Category Archives: languages

Random weird thing.

The further I get from California, the more Spanish I am speaking to the children. It’s not a conscious “language learning” thing I’m just… speaking Spanish. Which is a little weird. The further I get from my home the more Spanish feels like the language of my home and speaking it is more intimate.

I don’t know. I’m not sure what is going on. It’s not fully conscious. These are phrases and expressions I have always used with them but at home they are occasional. Now it is just how I’m talking to them.

Weird.

Hindi study

Last year we somehow stumbled across an advertisement for Hindi lessons at the local temple. (It is on the end of our block.) All four of us went to the first round of classes and it was pretty fun. This year Shanna said she didn’t want to sit still every week and only Calli asked to enroll.

I find the study of Hindi to be stimulating in a way that few things have been. Having to memorize different letters and connect them to sounds that don’t exist in my language feels an order of magnitude different from studying languages with a similar alphabet (like Spanish). I’m not saying harder–I’m not sure if it is harder. But it feels different.

I studied Spanish in school–both high school and college. I am nothing near fluent. But the study of Hindi is teaching me that I have a significant vocabulary–my problem is verb conjugation. When the teacher asks us to create a sentence in Hindi to answer a question I always have a complete sentence in Spanish pop into my head and I have to consciously not say it. Wrong language. But having these little epiphanies over and over that I could probably actually go to South America and communicate fine after a month is pretty huge for me. I have lots of impostor syndrome. I think I am stupid and incapable of learning many things. Then I find out that I ALREADY KNOW THINGS!!!

It is hard to explain how exciting this feels. On one hand, people regularly tell me I am intimidating because I am smart/educated. On the other hand, I feel like I’m not talented nor smart nor educated because I know people who have gone way deeper into almost any topic than I have. I’m good at viewing things in the way that makes me look bad.

Hindi is causing me to feel pride in my ability to learn in a way that few things have. For one thing: I’m turning around and teaching Shanna once we get home. She is making progress as fast or faster than Calli and Calli is actually attending the class. It is like ASL only better. ASL was harder for me to feel pride in because Shanna picked it up at two or three times the rate I did and I always felt stupid and like I am too slow to be able to say what is happening in my mind. I just can’t make my hands go fast enough.

Hindi isn’t like this. I shouldn’t feel so much pride that I am picking up concepts faster than many of the 6-7-8 year old kids in the class.. but they are growing up in houses where this language is a daily occurrence. I do feel pride that I am managing to study on my own well enough that I am picking things up faster than people who are learning more about their native language. (They all speak English in most of their lives and Hindi almost exclusively at home based on what they say in class.)

I’m not competing with the kids. That’s not the point. But I have fairly clear proof that I am learning and I am not stupid. I’m progressing quickly. Having it be so crystal clear that I am learning is… it feels really good. I feel proud of myself.

Today we had kind of a weird class. Some of the teachers were ill so they combined levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. This meant that the class was too slow for half the people and way too fast for the other half. Ahhh group teaching. The teacher who teaching level 4 was disappointed in me that I couldn’t come up with a Hindi sentence describing what I will do on Halloween. Uhm, the only verb I know is “is”. I know colors. I can count. I’m on my way to knowing the alphabet. No… I don’t yet know how to say, “On October 31st we will dress up and go trick or treating.” Nope, don’t have that vocabulary yet. But I may work on it this week and write down the phonetic sentence and say it next week. Because she’d be thrilled I looked it up.

I find it strange that I feel so good about the positive affirmations from the teachers. Why do I care? They are strangers and it’s not like this is going on my permanent record. But I care.

Hindi requires a similar kind of discipline as training for the marathon. I have to show up consistently and do the study. Every single day. I have to train. I have to live my life as if attaining mastery of the language is a goal. Just like training for the marathon. I have to not skip runs because I feel whiny. I have to do it anyway or my body will not be ready on the crucial day. If I don’t study Hindi I won’t ever be able to go to India and study farming with people who have questionable English. I want it so bad I feel an ache in my bones.

I want to be able to talk to people in other countries about farming and incest. I’m kind of weird. I want to go meet people when I learn farming and build relationships and come back years later after they know me and trust me and then get their communities to talk to me about incest. I have a plan.

I feel grateful that some days I wake up and it doesn’t feel like I’m trapped in limbo. I’m on a journey. I’m not waiting for the future to happen to me. I’m living my future. I am doing what I always wanted to do. I am home schooling my children in security and love. I am learning languages so I can go learn from people who have entirely different life experiences than me. I am getting to enjoy the companionship and growth of my children such that I am truly getting to see a happy, healthy childhood up close. I am ridiculously blessed.

When I have conflicts with my kids and I feel very anxious about them it is important to keep in mind that I get along with them better than I’ve ever gotten along with anyone. That doesn’t mean it is always smooth sailing. I am pretty sure I will never have a relationship that is all smooth sailing. That doesn’t mean I should opt-out of relationships and it doesn’t mean I should try hard to keep people away from me.

Life is complicated. I’m grateful that this portion of my journey involves getting to engage in study that improves my sense of self esteem while also significantly furthering my life goals. Often those two aspects do not move in tandem. I am lucky.

Ok, now that I’ve done my Hindi for the day time to run. It’s a wonderfully easy Saturday. This is my shortest Saturday run until April. I should find joy in that. From here on out it gets harder.

Luckily, I can do it. I already have so I have no fear. The half marathon Thanksgiving weekend (my race is on Saturday) will be easy. My informalish goal is to manage a 11:50 or better pace. I was super close last time until mile 11 when my ankles seized. More stretching this training schedule. I’m also doing more weight lifting. Being stronger seems mandatory for more speed at this stage. And 26.2 miles just doesn’t sound that far any more. March will be here soon and I’ll run that far and be fine. It blows my mind.

I am more than I ever thought I could be.

Going to see a geyser

I’ve never seen a geyser before. A friend asked us to go with her family up to the petrified forest. It will be an adventure.

I’ve been noticing that I should be tracking our “school” activities at this point. We are officially home schooling. Oh goodness. More things to track. So much excitement.

We are actively working on Hindi, Spanish, math skills, and history is always a frequent topic in our house. As unschoolers this is all happening in a kind of free form manner.

What does unschooling mean for us? It means that we pursue child-led-education. We don’t follow curriculums and we don’t worry about hitting the milestones exactly when everyone else hits the milestones. It means asynchronous learning. It means having middle school level discussions about the body with pre-readers.

So far unschooling means that we learn all the time, everywhere we go. We cannot put our learning in a building and leave it there. Learning is all around us.

I’m told, by more experienced unschooling parents, that with unschooling the key isn’t to sit down and map out what you will do with a year. You have no idea in advance. The key is to accurately record what you are actually doing and give yourself credit. You won’t be able to predict how your children will learn in advance.

