Monthly Archives: February 2014

I just want to hear you talk.

I am nearing the end of the seventh season of West Wing again. I think I am up to eight run throughs. When I think about all the hours of my life I have given this show…

Not long ago Noah indicated to me that he would try harder to not talk about work. This came up because I complained about him not listening.

So towards the end of the WW CJ and her long-time beau (Danny) have to figure out how to make a relationship work. It is as awkward and strange and delightful as those characters deserve. At some point CJ will have to figure out what to do next after the White House. CJ and Danny have a large argument about learning how to discuss things with one another rather than making decisions on their own.

Danny says, “I just want to hear you talk.”

It isn’t that I don’t want to hear about Noah’s work. That’s not it. There are reasons I can scout for appropriate people for him to chat with at parties. I listen and pay attention to the work stuff. I can give run downs on the programming languages he favors and why. I can discuss different attitudes about programming languages depending on ones initial language acquisition. I can reference different departments in a large number of technology companies.

I uhh don’t work with computers or program. I mean, I’ve figured out how to use a laptop so I “work with computer” but I don’t design programs. I just write my shit and hit “publish”. Someone else makes magic happen.

Sometimes it is incredible to me that we live in such an incredible time. There is so much untapped potential every second of the day. You have to pick and choose which aspects of it are worth your time.

Anyway, back to Noah. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about your job. It’s that I want you to be able to rattle off as much shit about me as I can about you. I want you to listen when I talk instead of formulating the next thing you want to do at work while I happen to be standing nearby.

It’s not that I don’t want to hear about work. I want to feel heard.

I want to hang out with you for the rest of my life. I want you to think I am interesting. I am scared that you don’t unless I do some pretty extreme things. That is hard sometimes.

When I was younger and I had less to be responsible for I set some pretty high bars for expectations of my behavior. Uhm. I’m tired. I’m scared that I won’t be interesting to you without masochism.

It’s not that I think I am over perverted sex. I feel very different about my sexuality being performative than I used to. Things change. I think spent a long time using sex as one of the primary ways I tried to get people to like me and now it’s… different.

I suck at sustained intimacy. We both work too much. We are both tired.

I’m sorry I made you feel like I don’t want to hear about work. I do. This balance business is hard. I know it is hard for you that the kids interrupt. They kind of feel the same way about you. They are here all day. They have a running dialogue with me that you interrupt. You aren’t doing anything bad and they should share turns with you. I’m sorry that it frustrates you so much. They don’t mean anything bad by it.

I know parenting is hard for you. But you work so hard. I am so consistently proud of your ability to take a deep breath and change your tone of voice. It takes the smallest indication that you should and you just presto like magic do it. I think that is pretty fucking cool. Emotional regulation for the win.

I am so grateful that you like to read to them as much as you do. I would have to do way more reading out loud if you didn’t and I kind of hate doing it. It makes my throat ache.

I try to thank you at every meal for making food for me. It really is a big deal to me that you do this. I feel loved and cared for. I feel grateful that you take this burden from me. I’m not very good at feeding me. I’m pretty bad at it. I am a lot healthier now that you cook for me. Thank you.

I appreciate that you spontaneously notice that the house is clean and you thank me for my hard work. That makes me feel good. See, this is why I let it get nasty. That way the difference is more stark and it makes your job of noticing way easier.

Ahem.

I’m hoping for some good date nights this week. Two! Unbelievable! Two dates in a week!

Do you know I used to go on dates five to seven nights a week with somewhere between three and seven people of ranging gender presentation? Now I celebrate two dates in a week with cartwheels. And with one guy. I used to keep detailed records of who I had what kind of sex with when so I could potentially trace back uhm issues. Now… not so much.

You are the only one I get to fall into for the rest of my life. Yes, I want to hear about your work. Your work will be a big part of my life forever. If I try to shut it out I won’t get a very big piece of you. I want you. I really do. That means tolerance for long philosophical conversations about the merits of programming languages I don’t use. It’s kind of hilarious.

I understand that part of my role here is to be your test audience for arguments. I ask questions that surprise you and cause you to have to rethink your approach to arguments. I have value as a muse even though I have no interest in sharing your work. I get it. I accept it. I’m down. I’ve got the 411. What have you.

It just needs to be an ensemble piece with all of us functioning as “main characters”.

I don’t do top down authority much. If I have to get you to do something by hurting your or forcing you then I probably don’t god damn need it done. I’m a big girl. I can do things for myself.

But you feed me. Cause you want to. So I do your laundry and clean your house and talk to your kids all day. Believe me I understand having questionable interest in the productivity of my days. Whoopdie shit. Six loads of laundry. Whoo fucking hoo.

I have treated every job I’ve ever had as something to try and take pride in. Retail, teaching, food service–I showed up and worked as hard as I could. I work as hard in your house.

I’m sorry I’m so hard on you.

The best things in life are free.

Noah and I were talking about my feeling that I don’t contribute enough. He disagrees, of course. He was fine with rattling off all the things I do to “contribute”. Yes my dear Mrs. Lincoln but how was the play?

If I can make our investments grow by even 5% a year I will eventually outpace Noah at earning money. Even though I feel he is so much “smarter” than me. I think he is more marketable. He has a much better memory. My memory comes and goes and surprises me. I can’t just memorize long blocks of text the way he does.

I know things he doesn’t, though. Things that do have value in the world even if they do not directly translate into me receiving a salary.

I should pay more attention to the investments because a)I have time b)I have motivation and c)having access to this kind of money is a gift, luxury, and privilege. With great privilege comes great responsibility.

The thing is, there is this balance I’m dealing with. The earlier I put money into investing the faster it will grow and the larger it will get. I could significantly out earn the benefit I get from over paying my mortgage. But having the house paid off is such a psychological thing for me that.. No. I’m not going to reduce my mortgage so I can “play” with investing faster. That’s not for me.

But I keep seeing the phrase “Even $100 a month can multiply to…”. I’m investing more than $100/month. Maxing out Noah’s 401k, maxing out an IRA in my name, $100/month to Shanna’s 529 and $350 to Calli’s account, and now $100 into a brokerage account that I’m picking. Gulp. We’ll see, right?

It is hard having this series of revelations, is that what being an adult means? You realize in layers oh shit–I’m also responsible for this other stuff that I never even knew existed.

I think that the plants help. Responsibility is seeming different now that I perceive it in terms of other living things will die if I don’t pay attention. It changes the perspective. My cat is also much more loving now that I take better care of her. Now that I am less neglectful.

I don’t think my self worth should come from what I do. But I believe that a lot of my life long safety will depend on my ability to create that safety for myself. I don’t have a fall back. I have the security that Noah and I build together.

It is no better or worse than anyone else has in the end. Families have problems. “Support” comes and goes. Your parents die. Medical problems come up.

What does taking care of yourself mean? What does providing for the future mean? Holy shit. How am I going to make sure I have a place to hang out when I’m old and not up for doing a lot of work? How will I eat?

Will I get old? Will I get cancer? Will I kill myself?

I’d really like to see what this house will look like when I’m sixty. It’s a deeply selfish wish. I have to not die even if I have no use to anyone else if I want to see it.

I noticed yesterday that I haven’t made progress on any of the suicide books since I was last experiencing ideation. It’s been a nice break.

I want to relate the change to being more fully medicated but that isn’t it. I have periods where I am suicidal even with medicating. The cycles are different. I think obsessing about money is a better distraction from feeling suicidal than most other tactics I’ve tried.

Tommy’s birthday didn’t trigger me this year. It was a decent day. I kind of talked to him all day long. I told him about my kids. I felt a little sad but ok.

Sissy’s birthday in January was harder but I still didn’t feel worthless.

This is such a deep puddle. Splash splash. Go eat breakfast.

find gratitude (body edition)

Dear body: thank you for waiting until the night after my long run to start bleeding. That is so kind of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am  not even going to bitch about you coming on with so much agonizing pain I can’t sleep through it. It’s ok. I love you.

I’m not even going to complain that you woke up so hungry that it hurts a lot. You need what you need. You are doing a good job of asking for your needs lately. Keep it up.

I’m thrilled with your ability to show up and do what I want. I appreciate that you rarely flake on me. Bodies are tricky things. Sometimes the mind says “I want to do ____” and the body laughs. Not today, bio-tech. Mostly my body cooperates. Thank you.

My head and arms hurt. I’m grateful for the reminder that I am alive. I’m grateful for the reminder to rest.

I didn’t have a bad day before I started bleeding and I often do. That’s pretty awesome.

Today is a clothes swap. We’ll see what I find. Maybe some pants without a hole. Who knows.

All the things.

I finished The Cannabis Health Index. I may need to own a copy of my own. It was incredibly hard to just sit down and read it (I’m pretty sure I’m confusing a lot of cancer information in my head right now because I’m really not a medical expert.)

Mostly what I come away from the book believing is that I need to do the math on how much pills cost and find a way to earn that amount of money for myself so I get over my overwhelming guilt about taking family money for “drugs” (apparently that is the deal my brother had with his wife as a stay at home parent–he had to work enough to pay for pot and alcohol). I have a lot of “risk factors”. I can’t do anything about that. My body is not in great shape. I need to lower my stress and this is the most effective medication I know exists. Ok.

Apparently my shrink knows the author and she’s going to have lunch with him this week. She says she will pass on my opinions on the book. I feel a little weird about that.

I finished the first round of editing Outrunning a week early. That makes me feel happy with myself. I read through the essays and got rid of the worst of the grammatical weirdness and put keywords all over the place. Round two involves matching up key words and eliminating all the duplicate phrasings. Going through it once helped me spot some of the repetition. Key words will help.

It’s still kind of unorganized and there are a few sections I need to hack and write again to be more explicit. I’m pussy-footing and being vague in a few places where I should be more explicit. Kids won’t understand the PC hand-wavey shit. Say it like it is.

I do need to justify why arbitrary rules can be ignored. Don’t worry Pam. I’ll tell them why eating dessert first isn’t a big deal.

This week has been packed. I am very lucky that people ask to spend time with us. Very lucky. Overwhelmingly lucky. Sometimes lots of people ask for the same week. This week had 2-3 social engagements every day. It would have been three on almost every day but we had some blissful cancellations. Sometimes I feel weird about being glad for cancellations. At least it feels emotionally superior to my years-ago feelings of fury and hate. Easier to maintain friendships and be understanding.

People get sick. The parents of our little friends sometimes have to work. We can either be understanding and supportive or we can give up on them as friends.

I’m not really in a jettisoning people from my life stage. I’m trying to build. Tolerance is in my best interests. Enlightened self-interest and all that.

