Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Everyone tells new parents that babies are hard but teenagers are harder. Which is not true and a monstrous thing to say to someone already drowning in exhaustion and anxiety. Toddlers are harder than infants, but you only realize that later after the smoke clears and you have a second baby. Foot soldiers on active duty on the front line have it harder than parents, but that's the only harder job that comes to mind. Actually, being a cop today is probably harder than parenting. What drives people to tell this smug and ugly lie about teenagers to new parents? Selective memory? Jealousy?

Our society is terribly confused about who teenagers are. Teenagers are people, grown people. If you are  a control freak or hell bent on clinging to the days your children desperately needed you, you may think of teenagers as more difficult than babies. If you've bought into the idea that intelligence can only be properly nurtured through 13 years marched lock-step through the industrial military education complex, you may find yourself the proud parents of difficult teenagers. If you think of teenagers as contrary, unhappy, disdainful, and difficult you may find yourself the proud parents of difficult teenagers.

The teenagers I know are not like that. They are a whole lot like ordinary people. They are reasonable, likable, intelligent, trustworthy, capable, and one ginormously huge site easier to deal with than babies. And I don't mean just my kids. I am speaking of the entire community of teenagers I know.

Homeschooling teenagers requires consideration of a few new issues: sex, drugs, admitting your children are becoming adults and shifting your behavior accordingly. It is scary to think of new young adults out making dicey choices in the world. It is also scary to be a new young adult out making dicey choices in the world. Its also scary being an old adult facing difficult choices. All we can do is love one another and cooperate. If 13 years of parenting hasn't already taught you about love and cooperation, you're probably past help.

Parenting teenagers means everything gets easier. Traveling is easier, going out to dinner is easier, shopping is easier, being alone with your spouse is easier, planning, living, playing, everything is easier! Plus, you get to watch more interesting movies, share funnier jokes, and stay out later. What's not love?

In our society, the more haunting question is: who is not to love? Often our answer is teenagers and that is the biggest problem they face.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Taken from Scarleteen, a sex education website for teenagers:

"There are rotten people in the world that cannot be cured by magical hippy love. They will always be the way they are and if they are friends/ romantic partners/ parents/ co-workers/ dude who just cut you off in his Acura/ GET AWAY FROM THEM! DO NOT LINGER! You cannot fix Dracula by trying to convince him to just party in the sun with you."  ~Lynda Barry

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any gender. But women age 16-22 are most susceptible. Why? Because we are taught to have faith in the redemption of every man. Every man we love is a good man, ipso facto. Right? Wrong. There are bad people in the world. They will hurt you. Loving them is understandable. But hanging around trying to fix them isn't. SOMETIMES IT TAKES A VERY LONG TIME TO IDENTIFY BAD PEOPLE. Because bad people are good at pretending to be good.

All humans are broken. Some are more broken than others. Choose wisely. Don't squander your life.

Friday, February 22, 2013

48 hours ago I was struck by a thought: all this doing what I don't quite want to be doing is not helping me get what I do want. So I gave away my goats. 24 hours later, an hour ago, I got an offer to work on an organic pastured dairy with a handsome young French farmer and his gorgeous wife. 
Thank you, Universe. 
It's important to understand when to let go. Which is a lesson I've been learning my whole life.

Yesterday I let go of the dairy operation at our house. Yes, that means what you think it means. I let my girls go. And I feel a bit sad. But not too sad. Because they went to live in a MUCH more appropriate, warm, happy, convivial, and spacious place. They went to live with The Goddess of All Things Micro-farmed. Seriously, this is the woman you want in charge of your life, and everyone living with her is lucky. That's where my girls are now. That is definitely the right choice for them.

This is their shelter at our house, in an over browsed pen, with chewed up trees. Kind of cute, but not so much, if you're the ones actually living there every day. Yes, we could have built them a better house and a much bigger yard. In fact, that was the plan. But as plans will, they keep changing. The new better plan is to buy a bigger farm. Which would be another right choice for my girls. However, that keeps not quite happening. Yet it looms close enough to stall building anything bigger in the mean time. While the humans are stuck in a circular planning quandary, the goats were stuck in a small circular fence. After a year and a half, that began to feel uncool and selfish.
There were many successful aspects to our home dairy project. We've proven we absolutely can keep goats here, and most suburban folks have plenty of room for goats. Though Nigerian Dwarfs would be a more appropriate size choice. Stepping outside to milk has been nothing but delightful. Sharing company with Tulip and Vanilla has been awesome. I didn't realize how often I check on them. About a 1000 times each day, apparently. They have given milk, fertilizer, and love. We miss them already.
But making the right choice for them, prioritizing their quality of life, definitely feels right.