I wouldn’t have guessed that most of our first written down math problems would be in service of selling things in the front yard. If you want to learn to make change, this is the process.

It has already been a busy year for learning things and September is only half-way through. I need to record better. Maybe if I wrote down that yesterday we studied Hindi and read books and cooked panna cotta for the first time (I didn’t cook–Noah and the kids did.) I wouldn’t worry so much that we “aren’t doing anything”. We are doing things. Just not all the things in a set order every day.

Having faith that the future will work out is not my strong suit. I guess there needs to be a first time for everything.

Morning routine

Here is my list of “it would be nice” if I did them in the morning.

  • Run
  • Write on blog
  • Medicate
  • Write on books that are in my head screaming to get out.
  • Water the plants (not *Every* day but most days and I’m struggling to be consistent)
  • Yoga
  • Eat breakfast

The problem is I want to get this all done by 7am and it’s just not happening. Past 7 I have the kids and…. everything gets harder.

Shanna has been making noise about wanting to get more serious about “school”. She understands that she is “going into first grade” and other kid have a lot of work to do at this stage.

I’m sorta wondering if I should mostly cut out socializing this school year. We should do classes and stay at home to practice things. She specifically asked if we could start reviewing Signing Time again.

I’m going to need to limit socializing to maybe two days a week. One week day and one weekend day. Noah desperately needs a weekend day of down time. It’s not fair to blast through the weekends. I think it is good for all of us.

We want martial arts. I’m thinking parkour to start just because it sounds so fun. I’m going to have to email the mom of a boy in our homeschool group. He’s doing lessons already in Fremont. He and Shanna are sorta close in age and they get along pretty well. (At least when they are alone. Not when the (insert winking lights here) wonderful second boy in their triad shows up though. Then they fight over the other boy. Sigh.

Both kids want to stay in swimming lessons over the fall/winter.

Calli will be in HIndi.

Both kids are asking for music classes and there is a place in Fremont that does birth-6 years olds in one class. It isn’t one instrument focused. They kind of move around between a few different kind of instruments. And they are big on ukeleles! I need to get both of ours fixed.

If we start doing language videos every day and practicing together, that will be like another class.

That is on top of our constant outpouring of history and math and science and art.

My kids have memorized the low level addition tables to the point where they are sometimes faster than me. We do not table work on addition. We just talk about math all the time. We count and do addition problems back and forth. They have never ever been asked to do a worksheet.

I got them a geometry set with a compass and man these words are escaping my brain today. Whoa. Uhm, those stupid plastic things you use to help you draw angles. Whatever. We have played with that though.

I would like to take a moment and thank genetics that my kids are *not* primarily visual learners. Many children *need* to see things in front of them in order to understand. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with them. I’m more literal like that. My kids are incredibly good at picking up concepts from hearing and talking about them. It is luck.

But I feel like it fits in with why I haven’t encouraged Shanna towards reading with more vigor. She’ll get there. Until then she has had to develop her memory with greater enthusiasm. She has memorized most of the books we own so she can “read” them to her sister. But she gets enough words wrong that I know she is remembering and not reading.

We have hundreds of childrens books. We have a bigger library than some elementary schools I went to. If Shanna has most of these memorized that means she has had them read to her. That feels good to me.

Our house rule is that any given book is read ONCE per day. I do not reread. Period. So they memorize these books without the benefit of having it repeated over and over and over in a short period. I am so darn envious of Shanna’s memory. She got it from her dad. I sorta glare at them on the sly sometimes but I don’t bitch. It’s a cool talent.

Sometimes when I watch interactions in other families I feel like there is something wrong with us. We are too touchy. Too affectionate. Am I going too far in the affection direction? We don’t “make out” (extended kisses on the lips with lips closed) and tongues belong in your mouth but beyond that if you want to give someone 500 kisses on their face, go for it.

Even in sex communities I have never seen a group of people as physically demonstrative as this family. I feel a little weird about it. Noah says that he and I both came into parenting with major touch deficits. That’s true enough.

But these means my kids are having a hard time learning that you can’t be that affectionate with EVERYONE. It’s a work in progress.

I keep telling Shanna, “When you are a baby it is ok to push until someone tells you “no”. That’s how you learn boundaries. As you get physically bigger the power dynamic shifts. You don’t get to push. You can only do things to people if you ask in advance and they say “yes”. Otherwise you are potentially violating their boundaries and that isn’t ok. People shouldn’t have to say “no” and shove you off of them once you are bigger. That’s only for babies.

This morning at breakfast we had a clarifying conversation about the whole “fucking kids” thing. I asked if it was ok to say “darn kids” and Shanna emphatically said “no.” It is unacceptable to call them anything. The only thing I am allowed to say is, “I am really frustrated with you kids.”

I can’t die. I want to see what she becomes as a grown up. She is so fucking cool.

I think I have talked myself into limiting socializing outside the house to two days a week during the next season or so. Tuesdays and Saturdays. Tuesdays partially because I have therapy on that day and it is park day so I should just assume that day is out of the house.

We have one or two things already scheduled I won’t cancel. I just won’t add more.

I think that partially I’m trying to see if the kids and I can get into a more regular rhythm because we will have to have one next year on the road trip. Just over ten months to go.

I would like it if we were better able to communicate in languages other than English. We will have to just practice. Oh I finally have an in-house study group. I feel so grateful. I don’t have to feel stupid or embarrassed.

When I stay home more I’m slightly less volatile. I think? I wish I remembered this kind of thing better. I know I go stir crazy. But this period of at-home is going to be forcefully ended by being out of the state for five months or so. Maybe I should build up some reserves so that I don’t leave depleted.

Life is complicated. I should pay attention to mis hijas. I don’t know why but I’m not that fond of the word “daughter”. I like hija. I always have. When I was a little girl wandering around the barrio I would hear the Mamas yelling, “Mijas! Ven ahora!” It is one of the most comforting sounds.

My mom didn’t yell for me to come in much. She was happy for me to be out of her face as long as I was willing to be gone. When she did yell at me it was a harsh “Kristine Lenora!”

I like that mi hijas are so tender and gentle with me. Time for snuggling. Maybe after I shower. Phew. (Hey–I already got my running in.)

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.

Unschooling

I have a lot of volatile things in my head I can’t talk about. So I’m going to write about unschooling instead.

I was hanging out on Pinterest trying to distract myself from my current feelings so that I can get some kind of grip on myself for a day of painting. It isn’t happening fast.

I was looking through a lot of unschooling articles and I was pinning them, as you do, and I thought, “Holy crap I hope that none of my traditionally schooling friends see this and think I am saying mean things about their choices.”

I think our education model in this country is broken. I understand that there are a wide variety of reasons to opt-in to it despite it being fundamentally broken. But I think of it like opting-in to a relationship with an abusive parent because you can’t handle the pain of breaking things off. I get it. But I hope I don’t ever do it.