I do not worry that I am under socializing my kids. Oy. I don’t worry as much about me being isolated either. I’m starting to see my time alone as strictly self preservation against all the different things I have to think about all the forking time.

I appreciate that I am managing to build a life that mostly exists within ten miles of my house. It is a slow process but it is working. I’m existing in the space I’m in. I’m Occupying my space. I take up room and talk to people and get to know them and ask about their lives. I’m getting to know more home schoolers and better know the ones already in our lives.

I’m in the phase I’m in.

I want community. I want it so bad I can taste it. This is the process and I need to figure out how much of the cost I can bear.

It occurred to me that I should stop thinking of our food budget as an area to constrict. Part of the reason that we spend as much money as we do is that we have extra people at meals at least five days a week. Sometimes just one person but often up to twelve. We have several parties a year. That’s just part of our life.

We’re feeders. Come here hungry. We’re happy to fill that need. There are a lot of problems we can’t fix but you don’t need to leave our house hungry.

But I’m kind of a fascist about what I want my kids to eat. And I read too much about food quality to buy cheaper products full time. I have the luxury of buying food that I prefer. Ok, that still includes Kraft mac’n’cheese and ramen because I have some taste preferences I can’t seem to ditch. Also: when I’m very overwhelmed and I need to stay in emotional control I can’t cook anything more complicated than that. Even making sandwiches stresses me out more than that. Making ten sandwiches will result in my hands shaking by the end. Lame.

So I do what I need to do. I feed people. I have good nuts and fruit and cheese and meat and awesomely shitty starches. Take your pick.

We all make choices and set priorities.

I will continue to hemorrhage money on meat, fruit, and vegetables. I will source them as locally as possible. Dairy is more mixed for me. I’m going to keep buying my fucking ramen and mac’n’cheese.

If I want to be able to keep sharing this quality of food with my family I have to just accept that as the cost of doing business and not feel guilty. It is expensive to eat well. It sucks but it’s true. I need to get over my inclination to feel guilty about high grocery bills. I’m not wasting the money. Yes, we “could” spend less money on food. But I get to buy meat mostly outside the industrial meat complex. I get to support farmers trying to grow organic food for a living wage within 100 miles of where I live. I want that industry to succeed. I like shopping at my farmers market.

I have choices because I have privilege. I’m not doing what I “must” if I force my family to live on rice and beans all the time. I could do it. But I don’t see high moral value in doing it. It’s a perfectly valid choice. It is not, however, a more moral choice. It could be argued that a vegan diet would be more moral but I’m at peace with my status of omnivore. I try to make sure the cows, chickens, pigs, and lambs that make up most of my meals lived decent lives. It’s important to me.

I think that understanding my choices in context helps me appreciate my successes against my metrics.

If I had a different amount of money my metrics would change. Like they do.

Trying to look for some peace with my budget process. Looking for that Zen place.

It’s kind of funny. Today I sit down and feel like I’ve checked almost all the boxes for this month and it’s the 21st. I still have some seeds to get in the ground. Two or three hours of work, not bad.

Next week there are one or two things every day. Swimming counts as a thing. Dentist counts as a thing. It’s not all social. Looking at the number of hours of babysitting I think I should spent all day with the kids in between or they will flip out. Brace yerself, Eppie.

I’ve had a lot of alone time this week. (Thus the productivity.) Next week I need to be done at 6:30 and be more present with them during the day. Ok. That is the main job and all. Noah has been reading to them for hours every night and I either hide in the garage or go to bed.

But when I cycle this way sex gets fewer and farther between. (Last night was great, honey. Thanks.) It seems like the main way we can work it out now is to have me go to bed at 6:30 pm so I can take a three hour nap and wake up for sex when the kids are asleep. Ha. Disco nap.

Keep all the balls in the air. Haven’t had a panic attack in more than two weeks. That’s pretty good. I have been medicating. I haven’t felt the need to cut. It is nice to notice the absence of that wanting. I have other anxieties but it’s not extreme.

Just keep swimming swimming… something.

Ugh. Going in.

Series of small heart attacks.

When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time fantasizing about what it would mean to be “safe”. One of my qualifications was that I wanted to have $250,000 in savings of some kinds and another was that I wanted to own my house outright.

I’m pretty sure I’m five years away from owning the house outright. I linked all of Noah’s investment accounts up to Mint. Apparently we have more than $500,000 in investments to go with our more than $55,000 in cash.

If you add in the house value (which we don’t fully own yet anyway) we are over a million in net worth.

My head has been exploding and I keep getting these energy bursts. Oh my fucking god I am so going to fuck this up. I am going to do something terribly wrong. I am going to break the whole fucking thing.

Unless Noah gets over his abhorrence of management he is probably just about at his salary max for this lifetime. He probably has fifteen more years where people will hire him for coding. After that his salary is probably going to drop precipitously. I hope to be ready to coast from there.

I’m thinking about this really hard because my spending this year matters if I want to do a bunch of the upcoming stuff. And I’m kinda trigger happy. I shop more than I need to. I have a lot of years of deprivation behind me. It is hard to always say no when I know I “could”. It uses a kind of self control that is new to me. It is really draining and hard.

But there is a big part of me that says, “Shit dude. You could cash out half the stock and pay the house off and be to your former goal. Declare yourself the fucking winner already.”

But the goalpost moved. If I don’t fuck with the investments then over the next period of Noah’s employment we will absolutely reach more than a million invested. Apart from the supposed value of our real estate.

That idea fills me with anxiety.

Just like Noah doesn’t want to hit a net worth of a million through inheriting from his family I feel weird about being baggage. I’m not doing this. I don’t feel “worth” this.

He’s adamant that it is all joint money. I’m not complaining about Noah.

This is about me. Am I going to make something of myself or am I going to be the dependent of someone who made something of himself.

The funny thing is: I was totally ok with that with regards to my Owner. I feel weird and uncomfortable with this dynamic as a marriage. I wonder if it would have changed if my Owner had been interested in children. I will never know but I wonder about myself. I wonder how I would deal with this panic.

It would be really bad. Noah is willing to cooperate with my budgetary restrictions and limits. He’s willing to allow me to grow our mutual wealth. He’s grateful.

My Owner uhhh wasn’t open to that kind of dynamic. I don’t think marriage and children would have changed that.

I don’t know why this is bothering me so much.

I had a fucking plan for how to get to the point where I owned a house and had 250,000 fucking dollars. And now it’s been blown all to hell. I mean, I can’t bitch about being twenty or thirty years ahead of where I planned for times two. Yet here I am.

I’m not bitching. I don’t wish it away and I’m squirreling more away as fast as I can.

Well, not as fast as I could. I do own a second high gas consumption vehicle. But I use it. The cargo space is fantastic. I have moved a lot of stuff. I need the seat space or cargo space at least once a week and often two or three days. So I eat the cost.

do have luxuries. I try to be grateful for them every single day.

I eat very good food. I have a fairly balanced diet despite my griping that I live on dairy, wheat and meat I don’t. I eat a lot of vegetables. I just don’t give myself credit for them yet.

I am so grateful that I get to spend as much money on food as I do. Both at the grocery store and at ethnic restaurants. We eat a rather diverse diet and I’m thankful for it. I try new things. I continually try new things and try to be open to new flavors.

This is such a big deal for me. I can do it because when I really don’t like something I stop eating it. I’m allowed. I’m not in trouble for wasting the money. Noah is happy to pay for experimentation (within reason).

I am free to focus on a lot of types of personal growth and non-income producing work because Noah chooses to take me on as a dependent.

Why do I feel so bad about it? I know all the signs of dealing with a psychopath. I know all the early signs that lead to people getting screwed in divorces. Noah has jumped over enormous hurdles establishing that legally I am protected so that I can stop being anxious. I get half. Period.

Yet here I am. Even though my “half” of the cash is exactly the amount I always said I wanted. It’s not just that we haven’t finished paying the house off.

I’m siphoning off bits of the cash and investing it. Maybe if I can make that grow it will change my feeling of worthlessness? Somehow I doubt it. Not worthlessness exactly.

I want my own god damn status. I don’t want to be so-and-so’s wife. Even though I like him a lot. Even though I think he is spiffy and wonderful and I’m looking forward to decades of hanging out with him.

I read Clan of the Cave Bear at a formative time in my life. The idea of status is firmly implanted in my head.

I don’t want to go out and climb a ladder though. That’s not really my way. I want to build a ladder, not climb one that someone else built. I’m an asshole like that. And I get to be that asshole because of privilege.

I feel like I owe Noah more gratitude than I show and that leads to me feeling resentful and that’s not great. I don’t think I’ve been pissy with him. I don’t actually feel resentful. It’s more about feeling restless.

I’m struggling with that “gotta be something more” feeling. Yes, I’m doing all the things I should be doing to be a more balanced person. But I don’t earn money.

Why does that feel so important? I feel like a bad influence. I’m not modeling how to be a productive member of society.

Do I really think that every person has to produce money or they don’t have value? What the hell does that say about me?

I want to be with my kids. I want that more than I want a job. Even though a career would be the most likely way for me to get the money I kinda sorta want.

 

“Deep” conversations

Had dinner with my friend and his brother recently. After the fact the brother said to my friend, “I was quite surprised by how deep that conversation was. I don’t usually talk to people about those things.”

I don’t really know how to have casual, surface conversations. I want to know the details about your childhood. I want to know why you are so violently opposed to having kids given that you are married to someone who wants kids even if it is none of my business. I’m not going to judge your reasons or argue with you. I’m just curious.

I want you to tell me why you think my friend ended up the way he is. You were there during his childhood and I wasn’t. Yes, I totally want to hear about the long-term relationship ups and downs you have had.

I don’t have relationships with my siblings. I don’t know how they work. I want to hear how they work for other people so it can help me guide my kids. I need to hear as many different points of view as possible because I don’t know what the range is. I only know my life. I know the books I have read.

I want to know about real life. I haven’t seen very much of it. Of course I am going to ask you deep and probing questions to find out what causes you to behave the way you do. The why behind people intrigues me.

Thank you for humoring me by telling me your story. I won’t reveal the details in public and I won’t betray the secrets you gave away on accident. I’m kind of like a bottomless well. I hold lots of secrets. The only ones I tell are my own.

That’s not even true. I’ve told secrets that aren’t my own. I do try to limit my confessional spews to my family. And lovers. Err, and I only tell ones that relate to me.

I’ve never gone through my brain and tried to organize my thoughts into lists of rape survivors. I don’t know how many I’ve talked to and I don’t want to. The list is very long.

