Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Okay stop right there. All we know about the child is this. She is 15 and has carved the word "empty" into her forearm. What can we infer?

She is white, middle to upper middle class. She's been in day care and then school her entire life where she was taught things that were supposed to be important, have value, and matter. She owns every electronic gadget available and has been online her whole life. Her parents are vapid, driven, and both work hard in jobs that make plenty of money. She has not been consistently fed real food. If the family goes to church, its of no consequence. There is no moral structure in the family. She is bright, she's gotten old enough to divine her own truth, and she sees it clearly.

“Our current version of success is a failure”

Wendell Berry goes to visit the wood drake under the day blind stars when he wakes in fear for the lives of his children, seeking the peace of wild things. I revisit all the new choices for parenting: hold them when they cry, sleep near them, don't leave them, feed them real food, practice non violent communication, teach them to thoughtfully question authority by thoughtfully questioning authority, and do it all with love rather than grim marching duty to archaic value structures and blind obedience to empty social values. Allow the children to grow as other mammals grow, in contact with the peace of their own ancient wise abiding inner wildness.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Daisy was 8 weeks old when we adopted her from a shelter in Texas. Her first veterinarian gave me a life changing piece of advice. At the time we all believed Daisy was mostly Australian Shepherd. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't. Its of no consequence in any way. And looking back, I wonder if it was just a line the vet used to get my attention.

She said, "I raise these kinds of dogs and I'm going to tell you something very important. You can not yell at these dogs, not one cross word, until they are 6 months old. They are very smart and their psyches can't handle it. Listen to me now, because I'm serious, no yelling until she is fully 6 months old. If she makes a mistake, simply ignore it."

The idea that anyone would yell at a baby is now shocking to me. The truth that I have yelled at a baby is deeply shameful. In fact, I yelled at the puppy we got a year before Daisy, plenty and often. I wanted to train her well. Her name was Hazel and she was trained fairly well. And she was a basket case who later became unmanageable. She was profoundly confused about the need for aggression.

Few of us think of ourselves as cruel. We can all admit to anger and fear, if we are honest. But few will admit to cruelty. And I believe most of us never intend cruelty. True experienced psychopaths do intend cruelty. Cruelty gives them pleasure--or allows them to feel something, in any case. 99% of us are not true psychopaths.

But anger and fear are the handmaidens of cruelty. And most bad parenting is born of unchecked anger, fear,  and an ego-need for dominance. Genuine cruelty is perpetrated over and over and over in our society from these three simple universal feelings: fear of death, fear of looking like a bad parent, and a desperate need for control through dominance. Fear is most often expressed as rage, if not anxiety.

I'm not a follower and I rarely heed direction the first time I hear it. Usually, directions must be repeated a few times before I can hear them, much less follow them. I'm accustomed to figuring everything out for myself. Perhaps because I was raised with a deep conviction that adults are stupid and untrustworthy. Which...yeah, is basically true. So I don't know why I listed to that vet. I didn't even like her very much. She even dropped one of my dogs once. But I listened to her advice that day as if the very voice of God had descended into that dark ugly little room.

I never yelled at Daisy. Not once. By the time she was 6 months old she was so well behaved and solid, she no longer required any discipline. Mammals need love, an understanding of boundaries, and a good example. That's it. The rest of parenting is learning to control yourself, not the baby.

Friday, July 27, 2012

 I love it when my kids are just a teeny little bit sick or very tired. Which is ill of me, I know. But when they feel bad they want extra love and comforting. They get so snuggly and cuddly and willing to lounge. My girl was completely shot this afternoon from having a sleepover last night. I wanted to keep her awake two more hours, so she could eat dinner and sleep all night, so I asked her if she wanted me to read her a story. And she did! So, with the same intonation I used when she was a toddler I said, "Go get a book!"

She came back with "The Velveteen Rabbit." Such a good choice. I read the whole thing while she listened at my shoulder and we admired each illustration. It was pure deliciousness. Right up till we got to the part where the Fairy of Nursery Magic wraps the Velveteen Rabbit in her arms and they fly off into the night forest. I paused and asked if the Fairy of Nursery Magic had maybe taken Jenna in her arms and flown off with her. Then we got the giggles thinking about the rather macabre image of a sweet little woodland fairy trying to fly with a 3 pound bitty baby. And then if Jenna were alive in the woods somewhere right now... Dear Jenna, a baby with Bramble going for rides back in the day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At 3 o'clock this morning I realized I need more inspiration. I need to think less about heavy dark problems and more about fun things. Why is this so hard for me? I've been online since 2005 and since that time more and more of my life is focused on my computer screen. Partly because I'm home all. the. time. And partly because I've become so desperate to not spend any money. B.C. (before computer) I spent a lot of time browsing bookstores and craft supply houses. Recreational money was mostly spent on books and art supplies. Which used to be a rather furtive guilty pleasure and I worked hard to stop it. It seemed frivolous and false, like maybe I was pretending to be an artist? What a sad point of view. 

