Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I spent a month in England with AFS when I was 15, and a month in Greece with my Aunt when I was 13. Which has been on my mind because my kids are getting older. By 13 I had an unusual (absurd) amount of freedom. So I reflect on who I was, what I was doing as I became a teenager, and compare that life to that of my children.

In London one evening, busy ignoring a production of "The Pirates of Penzance," I spent most of the play flirting silently with an usher across the auditorium. He ended up keeping in touch, writing me poetry, and eventually visiting in the states. That's some fairly serious flirting for two people who never said a word face to face. In the end, though, he was mostly accent. The eyes really can't say it all.

Which shouldn't stop a girl from trying. In 1979 in Athens Greece I showed up for dinner in the hotel restaurant wearing pants. Where I was promptly asked to leave and return properly attired in a skirt or dress. Women were not allowed to wear pants. Its good for my daughter to hear such things, and reflect on the immediacy of history. (She's currently reading The Evolution of Calpurina Tate about a dress rejecting girl from the 1800s.) Dinners there, at that time, lasted several excruciatingly boring hours. One can only fiddle with iced butter curls (unsalted!) for so long before giving in to broader horizons. I spent all the time I wasn't eating moussaka silently flirting with a busboy. We stared and stared and STARED at each other, never saying a word. Days later an older waiter followed me into an elevator and pushed a piece of paper into my frightened hand with the name and (I assume) address of my friend.

Alas, I don't read Greek so I never wrote him or saw him again. My daughter asked why I didn't just have it translated online? "Because online hadn't been invented yet," I responded. There were no computers. And people were allowed to walk on the Acropolis. Which I believe was closed to foot traffic very soon thereafter.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My car died so until we get a replacement (possibly tonight) I'm not out and about. Its easy for me to discount the work I do at home. But being somewhat stranded (I'm not truly stranded--many folks around to help if I need a ride) makes my work more clear. I can't get to the store, but I harvest more than a gallon of milk and fresh eggs here a day. Today I pulled a bunch of beets, enough chard to share, and a cup of blueberries out of the yard. There are fresh flowers to cut. And yesterday I made fried flower fritters out of the day lilies in bloom. So the work I've been doing here matters. We have plenty. And its looking beautiful outside right now.

Which is good to say out loud. Because taking on a car loan sucks, mentally. Physically, I have nothing but 100% gratitude that we can take a loan. But I hate to spend the money. I feel constantly guilty about not earning wages. And often my job here at home feels invisible or superfluous...or something less than. Less than a career, I suppose.

Mark Twain said, "Despite the cost of living, its still a popular option."

Friday, May 25, 2012

 Presenting Dear Tulip, Alpine/Oberhasli extraordinaire.
 She is giving upwards of a gallon of milk a day. And she's a first freshener. We are delighted to have her. 
I come to you with Strange Foam.* When you milk into a bucket the milk froths up. Then you strain it into glass jars and put those in the freezer to quick chill before they are moved to the fridge. Often I'll take the last bit of milk, too little to dirty a jar, and pour that into a coffee mug which gets set in the freezer with the tall warm glass jars. Always there is a good inch or two of foam in my cup. And it freezes--strange foam, breakfast.

*The Indigo Girls come to you with Strange Fire. This may not look like much if you never saw them live. But Amy Ray could flat silence a rowdy crowded bar. I'm a bit of a performance snob and I'll tell you, few hold it over Amy Ray--unlikely little Christian lesbian. They were awesome live.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back to the sweet consistent truth of reality (sweet in that truth is reliably itself, and sweet because my people are home.) Dear Boy has a mouth-full of metal, not only in a musical sense. Dear girl is arranging her own social life these days, whisking around in a blue wigged blur. My camera left for vacation without me, and returned home to unpack four images, each a variation on this theme:
See all those knees? The knees move me. Of course, mid May in the South Sea Islands isn't going to be all that hot. You can tell these dear folks sitting on the porch in the shade aren't exactly sweating. When we went to the beach when I was a girl it was always blazing hot--a kind of dehydrated perpetual inescapable hot which would truly defy the imagination of my children. They've never experienced anything like it with their ready access to a/c, a constant flow of appropriate drinks, and parents who prefer to vacation in the civility of off-season. But this picture puts me in mind of a time when no one would ever consider putting on long legged light weight cotton pjs. They hadn't even been invented yet. My childhood was bare kneed the whole season, naugahyde vinyl, barely potable tap water, and ice houses. Ice houses sound like relief but smelled like the fish house next door and, in any case, offered a product verboten insofar as children were concerned. Ice picks are "dangerous", styrofoam coolers must remain closed, and ice was only for making Salty Dogs or Canadian Club on the rocks.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Vacation day six: dark almond salted chocolate for breakfast with black coffee and a glass of goat's milk. Dark almond salted chocolate for lunch with strong mint tea and another glass of milk.