I’ve never gone through my brain and tried to organize all of the incest survivors I have met. I don’t want to think about them that way.

Instead I think of my friends in more abstract pictures. They kind of swirl in my head in bright colors. Some of them have deep cracks fracturing their section. They aren’t broken but they show a lot of wear. Some of them are pale because I don’t know much about them. Some of them are bright and shining. The cracks don’t decide if the color is strong or weak. That’s on a completely different gradient.

Despite my obsession with lists I try not to list my friends or categorize them much. I do have some groupings. Breeders and non-breeders. Perverts and “I’m not privy to information about their sex life”. In town and out of town. Dancers. Home schoolers.

But I don’t list them. I just try to poke that corner of the web of my brain and see what floats up. I consciously don’t want to try to write them down.

I do think about the whole level thing. Level one, two, three, four, five. It does decide a lot of my behavior with people.

Level one gets to actually see me relax. They see the full variety of my behaviors and hear my thought process. I think out loud as much as I don’t. Level two gets to hear my unedited thoughts when we are together. I don’t use tact. Level three gets a strong dose of tact and an attempt to conform to their culture as much as I am able. My behavior and thoughts are censored but I feel comfortable with the idea that this person likes me. I can talk to them and feel safe but I know I need to be mindful of behaving “appropriately”.

Level four are people I think don’t like me very much. I try to avoid speaking directly to them and I literally keep my head down when I am physically near them. I am trying to stop. This is less pronounced than it used to be. I’ve worked on it pretty hard. I generally have to be near these people for reasons of shared community.

Level five is for strangers. How I treat them partially depends on how embedded in my web they are. I am tentative with people who know a lot of people who know me. I worry like fuck about reputation. With people who are completely unrelated to me I am much more free with casual speech. I babble, to put it frankly.

The more I spend time with Shanna the more validated I feel in my basic approach to strangers.

I wonder how much of our ability to talk to people will work in more diverse settings? I hope to find out. Will we be able to adapt into different settings? I wonder how much of my, and her, ability to talk to people is grounded in looks versus personality. I will never be able to know.

I hope I am not failing them.

Anyway, I don’t write down lists of people I know and sort them into levels. That uhh would take a lot of energy I don’t want to spend. I just notice the physical differences in how I react to people and I need to be honest with myself about that structure. If I settle in to understanding how I work I can figure out how to break patterns.

I suspect a lot of people I slot into level four don’t have a problem with me and it is all in my head. If I recognize my own inability to determine other peoples emotional states perhaps I can figure out some sort of testing protocol over time. Yes, I’m that dorky. But how to float test balloons and all.

It is very useful for me to determine who should be on level three instead of level two. That way I don’t cross lines and offend people. I’m really good at offending people if I’m not careful. When I’m careful I can sit and talk to someone of any religion of any color of any socio-economic class and have a lovely conversation. I can be respectful of other boundaries and social limitations. It just takes a lot of work and it means censoring out a very high percentage of stuff I think.

I can have a lot more time in a week with level two people without feeling physical stress than I can people of lower levels. Lately I feel quite supported. I worry about the eventual shift in life. The last two months have been really nice. I’m working on figuring out how to have more like this level of support when things change.

But if I think I have an “in” with you of any kind–of course I will ask personal questions. I’m not really interested in anything about you that isn’t personal. I’m kind of weird that way.

I’m happy with my forward progress this year in terms of gardening. Next year will be a fallow year because of the road trip. I think I will leave a stick house and come home to a playhouse completely covered in vines. I can’t express how happy that makes me.

I have this deep need to figure out how to live with my kids in a migratory fashion. I don’t know why I need this as bad as I do. I feel weird about it.

Maybe I want to prove that I could do it better than my mom? I don’t know. My mom didn’t have my life circumstances and I can’t blame her for doing the best she could with the meager resources at her disposal.

I have the internet. I can’t judge what she did. That would be a completely asshole move.

So if not a competitive thing, what? A way to figure out how it should be to break my ingrained patterns of panic? It seems unfair to drag my kids through my exposure therapy. Only…

If that is the way that I teach them how to have healthy reactions and they don’t know what I’m doing… is it actually bad? I don’t know.

I want my kids to see as many different kinds of lives as possible. I want them to understand the vast differences that privilege make. I want them to think about what they actually see in terms of generosity, community, and humanity as they meet different people.

I don’t believe I can force them to think the way I do or reach the same conclusions as me. That’s not the point. All I can control is what they see and are exposed to. And only for a short time. After that I don’t get to be the boss any more.

Go now.

My kids express fervent appreciation of fat bodies. They are completely blind to the world of “diets” and “thinspiration”. When I read articles about the prevalence of eating disorders in children under ten I feel so sad. I can’t do anything about all the kids. My kids so far are lucky enough to love their bodies and bodies in general. They have positive associations with people of all body types.

That’s all I can control.

I feel sad when I read about the color coded and gendering of toys that seem to be common now. My kids don’t live in that world. Sure, they have some pink and they play princesses. But they are also fierce knights and doctors and cooks and fire fighters and cupcake girls and super heroes and …

They have no idea that people think girls shouldn’t “do”. They are incredibly assertive instead of passive. They are not aware that some people believe that children should be seen and not heard.

I was told and told and told and told to just shut up. My kids don’t hear it.

Today should be a nice day.

Thoughts at 4am.

1st thought: I don’t wanna get up.

2nd thought: If I don’t get up right now I won’t have any alone time today and I won’t be able to medicate before the kids wake up.

3rd thought: I’m up. I’m up.

I miss tracking

Five kinds of seeds to go. I’m trying to not work to exhaustion.

I have a lot else going on. Only thirteen chapters left to edit. Yes Pam, I am looking at your suggestions. Soon I will go through and fuck with the google docs. I should be done in five days with the first round. At least two to go. Shit.

Yesterday was Cirque. We had a blast. It is weird knowing that the homeschool group is probably going to be the definitive school group for my life. I have never before been involved in any learning collective for as long as four consecutive years–the longest was in graduate school. I’ve been in the homeschool group for three years now. I never went to an elementary school, junior high, high school, or college that long. Just graduate school. Graduate school kinda stretched over seven years but I took a lot of semesters off in the middle. I left without a degree and only knew the names of three people from my program.

Haven’t had a panic attack since the museum/swim combo. That’s been twelve days.

Usually I feel self conscious about logging them so I don’t write down every one. It’s embarrassing.  But I want to have fewer. Commenting on them increases how well I do at suppressing them.

Suppression is such a mixed bag.

Last night was one of my rare Zen moments while running. I had this really wonderful sense of calm. These are the best days of my life. I will probably never again be this happy. I will never again feel this needed and wanted. This is the peak for me.

I have 14.5 more years before I’m not very necessary any more. That scares me.

What will I have to offer the world then that will make me worth the resources I use? I’m scared.

I’ve been spending some obsessive time looking at Mint. Our net worth is blowing my mind. I keep checking it to make sure I’m not wrong and it hasn’t evaporated.

Our communal net worth will be over a million dollars by the time I’m forty. Sure, Noah makes a lot of money but I save well and invest. I’m getting really brave about investing–which also scares the shit out of me. Lately I have been twice as much in savings as I used to live on in a month. Maybe closer to three times as much if you count the 401k money I never see.

It is hard to have self discipline and say no to so many things. I “could” do them but I choose not to because I want to be able to have a future self who can do the things I want to do then.

I’m nervous. Shanna is saying she isn’t sure she wants to be away from her dad for multiple months. Hmmm. Crap. Still in negotiations. I’m mentioning Skype…

Today is pretty booked. Babysitting. A friend visiting. Then a different friend for dinner. Oof. I’m happy to use my babysitting time for a date. I should pay attention to Noah too. With all my copious spare energy. The poor guy really does get the short end of the attention stick in this house.

It’ll all work out.

It’ll all work out.

I have a lot of gratitude today. It’s just another day in paradise.

Plugging along

The girls and I are still a little sick, but not terribly so. We are doing lots of playing and gardening so we aren’t that sick.

I’m putting 70 plant seeds onto the ground this year. A high percentage of them are clearing out the last of the 2002 seeds a friend gave me. I have very little expectation of them all coming up.

Because I’m a huge nerd I wrote them all down. Because you are silly enough to read my journal you may skim the list. Or read it carefully. Whatever you choose, obviously.

I haven’t finished the front yard or the back yard yet. I still have piles of seed packets. I think it’s going to take another two days of working because I have only been working for about three hours a day.

In the ground in the front yard:

Sunflowers(!!!!): Elvesblend, Evening Star, Golden Honey Bear, Mongolian Giant; sweet basil; moss curled basil; carrots (rainbow colored); spinach: Baby Leaf and Bloomsdale.

Still coming to the front yard: marigolds, sugar snap peas, asclepias incarnata (butterfly flowers), climbing nasturtiums: Amazon Jewel and Moonflower, cinnamon basil, broccoli, and sweet corn.

This is added on top of all the front yard stuff already: six or so varieties of roses, hydrangea, jasmine, plumeria, tulips of many varieties (I wasn’t smart enough to write it down that time), pansies, snapdragons, geranium, cactii, three kinds of blueberries, apple tree with three kinds of fruit, asparagus, strawberries, sage, rosemary, aloe, jade, mums, iris, lily, and at least five plants I can’t remember the names of. Japanese lantern? Maybe? (I do these lists because I’m trying to memorize all the fucking names and sometimes I have to stop and look things up while I’m writing this down. This is my botany class.)

For starts inside (just because I want to practice the starting seeds process): more strawberries, parsley, bee balm, lavender: True; Lady; one I forgot to write down, lemon cucumber, white tomato, three kinds of bell peppers (didn’t write it down because I ran out of space on the page in my garden journal–ha.), hot Thai chili, cauliflower.

Added to the back yard: Hungarian Breadseed poppy, larkspur: Sublime Blend, zinnia: Fireball Blend, variety pack of butterfly inducing flowers including more than 20 kinds–I didn’t write them down, climbing nasturtiums: Moonlight, wild Mexican currant tomato, catnip, Rocky Mt. Blue colombines, more four’o’clocks, Shirley poppy, Nigra hollyhock, forget-me-not, marigolds, foxglove (in one secluded corner because they are poisonous), bachelor’s button, calendula, black eyed Susan, heliotrope of assorted colors.

Still to add to back yard: cornichon cucumber, bush peas, and pea: progress #9.

Shanna also asked for an Icelandic poppy plant and it was pretty and $5 so I said yes.