The aforementioned Goddess stopped by last night with a cake she made to celebrate our farm trade. Honestly, at whose home would you rather live? No contest! Each little pig is hand made, people. Who has this kind of time, attention to detail, and generosity? The Goddess, of course.
I stood in my kitchen this morning eating cake and feeling fine in my work boots, flannel nightgown, and wooly scarf. (What, pjs are one of the perks of micro farming.) Knowing when to let go in life is key. And we all know what they say: when one door closes another opens. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"THERE'S A MAN IN THE HOUSE." That was the thing you had to yell as you opened the front door, if you were bringing a man home. I was born into a traditional situation with a Mom, Dad, older brother, and two younger sisters. But by 1976, it wasn't so traditional at my house anymore and both of the guys were gone. My father, literally. My brother, for all practical purposes. So it was just us girls and you really did need to issue a warning if you were changing up the gender dynamic. And so you shouted out fair warning. Probably also there was a touch of bragging implied.

Last night a new man arrived at our house. His name is Sampson. He is fine and large and very well mannered. An intelligent fellow, I'm certain.  He is a five year old Delaware rooster. He has never spurred anyone, passes on his docile genes to raise nice babies, and is a good flock protector.

We never planned to have a rooster. We actively planned to never have a rooster, is the truth. But Sampson was bullied out of his old flock by a fresh young upstart who actually plucked out one of Sampson's eyes. (Ouch!) Plus, we like roosters. We like their manly beauty, we like their crowing, we love babies, and we aren't sad to have extra vigilant help around the place. So, now there is a man in house!
 He was bit slow to leave the coop this morning, hesitant. The ladies were encouraging and curious. 
 Hunger finally won over prudence and out he went in search of breakfast. 
 Where he couldn't help but also notice the local action. The hens made sure of that. 
 He is quite lovely. We are happy to have him. And the most important business was soon resumed. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I must find one of these ducks. I must look EXACTLY  like this duck. And it must have a working pull string. Any help welcome. Thanks.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Our whole family watched this last night and we were very happily entertained. Lovely little movie!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"So much between humans that is called love isn't. 
The only available comfort is the corollary, 
which is that so much that isn't is." 

~Nicola Bullock

Honestly, this shouldn't preface a blog post. This quote should preface a novel, the latest book of parenting advice, and it should hang on the front door of all good marriage counselors. Heed, children. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Filed under Things You Didn't Expect To Hear Yourself Saying:
Loudly with a sternly pointing finger: "Do not put that trash in your pants! Trash goes in the trash can." 
Later realize this advice is applicable on several different levels.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Remember what it was like to be in school all day, year after year? Remember how important your friends were? Your friends got you through that experience. They provided distraction, balance, and a very large bright spot in what was otherwise mostly total and endless seeming drudgery. I think this memory is at the heart of the socialization question constantly, even still, put to homeschoolers. It is very difficult for any adult who went through school to imagine life without constant proximity to the good buddies who helped them through. 

Homeschoolers are not surviving their education. They aren't getting through. Generally speaking, their life is not endless drudgery. In fact, their lives involve a lot more sleep than their schooled peers, a lot more hot food, a lot more lounging time, a lot more reading (for those so inclined), and probably if we are honest a lot more video game time for a whole bunch of them. Their lives are a lot less stressful, less pressured, and less hurried. For better or worse, I think these are the basic facts. I'm not judging. School is a form of stress, no matter what else it is. And whether or not you believe stress is good for developing character. 

My kids have access to several hundred fewer choices of friends than their schooled peers. My kids have friends, just not a couple hundred age-mates. They probably only have about 30 age-mates, if we are generous about the range of ages included. I bet my daughter occasionally wishes she could flounce to the opposite side of the cafeteria and plunk down with a whole brand new group of kids to hang out with (much as I often did.) My son will never flounce anywhere and probably won't ever give a rat's ass for more than a generous handful of people at a time. He is profoundly introverted, much like both of his parents. 

What I've noticed with homeschooled kids is that friends matter a whole lot less. They matter. Friends will always matter. But the idea of seeing a best friend every single day, or talking to them every single day, is as foreign and unnecessary for most homeschooled kids as it is for most adults. I suggested my (slightly less introverted than the rest of the family) daughter call her bff last week. She blinked at me and said, "Mom, we've seen each other three times recently." Case closed. The implication in her words: for heaven's sake, mother, just how needy do you think I am? Let a girl breathe once in a while. Give a kid some space, jeeze. Can you not see I'm busy wearing my pjs and reading with the cat in my lap? Eye roll. 