Fresh sheets for everyone's bed. Laundry done. Dishes washed*. Planted horseradish, fennel, pineapple-sage, and (in a nod to our souls) purple cosmos. Fresh roses on my window sill.

*Actually, that's lie. The dishes are totally not done...just saying.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A new goat has joined our flock. Her name is Tulip, she's a two year old first freshener Oberhasli/Alpine mix. Pictures to follow--as soon as my camera returns from the beach!

Twenty fertile eggs arrived today, carefully marked and placed under our broody hen. If she is determined to sit, then sit she shall.

One more day and my dearest angels will return home. Oh, how I have missed them! Hurry home, my loves.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"chase and label the wrong things"
a found poem
vacation, day five

Friday, May 18, 2012

I'd like to revisit a post I wrote on my old blog five years ago. My children were quite small, so the dynamic of my life was quite different. I'm busier with much realer adult work these days. However:

All this time at the computer threatens to overwhelm. Life happens more richly away from the computer, and my kids are not here. But my kids do not benefit from my omnipresence. It would be a huge mistake to imply to the children that I should entertain them.

Folks say constantly, "You are homeschooling, I could never do that!" Please understand, every time you say that to a homeschooler they are thinking: Honey, I could never spend that much time with your kids either. That is a little insider tip for you. How do we do it? We keep ourselves occupied in an adult world, partly to give the children space and time to learn how to fill their own world, and partly to keep from drooling and sagging--both mentally and physically. Have you noticed how much homeschooling parents knit? And blog? But knitting and blogging and keeping ourselves occupied with our own passions model that behavior for the kids. It is so obviously true its a cliche: they will do as you do, not as you say.

Part of the work of homeschooling is to appear industriously engaged in the grown world which, we all know through painful trial and error, is nearly impossible to do. Because at the same time, your actual job is to live under house arrest in service to freaks, trolls, fairies, mermaids, Pokemon's, spilled milk, fleas, ticks, and eventually most of the sacred and profound thoughts and emotions ever to fleet across this "ruined cathedral" (to quote Haven Kimmel). As near as I can tell, you may knit or blog in the mean time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

 Francis Bacon in the year 1625:
"Avoid envy, anxious fears, anger fretting inwards, subtle and knotty inquisitions,
joys and exhilarations in excess, sadness not communicated." 

Avoid subtle and knotty inquisitions? Wow. I tend to run straight for them. I should stop that.

My best friend died this time last year. We had known each other well since age 6 and been bffed upped (ffedup) since about age 14. I knew her better than anyone. When she died we were estranged for the first time in our lives. No one--not her extended family, our mutual friends, nor her husband understood why. To our community, I look as wrong as wrong can look. I look like a person capable of abandoning a dying woman. Which I believe she calculated and intended. She was profoundly wounded emotionally and mentally way before she ever got sick. But who she was underneath all that unrequited trauma, was beautiful.

The day she died I went shopping alone in Tractor Supply. I wandered in there for a few hours, wearing sunglasses and weeping quietly on the dog food (canis lupus). I fell asleep in so much pain that night I awoke and fainted. The drama was large in me and her. But in truth, I was also relieved when I realized she is gone from here forever and she can never hurt anyone again.

In the supply store that day I bought two stock tanks for my children to play in, which they did with great joy all summer long. Now those tanks feed my goats--one for each of them to hold clean hay and provide lovely dry wind sheltered ground for naps. (Who doesn't want to nap surrounded by food?) Its only today I see them for what they really were that day last year: black, coffin shaped, twinned vessels, the negative space of unspoken truth.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vacation Day Two

I woke early to a slow rolling drenched thunder storm. Is there a nicer way to wake? Miking at my house is impossible in such weather--we have no sheltered stanchion and goats hate to get wet. Plus, I was out of coffee. So I pulled on my summer clothes, my husband's trench coat, my Keens, and I left in the rain for the market.

I bought food for the week: a bag of apples, a tub of fresh guacamole, a bag of coffee, a ciabatta loaf. (Mostly, I'll drink fresh milk, eating eggs here and there from my chickens.) In the name of frivolity I also bought some flower seeds and a new magazine. Which I read while I drank a cup of coffee at a market table. As I read, the weather cleared.

Crossing the parking lot under grey and blue skies, the air smelled better than your favorite food, almost as delicious as baby skin. This kind of rain reminds me of my maternal Grandmother, the beach, and how much I love to move through the world at times and places most humans avoid. I drove home feeling an expansive love for my family and gratitude for the sensuality of creature life on this strange planet.

Yesterday I stood above the big dam on the river with my computer-met friend, Maria from Maine. We saw a bald eagle. We watched a baby turtle swim unaware of us--which, if you know wild turtles--is an astonishment.

My hound ate a package of chocolate chips last night. Then slept on the couch. He is such a good soul.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My family and I are vacationing in separate places this week, this whole week, all week long.

They've been gone two hours.