Already in the back yard: orange tree, plum tree, cherry tree, grapes, blackberry, tons of strawberries, lemon grass, artichoke, Joseph’s Coat roses, chocolate mint, spearmint, celery, brussels sprouts aren’t gone, butter lettuce, actual catnip plant, four’o’clocks, and some kind of green I haven’t brought myself to eat. I’m lame.

I counted up and if I only “corrected” two essays a day I would finish by the end of the month. I’ve been doing three or four instead. I’m excited to get to the combining chapters part of editing.

Calli is massively struggling with not being the boss of the world. Poor kid. I’m trying to be patient and tolerant and shit. Like I do. And a kid is up. Dangit.

I need to go run nine miles. Oof.

The early stages of unschooling

Before I move on to editing there are a few things I want to get out. I know that this journal is very focused on my anxiety expression. That’s why it exists. I need an outlet.

I’m actually very good at what I’m doing. I’ve been practicing for a long time. What I am doing is trying to train how they handle conflict and difficulty in life. I believe (based on reading a lot about child development and brain development) that the first seven years of life are when you create your personality. It is when you create the coping methods that will be your defaults for the rest of your life.

I spend my time teaching emotional self-regulation and how to learn. I teach very little directly.

“Hunh. How do you think you would go about learning more about that?”

Youtube is one of the favorite responses these days. I have created monsters.

I schedule anywhere from 1-6 hours per day for the kids. The 1 hour is doing chores. Chores are part of life. Everyone must do them. I know that it is not an “unschooling” attitude and I can live with that. Chores are part of life.

Otherwise they do free play. That’s their life. I don’t schedule when they do stuff. They do art or play dress up or build or cook or whatever. They do a lot of shit. Some of it is joining in with me and some of it is them just deciding to do stuff.

I am teaching my children to walk into places and notice that there is a sink of dishes–offer to help out. Find ways to be useful. Offer to hold the door open for people. Offer to help carry unweildly packages. Notice the people around you and interact with them.

My kids talk to any and every one. They can talk to kids and adults. My kids can walk into almost any playground and find someone to play with. They don’t care if someone looks different. When the kids can’t speak English Shanna plays non-verbal games.

My kids can approach anyone. My kids can go into a wide variety of different environments and look around for cues to tell them what kind of behavior is appropriate. We practice. I take them to antique stores to practice being around delicate things so that when we go to a grown-up house it isn’t a complete shock.

My children are learning to advocate for themselves and they are learning how to wait their turn. Think of bank lines. Shanna has a bank account. She has to deal with going in and waiting patiently through the whole process. We scout in advance. “See how the grown ups are waiting patiently and quietly? If you talk at the person who is working it makes it harder for them to think about their work.” Then wait a day and talk about it. Then Shanna can do whatever it is she needs to do. Like a forkin’ grown up.

At this point I’m fairly used to seeing peoples jaw drop when they hear her. She sounds like a miniature adult. But she really isn’t adult-like. It’s weird. She speaks well. She has an understanding of process. But she is repetitive and juvenile in her topics. That’s totally ok. She’s five. She can’t discuss foreign politics yet. So we talk about My Little Pony instead. Holy crap do I know a lot about that show.

“These are the things you will need to know how to do when you are an adult. Now go fill the rest of your time.”

Shanna is starting to feel insecure about not being able to read. “Will I be able to do ____ if I can’t read?” Some things I read the directions. Some things I tell her to look at the pictures. Some things I tell her, “I guess this is over your head for now. It will still be here when you can read.”

We talk about what things she will need to learn some day. We talk about how math plays into different jobs. We talk about how reading plays into every aspect of modern life. We talk about all the fascinating different kinds of careers in science.

This part of your life is for feeling safe and loved and encouraged to work hard and fail. If you never fail you won’t learn how things really work. Yeah, some things will break. Try to learn how to be careful. Be aware of the people around you. How do you decide who to approach and who to leave alone?

I talk about body language. I talk about how to have boundaries with different parts of your body. Partially I model those behaviors in how I react to my children and partially I talk about how to have them with others.

I put them in a wide variety of circumstances where they can make a wide variety of little mistakes. None of which matter long term. She gets to explore. But she will absolutely be kept safe from predators. I’m standing there watching.

I don’t comment on what I see. I don’t evaluate her “performance”. I ask her, “Did you have fun?” Sometimes I will say, “Did you notice how he was turning his body to try to walk away?” or something similar. But I don’t comment on what she does most of the time. I will say, “So, sometimes when you talk about _____ it makes people think about this big huge thing you aren’t aware of. Let me tell you about it.”

I am doing my best to help her understand that she was born kind of late in the history of a complicated world. There are a lot of big problems in the world. She doesn’t neat the nitty gritty yet but she knows that people have a lot of different life experiences. We look at maps and talk about which countries have been at war recently.

I make a point to find out what people in different countries tend to eat for breakfast. We all are the same when it comes down to it. We eat. We love. We have friendships and romantic relationships and families. We all poop. We all want to feel good more than we feel bad.

Beyond that it’s just kind of a matter of settling on each person’s preferences.

People learn how to be care-taken or they learn how to care-take. I don’t want adult children who expect me to take care of them forever. That is not a dynamic I’m looking for in my old age. I don’t want a codependent companion. I get them for twenty years. I do hope I will be nice enough that they will want to live down the street or something. That would be nice. Shanna keeps telling me I will home school her kids while she works. It sounds more appealing by the year. We’ll see how I feel in 25-30 years.

Time’s up. I should go in.

So much for the schedule.

Yesterday Calli was sick. (Only a mild cold but you don’t bring a mild cold to a nursing home–that’s fucked up.) So I cancelled the five hours of stuff we had scheduled. We stayed home and read and played Lego’s and GoldieBlox and cuddled. It was a nice day.

I feel grateful that I can ride the waves of the day with my kids.

Last night there was lots of fussing and upset at bed time so we slept one grown up per kid per bed and I think it was one of the better night sleeps we’ve all had in a bit. I feel good. I think the futon will be ok to sleep on for a few months.

I’m looking at cell phones. Mine is rather broken. I uhm, am not careful enough. I’m going to get rid of a smart phone and turn off data. I’m going down to a basic phone. It will be lovely. No more long sms conversations because I won’t have a keyboard! My thumbs thank me already. (Apparently if I add the iPad to the plan right before we travel that will be a $10/month upgrade whereas owning a smart phone is a $40/month upgrade. Yeah, I want a basic phone. A basic phone is still $30/month. It’s a lot less than I’ve been paying.)

I’ve been editing. Slowly. This is hard. Ugh. I want to finish the first read through of all the chapters by the end of February. In March I need to combine the chapters that are kind of duplicated. In April put together the definitions and resources section. In May go through everything with a fine toothed comb to see if it flows. Oh goodness. That’s sounding hard right now. Ew. Make a plan and follow it.

See, I don’t have standard schedules that carry me through lots of times but I make schedules for brief periods and I’m good at following them.

I feel really guilty and bad for not being more scheduled overall. Even if K says it is unusual to be really rigid.

Ugh.

Scheduling, guilt, and other things.

I had a great chat with one of the Godmamas yesterday about schedule stuff. They keep a really rigid schedule. They get up at the same time, eat the same foods daily, exercise on a rigid schedule, etc. I admire that and can’t do it.

The only food I have ever had that I can eat day after day without feeling stabby is ramen. And I shouldn’t eat that every day. It is down to 1-3 times a week and I feel a lot of pride in myself for weening my addiction down that far. I supplement my lunches on other days with “real food” involving vegetables and meat.

From month to month our schedule is dramatically different. The only consistent point is “busy”. It doesn’t matter if it is a month where we are busy at home with gardening and language stuff or if we are going out a lot or if I’m doing painting. From month to month our lives look so different.

I wonder if I am breaking my children. An awful lot of what public school has to offer children is stability and consistency. I do not underrate how important these are for child development and I concede that public schools are very good at stability.

I worry. I worry that I am not consistent enough to teach stability.

Most days I wake up between 3 and 5. I spend time in the garage until I come out around 6:30. Except for the days when the kids need me at more like 5. Those days I don’t get time off.

We eat breakfast every day but the time varies based on a lot of factors. We can eat as early as 5:45 and as late as 9. If we eat early we have second breakfast at 9:30 or 10. If we eat a late breakfast we don’t eat until lunch.

Our dinner can start anywhere between 4:45pm and 7pm depending on what is happening. Usually we start between 5 and 5:30.

We usually go to park days on Tuesdays but we skip one or two a month for a variety of reasons.

For some months of the year we have swim class. That is a once a week thing for the months we do the class. But we don’t take swim class in the summer and we sometimes have one or two other months in the year where Shanna says, “I’m ready for a break.” So we probably have been doing swim class for 6-8 months out of the year for the last few years.

Our diet is hugely variable. We eat a lot of different kinds of meat and a wide variety of vegetables. They rotate through because we get bored.

Our diet is partially so variable because I want my kids to be able to walk into any restaurant or any home and find something to eat. Everyone I have talked to who grew up with a really consistent diet struggles with that. They can eat a narrow range of “familiar” foods.

I want children who are freakishly adaptable. Kind of like me, without the trauma and anger. We’ll see.

My kids will eat ethnic food of absolutely any stripe. They will try anything once to see if they like it and usually they do. They are starting to not be into shrimp (like Noah and I–I think it is a group identification thing as much as a preference because it was abrupt) and they don’t like bell peppers. Past that, Shanna will absolutely eat everything and Calli probably will.

I run four days a week. Mostly. During the ~ 13 months of my life I have been a runner. (Those are non-consecutive and there was a gap of ~14 months in the middle.) Mostly my exercise is weird and sporadic.

Gardening is so inconsistent. Many months I spend less than two hours all month. Some months I spend 40-60 hours in the yard. Depends on what season it is.

I know that daycare babies often are on a strict napping schedule by the clock. I’ve heard of a couple of stay at home moms who manage similar schedules. I never did. My kids had random naps at random times, usually on me. We slept out of necessity and with great resistance. That’s not true. Naps were easy and awesome. I read and the kids slept on me. I miss naps. Lots of enforced sitting for me. My kids have never slept well alone.

Every morning I tell my kids what is going on during the day. I usually tell them three or four days in a row of what is happening. Unless it involves socializing with a flakey person. Then I tell them, “We might see a friend and I will tell you when confirmation happens.” Sometimes they hear that someone is coming over an hour before it happens because that is when I get confirmation. I feel guilty about running interference in this way with flakey people and I feel like I was seriously fucked up by being flaked on over and over. Better to just skip that early on.

I don’t even write/edit/make “writing people” progress every day.

I don’t even clean my house once a week. Sometimes I do. Then I skip doing it for weeks in a row. Luckily Noah never bitches.