Prisoners and soldiers bond with their friends on a deeper level. On par I think, with the level of friendship we see in schooled kids. Because in those kinds of situations, common bond is life. Common bond can sustain you through massive stress. It does not break my heart to consider that an important part of socialization in homeschooling culture is learning to be content on your own. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Last night I had a fascinating conversation with a pulmonary nurse who works at Duke University. You just have to LOVE the way life will constantly smack you down, over and over. Yes, I was in the home of two scientists, completely engrossed in their conversation with another scientist. Whoa, those are some smart people. I love smart people. Was I just denigrating academic scientists as "lords of all knowledge" on this blog? I'm an ass.

This guy was talking about the work happening right now at Duke to make surgery safer. Apparently we put people into a pseudo form of hibernation during surgery by inducing hypothermia. But doing so causes a cascade of undesirable affects throughout all our internal organs, including our brains. Science is trying hard to understand how bears and squirrels can put themselves into hibernation and come out of it without any of the controversial affects of induced hypothermia. Its speculated just going under general anesthesia too often can precipitate an Alzheimers-like brain degeneration in old age.

Apparently, receiving blood is not good. You really don't want anyone else's blood in your body, if you can possibly avoid it. Using very sophisticated computers to sift through confounders, science has isolated a five year mark of higher mortality for anyone who gets blood--regardless of the reason they needed extra blood in the first place.

Apparently your "guts basically die" in a major surgery. But "don't worry, it all comes back up." And "our bodies have some amazing ways to deal with" the trauma we cause in surgery. "Make no mistake," the man said, "you do not want to have surgery if you can avoid it. Surgery is very dangerous."

We are hoping to learn how to do medicine better. Which is great. At Duke they are working hard toward greater success with bloodless surgeries, a thing I'd never even heard of. And this nurse ended up reiterating that the science of protein, most specifically with regard to inflammation, is at the heart of what we desperately need to understand.

So an enormously credentialed man of science walked into a room last night and in 10 minutes blithely affirmed two of the most important ideas of my adult life, both of which I've been repeatedly castigated (by scientists) for suggesting:

1) We are doing birth wrong. It should almost never be a surgical event. C-sections are not benign.
2) Inflammation is the locus of our confusion. We are probably barking up the wrong nutritional tree with regard to saturated fat and diets.

Friday, February 8, 2013

These guys share a room. Everyone has their own favorite blankie. Its all very manly. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do you see what I see? Is she bagging up? Hope the neighbors got to witness me taking these photographs--porgn. Just in case they have any lingering doubts about the depth of my freakishness. Why is that woman photographing her goat's vagina?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"I've just recently learned that kids [baby goats] have a different nursing pattern than calves - where calves will latch on and stay at it for several minutes a few times a day, apparently kids nurse very frequently for mere seconds at a time."   ~Wyomama, Keeping a Family Cow forum

Its difficult to quantify learning, but I suppose I've learned half of what I know about livestock from reading one high quality farming forum. Though, the quality on forums is only as high as the folks participating the moment you happen to be reading. Twice in my life, both at crucial junctures, I've lucked into the right forum at the right time. Keeping a Family Cow for livestock and The Denim Jumper for homeschooling. The Family Cow is not what it used to be. The DJ is gone. Which seems to be the way of forums. 

I already knew how kids nurse. I've watched a lot of calves nursing. I've watched a lot of goat kids nursing. Heck, I've watched a lot of human kids nursing. And its true. Each has a unique species pattern. But it wasn't until I read this one tiny droplet of random information, did I identify the truth of my own eyes as actual truth. Goat kids will nurse for seconds at a time. When you observe them, you can't believe its enough.  You worry. You want them to nurse longer, you might even sort of agonize about their lack of nursing. Though, if you're me, you'll quickly be distracted by their adorable antics, and likely not fully register your concern consciously until you read about it later. 

How come the truth often isn't fully believable until someone else corroborates it? Not until someone else stated a fact I'd already seen with my own eyes, did I register the information as truth. Up until the moment of corroboration, I suppose I just kind of thought the goats I'd observed were having a strange moment of quickety nursing. Or they were strange goats. It would likely take me a few more years of goat watching to realize: Oh, they all do that.

I spent so much time on the water as I child I could thin slice the coming weather from a nanosecond glimpse of the color of the lake. I was aware I could do that by age 14. I had no trouble understanding my private education in the water color of weather as absolutely valid. That skill was self evident. (Sadly, I'm sure the skill is lost, along with fishing skills and proficiency at 8 Ball.)

I would bet children trust their observational experience more completely than adults. Yes, children arrive with fewer preconceived ideas. It is also true that institutional education bludgeons faith in observation mercilessly, relentlessly, and intentionally. Partly because there is both room for mistakes in observation, and wisdom in corroboration. But much more deeply because the entire institution is based on ego structure. The carrot at the top of the empire is not material wealth or wisdom. Ego supremacy is the hallmark of academia. 

