Sunday, November 28, 2010

5 more days

Five more days until the chaos returns. It will mark the end of a 52 day trip for the boys. Nico is no stranger to long trips away. In fact, for him, this was the second long trip this year. Back in March he went to Taiwan with his other grandparents for two months.

For Lucas, this was his first time spending more than one night away from me. At first, I was a little concerned, since he is generally pretty clingy to me. He proved to be every bit as independent as his brother, though.

The boys are having a fabulous time, and really getting to know themselves, and their grandparents. I have come to the conclusion that it is a wonderful thing my kids can so easily be apart from me and their dad. I want them to be strong individuals, who know they have the love and support of those around them, while mainly relying on their inner strengths. It is not healthy to become too dependent on any one person, or people, in ones life. I may not always be around, and I feel a lot better knowing that they can be happy with out me.

With all that said, this trip has been a whole lot harder on me, than I ever anticipated. I think I have come to rely too much on my boys. I have missed them, oh how I have missed them. But I have also missed the friends that we've made together. If it weren't for my boys, I wouldn't have but one or two friends. Because of them I have met so many wonderful people, and I can't wait to start getting out of the house on a regular basis again.

Trips like this are great for the boys, but they're also good for me. I've realized that I need to start pursuing my own passions again (if only I could figure out what those passions are!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is normal?

The other day while talking with my mom about my boys, I made a comment about how they don't really have rules at home. Her reply, "Well that's pretty obvious!" kind of shocked me. Here I thought my boys were normal, fairly well-behaved four and six year olds. Obviously I've missed something, so I later asked if she could elaborate.

What exactly makes it obvious that they don't have rules at home? Well, she has to tell them repeatedly not to run in the house. They don't follow directions with out first asking why?. They run off in the grocery store.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds like pretty normal four and six year old behaviors to me. I mean, does anyone know a six year old boy who doesn't have to be reminded of some things a million times? And, why shouldn't they ask why? I am not raising boys who blindly follow authority. They have every right to know and understand why something is expected of them.

To give my mom some credit, she did admit that their behavior is likely to be normal, but since she hasn't been around such young children in some time, she isn't the best judge of what normal is. And, she doesn't have a whole lot of experience with boys, since she raised all girls. However, she did remark that she thinks the boys need rules and boundaries.

Take the grocery store for example. My response to the boys running off in the grocery store is not to bring them with me. She seems to think if they never come with me, they will never learn how to act appropriately in a grocery store. I beg to differ. First off, I can't always make it to the store with out them, so they do get exposure to it. Second, does she really think they will go their whole lives running in stores. Just because they are not mature enough now, doesn't mean they will never get there.

I recently read an essay, House Rules by: Anna M. Brown over at Ms. Brown came across a family that had five pages of house rules written out, along with punishments should the rules be broken. Every moment of these children's lives were mapped out for them in dos and don'ts, with punishment, fear, and intimidation used to force compliance. She asked the question, "How can you find *who you are*, in that type of environment?"

I feel my job, as a mother, is to love, support, and guide my children until they no longer need me. My job is not to dictate who they are, or how they should spend their time. I parent with that in mind. When I tell them "Don't play in the street." it is not a rule, it is advice I am passing along to them. There is no fear of punishment. No intimidation. No forced compliance.

At the end of her essay, Ms. Brown suggests five simple house rules to replace the five pages she found earlier. These are the only rules I would ever consider incorporating into our family.

Trust yourself and your intuition.

Pursue your passions with abandon with the knowledge that you are supported and loved.

Ask for help when you need it.

Express your needs and trust that they will be met.

Live, Love, Learn

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

10 Things

I didn't send my boys 1200 miles away just so I could get a much needed break. Mostly I did it for my mom (she needed the company), but also for all those wonderful things they could experience being some place new. Here are 10 things they have done/seen/learned so far.

1. Took a ferry boat across the Mississippi. Yes this is something we could have done the many times I have driven the boys to visit my parents, but I never thought much about it.

2. Making home-made noodles. I just don't have the patients or equipment to do this at home.

3. Experience small town life. We live in the city, and there are a lot of perks that go along with that. But there are drawbacks too, and I'm glad my boys get to see how simple life in a small town can be.

4. Visiting the Hulston Mill. My dad is in charge of restoring it, so they have been spending a lot of time there.

5. Building a damn. They wanted to do this at home, but we don't have any streams around here they could use. Luckily, there is a perfect little stream running behind the Mill.