The uncle has been showing up once a week (occasionally twice) for a while. That’s consistent.

I try to go see home schoolers at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. Some freakish weekends it happens three times in a week. It’s hard to predict.

Am I going to be able to teach them how to be functional grown ups? Do you have to be able to follow lock-step-predictable schedules for months or years in order to be functional?

With moving around so much as a child I think the only time I was “consistent” was the 2.5 years I was a public school teacher. And I wasn’t consistent the first year because I was part-time. Even when I was teaching full time for that 1.5 years my weeks varied from 50 hours to 70 hours long. That’s not very consistent. Of course I had summers off. I loved that job pace.

When you look at how trauma impacts the brain you see that it kinda sorta changes your DNA. Sorta, not really. The Godmama gave me a great metaphor (thanks!): Your DNA stays your DNA but if your DNA was a large bookshelf full of books, then your life experiences often decide which books you can fully access and read. Some books are not available to you because stuff happened.

That’s not just trauma related, actually. It’s part of the whole nature/nurture debate. We have our inherent traits and potential (good and bad) and how we are treated and what we experience activates different part of our DNA strand.

I think that is accurately stated.

So I have many generations of abuse behind me. I was probably going to be a repeated rape victim given my family background and tumultuous early life even if things had kinda improved by age ten. Things do run in families. How do I change that for my kids? What do I have to do to overcome the basic programming and instincts they have inherited?

I’m kinda terrified that the scheduling stuff plays into it somehow and I am Doing It All Wrong. I have a lot of stuff to fix in my kids. It isn’t true for every parent. My kids have a genetic legacy of alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual dysfunction, depression, suicide, anxiety, bipolar disorder, learning disabilities and potentially schizophrenia. That’s a long list of problems to have in your DNA.

How I treat them during their childhood goes a lot of the way to deciding which parts of their DNA will be activated or not. How they are treated by other people matters too.

I think my children are very sheltered. But apparently I mean something different by the term than other people do. My children are not kept ignorant. They are educated to the degree their little brains can hold the material. I’m not quite as bad as Rick Moranis is in Parenthood but I’m not that far behind either. Ahem.

I think my children are sheltered because they don’t have to find out how the world works yet. They don’t have to have many broken promises experiences. They don’t have to develop the kind of “patience” that kids develop in day care or school while they wait for other people to do their thing. My kids are sheltered from boredom.

Shanna has told me she was bored about four times. Each time resulted in me getting her up and forcing her to start cleaning. About 20 seconds later she said, “Hey I figured out what I would rather be doing so I’m not bored!” Ha.

I don’t want to be more scheduled because if we were more scheduled we would miss out on the days when I read for three hours. That just wouldn’t be in the schedule, let-me-tell-you. I could “commit” to 30-60 minutes per day. But it would have to be at some random time or I would have to choose to not do other things that day including turning down socializing opportunities. I could not agree to 30 minutes of reading right before bedtime. I fall asleep. I could not agree to 30 minutes right after breakfast because we frequently walk out the door immediately following eating.

There isn’t a time of day I could pick without impacting other parts of our life.

I’m very conscious to average more than seven hours in a week. But no, it isn’t regularly timed.

My patterns are more macro than daily. I look for averages over weeks and months. 7-8 homeschooling events in a month–I don’t care if there are three in one week it will balance for the month. I try to not drive more than three days a week. Dinner with three adult friends other than the uncle. (There is a very long list of people I slowly rotate through.)

I feel ashamed of myself for not being able to keep up more of a treadmill. I do what I can do in a day. I hope it all balances out in the long run.

I’m having some intense feelings of guilt because… err… actually Shanna is behind on standards because uhhh she can’t read. If she were in public school I would already be having chats with an upset teacher because my daughter is “behind”.

I didn’t start reading till 6.5. There are many schools of thought that believe that pushing reading before 7 or 8 years old is damaging. If a child spontaneously learns to read early–great. But forcing it isn’t a good idea.

So I have these conflicting forces. I feel guilty and like I should “push” harder in order to make it easier for her to potentially enter a classroom and be perfectly grade level. Even if she never enters school she should be the minimum level of competent to not get push back from teachers for being an ignorant homeschooled kid. I know she will be walking into stigma anyway. She can at least not be too far behind.

But I actually believe it would be silly and kind of damaging for me to push harder. It is really hard to not push. I’m kind of glad right now that I didn’t train in early childhood education. If I had acclimated to that curriculum I would be slipping shit in.

I don’t want to be coercive about learning right now. It’s a choice in principles.

I tried to have my kids even closer together. I knew that I am a lazy bastard and I am unlikely to want to do two full separate ways of teaching. I suspect I will be laissez faire (with a dash of authoritarian when it comes to safety rules) until Shanna hits 8 and Calli is 6. I will try to go gentler on Calli as I transition into more direct teaching in the first few years. Differentiated instruction is a complicated beast. But I doubt Calli will get the 8 years of soft living Shanna will get. Sorry younger sibling. That’s how it goes. But I don’t bother to push one without semi-dragging the other. That’s too hard.

Will I ever direct more? I don’t know. I know that I “could” have Shanna in music already. She doesn’t ask about those classes though. I’m waiting until she cares.

I don’t see a lot of benefit towards pushing her towards doing things or being things yet. She’s playing. She’s figuring out who and what she wants to be. She’ll let me know when she’s more sure of her interests and then I can nudge her along. Then I can help build the structure and scaffolding she will need to develop the necessary schema. Until I have a better idea I’m pretty scatter shot with what I talk about.

Hey Pam! The term is strewing. It is a method unschoolers employ. It generally means consciously having materials around and in front of your kids as a potential inducement to playing with it but you don’t schedule time. Like, we have tons of art supplies. I don’t ever schedule art projects. They just happen.

My kids are going to grow up and find out that I have no interest in science shit and be shocked. I certainly talk about it all the god damn time. I’m still drawing from the stores of what I was taught in the public system (thank you for existing) and supplementing with resources. We have several cubes of science books; I’m working on expanding what we have. (I love Ikea bookshelves and that love infects my writing–sorry.)

I know other people are good at using the library. My kids are reasonably decent with their own books and rip every library book we get. I don’t think that is nice of us so we don’t use the library. I try again every so often.  This is an ongoing thing I work on. I’m grateful I have the privilege to buy so many really interesting books.

I just read to them. Noah does too.

We live in a time and a place with infinite opportunities. If you tie yourself down to one rigid schedule then you narrowly limit what opportunities you can follow. That’s ok. It allows you to be more focused on specific goals. But maybe that’s not an all the time way of life for everyone.

I whole-heartedly agree that it is probably the best lifestyle approach for someone going into medicine. You need consistency and body memory in every part of your day. I don’t though.

I feel bad about that. I feel broken and like I’m going to hurt my kids.

I don’t know. They can follow a routine for a set period of time. They are responsive to just about anything I throw at them. We do have periods of time where we eat a monotonous diet. Then I get fussy and change it.

We are planning to travel and intermingle in local, regional cultures–not just hit the tourist spots. We won’t be in a Made-Western-Person-Safe hotel.  We can’t be rigid about our approach to the day and handle that well. It just wouldn’t go well.

I want my kids to be good at finding a new normal. Not focused on keeping their normal normal, damnit.

I don’t think I know what is right and other people are wrong. I think I have a very particular priority list that doesn’t look much like other peoples priorities and I worry about that. I am scared that I am doing it wrong.

Paper work.

I need to work on editing the book. Due by June 1st. (In progress but this will use as many hours as I’m willing to put into it.)

I need to work on a design layout. (No firm due date. Soon would be helpful and shit.)

I want to put together outlines for a couple of speaking presentations and hand them off to people who would like me to speak. (One deadline is flexible the other is soon. I should look up when. That one may need to be project the first because it expires soonest.)

Should write letters to relatives. Been procrastinating.

Because I said I wouldn’t do arm intensive projects this year, right?

No one is perfect.

Today I had a fairly long period of time where I was thinking about how hard my kids are. The hard manifests in a few flavors and intensities. I feel like talking about it. I feel guilty before I even write this entry because I try to mostly not talk about them too much. I feel guilty about “judging” them.

My kids are destructive. (Shanna to a much more extreme degree than Calli.) I try to think of it as “they like to explore the physical parameters of the world around them.” When I’m angry I feel like my kids were born just so I can’t have nice things. (I don’t say that out loud. And I shop at Ikea for reasons.) Which of course is an asshole thing to think and totally not true. But holy crap my kids break things all the fucking time. My house has been culled to the point where stuff is either paper (I clean up a metric fuckton of confetti every week; they fucking love those scissors. I hate those scissors) or indestructible to idle hands. Other people don’t sanitize their house like I do so my kids walk in and break shit. I feel horrible guilt. Yup. They do that. I have not broken them of that habit. I actually not-so-secretly like that they are so curious about everything that they want to test the boundaries of how it works as soon as they pick stuff up. And they aren’t careful. I feel really guilty. I talk about it…

My kids are not very good about respecting the boundaries around “my stuff vs. your stuff”. We have fairly carefully worked on having a “yes” house. Stuff that is on the VERY TOP shelf of whatever cabinet (doesn’t matter how tall) is OFF LIMITS and my bedroom is off-limits. Other than that, they go wherever they please and touch everything. And I mean everything. Everything. Everything. Everything. I have my “private” things locked in a chest because otherwise my kids would be into all of it. There will be no funny videos on youtube about my kids playing with my sex toys. Thanks, but no.  My jewelry is so high in my closet I nearly need a ladder to reach it.

My kids are incredibly demanding of attention. They expect to be noticed, talked to, and to have people care about what they like and don’t like basically at every moment of the day. They think their preferences matter. They are entirely oblivious to the fact that a high percentage of adults think little kids are icki and should be silent. That hasn’t appeared in their world view. When someone doesn’t want to talk to them they assume the person is just having a bad day. It is fascinating to watch.

My kids are energetic. They don’t sit down very well without a reason. And they have short attention spans for doing things and they are used to their attention span deciding how long they do something. One of the big exceptions is in restaurants. My kids know how to behave in restaurants. That’s because they have been in restaurants 1-5 times a week since they were born. We practice. Outside of a restaurant not so much.

My kids are tactile and expect that they should be allowed to touch anything that comes near them. This adds into the “not knowing what isn’t theirs”. They are improving in stores (we practice going to stores a lot.). They are pretty good about not touching things in grown-up-only houses. If something is within reach in a kid house it is entirely baffling to them that someone might care about them touching it. They are kinda assholes about it.