There are a wide variety of reasons I would put my kids in school and then undermine that shit as best I could at night. I don’t think my kids are too good for school. I think I have the luxury and privilege of being able to make a different decision and I really really want to.

I very consciously educated myself with the goal of being able to be… more or less an elite private tutor. I grew up in a place where I could see that people were being taught lessons by their families that I had no access to. I sometimes lived in extremely wealthy areas. Those kids just knew things about life I had no way of learning.

I wanted kids. It isn’t that I want my kids to grow up to be the smartest people ever. It isn’t that I want my kids to grow up and make lots of money. It isn’t that I want my kids to be perfect in any definable way. I have a very loose schema of criteria.

I want my children to believe that the bodily integrity of people matters. Yes, yes yes… many children come out of the public education system with this intact… blah blah blah. Lots don’t. My kids are already in the advantaged sect because they have parents who believe it regardless of the messages they would hear at a school blah blah blah.

I want my children to really grow up with that message being presented as de facto and it is not in most schools–public or private. If you have to raise your hand and ask permission to use the toilet and a teacher can tell you that you have to wait until the bell rings you do not have bodily integrity. Sorry.

I want my children to believe that information about stuff that interests you comes from a million different places. I don’t want them to think you sit down and do your lessons. I don’t want “school” to be something that bores you and wastes your time. I want my children to appreciate the inherent usefulness of mathematics so I talk about it allllllllllll day in a lot of different contexts. My daughters will not hear the message that girls are bad at math until that concept will make them laugh out loud with surprise. They will know they are good at maths. The person saying that is just kind of silly.

I want my kids to believe that boredom is a sign that you need to get up and start cleaning something. If you really don’t want to clean then you will find something better to do and all of a sudden you aren’t bored.

I understand the need for large scale child care. That is more or less how I view the public education system. We are a society based on parents being out-of-the-home. I want to live in my home. I want to do most of my work here.

If I were able to buy a property out in the middle of some rural place my habits would be totally logical. My proximity to cities does not change the basic nature of how I like living. I choose to not feel shame for feeling soothed by living in a way that is more like how my ancestors lived. Ok, they lived in family groups that were larger than mine but people lived in fairly closed communities. They didn’t have to deal with many people. Oh of course this is partially about my anxiety but I don’t see how kowtowing to a system I don’t believe in just so I can’t pretend that I don’t have anxiety will improve anything.

Lately Noah has been talking about trying to figure out how to actually break down what he has experienced in life and explain it so that kids who don’t have role models can have some idea of what people with privilege see. Ok, that wasn’t precisely how he phrased it. That conversation was a few days ago.

We don’t just stay *in the house*. We are outside a lot. We know our neighbors. We talk to people often. We have relationships. The relationships are getting deeper and more influential as the years go by. My children spend a lot of time with elderly people hearing stories about the Old Days. It’s really fun. I supervise but don’t intervene much in them figuring out how to talk to people.

Well, that’s not true. I help them prepare for conversations in advance. “When you meet someone, what do you say?” After conversations I talk about how it went. I talk to them about facial expressions and body language. I help them understand more about what just happened. “Do you understand why he laughed when I said _____?” I fill in the blanks and help the stories make more sense. I break it down. Stories about WWII become large and convoluted follow up conversations with millions of questions. I don’t direct much. I just answer anything. I look up what I don’t know.

I am a guide and a facilitator.

Will this go on forever? I don’t know. I don’t know how our needs will change. I know that at this moment in time I can’t imagine sending Shanna to a place where they would expect her to sit still (even with breaks) for four or five hours a day let alone six or seven. Some kindergardeners are in school for eight hours. They do have play periods but they do a *lot* of table work.

We complain constantly about an obesity epidemic and we chain children to chairs. What in the hell is going on? I will never put my children on a diet. The very idea makes me sick to my stomach. I will, however, ensure that they learn how to be very physically comfortable with walking at least ten miles a week. I’m becoming increasingly sure that Santa will be bringing bicycles. With bicycles we can get to all of our extra-curricular activities in town.

I pick swimming, martial arts, dance, language, gymnastics and rock climbing classes based on the ability to walk to them. I *have* walked my kids to every location they have taken classes at. We don’t always walk because we often have somewhere else to go before or afterwards but I prefer to walk. If we had bicycles I think I would just figure out how to not schedule things close to classes.

I do not want my children to be used to an air conditioned world. I want them to be used to using their own bodies to go places. I expect them to go do manual labor on farms in third world countries in a few years. They can’t be too soft.

I want them to actually see how it works in other parts of the world. I don’t want to show them pictures of the objectified third world. “Oh those poor oppressed people. All They Need Is A Honky.” Err, not so much. I want my children to meet people when they are young and have no belief that they have the key to life. I want them to just meet people who live differently and learn to love them.

Can you imagine Shanna and Calli living with someone for two and a half months without falling in love? If someone is remotely kind to them they will be hook line and sinker. Those kids like people. All people. They aren’t “color-blind”. They think all colors are beautiful. They want to meet everyone and talk to them. Ok, that’s Shanna’s deal. Calli is dubious.

I think Calli and I will hang back and watch. That will be ok too. That will also be a positive experience. Sometimes I feel like I am watching Shanna work a room. She wants to know everyone. I don’t even understand why. I didn’t implant that.

If she went to a school across the street from her house she would get to know the kids in this neighborhood better. The kids in this neighborhood come and go a lot because we have a lot of rentals. There are only a few owners with kids. She wouldn’t see much diversity. She would see a revolving door of poor brown children who come and go because their parents move. That is the neighborhood we live in.

You know… we play with the kids in the afternoons. I think we get enough of the “people don’t stay in your life” phenomena. My kids are improving their Spanish faster than any other language because a lot of the neighbor kids don’t speak English. We have an increasing segment that doesn’t speak English because they speak some variety of Asian language. Those kids aren’t usually allowed to play with us in the yard.

We play with anyone. If you are here, let’s play. It’s really fun.

I don’t want to spend my life driving to see pre-selected and approved people of appropriate IQ and education level and life philosophy of whatever. I also don’t want to spend my money on lots of being entertained for a few hours. I like most of my hobbies to be cheap or free.

I don’t want to opt-in to the system as I understand it. Given that I have attended twenty-five public schools across three states in a variety of socio-economic settings and then I went on to be a credentialed teacher… I think it is kind of idiotic to try and say that I am not understanding the system. I think I have enough experience that on this matter I get to just trust my gut.

It isn’t an evil place. I’m not trying to say that it is evil. But it is a waste of time. That is what it is designed to do. Waste time. I don’t want that. I don’t want my children to be taught that.

I have the privilege and luxury to make a different choice. I recognize that my choices are not open to everyone. I recognize that there are very good reasons for making different choices. I recognize that I would make different choices based on different life circumstances. I am not trying to put people down who put their kids in school.