And a big mistake. Creativity is stimulated by browsing and by surrounding yourself with tangible possibility--fabrics, yarns, paints, stardust, and fae folderal. Browsing opens your life to serendipity and spark. It knocks on your subconscious, opens doors and windows, pokes around. Its a cheerful fresh constantly renewable way of life. As a mother, its much better for my family when I can facilitate a sparky and fresh attitude. Surfing the blogs of other mothers trying to bring some light and creativity into their homes is helpful.

But for some reason, though it would seem like surfing the internet could offer inspiration for free from your couch, computer time isn't so fresh and sparky. Browsing simply doesn't work as well online. This is not my rule, its a thing librarians have also noticed. Something was lost when we pulled our hands off the card catalog and put them on the keyboard instead. Its just less sparky, for some mysterious reason.
Personal connections online are wonderful. But turning away from the screen to focus on positive ideas, helps bring a whole lot more snap and vibrancy back to my family's life. Fabric in the hand is worth a lot more than fabric online.

We are considering Couch Surfing our way to New Mexico this winter. The idea is as sparky as it gets, the perfect marriage of the internet and tangible inspirational real life. Couch surfing would dramatically increase our possibilities while there. Perhaps a mother/daughter night in Santa Fe? Perhaps a quick jaunt up to Taos? When ITS ALL FREE, why not? Now there is a fabulous cheerful thought full of open possibility, something fun to think about, and oh so much better for my family than brooding on the news of the day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dear Girl, years ago, making perfume. She was about six. 
We are deep into the summer doldrums. This is inside weather, our boredom time of year, the hard part. School kids may be out for summer. We are locked in by oppressive weather. We party spring and fall. Those are our outside glory days. The winter gloaming season and long days of summer's moist firey breath are the slow yawning days of longing where children complain of nothing to do, mothers begin to fret that maybe unschooling doesn't work, and boredom slinks in to the rescue.

Boredom is the bland gelatinous base of discovery. We have a day to fill and nothing much beyond a desire to avoid the car and the air outside. If you can hold off screens just a while, you'll begin to see lovely things happen. A kid breaks out forgotten colored pencils. Library books are read. Lolling around on the couch leads to lovely relaxed discussions, ideas are kicked around, projects spring up. One kid decides to approach a new instrument. The other kid volunteers lessons.

The kids and I decided to begin arithmetic lessons at Khan Academy today. It was fun. It felt exactly like school, if school happened in your living room on your own terms as you were laughing and joking with your family. My presence isn't necessary to the process. But I enjoy being near that kind of learning. Its a thing you can almost hear or feel in your skin like an electric current, when the children engage and begin to soak up new stuff. Today math felt like the combination of a new language and a puzzle to explore rolled into one thing. It seemed sort of fresh and kind and doable. Here is our project for summer, then. Others can call it school, if they like. 

Why shouldn't learning feel good, fresh kind and doable? And why not tackle such a thing when its too hot for much else? October is for the beach! July equals one plus one plus one more exploring inside. 
Noticing a bit more of this happening everyday. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

I spend most of my time reading. Reading online is like falling into a maze of worm holes most of which are empty, vague. The internet is hypnotic and addictive. It pulls me out of my body, out of the house, and leaves me wanting only to fall through more worm holes. Invariably I come up worried, with a sense of having lost time on earth, and behind in duties of which I'm no longer aware.

Reading books is always specific, detailed, congruent, and often moving. Books locate me in my body, give me a yearning and sympathy for the world with a craving to get involved. Such that, getting up to wash dishes or drop salt water in a chicken's eye feels like the next right thing to do in a day, after some reading time.

Reading books inspires me. Writing online and viewing images also inspires me. Reading online is a huge danger zone for me, no better than watching vapid television, a lifestyle I used to shun.
Recently seen: "creativity takes courage" Ain't that the truth?

I've been up all hours and finding myself inspired by SarahJane, a children's artist. She designs fabrics and her style leans nautical, traditional, vaguely preppy, and sweethearted. Its been so long since I indulged fabric whimsy. Resist. RESIST! resist? Uh oh, also see: Alewives Fabrics

I'm unclear what to do for the sick chicken. She's spent three days in an egg box resting. Every time I go check on her I'm braced to find her dead. Yet, she keeps improving. Though, in a worrying tentative way that doesn't inspire much confidence. She doesn't move much, sleeps all day. She puts her face down sometimes. A face down chicken is just not what you want to see.

For two days I could get her to eat nothing. Then, this past evening, Dear Girl convinced Face Down Chicken to drink several sips of milk. Nothing would do but milk straight directly from the goat, still warm. Tulip was happy to oblige. Dear Girl has the touch.

