My amazing work has been allowing me to use their extra car, but we were still without a way to get glassman to work. So..he went to live with his dad and rode a bike to work every morning. He would come home on weekends to see everyone. It was awful. All the kids, especially J missed him terribly. All the kids made him something for Father's day - it was adorable.

On June 10th, Big R celebrated his 9th birthday.
This is how I remember Big R. This is what he looked like when I first met him. Obsessed with cars, strong believer in gnomes and magic, silly, and just a joy to be around. Nearly immediately after meeting him I began to be around him and part of his upbringing every day. By the time he was 3.5 I was living with him, and becoming his mii mii. I will never forget the first time he called me that. I cried. I feel honoured that he has accepted me and loves me the way he does.
This is Big R on his birthday. Cars are boring. He has no time for 'boring adults.' He got an Ipod Shuffle as a gift and he likes listening to it and drowning everyone out. He still plays pretend every once in a while, and he still really wants to believe in magic. He is a very intelligent, very quiet boy. He is very sensitive and very in tune with his emotions. He feels strongly. He is growing up. It's scary and amazing to be part of that process.


Little R's birthday was on the 24th, but inbetween these two days some things happened. So, we our lease was originally up on June 15th, the landlord agreed to extend it to the 30th because the little kids weren't done school until the 19th. On the 23rd, Craftymama is in contact with me because the landlord is there freaking out and yelling at her. She is having a panic attack so I leave work and come home wherein the landlord and I get into an argument. He demands that we leave immediately. He calls me liar. Accuses me of a bunch of things. Threatens me with jail. I no longer felt safe in the house and neither did craftymama. So...we got a truck. We called glassman home from work and we started packing. My employers showed up with 3 trucks and 3 men to help us as well as dinner. I cried from their generosity. We loaded up a moving truck and a pick up truck in 5 hours and were done. The truck was stored at another friend's farm, with the pick up truck stuff in storage there until we could grab it. We then went to craftymama's dad's trailer and stayed there for a night before they told us to use their house and they would stay at the trailer.

So the next day, the 24th, is Little R's and Craftymama's birthdays.
This is my squishy. She was short and she was small and she was loud. She grounded me and brought me more into myself. Her birth was amazing and powerful and an experience that I will hold onto for as long as I can. She nursed and wanted to be with me - all the time.
Now she is my Little R. She is still short. She is still loud, and she still wants to be with me and near me all the time. She follows me around. She is feisty and she has opinions (especially about bananas). Her currency is cookies, she loves cookies. She is her own unique weird person now. She says weird one liners that I also hope I will be able to store away and remember as she gets older. 

This is also craftymama who celebrated her birthday on the same day. She is an amazing mother to our children, and an amazingly beautiful woman. I cherish every moment I get to spend with her, and she has helped me and supported me so so much over the past years. She is stronger than even she realizes. We fit - and its wonderful. 

So, we were going to go back to the house to clean, but the landlord has forbidden us from going on the property. He made accusation of theft and called the RCMP. He refuses to return the security deposit and has told us we owe him money for utilities but won't show us the bills. He also has our mail. I am not sure what happened. A week before this happened he had talked to the landlord of our new house and given us a glowing review and said he was sad lose us, and then a week later this happened. I'm thinking something has happened in his personal life and he is taking it out on us. I am trying to have compassion, and trying not to feel angry - but its hard. 

So we lived at Craftymama's dad's for 3 days and then our new landlord let us move in early to the new house - thankfully. So we did that on the 27th. Glassman and I unloaded the truck, we set it up. We are just missing the stuff from storage as I need a pickup truck to grab that stuff.

It's wonderful to be back in Nanaimo. We're home. This is where we should be. It sucks that I am commuting to work every day - but I love my job and I work for amazing people, and I know in my heart that my home and my family are in Nanaimo. 

It's been a whirlwind of a month between birthdays, cars, and houses. But I have been surrounded by amazing people who have held me and lifted me through all of this. The world continues to show me that it is a good place, even when I am in my darkest of times. It continues to provide me with examples true human compassion and empathy. I just need to remember all these things. 

Life is starting over - again. We are here. We are adjusting. We are home.