I am saying I don’t want to and I don’t have to so I am not going to. Not until they are old enough to pick a course of study and go pursue what they want to be doing on their own. I am fully qualified to ensure they get the basics of life.

I think that I am actively choosing the term Unschooling because I don’t think that the Radical Unschoolers should get to hog the term. We do life learning. I don’t see that changing any year soon. I do not do permissive parenting. I think that refusing to set limits is abdicating your responsibilities as a parent. I think it is unfairly expecting a child to know an adult’s role. Children don’t know the limits yet. That’s kind of how childhood works.

Davy Crockett says, “Be sure you are right; then go ahead.”

I feel intense anxiety about most of my behavior in life. I don’t know how to be good or appropriate or worthy for the vast majority of life experiences.

But I god damn know how to be an elite personal tutor. I trained for that shit. The slow paced isolated life is really good for kids I read. Even if it makes grown ups think I should go get a job.

I think I’m under enough stress already. I don’t have to measure up. There isn’t actually a grading curve in life. But I went to public school. I keep expecting my bad report card. I keep expecting to be expelled or suspended. I absolutely expect to be punished for being an unpleasant person. How dare I exist in public space in a way that others find displeasing.

My kids don’t get punished for being children. My children don’t get yelled at for getting the hiccups. My children don’t get yelled at if their attention wanders and they want to switch activities.

I won’t have to deal with a teacher suggesting medication to calm my unruly child. I will instead just have to figure out how to get all of us enough exercise that we can manage inside behavior when we are inside. Or go outside again. It’s all good.

I want this life so much. I want to find out what someone is like when they are actually treated like a person for their whole life. I don’t know very many people who felt valued through school. I know some. It does happen sometimes. It doesn’t seem to happen in the majority of cases.

Shanna would probably get it. Calli would probably not. Shanna is loud and assertive and charming. Calli is loud and prone to feeling provoked so she attacks with great vigor and ends up looking like the aggressor.

I don’t have a crystal ball or anything. But I’ve seen an awful lot of patterns.

I don’t want my children to spend many hours a day with children who have been socialized to fat shame. No thanks.

I don’t want my eight year old believing she should be trying to be sexy.

Yeah, I’ll shelter them. And I’ll take them to dangerous parts of the world. And shelter them there too. They will always have a modified experience of the world. They won’t even understand it.

I will understand it. No one sheltered me. I don’t think that unsupervised long exposure to random men is something that will happen basically at all. Probably not with women either. My children will develop safe, appropriate relationships.

Is it overly protective of me? Fuck you.

I am not a helicopter parent. My children climb trees and talk to strangers and move around in the world doing shit I dislike all day long. But I am aware of what they are doing. I pay attention. I want to know what they are doing as they take up space in the world. I want knowing them to be my job.

It is a luxury and a privilege that I understand is not available to everyone. I also understand that not everyone would have the desire for this kind of relationship. I also understand that not everyone would have the capacity to be running this kind of constant background schema building exercises. I scaffold their life very carefully and appropriately. Silently. They live in a “yes” environment.

But I am not permissive. And I have really strict boundaries. I just acknowledge that things outside my boundaries are not mine to control.

I want the experience of learning healthy boundaries with people. I want the experience of long term relationships.

Maybe I am a selfish piece of shit for not trying harder to form adult relationships and instead having children. I can live with that. I want to have someone who actually cares about seeing me on Christmas. I want someone who wants to call me on their birthday and say, “Thanks for having me, mom.” (I have a friend who has to do that. I envy her mom. So I’m hoping this friend tells this story over and over as my kids grow up. That lesson can’t come from me.)

I wanted children. I know it is selfish. But I wanted them. Even though I am a crazy bitch. Far meaner crazy bitches than me have managed to not completely fuck up their kids.

Maybe with enough privilege and luxury anyone can be a good parent. Maybe.

I have the luxury and privilege of filling all of my time with things I want to do. I want to educate my kids. I do not want to school them.

The more things change…

Lots of stuff changing in the house. My friend’s husband is a construction worker. He can do basically anything. He built me a beautiful shade structure right outside my back door. He fixed the sink I have hated for seven years. He changed the water heater filter. That was all just today. He has done more on previous visits.

Next week he is starting the kid play structure in the back yard (I am ridiculously excited about this) and fixing my fence and connecting my fence to the arbor so the grapes can grow over from the fence and shade the house. And another post will go in the ground for blackberry trellis. And he will fix the washing machine issue (it floods the garage–no bueno).

All of this can happen because Noah can afford to just pay someone to do these things. This is privilege. I can decide to make my life better and then… just do it.

I have pulled every extra dollar out of every portion of the budget to shove it into home for a few months. I think this is worth it. Ok, so it means less driving for a few months (gas is one of the easiest things to cut) but I will have these structures for years.

I feel lucky that I can make these choices.

I wouldn’t want to cut into my budget to provide me with more childcare. I would consider that a waste of money. There is a certain amount of childcare I would consider paying for if we didn’t have the Godmamas but I don’t feel that motivated as is. I *do* get down time almost every day.

Today hasn’t gotten above a two or three on anxiety. Given that I have driven and gone shopping with a list of things for someone else (something I usually seem to do wrong) and dealt with Hindi class that’s really good.

Ok, the Hindi class is pissing me off. The head of the program was gone for over a month. The class has been “taught” by whoever gets roped into it that day. On the FINAL DAY OF CLASS the head teacher decided to add 55 fucking words and tell us we will be tested on them in two weeks without a class in between for practice.

I feel pretty angry. There is no need to punish the students because they haven’t had a fucking teacher. You don’t fucking “test” people on material that has never been presented. Bad teaching makes me so mad.

Level one should be about the alphabet, colors, animals, foods, numbers, some simple phrases. She’s not doing that. I mean, those things are being covered, sorta. But then there is this pile on. And introducing sentence structure and grammar on the penultimate class?

I HAVE VIEWS ON THIS SHIT.

It was funny when I was talking to the teacher today about an email exchange we have had. She entirely talked to Noah. Cause those menfolk are the ones to focus on and all. It was weird and blatant enough that even Noah noticed.

Overall it has been a good day. Tomorrow is a wedding. Yee haw.

Progress report.

So.Forking.Off.Schedule.

I did five hours of unexpected painting today. Now I think this will be a forty to fifty hour project. Oh man. I don’t think I booked enough time over the next month. I don’t know how this is going to work.

Well, no way to get through it but to just up and do it. This too shall pass.

I am always much happier about the idea of being done with a project than I am about the work. I was bitchy for over an hour of painting. Then I finally relaxed.

I had a lovely chat with the lady who lives there. She thanked me repeatedly for painting her fence and gave me three little tomato sprouts. I thanked her. I’m shocked she is letting me do this. So far she likes it. That’s good.