Hour one: tidied up a bit--just a bit, still ignoring a colossal catastrophe of dishes in the kitchen
Hour two: worked hard in the goat yard moving heavy sopping loads of old soiled hay, pulling vines, etc.
Hour three: started laundry. plan to pop one bowl of popcorn and melt a half cup of butter on the side--for dipping each piece individually, considering a shot of B&B as well.

Perhaps I'll rewatch the second season of Downton Abby as I eat this lunch. So I can make a closer study of the clothing!

Suddenly sad to realize, if you are surfing the internet looking for an introvert's quiet solace but you're sitting in an empty place likely to remain empty, its not really solace anymore--its just kind of lame.

My children have been attachment parented by two people who never heard that term, had no clue there exists a supportive community of attachment parents in the world, and really didn't understand any more than a fierce need to not leave them alone as babies. We did this blind, by seat of our exhaustion, basically alone. And on this day, hugging them goodbye, knowing they are off to so much fun, I can't say I'm sorry for the first time alone I've had in 13 years. But I can say, I am so grateful for every moment I never left them.

Monday, May 14, 2012

This kid begins orthodontic treatment today. Oh, I love you so much, kid. Hang in there. Its going to hurt at first but come round in the end. You'll see. Love, Mom

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yesterday my son finished another course of game programming and told me he wants to learn some foundation computer languages, specifically C++ and Python. Which is great. Right away I began to research and collect resources for him. If Dear Boy is going to teach himself programming he's going to have to learn some math in the process.

And my daughter asked, again, for more assignments from me. Again, she voiced her frustration and desire for more without any clear understanding of what more might be. She said, "I want assignments from you so that I'll have to try hard and do my best and work for a grade." I think that's a direct quote, close enough, in any case. My point back to her was that she's to study what she's interested in, that her education is her responsibility, that I'm here to help, but not drag, her along. I said her motivation should be internal. I reiterated traditional high school is always an option.

Which is true but beside the point of her feelings. Later, I realized what's lacking: feedback. She's never gotten any kind of grade or feedback. So I directed her to a "report card" of sorts. I think reading it helped her feel more relaxed.  We also discussed Math curricula and decided on Life Of Fred, which I will order. Along with Life of Fred and some books about programming languages, I bought a couple of adult math texts. Its good to expand and elevate any curricula, to get at information from various angles.

So life is good, the children are progressing, and we help each other along. As I sat on the couch updating my husband about their new interests and progress, our daughter was upstairs on her computer. She was writing an essay. No one gave her any writing assignment. But she needed to express her thoughts and feelings. Which she did eloquently and freely. She tried hard, did her best, and wrote a cohesive effective and stirring essay about the passage of Amendment One. She wrote more in one sitting last night, of her own choosing, than I likely wrote my entire 12 year old year--possibly more than I wrote in all of middle school.

She began: "Amendment One passed today. Wow. Love lost to fear. Who would have thought people could be so small..."

My Darling, people are ever so disappointingly small. But not you, not your motivation, not your skills, not your talent, and never your heart. I couldn't possibly offer you any kind of grade equal to the truth of who you are, what you choose, and how you learn. Grades are infinitesimal labels and assignments are a mockery compared to you and your brother's life.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Day Beautiful Girl!
For the last week I've been negotiating with a local dairy to work on their farm. I volunteered to work for free. They responded with a curious ambivalence. Apparently volunteering on farms isn't all that rare. I suppose, wwoofing proves this so. But they are hesitant to invest the time to train me if I'm not committed. And that makes sense. Though, they don't really understand who I am. I'm no dairy flibberty-gibbet. I'm in for a pound. Hell, yes, I'm willing to shovel manure without monetary compensation. And while its true that at my age I probably shouldn't and can't move 30 50lb grain sacks by hand, I have tons of cow talent. I start next weekend. And they have encouraged me to apply for a formal position.

I'm being forced to apply for a paying job, so I can continue doing the work I love. And it makes me feel skippy inside. I will be out of the house, needed elsewhere, working on my future. After 13 years home with children everyday, everyday, every single day, its time for me to branch out. The kids don't need me so much anymore. And I need more. Yes, I am a housewife who needs and has plans to get more.

But for these first 13, and in the next several years, my most important work and my heart is still home. Moreover, time together is all we have. If you miss putting in the time, its gone forever. You don't get it back.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

But Mama, we won't have any raw milk at the beach for a whole week!
That's true.
But I've tried and I just can't get all the way full without raw milk.
Well, you can make-do with grocery store milk for a week.
Oh no, that stuff is gross. I don't call it food. I can't drink that. 
Hum... Well I guess y'all can just eat a lot of ice cream instead. 
Or maybe I can get enough frozen that you can take some with you.
That would be good, thanks. 

Some folks believe feeding children raw milk should be criminalized as child abuse. For real. They really think that. Which just goes to show, there are very many different kinds of people in the world. If I tried to switch my kids to grocery store milk, they would accuse me of child abuse.