I held our chicken in my lap this afternoon and bathed her face in warm saltwater. Her feet feel fevered. The swelling on the side of her head is receding. Her eye socket, though, is not even close to opening. The clump of bloody dried goo isn't even my concern. Its the color of the situation, the wrong texture, and the swelling. But worst, its her most tender tiny small little moans of pain that only happen when I'm trying to help. I put her back in her box.

At night the baby chicks crowd around her for bedtime sleepovers. Like children piling in around grandmother. Tonight she put a wing over one of them, their beaks rested side by side on the lip of the egg box, face out to the fresh evening air.

I fear I'm not helping. Not offering help is worse, though, isn't it? First, do no harm.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Watching "Lord Of The Rings" tonight.  Some of us just waiting for scenes with Strider. 
 Jackson seems to get a lot of attention during tv time--distracted love.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I had one goat too many and sold Nutmeg yesterday. I let her go for $40 less than I wanted. But the buyers paid in cash and I feel confident they will provide an excellent home. I was paying too much for grain and producing too much milk. Meanwhile, the goats are in a too small space and I have no desire sell milk from such a small set up. Plus...milk customers are an ass pain. I won't sell milk to strangers again, until I can set it up properly. 

Its funny how a little bit too much can really screw everything up. All things in proportion, eh? What I'm learning about micro farming is to keep it micro. Do what works and let go of what doesn't work.

In other news, our last Plymouth Rock is not well. She woke yesterday with a head wound that has one eye swollen shut and is leaking goo.  Not good. My first impulse was to chop off her head. But jeeze, I feel like the Red Queen: "off with their heads!" My second impulse was to bring her inside for rehab. But is that really kindest? She put herself in a safe quiet known place in the coop and was resting. Would taking her into a completely foreign land (full of dogs and cats, I might add) make her feel better? Or would that make me feel better? In the end, I decided to mix raw milk and tincture of golden seal into a small ceramic cup. I administered small sips through out the day. She didn't get worse. If she improved, it may have been only through the considerable powers of my imagination. Or possibly through the homeopathic dose of alcohol she was getting off the tincture.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I milk the goats twice a day. Its my job but I expect the children to help. This morning my son decided to get started without me. Its possible he believed I was about to start anyway. But no matter, he didn't wait for me. He went on out and got started.

I have a friend whose baby didn't speak until he was 3 or so. Everyone wondered what was wrong. I never wondered. They would not acknowledge a word until they heard an actual word. Perfectionists! Bah! If the baby said "buh" they didn't reply with "Book? Did you mean book?  Book! Good job!" They didn't reply at all because they hadn't heard a word.

It should probably be admitted here and now, publicly. I really hate perfectionism. Its the root of evil. Brain surgeons are allowed their perfectionism. Everyone else can suck their ego driven neurosis, self included. Anyhoo....

My last goat chore this morning was raking out their yard. I moved the stock tanks we use to hold their hay, so I could rake behind. And there, with the effect of a miniature lightening bolt, I found a coiled baby copper head. This is a creature born potent and perfect. What to do? Should I kill it?

I called my son over and gave him my tall boots. We crouched behind the snake to see more clearly its triangle shaped head and pointed nose. We stared at the pattern. We noted where it was found. We looked and looked all the better to sear recognition in our neurology. Then we went on about our business. What good in killing this one? There is a nest of babies close by, so obviously, a breeding pair as well. As there always has been and so mote it be. Live and let live, I say. But its time to mow the lawn.

Later I walked into my son's room and told him initiative is its own reward. But I'm proud of him. And I handed him five bucks. Praise the attempt with positive reinforcement. Train them in the way you want them to go. Ignore failures and missteps. Believe in their best intention.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I had a good conversation with an old friend yesterday, about loss and the future. For once, we weren't really talking about children at all. We were talking about being middle aged, facing increasing loss, and how to approach the next half of our lives. I've dealt with loss and grief, steadily, since I was about 10. For her, its all new.

Grief is not controllable and always a shock. After many losses I noticed a predictable pattern grief took in my body. Years later I began to practice acceptance about the whole situation which lessens the physical pain...somewhat. Perhaps it simply intellectualizes the pain. Because grief symptoms used to hit me in the middle of my chest. Now I get an instantaneous headache, small, behind my left eyebrow, very unlike sinus or migraine pain. Perhaps sort of like learning not to scratch chiggers, my body has learned to mostly ignore the initial blow-through explosion of grief? Except for this immediate pointed locus in my mind which warns: here come the weasels. I cry less and feel somewhat less seared, I can let go faster, yet I've become angrier.