The old guy down the road wasn’t avoiding me. My paranoia can end. *Phew* He was just super busy and then out of town. I got to hear all about his travels to I-de-ho recently. He is getting bawdier and bawdier and he swears more and more as he talks to me. He is starting to think of me as One Of The Guys. I can tell. It is always a funny shift when older men realize they can’t shock me.

Today I feel so glad that I get to have this life. My therapist wants me to walk around my house with a video camera looking at the pictures on the wall. She wants me to tell a story with them. She thinks it will be good for me.

I told her that I put the pictures up because I have a hard time reminding myself that anyone would care if I died. I largely put the pictures up so I can’t walk through my house and pretend I don’t matter. There are a lot of pictures on the wall of people who would be very upset and hurt if I died. I need to remember that.

I tell my kids that I put them up so that the kids will learn who their family is. That’s a much better story for them.

I appreciate that my therapist validates me as a parent so much. I mean, I think I am doing a good job of meeting the goals I am setting for myself as a parent and as a person. I really and truly have gotten my temper under control. I don’t rant and scream. I don’t hit. I don’t terrorize my children. I just don’t. I have a very mellow relationship with them. We are all working hard on life together.

We have one more Hindi class before two 1.5 hour oral exams. Oof. I need to study more.

I start teaching English on Thursday. I need to copy the short story. I need to pick the short story. And put together questions. And decide what I’m going to teach. And, err, basically every other aspect of teaching. No big deal, right? It’s only in 36 hours. No rush or anything.

Enh, ten kids for two hours. No big deal.

I’m really grateful for my friends. I know some good people.

I had a raunchy good time at a sex party this weekend. My husband puts out very well. Yay! I continue to have mixed feelings about how much better sex is when someone is watching. That would be exhibitionism, ma’am. I feel quite grateful that I found a partner who is so sexually compatible. *swoon* I no longer need to find many men for a night. Ha. He’s enough.

I’m not actually that off-schedule. Just a bit. But I’m going to need to up how much I plan to paint this week. Oy. It will all work out. The work, it will get done. I will it so.

I feel weird about how much I feel like most of the effort of my hands “doesn’t matter” and “isn’t important” and “has no value”.  How much of that perception is tied to my internalized misogyny and devaluation of womens work?

Today I told a (female) friend that I am glad that my daughters are growing up in a little bubble where most movies/tv/books pass the Bechdel test (1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it. 2. Who talk to each other. 3. About something besides a man)

My friend said that sounded exhausting after we talked about the three movies she recently watched in one weekend all of which fail the Bechdel test. I kind of blinked. Exhausting? I think that my world is wonderful and comfy and carefully constructed over many years. I feel like I finally get to relax for the first time in my life. No one here is going to tell me that I can’t do _____ because I’m a girl. Noah assumes I am more generally competent at most of the butch tasks in our house… because I am.

I don’t live in a world of female side kicks. I’m not going to fucking be one. I don’t need women to be the only characters but it is very rare for me to watch an all male movie. (Big exception for Shawshank Redemption.)

I look at the world created in mainstream media and don’t see a place for me. So it isn’t part of my life. I don’t miss it. I don’t feel sad about not participating. I don’t see why that would be exhausting. It’s a good thing everyone gets to be different.

I want to learn about the wisdom of women. I have no grandmother to learn from. I read books and watch movies. What lessons have women learned before me? Which wheels do I not bloody need to reinvent? I don’t find those same lessons in male-oriented movies.

Given that I am not allowed to punch people randomly in the face when I’m in a bad mood I don’t find action flicks enjoyable. It raises that “want to punch people” feeling. It isn’t that fun to suppress.

August needs to be slower. Ugh. We have another wedding coming up. (I’m not the officiant but it will be great!) Lots to look forward to. Lots to do. I can’t die yet.

Day one of painting

 

Just emptying my head.

Babysitting was wonderful and very hard. By the end of the weekend I was so tired I could barely hold myself upright while I sat. I got 2.5 hours of sleep on Saturday. That makes it sound so much worse than it was.

The kids are one and three. The three year old is autistic. That does change the parameters of dealing with him. On one hand I feel like a big asshole for reminding myself all the time that he is autistic–I should just like him for who he is and not worry about his diagnosis.

I didn’t worry about whether or not my shaman was autistic when I got to know him 12 years ago. But now that I know he is autistic it helps our relationship for me to know that. It changes how I present information. It changes how impatient I allow myself to get.

Those skills translate nicely to this little boy. It helps that he is one of the sweetest things on two legs. When he freaks out (every 20 minutes for the first few hours) it is clearly sad and scared. There is no anger anywhere near him.

I think that hanging out with my shaman has allowed me to finally understand that men and boys can be scared and sad without being angry. I don’t get sad or scared without also getting angry. It kind of blows my mind that other people don’t get angry out of self-defense when they feel sad or scared. I am having to change my behavior very consciously because people are not feeling what I would expect to feel in that situation.

At this point I have my patter down pat with him. “I agree with you that you need your mom! You have the best mom in the whole world! Of course you need her. She will be back to get you soon; I promise. Until then would you like to cuddle with me? I’m not as good as your mom but I love you very much and I would be honored if you let me take care of you while she is gone.”

He smiles and hugs me. I’ve been cuddling with him since before he was a year old. Even though he is sad and scared he trusts me. It blows my mind. No matter how hard this is to get through at the time the later-effects of being proud of myself for being good and taking care of him properly do wonders for my self-esteem.

His sister is much much easier than him even though she isn’t a low-needs sort of baby. My wonderful friend got two very high needs kids. I think she is a saint for managing.

The baby isn’t used to sleeping in a bed without walls. It was hard to convince her that a bed without walls is worth staying on. Oh dear. Luckily no matter how many times she got off the bed in the middle of the night, “But Krissy! Stacking cups is SO AWESOME THAT I SIMPLY CANNOT WAIT UNTIL MORNING!! DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE CUPS RIGHT HERE THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER!!!” Sigh. Ok baby, one more try. Let’s go to sleep.

Then she nuzzled into my armpit, put her thumb in her mouth and smiled her way to sleep. For 45 minutes until she woke up to repeat the whole process. Her brother just woke up to let me know he needs his mom then he ground his skull on mine and went right back to sleep. Every 30-ish minutes all night long. So the kids weren’t really alternating. I’d sometimes get two of him in between a week up from her. Oh dear.

But we got through and I was nice and loving. By the end of the visit the baby was willing to leave her daddy and come back to me because she likes me. Even though her daddy is her favorite person in the whole world. I feel pretty good about that.

I had mean thoughts a lot while they were here so I feel pretty bad about myself, of course. I was not nearly kind-enough in my head. But I’m pretty sure my hands and my voice were kind-enough all weekend.