They both expect people to listen to long-winded descriptions of what they want at many friction points in the day. Other adults are generally not so interested in negotiating with Shanna. It’s funny to watch. But I feel like an asshole.

My kids are loud. Loud. LOUD. LOUD. LOUD. Like, make your head explode loud. I honestly don’t want them to be quieter. Even though I wish they were quieter. It’s a tough issue for me. The marks on the door have made a big improvement in the screaming. But their speaking voices are more like bellows.

Part of the problem with all of these issues is my kids are still pre-rational. I explain a lot to them about boundaries and socialization and manners and situational rules and I tell them the why behind all of these things but… they don’t get it yet. And I don’t care enough about any of these behaviors yet to work hard on modifying them. My kids have the attention span of gnats. They would get in trouble in kindergarden/preschool right now. They would be disruptive and inappropriate. They would be considered immature and deficient.

And then again, my kids can sit down and listen to me read for as long as I’m willing to do it. Hours. I have never maxed them out. I have read for three hours straight (and Noah has pulled longer stretches) and my kids never lose interest. They are fascinated by all kinds of different stories.

But if you want them to produce work in front of you that you dictate the form and manner of then you will be disappointed. Shanna will lose interest and decide to make friends with everyone at the table and invite them off into some other more fun game. Cause she’s like that.

Calli would start doing something else and then get angry and yell at you if you corrected her. (We are working on “saying” the rebuttal instead of shouting it. But I don’t know that I will work on “don’t defend your work time”. That’s a useful life skill.)

I mean, they’d learn. They’re not stupid. They don’t enjoy being publicly humiliated any more than any other person. They would stop misbehaving, at least mostly. But compliance isn’t a high priority for me.

For now I acknowledge that they have some behavior traits that drive me batshit insane and I try to do my version of meditating and I let go of attachment to being able to control their behavior. They are not little robots. I don’t get to decide how they act or think.

Calli has some challenges around self-control and anger. She is so my child. I’m doing my best to teach her the emotional self-regulation that I lack. Which is tricky. I talked to my shrink about that today. I feel very uncomfortable with the fact that I am kinda sorta teaching my kids what they should do while not being able to do it myself and they in turn narrate for me how to do it when I freak out. I’m getting a lot better. My shrink told me that it wasn’t as bad as I think to have this kind of dynamic. No, it’s still not the best.

I have never had an experience in my life that is as motivating as feeling like I need to stop needing for Shanna to talk me through calming down. She’s good at it. She’s heard me say it a lot. She’s great at calming down.

It pisses Calli off when Shanna tries to talk her through calming down. Given that it works on me (partially because I feel embarrassed about being so out of control that even a five year old can call me on it–grow the fuck up already) it is really kind of funny when Calli gets as mad as she does. (I try very hard to not laugh.) Shanna will have to grow into her nurturing. And do it with someone other than her sister.

I have reached this point where I feel like I am shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Yup. Sometimes people are assholes” in response to a lot of behaviors, of course including my own.

But I’d like to be able to hang out with them without feeling so scared. I’d like to stop feeling like I am going to be in big trouble for being late.

No one gets to punish me any more.

post-therapy: medication

My shrink gave me a very firm talking to this morning. I’m not sure she has ever been this directive before. Maybe she feels she is growing into the role now that I’ve been going for a year? In her opinion if I’m still having one-two panic attacks in a week then I need to medicate more heavily and stop fucking around with it. If I won’t consistently use pot then she wants me on an anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety med. I’m not sure yet how I feel about this upsurge of bossy from her.

Panic attacks, for those who may not know, can include several of the following symptoms:

  • “Racing” heart
  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
  • Sense of terror, or impending doom or death
  • Feeling sweaty or having chills
  • Chest pains
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Feeling a loss of control

(Thank you Webmd.com.)

For me I tend to have racing heart, dizziness, tingling in my hands and fingers (but that could be just that I type too much), sweaty, chest pain, breathing difficulty, and the horrible overwhelming feeling that I’m about to be punished because I am bad. It sounds kind of mild when I write it down. Most people who have them say they feel rather like a heart attack. They physically hurt your body and wear you down over time.

At this point I’m down to having that happen 1-2 times a week. Most of my panic attacks are in the 5-8 minute time duration window.

My shrink asked me if I liked being this way. In that, “are you keeping yourself sick because you like the attention” sort of way. I told her that I don’t deny that I like a lot of the effects of being hypervigilant. I like how many things I’m able to track at once.

I think there are reasons I need to stop doing it though. I need less multi-tasking. Interesting project opportunities continue to arrive. Hrrrmph. Tired.

And yet there are things I’ve gotta do. I could choose to not do them. It is true. But I would not like the consequences.

She told me to medicate more consistently and figure out how to increase the number of minutes I spend per day on active stress reduction. Yes, ma’am. One more forking thing to track. Goody.

It’s weird dealing with having these urges come up. I’m trying hard to learn that these things aren’t a normal part of life. I mean, I’m not alone in having panic attacks or anything. I’m not claiming I’m a completely unique snowflake or anything. This is just the road I’m on. It is well documented. I read lots of books about it. I am pathetically textbook. Feck.

What does being something different even mean? Do you know what my email handle came from? I wanted to stop using the internet handle that my Owner gave me. It was time to be something different.

So yeah. My therapist has opinions about how my PTSD symptoms are being handled. She agrees with me that I should pat myself on the back for the progress I have made and yet… I’m not where I want to be.

In a timeline: the last seven years has been the longest period of my life where I have lived in one place. Nearly twice as long as the runner up. I’m seven years post-rape. That’s after twenty-three years of being intermittently raped by a total of twelve people.

Why do I keep listing it? Because I want attention for it? *snicker* I don’t get attention for it. I make people not talk to me anymore by talking about it. Talking about it is the main way I make sure people don’t want to know me any more. It’s rather effective.

It is just true. It just is. Everyone else gets to tell me for the twenty-fifth time about their life pattern. I listen. I forking listen until I can recite the stories as well as my friends tell them about themselves.

I can clearly see all the victim blamey reasons I’m less likely to get raped from here on out. I no longer dress slutty in public unless I’m out with Noah and standing next to him the whole time. (I was only rarely dressed inappropriately in the contexts in which I was raped.) I don’t drink in public unless Noah is there. (Only three? of my rape experiences involved alcohol. I think it is awesome that I am so tired I can’t think through the roster and figure out if it is actually three. Writing No Secrets helped me lose a lot of the strings on the memories in mind. My flashbacks have dropped to basically nothing. Haven’t had one in a long time.)

Long story short: I haven’t had anything resembling a “normal life” for very long. It’s ok that I’m not very good at it. I probably deserve a lot more slack than I give myself. Only maybe I deserve a lot less. I’m never sure about these things.

More consistently medicate and spend more minutes every day on stress reduction. Ok. (Not medicate *more* or *more heavily* but more consistently. That means things like paying attention to dosage and timing and blah blah blah.)

I don’t think that I “like being able to say I’m mentally ill”. That’s more about me not being willing to hide it. I write as part of managing it.

I partially track ups and downs here because Noah has a better sense of time than I do. He can see how often I’m posting about what and help me a sense of how long different stages last. He doesn’t see most of the panic attacks.

Close friends know I have a thing about punctuality. It’s important to me. Folks probably don’t know that if I’m late somewhere I frequently have panic attacks. My uhh parenting style results in a *lot* of running late. If my kids don’t want to be at the park when the event is supposed to start, I let it happen. I try to let them set a lot of their schedule. If they dally on the way to a class it is their own darn problem. I’m at the front door ready on time and I give lots of reminders.

But I don’t nag. And I don’t force them out the door on time.

So I sometimes have to go in my room and have a panic attack. I’m down to about once a week. I swear, this is not that high for me in terms of frequency.

I’m feeling very defensive about being told to medicate more. Obviously. I want to think I’ve come a long way and I’m still making progress and isn’t that good enough and… apparently not.

The random outbursts of hyperventilating and crying etc kind of bother my kids.

Calli’s kind of in an important developmental stage. Modeling anger regulation is kinda important. This is really hard.

I feel like I have taken on a role playing gig slated to run for twenty years. I’m still figuring out my role.

Need a working definition of pride.

Yesterday Shanna asked me several times, “Does this make you feel proud of me?” Given that she is now at the stage where she is *asking* for that feedback I need a better way of explaining the concept to her.

Mondays are my cleaning day. Other than keeping up with the dishes and the rare load of extra laundry I try like fuck to not clean seven days a week. Then I get really pissy. Yesterday was a cleaning day. Given that the previous week was kind of rough (if I’m still cleaning at 7:30pm it’s a bad cleaning day) I was nervous about getting yesterday off to a good start.

In general I uhh, rely too much on, “If you do your work then you get your privileges. If I do your work, not so much.”

This week I didn’t say that at all. *pat self on back*

I just talked about what I was looking forward to doing when I finished my chores. I didn’t threaten them. That’s the right way to do it, darn it.

However, when the kids had an early burst of productivity I did kind of go a bit overboard on talking about how proud I am when they work hard and quickly. Which resulted in the dreaded, “What does pride mean?” I told her a kind of hand wavey one sentence long “It means feeling really happy but it’s more than that–I’ll think about it and get back to you.”

Me being me, I start the morning off with Google. What does “pride” mean? Wikipedia tells me:

“Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotationpride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging. Philosophers and social psychologists have noted that pride is a complex secondary emotion which requires the development of a sense of self and the mastery of relevant conceptual distinctions (e.g., that pride is distinct from happiness and joy) through language-based interaction with others.[1] Some social psychologists identify it as linked to a signal of high social status.[2] In contrast pride could also be defined as a disagreement with the truth. One definition of pride in the first sense comes from St. Augustine: “the love of one’s own excellence”.[3] In this sense, the opposite of pride is either humility or guilt; the latter in particular being a sense of one’s own failure in contrast to Augustine’s notion of excellence.

Pride is sometimes viewed as excessive or as a vice, sometimes as proper or as a virtue. While some philosophers such as Aristotle (andGeorge Bernard Shaw) consider pride a profound virtue, some world religions consider it a sin, such as is expressed in Proverbs 11:2 of the Old Testament. In Christianity, pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.”

You know what, I don’t think I will read that to my five year old. That may not be helpful.

Ok, so what is pride?

Pride is that feeling you get when you work really hard on a big fort and you want to show it off because you think it is so neat. Pride is that feeling you get when you swagger in to tell me, “Mommy I made ALL the lunch for EVERYONE all BY MYSELF.” (Sometimes I get a surprise pbj whether I want it or not–I am always effusive and grateful.)