It took me till recently to understand that grief, itself, does not require extended mourning. Neither does society. And you do not love less nor become a bad person if you let go of grief as fast as possible. When you can, when you are ready. (sigh...) It is okay to let go of grief. For some people, grief can become ritualized or can turn into hoarding, both of which conflate spirit with material things.

Who wants to roll into the second half of their life grasping, burdened, desperate for meaning, looking back more than forward, lonely, sad, or angry. Not me. Especially not the angry part. I want to be one of those happy expansive old people that seem large, somehow, and full of light. I want to spend the second half of my life engaged and willing, not in denial nor clutching.

Love does not reside in things. You can not shelter yourself from pain without becoming numb. And its good to have a plan for your failings. One of my failings is anger. If I'm not careful, anger could transform from a mere failing to a companion. Much in the same way denial can turn into a house full of objects that mainly serve to keep you from feeling fear or sadness. Anger and denial both serve their good purpose but make bad traveling companions.

Note to self: let go. Its alright. Practice love instead. Or art. Or both.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I gave a shot today. I had to gauge, angle, stab, and press. An action I've feared for years, I can't believe how easy it was. Though, as I turned to walk inside and throw the syringe into a safe trashcan, my hands shook a bit. The mortal shell is so flimsy. The shock of the thing was just how easily a needle slips in. Its nearly nothing.

Last night Dear Husband had to dispatch a chicken with an ax. It was an emergency situation performed in the dark quickly as an act of compassion. He is no hunter and hates killing things with axes. After, the head is always such a pretty thing in its grotesque and horribly wrong way. How can there be such a pretty wrong thing? A right thing in a wrong place, I suppose. You're left staring, a bit in shock. Though, not so shocked or as staring as the chicken.

I've been changing, losing my interests in roses and vegetables. I would like to fall-plant beets, carrots, and spinach to harvest overwinter this year. I will always plant basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers in the summer. But I felt nothing but bored harvesting green beans yesterday. There is about $50 worth of over ripe beans in a basket on my kitchen floor. And I don't care. I don't care about the unharvested chard. I don't care about vegetables so much anymore.

Turns out, I am a carnivore. "I NEED MEAT" to quote my Dear Girl when she was only two. Maybe the passion of our personalities burns through carbohydrate too fast? I used to think I wanted to grow most of my vegetables. And, knowing the fundamentally basic way both my husband and I don't want to kill anything, I planned to always buy meat. Now that I have experience growing vegetables and meat, I find I am FAR more particular how the animals are handled. Their lives and variables are long and matter a lot more. I can trust farmers to not spray their zuchinni. Beyond that--meh--who cares if they talk nice, hustle with an ax at the right moment, are attentive to the subtle details of vegetal existence? I find I don't. And no vegetable is richer in bio-available minerals than raw milk. Fresh eggs from free hens, a moral roast, meat for less than a hundred dollars a pound. Even though vegetables are beginning to rival meat in price. I suppose its time to step up a rung on the great ladder of farming wimpiness. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Homeschooling: is it hard, is it easy? I think life is hard and homeschool is what you make of it. The burden of homeschool resides in the parent's psyche. If you want to stress over it, there are thousands of ways and I may have tried them all. But the simple truth is, on average, healthy children grow smarter naturally. There are a few things you can do to enrich the process: food, love, consistency, providing a rich environment, trying not to be an arse-hole. Beyond those things, parents and teachers are all flying blind.

Curriculum doesn't matter. In fact, if you spend a lot of time and trouble teaching, the children are most likely to learn lessons you didn't intend. Which shouldn't stop you from teaching if you feel moved to teach. But go gently and keep in mind, it doesn't really matter which things you try to put in them. In other words, all insects are beneficial.

Each child is mysterious, knowledge is infinite, and we have no idea how learning happens. The timeline of institutional education is arbitrary and unnecessary. No one knows the future. And success is a nebulous vague slippery concept at best. If happiness is the best measure of success, teach that. If you simply must teach, Happiness Through Kindness, may be your best shot at a curriculum. At least, its the topic I most need to study.

If a kid wants a formal class, wonderful, let them take it. If its enriching, all the better. If not, dump it. One of the few specific lessons I've taught my kids is to never suffer bad teaching. Hard teachers, yes. Bad teachers, no. Don't waste your time. Move on. Keep moving. There is plenty.

We all want to parent best. Usually, even those of us who are criminally wrong would prefer knowing how to do it right. Unfortunately, humans do not have access to that information. Unless the answer is teaching love. So relax. Let go. Do less. Teach kindness. And pay attention to your specific child without fear. They will show you what they need.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

 Wow, you wouldn't believe how that bass rings. Hopefully the start of something new and fun...
After all, every great old time low down back woods holler band has to have a hound dog. Good boy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Buy it, read it, have your life changed for the better through understanding and awareness. The end.