Sometimes I feel jealous and hateful that everyone else deserves to have a childhood where people are kind and gentle with them but I did not deserve that. I can’t do anything to change what I received. But I can figure out that it was wrong and do something different.

Today I have to be at Fry’s at 8am when they open. I have to buy printer ink. Then I have to run home, print out Shanna’s permission form then take her to ALL DAY science camp. I’m kind of freaked out. I will miss her. I’m not sure how Calli and I will do without her this week.

Shanna is starting to ask about doing school stuff more formally and officially. She is having trouble sitting still and being patient in Hindi class and I told her that it is hard because she doesn’t practice sitting still and listening. It’s a skill like learning how to make your own pbj. She wants to start practicing so she can be better at it.

I feel like I am drowning in the things I “should” be doing. I should be writing books. I should be running. I should be practicing Hindi for 15-25 minutes every day. I should be practicing French 15-25 minutes every day. I should be practicing Spanish every day. I have to water plants every day. I have to figure out what to do about our bathroom because the water damage is getting egregious and my neighbor told me that once we get to this stage of this rot if we don’t handle it we will end up with major damage on the whole front of our house.

I should be saving more money. I should be…

I don’t feel good enough. I don’t feel smart enough. I don’t have enough energy to do all the things I should be doing and the things I have to do and the things I want to do. Drowning. Drowning. Drowning.

But today is another day. I have one kid for today. I “should” go work on the fence. I should …

Oh man. I’m tired. So tired I just want to crawl under a rock. At least I have AC.

I keep telling myself it will be easier to run in about three years when Calli can actually go out with me. Not even three years. Maybe a year and a half.

I have been avoiding running because all of the people I like to run with are much faster than me and I feel so ashamed of myself I just don’t want to run at all. I don’t want to be the reason they have to walk–because I am too pathetic to keep up. That means I should just avoid it as a hobby. Because I am bringing people down.

Even though I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open I read Shanna a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods when she asked before bed. I want to be available more than I want anything in the whole world.

Count your blessings while you can

Today I get to sit around with my kids watching language videos and talking to one another. We like comparing the counting systems. My kids can count to ten in English, Spanish, French, Hindi, and ASL. We are working on getting to twenty. We can do it English and Hindi so far.

I like how the colors are remarkably similar from language to language. That is feeling neat in my brain.

I have a husband who doesn’t get upset with me for crying and crying and crying. He asks me if I want to talk. If I say no he just strokes my hair. I feel very blessed. Lots of people get mad at me for crying. I feel grateful that I am no longer punished for crying.

I haven’t had a suicidal movie playing in my head today.

I screwed up therapy last night. I didn’t have an appointment. I’m supposed to be there tonight instead. I may call. I don’t know. I’m glad I didn’t drive last night. I sobbed as I walked from the therapy office to bart. Then I distracted myself on the train with reading Howard Stern’s autobiography.

I think that Howard Stern is a racist piece of shit but he is one of the fucking funniest writers I have ever read in my life. I was practically rolling up and down the aisle of the train it was so funny. Which was a great break after all the crying I’ll tell you.

Today we go to the county fair after a while. We’ll be there later in the afternoon. It is $1 ride day and you can get in free if you bring food to donate to the food drive. It’s the day to go.

Last night I was thinking about how one of the things that probably is common amongst people who are highly resilient (which is distinct from being a survivor) is the ability to decide that what is happening to you personally is unimportant in the scheme of your priorities so you just ignore your own experience.

It takes blind faith in the flow of the universe to decide that my momentary experience is  less important than the future self I am working towards.

I have to believe that things will get better. I have to believe that this moment is not forever. I have to believe that what I feel right now is just what I am feeling right now and it means very little to what I will feel in twenty years.

I’m thirty-one years old. Twenty years ago I was eleven. When I was eleven I was a complete and total basket case. I cut constantly. I loathed myself. I spent my time alone and didn’t have friends. That was in the transition from Apple Valley to Los Gatos again. That was during the period of time when my mom couldn’t have a job because she had to be available to drive me back and forth to school because large groups of kids waited to beat the shit out of me if I stepped out of my house or class room unescorted.

My life is different. No one is waiting outside my house to hurt me any more. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize that my life is real. I spend nearly twenty-four hours with people who like me so much that for me to stop touching them is a rude brush off. They sometimes say, “Hey! Come back here!” Some day we will individuate. Probably not before puberty. Right around puberty? During the tween years?

Sure as hell ain’t happening during the “preschool” years. We are enmeshed and not terribly individuated. Only we talk a lot about how everyone has different preferences. Everyone gets their own kind of fork and drink and proportion of kinds of food because everyone has different needs.

My kids believe that their body is important and must be taken care of and mommy doesn’t always know the right answer–I need input. They tell me, “I feel like I need carbs right now. I feel like I need protein–I’ve definitely had enough sugar for today.” They don’t have to like anything just because I like it.

So in some ways we are already very much individuated. In some ways my children are freakishly individuated for their ages.

I tell them, “I want to take good care of you but I cannot read your mind. Will you please tell me what you need so that I can give you what you need? I really want to make sure your needs are met.”

I also say, “That’s not a need; that’s a want.” You can’t have everything you want. No one can. That’s a losing battle. It wouldn’t be good for you if you tried.

I have the unimaginable privilege of being allowed to sit around with my wonderful kids all day and learn languages and garden and talk to them about biology and history and math without ever needing to get out some stupid worksheet.

I hate worksheets so much. (It’s ok that other people like them. I just don’t.)

I have plenty of food and then some. I have a wonderful garden. I have security and freedom. I have the right to divorce my husband and get a wife. That’s a blessing I didn’t have yesterday. (Err, not that I plan to do so Noah. I like you lots.) It’s nice to feel like my government says that more parts of me are ok today that weren’t yesterday.

I’m not dead yet. Tommy and my father are. That has to be blessing enough for the day.

Run, you fools.

I am watching The Lord of the Rings because Noah is reading me the books. I’m interested in the differences. Thus the title.

I’m awake. I woke up at 3:30. My stomach hurts and I want to cry. I have a doctors appointment at 8:30. Before I bug Noah in the middle of the night with my stupid anxiety crap (which is way more frequent than he thinks) I check the history on his computer to see when he went to bed. 1am. I can’t bother him. Shit. He has to sleep. When he goes to bed at a reasonable hour I will sometimes wake him up because he can stroke my hair and talk to me until my body stops being afraid and I can sleep again. Sometimes I have to put my big girl panties on and just deal by myself.

I had to put my big girl panties on yesterday any way. Shanna said, “I would like to see _____ because she hasn’t come to dinner in a while. Can you invite her over?” I didn’t respond in the moment. I waited until I asked a friend for advice. Then I waited until Noah was home because I want a witness because I am afraid of saying the wrong thing and if he is there he will correct me if I slip. “She doesn’t want to come over and visit us any more. No, I don’t know why exactly. Sometimes people decide they don’t really want to visit any more. I know it is hard. I miss her too.” I hate being the bearer of bad news.