Pride is the feeling you get when you think you did something right or well and you believe that it is a good thing to do. Apparently it’s not just about being happy. It’s satisfaction in a job well done. It’s feeling like it is a good thing that you can do something.

I feel a lot of pride in the fact that we grow so much of our food now. Five years ago that wasn’t true. Now it is because I worked really hard with my own two hands. The feeling I get when I think about that is called pride. When you think about what you do and you are all, “Wow! I did that! Go me!” That feeling is pride.

Often grown ups feel pride in their kids. It’s kind of an annoying thing because when a grown up gets pride from their kid that means they try to control their kid. Then the grown up tries to force the kid to do things so that the parent can have that feeling and that’s… not so good.

Like when I try to force you to wear the clothes I want you to wear in pictures because I want you to look a certain way. (Both kids flat refused the last time we had pictures done. *sigh*) I shouldn’t feel more or less pride in my kids based on their clothes, that’s pretty stupid–right? Should people feel “proud” because they look a certain way? Not so much. I don’t feel “proud” of my white skin or my curly hair. Whatever. It just is. I may like my hair–but it’s not pride. I don’t feel like I accomplished anything. It’s just kinda there.

(Side bar–yes, many adults in the world take pride in their looks. That is not a concept I am introducing to my five year old and I’m going to actively discourage it because she’s already obsessed with makeup.)

Pride is about what you do. It is about thinking you took the right action.

Why does mommy feel pride when you do your chores fast in the morning so we can move on and play all afternoon?

Partially because when you work fast it proves you can. Not everyone can work quickly and well and I think it is pretty fucking cool that my three year old and five year old have learned how to be responsible for their own stuff. That is something that not everyone can do as a grown up so I think my kids are AMAZING for doing it as young as they are. Just sayin’.

Partially I feel proud because when you work quickly in the morning we can all move on to doing something more fun. When you get your chores over with so that *I* can get my chores over with then I feel grateful that you care enough about me to want me to have an afternoon off. I feel pride that you care about me. I feel happy and satisfied and grateful and it all mixes up into pride.

I feel like it says good things about how you were taught when you care about other people and how your behavior impacts them. I feel like it doesn’t say such good things about how you were taught when you don’t care about how your behavior impacts other people.

But that’s one of those areas where grown ups start to be inappropriate. Should I base my pride on the actions of other people? Not so much. That’s not very healthy. Then I will start trying to control them. That’s all bad.

But I feel pride because I feel like I did a good thing when I tried to teach you to behave a certain way.

Being able to work quickly and move on will be useful for you for the rest of your life. Being able to buckle down and just get your work done is an important ability. I’m trying to teach you how to focus.

Pride is a funny thing. It’s good and it’s bad. It is good for my house that I take pride in it. I fix things. I make it better. I clean it up and ensure that we don’t get pests. I continue to put effort out towards making it a nice place to be because I want people to want to visit. I want people to think, “Gosh that Wonderland is fun. I want to go back.” Given that we have kids say nearly exactly that to me, I take pride in that. I have worked hard to create a reality and I take pride in it working out.

Is it good for my kids that I take pride in them? Only if I can do so without shaming them or trying to control them on the flip side. Only if I can take pride in the fact that they exist and are. Not if I try to take pride in what I can make them do. Then pride gets kind of broken.

Taking pride in the fact that I have taught my kids to *try* seems less hazardous than taking pride in their results. I need to not personalize their results. Their lives are not all about me. They are not just a reflection of me.

However, to a large degree people are a reflection of the parenting they received. It’s not nature or nurture but a combination of both that decides how we end up. My kids have gotten to spend their lives in an environment where it is ok for them to try things out.

That’s why my kids do so many annoying things. I let them. I let them find out the results. I tell them flat out “You only find out what will happen by trying things. Sometimes the result will be that an adult yells at you. That’s part of life. Maybe you’ll decide not to do that thing again. Maybe you’ll decide you don’t care much about being yelled at. The only way to find out is to try.”

And at the beginning, middle, and end of every day they are loved and cosseted and petted and told that both of their parents are very glad they are here on this earth existing. We want to see what they can go do.

I also talk to them a lot about how my approval needs to not be the most important thing to them. Maybe my approval comes second or third in their priority list, but they need to approve of their actions more than it matters what I think. I tell them, “At some point there is going to be something that you want enough to absolutely argue and not back down about. You will have to figure out how to get around me. Neither of us will be very happy for a bit. That’s part of the learning process too.”

I think that part of my problem is that I confuse pride and gratitude. Maybe I shouldn’t be feeling pride in their cleaning abilities so much as I should feel gratitude that they are helping me. How does that work? What is the difference really?

Okay I need a more concise definition for Shanna.

Pride is a good and a bad thing. If self pride pushes you to work harder that is probably a good thing. If pride in someone else causes you to try to force them to work harder then it is not such a good thing. This is not a definition that will help Shanna so far.

Pride is like being happy but it’s more. Pride is feeling like the job was well done. Sometimes you feel pride in yourself and sometimes you feel pride in other people who are close to you. It’s like approval.

Pride is where you think something is so cool. Pride is when you want to brag about something. Or when you think something is too wonderful to share. It can go either way. Pride is complicated.

Ok, that’ll do for now.

Reflections

Today I took the girls to visit an old friend of mine. I haven’t seen her much since I had kids. She’s older than me and she has a grown daughter. Talking to her is different now than it used to be.

Now she actively tries to tell me not to use her as an example. I don’t know if she was simply unaware of how I tried to pattern match off of her in the past or if it seemed more harmless.

Now she adamantly tells me that I should not make similar choices to her. She is not all that happy with the far side of the parenting road and she thinks that she made a lot of wrong choices.

Given that she is a specialist who works with developmentally delayed children (wow I know a lot of them) I did my normal poke, “Several friends think I should have Calli evaluated as potentially somewhere on the spectrum or possibly a speech delay. What do you think?”

She snickered. She said, “I have a 3.5 year old client who can point and say “unh” when he wants something. She’s really not delayed.”

This was kind of weird because I realized how much I want to brush off the encouraging and/or positive comments I receive about my children. Instead I worry and worry about the outliers who tell me, “I think you should ____”.

I never know how to feel about that. I don’t spend a lot of time talking about it, but lots of strangers stop me to grab my shoulders and stare at me in a really intense way and say, “Do you know how exceptional your child is?”

It happens every few months. I uhhh don’t know how to react. This is usually after ten or so minutes talking to Shanna. Talking about that sounds like bragging but honestly it makes me uncomfortable.

It’s not like it only comes from the sweet old grandmothers. It comes from a wide variety of people in a wide variety of circumstances. They are a lot easier to brush off and not think about much. I worry about the criticisms.

I want to believe that people are seeing the real experience of my life when they see potential areas I’m fucking up and not when it’s going right. The going right must be a fluke, right? I don’t believe compliments or positive statements. Although I’m not looney–I know my oldest child is advanced in speaking. But yeah. Whatever. How’s that going to effect the price of tea in China?

When I first knew a lot of my friends as mothers they were still young-ish mothers. I knew them through the periods they talk of with regret. It’s weird to now hear that side of it because I didn’t know anything at the time. I thought they were so great. Now they tell me not so much.

I’m worried, like I am. What am I fucking up? What am I missing? What am I not catching that a competent professional would catch?

Then I went on to read a thread on a homeschool email list about the idea of seeing a speech pathologist/therapist/getting kids evaluated for autism/etc other labels. The point was made that many, most issues (like speech stuff) would naturally resolve around six but we put kids into therapy earlier than that “so they don’t get used to the stigma of being deficient”. (Not my phrasing–emphasis is mine.)

It was a long thread and I’m quoting a very small part and the person I’m quoting had many interesting ideas so I’m not trying to paint it badly. But it was one of those “howdy there, juxtaposition” moments. (I’m working my way through a book on how people reach insights. It’s fascinating how connections layer.)

Anyway. The point was I think it is kind of interesting that I’m dithering about getting Calli evaluated. I have not been able to make up my mind if I want to pursue it or not. If she has speech delay it is extremely minor and most kids resolve minor issues on their own by six. She doesn’t have a severe speech issue. That is clear. She seems to have some difficulty with some sounds, but we do exercises. I’m not sure speech therapy would have much to offer her. The pediatrician does the basic autism screening and has at every appointment. The pediatrician says Calli is fine. But I worry.

And I hesitate to put my sticky little feet near the waters of the system. Do I really want my local school system building a dossier on my kids so that they can pester me about what I’m doing and whether I’m doing it right?

I go back and forth about how I feel about working with charter schools and it comes down to, ultimately, the fact that if I got the wrong “supervising teacher” to work with I would explode with rage.

That’s not so healthy or functional, I know.

I don’t do well with people who have a small amount of arbitrary power and then are petty. It’s a super common trait though and not a situation I really want to deal with.

But I worry about the idea that I am flying blind with no one to supervise me. The trouble is finding someone I respect who would be in an appropriate position to work with me. Mostly I just ask different people who have different specialties for informal evaluations.

Yeah. I feel mixed about the “methodology” I’m following. It’s uhm. Well. It’s unschooling. I don’t have a rubric of right or wrong. I’m just… doing.

What I’m trying to do is teach me and Shanna and Calli how to be polite to people. We have very good manners together. We can go to a grown-up only house and behave exactly how we should because there are Rules and we gosh darn spend the whole car ride there going over them. There are different rules for different places

I consciously and deliberately always specify why a rule exists.

You know that obnoxious “why” phase parents bitch about? We don’t have much of that here. I explain why before they can ever stop to consider how to react to an arbitrary rule. We don’t have many arbitrary rules.

Even “no food on the carpet” is “except on party days or very rarely with something that has NO CRUMBS”.

I need my children to be able to pick up on subtle behavior clues. I need it like I need water. It is not normal or natural to be as obsessed with it as I am. That means that it is not acceptable for me to expect my children to just be able to do it.

It means I have to explicitly teach my children how to evaluate how to talk to people. It means I have to go through and explain detailed body language stuff. We work on it a lot.

It’s controlling and wacky and crazy. But I tell them a lot, “I’m teaching you what I have learned. I don’t know everything. Sometimes I’m just flat wrong. As you grow up you will have different experiences than I’ve had and you will decide that I’m very wrong about some things. That happens to the best of us. For now, try to get some idea of what I’m looking at. It will take time and practice and you are going to make some mistakes and feel embarrassed. Brush it off and try again. You have to fail a million times before you can be an expert at anything.”

I want my kids to have the self confidence that comes from being allowed to try 30 things that fail before you find something that works.

And that means I frustrate the shit out of them.