6. Lunch in St. Louis with their cousins. They usually only get to see their cousins once a year, but since they were so close they arranged a day visit.

7. Building a birdhouse. My dad is something of a wood worker, and has this awesome shop set up. He gave Nico some spare pieces of wood and nails, and let him build the roof to a birdhouse. Lucas gave up quickly, after smashing his thumb a couple times with the hammer.

8. Learning to sew. Well, Nico learned to sew, after a tear developed in one of his stuffed toys. He found he enjoyed it, and continued on to sew a pillow.

9. Discontinuing bad habits. Lucas has successfully stopped sucking his thumb, thanks to some helpful advice from his Bushia (Bushia is Polish for grandmother).

10. On a walk to the park, they saw a deer hanging in some one's front yard, half way through the process of being skinned. They walked over to take a closer look, and Nico now knows what the inside of a deer looks like. This is something they would have never seen here in the city.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Strange Habits

One of the best parts of having children is that you get to pass along all those peculiar habits you've developed over the years. When other people seem to enjoy them too, they start to seem less strange. You can say, "See, I'm not the only one who likes...."

I suppose, like most people, I have many habits that others might find a bit odd. One of them is that I cannot eat plain vanilla ice cream. I have to have something else in it. Usually hot fudge and peanuts, or a mountain of crushed Oreo cookies. But when none of that is available, I have a go to solution. Just add milk and stir.

I know what you're thinking. Milkshake! And essentially yes, but really it's more like a Milk Float. I scoop the vanilla ice cream into a cup, add milk, stir by hand, and then eat it with my spoon, instead of sipping with a straw. (If you're thinking about trying it, here's a side note: You can't use a bowl to add milk to ice cream, because as you stir, the milk will slosh up and out the sides, and you'll end up wearing more than you eat.)

So last weekend, we ran out of peanuts and I couldn't have my ice cream the way I really like it. Tim, knowing all my wacky ways and loving me anyways, made me one of my cups and brought it out to me. Matthew sees it, and gets curious. "Why are eating ice cream out of a cup?", he asked with that you're totally freaking me out look on his face. After explaining my quirky custom, he is intrigued and decided to try it too.

Fast forward to this weekend. After dinner last night, the words ice cream are spoken aloud. Matthew rushes into the kitchen to request his in a cup with milk. SUCCESS!! That's one peculiar, wacky, strange, quirky, and slightly odd habit that has been successfully passed down to the next generation.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Learning from Others

One of the things I love most about free-schooling*, is that my boys can learn from anyone. Currently they are off visiting their grandparents in Missouri. They've been gone more than three weeks, and have another four weeks before returning home. Most people I talk with say they can't imagine spending that much time away from their kids, and I will freely admit I've been falling deeper and deeper into depression with out the lights of my life being around. But I refuse to let my own needs hold back my children. I want them to explore this wide world, whether I am by their side or not. I know they are in wonderful, loving, capable hands. And they are learning things there, that I couldn't offer them here.

I find it's wonderful that my parents are so supportive of my educational choices. When telling their friends the boys were coming to visit, the first response, of course, was "What about school?" To which my mom proudly proclaimed, "They are home-schooled." When my aunt found out how long they would be staying, her response was "So you're doing home-school with them?" I love that my mom said, "Well they learn everyday." It's great that my mom and dad get a chance to see how learning can happen naturally. They had grand plans of things to do with the boys, but found that life got in the way. The first two weeks they didn't do anything planned, because the boys found their own ways to spend their time. Really, who could have planned that they would spend hours pounding nails into the porch, and loving every second of it? Or creating paper armies, and having a battle ensue across their living room floor? Things like that, just can't be planned.

I've often thought that my mom would have made a remarkable home-school mom, if only she had had the time, money, support, and confidence in herself to do it. I'm not sure if she ever thought it was an option for our family. I certainly never thought about it while I was growing up. But looking back, I can see how I learned more in the time spent with my family, than I ever did in the public schools I attended. I am grateful that I have loving, supportive parents, and that my children are getting the chance to know them.

*I came across the term free-schooling recently, and decided it's a more accurate way to describe what we do, as opposed to unschooling. I think when people hear the term unschooling, they assume no school or anti-school. Where as free-schooling is just how it sounds. My boys are free to school how ever, when ever, where ever they want. So from now on I will only be using the term free-schooling.