What I want to tell her is, “I’m very sorry you were born to me so that you have to deal with the backlash of standing near me. I’m so sorry you don’t have a better mother. You deserve one. None of this is your fault. I am so sorry.”

I didn’t say that. A different friend said that wouldn’t be appropriate. Ahem.

I’ve been gardening a lot. It’s a good way to kind of hide. I don’t need to go places. I have a yard to weed.

I had a really neat set of moments over the weekend. We were at our local breakfast restaurant and I now have a French tutor coming over on Wednesday. She’s connected to the restaurant in a weird way–she is a French woman trying to get into university here. She is young and likes little kids and thinks the idea of coming to my house to play in the garden and teach us French sounds great.

Then I noticed that one of the two primary servers (the dude who isn’t my buddy) kind of rolled his eyes in that “See them asking an incompetent person for help when I am STANDING RIGHT HERE AND I AM WAY MORE COMPETENT” sort of way. I know that eye roll. I can spot it from thirty feet away. So I sidled over and said, “So! When am I going to start Spanish lessons with you? Yo hablo un poco de espñol pero no mucho.” He looked at me totally dead pan and said, “I speak five languages fluently. I can speak Portuguese, French, Arabic, English, and Spanish. I know how to break down the grammar of each language into adverbs, adjectives, gerunds, and everything.” I got pretty excited. We had a nice conversation. He will be starting to poke us for language stuff while we are there. He told me a lot about his life and why he knows those languages. It was a great conversation. Now I feel like I have been wasting years of not getting to know him. He has had a fascinating life.

See what I get for being an asshole? Ok I was never an asshole to him. Thus he is still willing to talk to me. But I wasn’t out to be his buddy. I kind of regret not trying harder earlier. C’est la vie.

I’m learning gardening as fast as I physically can. I’m learning Hindi. (We practice every day.) I’m learning French. I can’t forking believe I’m learning French. After all of these decades of being a really big asshole. It’s kind of ironic.

Shanna has two new “swear” phrases that I am adopting whole heartedly: “What in the hay is going on in here?!” and “What in the wide world of Equestria happened here?!” I didn’t believe I would stop swearing in front of my kids. I thought I would do it no matter what. Now I believe that swearing in front of my kids does them a disservice. I don’t want that to be the primary language they learn. Children learn what they hear a lot. I censor way more than I thought I would. It’s pretty hilarious. Mocking me on this is totally reasonable.

It is hard to really remember that it is ok for one person or even a lot of people to dislike you. It has to be ok. People are allowed to not want to be my friend. That isn’t supposed to be a good enough reason to stop walking.

Tragedy and insult are grown up words. I need to care about my effect on my kids. My kids like me. My kids think I am very nice to them (because I am). Three people like me. I’m good enough for them. For now.

I lose so much sleep worrying about the future it isn’t funny. I do a lot of practicing rehearsing to the full range of “options” Shanna may pursue in terms of later work and schooling. I need to react enthusiastically and supportively no matter what direction she heads in. My bias needs to be mostly invisible. If she wants to be a scientist–great. If she wants to be a hairdresser–great. She often tells me she will buy the house two doors down because she wants to stay near me but she wants her own garden.

I’ve been running. Holy tomato I’m slow lately. I can rarely average better than 13 minutes/mile. Sometimes I wonder if part of the reason my body resists going quickly is because if I ran faster then I might feel more like I could join some of the runners I know in their endeavors. As it is I consciously don’t do much running with people because I feel ashamed of how slow I am. I’ve tried to start doing things with the home schooling group but that hasn’t worked out well and I’m about done trying. (On this exact topic. I’m not done with the home schooling group. I just accept that I won’t be running with them.)

I will be re-upping my Ativan prescription since I am going to Kaiser any way. I haven’t gotten a refill yet this year. I got the original scrip in January. I feel like that is a fairly good thing. My pot consumption is pretty high lately. I got edibles because the vaporizer isn’t a lot less expensive than edibles and it is way less consistent. So I’m stoned on a regular basis. It’s awesome. And the horrible coughing and lung nastiness has subsided. Whee! Being stoned and gardening is just flat awesome. This is probably my favorite hobby this lifetime. Get stoned and garden. It feels really nice. I feel peaceful and happy and calm while I’m doing it. That’s unusual in my life.

Plants are forgiving yet picky little creatures. You can mess up in some ways and they don’t care and if you mess up in other ways it’s all over. You have to figure out what kind of fucking up you can do with a specific plant. Rather like people. Only people are harder to figure out.

I like staying home. When I stay home I don’t feel as bitter. I don’t feel as worthless and rejected and unwanted. I hate that being around people feels so bad. I am so jealous and mean spirited. Other people get to just casually say, “Oh I was talking to my mom and…” It is my own fucking fault I don’t have a relationship with my mother. I rejected her–right? I hate how it feels like I am the bad one. I am the one who did terrible things and harmed our relationship.

I pretty much always feel like the bad one. If someone is hurt it must be my fault. I just don’t know how to treat people right. If I could stop being such an asshole everything would be fine.

Just stop being such an asshole, Krissy.

A friend pointed out that most of the ways in which I am rejected for being an asshole are things that are tolerated in men. I somewhat agree with her but I think I get credit for other kinds of being an asshole that would result in much stiffer penalties for a man. I don’t think I am rejected because of misogyny, exactly. I’m rejected because I make people uncomfortable.

I don’t know how to make other people feel comfortable given that I feel wildly uncomfortable basically all the time. I think I am even selfish enough to not care about trying that hard as long as I am literally unable to feel comfortable.

I genuinely like people. I like being around them. I like hearing their stories. I need to stop feeling like people are mine. It is way easier to listen to stories and not feel shitty when I am rejected if I never feel any actual attachment to anyone. The trouble is, that carries over. I’m not good at being attached to my kids and Noah and no one else. I’m finding that it is more on/off than that. I feel a lot of wavelengths of lovey feelings towards people who are associated with my kids. People who bond with my kids cause a lot of positive feelings.

Then they don’t like me any more and I have to tell my kids why. This is so fucking shitty. Well, no I don’t have to tell my kids why. I don’t even really understand why. All I understand is some amorphous “I am bad so people don’t like me.” That’s not even really completely true. It’s an evasion of some kind but I don’t know what I am evading. It’s not like the people who dump me are particularly honest with me about why.

I’m not sure most of them can be honest about why they are dumping me beyond “You make me feel uncomfortable. You are an asshole.”