I sorta think of myself as aspiring to be a cross of Mary Poppins, Mr. Miyagi, and Professor McGonagall. But more cuddly than that list implies.

I’m very demanding and exacting and I expect that is going to suck to live with long-term. We’ll see.

I don’t like curriculum but we talk about history a lot. I believe that studying history is important because many of the mistakes that we might make were already made by other people–go see how it worked out for them and then decide if you want that kind of result. We talk about historical people and periods and events and we read biographies.

When Shanna makes a grammar error and I correct her she does actually say, “Why was that wrong?” so I guess I get some “Why” questions. Mostly she says “What does ____ mean?”

I set the framework in their heads. We talk about space and biology and evolution and chemistry and physics and botany.

We haven’t been seriously working on language stuff but our play sometimes includes bouncing between using all the words in our collective vocabulary in every language we know to name objects in a space. It’s fun. They teach me words. (I verify things on the internet…) That will only get bigger as they get older. It’s a great way of getting them to sit still and be patient. I start by pointing at something and I will say it’s name/color/some descriptive term and someone will respond with a variation or move to a new object.

Unschooling means we spend our lives learning. The kids have spontaneous jam sessions where they sit down and make up song lyrics for a half hour to an hour. I uhhh look askance from a distance as someone who has always felt excluded from the cliqueish world of playing music. Shanna really likes making music and making up lyrics to go with what she is playing. It is a lot of fun to watch. It’s not “serious learning” but I would argue that it’s also important. She’s only five. Yes, some disciplines believe you can force children to learn even younger than she is. There is also some reason to believe it is better to start at more like seven or eight when the kid will really understand the range of options.

For now I’m comfortable with dithering. Or maybe I just think eight because that is when public schools start music. Who knows.

Shanna’s learning enough right now. She really does have a lot she’s trying to do.

We play math games. I don’t start them. I would probably avoid math much more if I could. Ugh. Shanna is very focused on math to my jaundiced view. She probably sits down to spontaneously do math work every week or two. She’s not a prodigy or anything but she’s interested and she feels like she is successful at it and she knows that understanding math is important for many careers. She doesn’t have any opening for bias that might imply she might be potentially bad at math.

We spend our days moving back and forth between subjects all day long. Cooking is chemistry and math. We talk about how much food costs. We talk about why we make the choices we make with the money we spend on food. There are a lot of shoot-off topics from there. Sometimes I do sit down and draw out how something would visually look if I think it would be hard for them to imagine.

But it’s all organic. (I don’t mean the hippy dippy shit.) I mean it just kind of happens. I respond to their questions all day long. I alternate filling their heads with so much information they sometimes look like they might explode with telling them, “I don’t know how to do it. You figure it out.”

We are loud people. We want to be heard. That is the last trait I want to extinguish in my kids. Same with not punishing them for whining. *I* whine. I’m not going to forking punish my kids for doing what I model. That would make me a despicable hypocrite.

do not punish my kids for doing things I have taught them to do. Iron clad rule.

Does everyone live with rules? This many rules. So many rules. I feel like I am drowning in all the rules, rules, rules. Be this here. Be that there. Be something else someplace else. 

I like the Biblical phrase “a house divided”.

Fall. Fall. Fall.

Only I’m not divided. I promised me I’d never do that. I would never split off my memories so that only certain parts of me existed at a time. Apparently that is one of the main ways folks like me get out of childhood. That’s what the specialists tell me.

I’m not splitting. But I’m learning how to be polite in a wide variety of different cultures and it’s hard. I think I only get to like 70% correct anywhere I try.

I always say too much. I’m too forward. I’m too loud. I’m too inappropriate (although this one has faded now that I only over-share sexually with some of Noah’s random co-workers at Christmas parties. Surely that’s uhm not as bad as I’ve ever been before. That’s been it for the last several years running.

This is big.

And yet I shouldn’t talk about it because it is indiscreet. But controlling hypersexuality doesn’t go away when you are married and monogamous and having moderately good sex with your husband. (I post about bad spells and he goes, “Ahh. An opportunity. So if I put in more effort I get more sex? H’okay then!”) We’re too tired for the earth shattering kind of sex. Some day we’ll get back there. *cross fingers*

I feel like that is the main overwhelming fact of parenthood. Exhaustion. I actually sleep pretty well these days. What, I only miss 2-7 hours in the average week lately? I’ve been sleeping pretty well. I wake up when I want to and not because I have to. That’s doing ok. But I’m still exhausted.

Yes, it’s a running day and I’m tired after eight miles. But it’s not that. I think the running makes me feel better about being this tired because I am whether I run or not. At least when I run I get to have this macho swagger for a while as I feel my rock hard thighs. Holy crap. I didn’t know my legs did that. (They stopped being rock hard when I defrosted and relaxed after the run… but they had like an hour there.. Maybe I need more mid-run stretching breaks… hm.)

I think that the schedule I should keep is either run or edit seven days a week. I only predictably have till 6:30am to work. The whole rest of the day is too overwhelming with kid-need-to-communicate. I love them so much but sometimes I feel like a wrung out sponge.

When I look kind of deflated Noah says, “Well we didn’t pick the low intensity kind of parenting.”

Nope. Not so much.

If I get through this twenty year period and I end up with adult children who want to be my friends and who can go off into the world and have happy lives…

I don’t want a codependent relationship forever. I don’t want two dependents. I want to engage in loud, wild, crazy sex in the middle of my living room. You can move out some day, kiddos. I have plans.

But I hope and pray every day that they will want to be my friend. I want to hear about their lives. I want to know what happens to them. Sure, I hope that they will tell me sometimes that I am a good mom. Mostly I hope that I will look at what they do with their life and think quietly to myself “That was a good choice.” I should keep my mouth shut. It is not my job to judge who they become as adults. Not one way or another.

I don’t judge them much now. I evaluate them. But I describe everything in terms of progress and development. There is no “good” or “bad”. I’m just making sure you are doing what a three year old should be able to do.

I worry that if I decide to have her evaluated she will have a very small delay and I will be told that I “really should pay for therapy so she won’t be more delayed later” (when that is only a faint possibility).

Yeah, I over think things.

If she has a 10% or 20% delay then she is still in the range of normal. She’s just not right at the center line or above it. I don’t believe there is a chance that she is more delayed than that. And her expressive language is advanced. I think she just has to grow into her mouth.

I want to give her time. I think that is all I have to give her. I don’t want to think of her as “behind”. She’s Calli. She’s not the most advanced in every single part of human development but she is certainly not struggling to be understood.

If she starts having problems having conversations with strangers because they can’t understand her then I will take her in for an evaluation. That seems like a good bar. As long as strangers can understand her and have a pick up conversation she is doing well enough for three.

Ok. I think I can stop worrying about that now. (I can dream, can’t I? Actually I can’t because I’ve started having pot at night again. Thank you blissful slumber. Yes, my tolerance is lower.)

I feel like I am so tired I will go fall in my bowl of soup. Maybe time to start getting ready for dinner. I’m so glad it is a leftovers night.

I planned out dinners for February and March. I’m pretty good about sticking to my schedule if I make it. I’m hoping to uhm bring down my food budget a little. It’s hard given some of my food priority stuff. I do my best to buy my meat from actual farmers. I make a big exception for sausage. I’m going to hell for the sausage. I have some very strong feelings about the unsustainability of factory farmed meat. But man I know how expensive it is to be all prissy about “food ethics”. Maybe this year I should be better about tracking food spending. I wonder what I’m putting where. I could look at vendors. on Mint… Hmmm. Now I’m procrastinating. Put down the darn keyboard, Krissy.

Running is so different now.

That first year I was running I felt like I was being hounded by demons on every step. I spent most runs sobbing and crying and spitting big gobs of mucous out of my mouth so I could breathe. It was a regular occurrence for me to fall to my knees and cry for 10 or 15 or 20 minutes and sob as hard as I could in the middle of a run. I spent a great portion of every run planning how I could kill myself with the handy materials (jump off an over pass, eat poisonous plants, deliberately step in front of a Mac truck among other ideas).

I think that happened because I was training so I could run with my brother. I know my brother hates me and blames me for a lot of things that couldn’t possibly be my fault. So training to run with him was really hard. I’m kind of glad he flaked.

Instead of having a gut wrenching awful experience I had a very hard experience with someone who loves me an awful lot. She must or she wouldn’t have flown from out of state to run an awful marathon with me. It was not convenient for her to do. She went through a lot of trouble.

And all through that difficult race (it was a very hard race for experienced marathoners–the conditions were just awful) she was there with me coaxing and playing and keeping my spirits up. She sang to me. She told me funny jokes. She would gently and lovingly coax me into a minute of running… just a minute… to speed up our pace from the crawling walk I mostly managed. I would not have been an official finisher of that race without her. It was too hard for me alone.

So now when I run I notice that my internal dialogue is different. Instead of hearing what a lazy, fat, stupid, disgusting, waste-of-time bitch I am the whole way I have Blacksheeps gentle voice instead. “You can do it! I have so much faith in you. Small steps, just move ’em quick. Just a minute of running then we can walk again. You can do it. I believe in you.”

I don’t cry when I run any more. Sometimes I’m still pokey and slow and that’s ok. I get a little more of a questioning eyebrow response back now. I don’t get told I’m fucking pathetic for going so slow. I get more of a, “Are you sure you can only move that fast?”

Right now I’m training for my training half marathon. I’m going to do another half marathon later in the year with Blacksheep. I’m doing this one with the mindset of getting into better shape so I can go closer to her pace. I know she will be patient with me no matter how fast I will go–she will not shame me. She will not degrade me or act disappointed. She will be encouraging and enthusiastic about me trying so hard because she knows how long the journey has been.

When I think about reparenting stuff this kind of thing is kind of what I mean. Blacksheep talks to me the way I talk to my kids. Like they will mistakes and get back up and try again because that is what you do.

Making mistakes does not define you. Refusing to correct your mistakes does define you. There are choices in life.

I’m looking forward to both 1/2 marathons this year. And…. I’m thinking that I might go right from the second 1/2 marathon into training for a full marathon again. I like how my body feels when I’m doing the long-distance running. I’d like more of that with tapes of Blacksheep playing in my head. I need that in my life.

It’s not like she’s with me on every run. But I can remember and draw strength from the love that is there.

I do that with cooking and Sarah. When I’m feeling scared and I can feel myself wanting to curl up in a ball and cry because I feel stupid and like I can’t I can’t I can’t. Sarah comes and whispers in my ear, “Yes you can. It’s easy. Here let’s read the recipe together.”

This is how I piece together my reparenting. I’m going to go have my glass of tea now.

Thank you so much for loving me.