Everyone needs a nice secure reliable and well balanced ego structure. Academics are lords of all knowledge, and professors more than any other paid employees, seem to be fed daily on the feeling of lordship. Teaching scientists being the worst offenders.

Farmers are scientists too. Empirical scientists with no one underneath but a lot of animals (or plants) that don't give a damn what you think you know, and perhaps a child or two with questions of their own. Folks who need an audience to feel valid aren't drawn to farming. Or housewifing. Or novel writing. Or tending to the sick or the poor. Or art (so few succeed) or manufacture. Those folks are drawn to a life of academia. And possibly blogging... We are all broken. But it struck me today, reading what I'd already seen with my own eyes but not yet synthesized as truth, that schools do a serious disservice to children. Institutional education is absolutely built on domination, sublimation, and ego. That cain't be good.

Imagine children raised to have a balanced kind of faith in their own judgement from the beginning. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

 Men at work. 
 Old guy, hat, coat, wisdom, experience. Young guy, t-shirt, youthful exuberance, inner glow. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dear Tulip has me guessing. She is definitely either well or unwell, bred or unbred, and drying herself off or just maybe....underfed or suffering the lack of something? Or everything is perfectly fine. And honestly, I have no clue which of these options will prove true. Right now I'm proceeding as if she is bred (to most excellent Mr. T!) I am drying her off---I think her body was asking for this. Her milk got funky tasting and then salty. But with no other signs of illness or mastitis. I've dramatically cut back her grain ration, which is standard drying off procedure. But its awfully cold these days. And she could use the calories, especially if she is settled. Her attitude is good, her appetite is great, her manure is fine, she has no other symptoms. Except cold ears. And that bothers me. Her ears shouldn't really be cold, not even in cold weather. (Vanilla's ears aren't cold.) Dear dear Tully, what shall we do for you?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Department of Education official rips standardized testing, tells students to skip school

'The newly minted DOE executive also advocates for home schooling, saying people she knows who were taught at home “seemed to be really smart, passionate, successful and satisfied with their lives. All that and they never had to be tortured in an algebra, history, science or English class!”'

The same information in a far less sensational format, the author's own words:
The Innovative Educator: Why Innovative Educators Should Care About Unschooling
"Unschooling shattered every myth I held to be true and made me question everything I’d been taught about learning."
Remember these? Better to forget, eh? 

Yesterday was long on several different levels. And it seems like I hardly ever see my children anymore. You would think that was impossible because we are always together. But they are busy people with their own lives these days, as is natural. Evening found me exhausted with a drink in my hand flopping down on my daughter's bed. I find deep respite in her room. A visit to Girl Town, I call it. Girl Town is a place occupied by the psyche of The Feminine. It has nothing to do with actual little girls. Its just a girly place, and oh so restful. 

My son's room is restful too, but in a different way. I love to sit in his big chair in the morning and read quietly near him while he reads in bed. Quiet companionship is my favorite thing, the morning sun streams into his room, and he has always been Good Morning Son to me. He and I are morning people together. The kid is a well spring of thoughtful quietude and just so smart. I love him every bit as much as I love my daughter, of course! He lives in a masculine world that is deliciously foreign to me. 

So last night I flopped onto my daughter's bed with a drink in one hand while picking up a curiously familiar foil wrapper in the other. What's this? "Oh, that held one of these," she tells me, picking up a disposable camera. I couldn't have been more shocked. You might have thought I'd discovered drugs. What on earth are you doing with THAT?! She explained: Bff got a $50 gift certificate to There she found a deal on these cameras, 2 for $10. So she bought them, gave me one, I gave her $5 back, and we are going to use them to take pictures. Then we'll go to the store, get them developed, and have ShineyPictures to put on our walls--maybe in a heart shape. (Girl Town!) 

ShineyPictures, she called them. I blinked at her. They used digital money to buy disposable cameras online so they can have prints made? Both girls own digital cameras. My girl got a very nice digital camera for Christmas. It was basically her only present. I stared at her and felt a twinge of guilt for not explaining this to her before. I marveled at the girls ingenuity and the weird culture shift I was experiencing where old is new. I explained they can take their digital cameras to the store and have prints, ShineyPictures, made. We laughed for a while. I explained they'll be lucky to each get 2 or 3 usable images off those wretched old disposables. Dear Girl ranted for a few minutes about the eye hole. She marveled at it, tried it backwards, sighted everything in her room, set up a shot of her plastic duck, Quackster. 

Refreshed, I left for my own bed as she pulled out her computer to download the images she took on our trip to New Mexico. These are two of her favorites. The first was taken on the peak of the Sandia Mountain range. The second one made me gasp. She snapped that while riding in a hot air balloon over a suburban desert neighborhood. Either one might make a great ShineyPicture.