Ok. I make you feel uncomfortable and I am an asshole. That has suddenly changed in the last week? What about all the previous years? Why was I fine then and all of a sudden I am not fine? SOMETHING triggered you and I don’t understand what and you probably don’t understand what and you don’t care that much. You feel uncomfortable and it is my fault so I am bad. Ok. Yeah, I get it.

Maybe I am terrible. But I have kids to take care of. I’m having lunch with friends at the tea shop. I’m seeing a doctor, finally. If I died soon my garden would be tragically undone forever. No one else will look at this crappy dirt and imagine it being beautiful.

My house is no more perfect than I am. Perfection doesn’t really exist. We just pick the fucked up we can tolerate.

Oh, and if you think I am angsting about you then you might be right. But the last five years have involved me getting loudly dumped by at least four people and a number of others quietly withdrawing. I may not be thinking about you.

This rejection business is part of why I make people come to me now. If people decide to stop visiting it hurts but it doesn’t cause a major break in my routine. I still have to have the same basic shape-of-day that I had before. When I go to someone and I get into the habit of driving to them then it feels much worse to be rejected. And every time I drive near their house I feel keening grief. Much better to make people come to me.

I often feel reminded that the world doesn’t care about any one. It isn’t that I am unique or anything. You have to go out and do something in order to matter. You have to create. You have to change things in order to matter. You won’t matter unless you create something good and then you have to stay alive in order to maintain it. Until that point the planet kind of looks at you as a waste of resources.

This isn’t personal. It isn’t that I am unlovable. It is that I have not yet earned love. I have not jumped through the right hoops. I have not done whatever it was that I was supposed to do.

Maybe I can sleep for a bit.

Keep walking.

I woke up this morning and decided that i wasn’t going to act sad. I had a good day planned and I wasn’t going to waste it with crying. Not today.

We had a nice breakfast out. Then we went to Hindi class. Noah and I spent at least 45 minutes on youtube trying to understand the homework assignment. This is the best video we found for explaining the Gayatri Mantra. In case you were curious. There are some really weird and random non-explanations out there, letmetellyou.

The teacher gave a fourth grade girl the homework assignment of going home and learning what the Gayatri Mantra means and she has to come back and teach our group. Brutal. Noah has been laughing for a while as he repeats (again) “And on week four you must attain Enlightenment.” He thinks he is funny. I do too.

I don’t have a picture book story book life. But my life is good. And there are people who want me.

And I have Godiva chocolate (well, white chocolate truffle and red velvet truffles) for Mother’s Day.

It is really pretty weird that he does nothing for my birthday because he does every other holiday. Relationships are weird, yo. Today is a good day. My husband and I spent time together. We should probably brush our teeth and go to bed. Goodnight internet.

WWOOF babble

Shutting off facebook has created a very specific void in my life. Holy crap did I check it a lot. This has left me with a lot of time on the internet. I have been having one on one conversations on IM at a higher rate than usual this week. That’s been nice.

A lot of what I am doing is reading WWOOF ads. I start out looking by continent and then I narrow down by country to see what kind of opportunities exist. I want to spend time in South America, Africa, and Asia. The continents I haven’t been on yet.

When I look at what kinds of things exist in the world I feel excited. On one hand I think I need to be very careful about not acting like, “What these people need is a honky” but I do have skills and knowledge that could be useful.

How do I learn how to be (and teach my kids to be) humble about being diversely educated while still offering up the skills I have (and will have way more by then).

I want to learn about farming. I want to go out into remote, rural areas where they live in a climate I can’t really wrap my head around and figure out how they survive. I want to learn the skills they know–not all of them. I don’t want to act like a year of travel will teach me everything that everyone I encounter knows. Not even close. I want to understand which bugs live where and how they differently impact people. Sure, I could read a book. I’d rather have a ten year old explain it to me.

When you go hunting through the WWOOF sites you find a very high level of English compared to what (at least I) one might expect. Unfortunately you find very very few who are willing to accept a family of four–or children at all. That’s because they are smart. Ha. Once you start winnowing down by “must accept a family of four” you actually find less of a concentration of English. Random families who need enough help to be willing to tolerate strangers coming in to help are not necessarily the most progressive, educated people in their country.

The most progressive, educated people speak English but they won’t deal with kids. It’s a tricksy system.

French scares me because my hearing isn’t very good. I have a hard time picking out the morphemes in other languages. I started learning Spanish early enough that I can hear the differences. When I am trying to pick up yet a different language (I half-heartedly try every so often) I find that my sense of inadequacy overwhelms me and I cry and the learning part of my brain shuts off.

I’m going to have to find a way to change my attitude if I want to learn French. Given where we are going in the world it is potentially possible that we could get by with only English. Doing so would handicap us to such a degree that going there is much less useful than it could be.

So of the hosting sites in Africa that accept English and multi-person groups it sounds like mostly what we could do is travel around installing school gardens. On one hand that is a worthy, interesting activity. It’s not as interesting as some of the ones that require French.

I’d love to spend a lot of time finding out how the locals deal with large scale growing crops. There are host sites that would hold our whole family and do a lot more rigorous farming–but you have to know French.

Also, several Asian countries (like Vietnam) strongly prefer French to English. Can you get by, yes. But I don’t want to get by. I want to go as a student to learn as much as I can. I can only learn as much as possible if I ensure I can ask as many questions as I have. That will require being able to speak to more than just an interpreter.

So far I have done a lot of travel and relied on always being able to find an English speaker. It has worked. I want a different experience with the WWOOF trip. I don’t think I want to spend my whole life as a mono-linguistic American who expects everyone in the world to learn my language in order to have the privilege of talking to me.

I really want to learn what is involved in farming in different places in the world. I don’t know why I want to know with this intensity. Yes, I visit the U-pick places near my house. Yes, I talk to the local farms near me. I’m getting to know the farmers I buy from. Not quickly because I am shy. Yes, I am. Strangers are scary for me too. No laughing.

I would hate myself forever if I got there and found out that one member of the family we were staying with spoke English and everyone else speaks French and I spend the time learning through gestures, pointing, and grunting. Trying to learn through someone else grunting at me in a French accent would be ridiculous. Just no.

Part of the problem is I can’t count on the present WWOOF hosts still being around in eight years. Right now reading the ads is just a way of figuring out what the range of possible activities are.

Like there is this place in Thailand where they welcome kids, want to be actively taught English, they teach organic farming classes, and they really want someone to come teach computer programming. Jackpot. Unfortunately Noah is not always going to have such a welcome situation. I bet you that when people around the world find out he is a computer programmer there will be at least one group of people in each place who wants to ask questions.

He has knowledge in his head that would allow people to completely change the life they have. Sometimes I feel a little weird about that. Hell, I know enough about computers to completely change the life of someone who has grown up in rural destitution.

But they know things about surviving and community that I don’t. I want to learn so much I ache with wanting this.

Now I want to transition into Christmas and money. So maybe I should open a different screen. Travel babble is different.