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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Don't Blink

All these First Day of School pictures have me remembering Honey Bunny's first day of Kindergarden, 11 years ago! I swear time has flown by since then. I must have blinked.

I was a single mom, at a new job for only 6 weeks, and couldn't bring her to school.  I was devastated! My Dad brought her and took pictures for me.  I have one of her coloring an apple, sitting at a desk with her name on it, wearing a purple dress.

Her lovey isn't in her lap. She isn't smiling. She is dutifully following directions, scared and alone.  It wasn't the life I wanted for her.  It was the life I was given when I chose to leave her abusive father and it was better than that one.

For 7 years we lived this daily process:
Wake up at 6
My Shower/Dress/Breakfast
Bus at 7
Drive to work.
She went to before school care.
I drove to work.
She went to school.
I worked.
She went to after school care.
I worked.
I picked her up at 6pm.
Went home.
Made dinner while she did homework.
7pm - Her Shower/I worked more at home
8pm - Snuggles/Sleep (I usually cried myself to sleep because I missed her so much during the day)
Me? Work until 11pm or so. Then sleep.

But Friday nights were different! Friday nights were our Date Night. I would make a pizza and some popcorn and we'd settle into our big feather sofa to watch a night of Disney Cartoons.  Kim Possible was a favorite and she had a dance to the theme song. There was the Proud Family where we laughed at the poodle and talked about how family life and she wondered what it was like to have a Dad. There was That's So Raven where we both pretended to have superpowers and see into the future. Oh Snap!

 You will miss out on not only how fast they grow and how fast time goes, but also on the nuances that life shows us with our children. I missed them while she was in public school and I was working full time.

Here is what I would write to the younger Momma Mary and I hope she'd listen to me:

Dear Momma,

Don't blink. Your lack of sleepless nights is NOT over when they hit their teens. I think you're more tired because you're older at this point. Watch them while they sleep, regardless of the age. If you are awake and they are asleep, go listen to their breathing. Go see how their face changed today. Don't miss that nuance. It's important. They notice it. You should, too.

Don't blink.  You will have many opportunities to do the dishes, do the laundry and clean the floors. You only have RIGHT NOW to make the memory they are asking you to make with them. Go for it. The rest can wait. If you don't, you will miss out on the opportunity as they will stop asking you to play and participate in their life. Don't miss the nuances of how they play. It evolves rapidly.

Don't blink. Before you know it, they will be sleeping in their own beds and you are going to miss the crazy nights where you swore they were octopuses and had 8 arms and legs to stretch out all over the bed and yourself. Your bed will feel cold and lonely. Snuggle in deeper for now and take in their scent. That, too, changes over time. Take the time to notice that nuance (but at ages 9-12, bring them deodorant and apply in their sleep for your nose safety).

Don't blink. Take lots of pictures so you can see how their faces and bodies change from day to day. The changes that happen in life are slow in making. Don't think they come in only super size portions and quickly, like that Big Mac you ordered and went straight to your hips! A tooth coming out, another coming in. A new zit. A new passion for the time being. Notice the nuance of them.

Don't blink. This season will pass all too quickly. From infant, to baby, to toddler, to child, to pre-teen, to teen to adult.

Believe it or not, you only have 936 Friday nights over 18 years and chances are the last 156 Friday's will want to be spent with their friends. That's less than 800 Friday's to make memories, play games, watch movies and make bonds that tie us together forever.

What are you going to do with your 800 Friday nights?

Keep calm but don't blink. They go really fast.

Love forever and always-
Your Future Self

Monday, August 18, 2014

Top 6 Homeschooling Questions

This morning, while going through my emails this came across in one of my homeschool emails from Intoxicated on Life:

▪ Will homeschooling prepare my kids academically?
▪ Will homeschooling turn my child into a social weirdo?
▪ How do I keep my kids focused on their school-work at home?
▪ What educational philosophy or approach to homeschooling is best?
▪ How should I plan my homeschool day when life is so busy?
▪ How can I buy homeschool curriculum on a tight budget?

I sat there staring at those questions. First of all, NONE of those questions even occurred to me when I took Honey Bunny out of the school system in 7th grade.  Not a single one. Perhaps, because we were running away to escape the bullying from students and teachers.  Perhaps, because I live life by the seat of my pants. Heck, I even just sit down, write what's on my mind Monday mornings and hit Publish and here you are, dear reader, reading my on the fly writing.

But I'm going to take each question one by one in case you are asking yourself these questions:

1) Will homeschooling prepare my kids academically? Reader, do you REALLY think the public (or private) school system is preparing them academically for the world they are going to live in? Are you high? We can't predict the future! Technology is changing so fast we don't know what the heck they need to know in 10 years, 20 years. That's why we they learn HOW to LEARN.  On top of that, many school systems graduate young adults who can't many? About 20% of the student population of the US can't read upon graduation. Please tell me how they are prepared....

2) Will homeschooling turn my child into a social wierdo?  Only if they already WERE a social wierdo. Everybody is different. In social situations as a kid, I was so shy I turned bright red and tried to hide in my desk when they sang Happy Birthday to me. Of course, it IS on April Fool's Day and I WAS very insecure. Point is, I WAS a social wierdo and I was in school. As I got older, I realized that being social is a game to me. I now have a social persona I wear like an actor does.  No one believes I'm actually an introvert because I play it so well.  It IS a part of me, this confident strawberry blonde who makes others laughs, but behind closed doors, I like to crochet, read, knit and bake. Yea, I'm not lighting the world on fire with those hobbies. :)

3) How do I keep my kids focused on their school-work at home? Wow. This one makes me smile. YOU FIND THINGS THAT INTEREST THEM!  I look at the World Book Encyclopedia Typical Course of Study for each school year, sit the girls down and we discuss which in topic in each heading they are interested in. Yes, we have some structure because it is required BY THEM.  So, Honey Bunny is going to learn about Ancient History because she feels the folklore and myths will help her with her dream to become a tattoo artist and Boo Bear is going to learn how to count money and give change because she likes to play store. Both are totally in line with what they are supposed to learn, but in THEIR style.

4) What educational philosophy or approach to homeschooling is best? That's a personal question. No one can answer that. We started out Radically Unschooling for three years then we have gradually grown into relaxed homeschoolers, which by the definition of unschooling is still unschooling because it is following the child's wants and needs. Most families do it the other way, they start out structured and become less structured and unschool as time goes on. Do whatever works for you. Best part of homeschooling? You get to try all the methods, keep those that work and junk the others!

5) How should I plan my homeschool day when life is so busy? Ah, great question. Plan it around your activities.  For us, Monday and Wednesday are therapy days. One in the morning, another in the afternoon. Then Tuesday has dance class and Wednesday also has youth group and Friday has 4H. We plan AROUND them. We have a basic "schedule" starting today. I have no idea how it's going to work. Theory is we will start with math, move onto history, then science, then literature and then free time to do the rest of the stuff they want. We'll try it for a few weeks and if need be adjust it. You see, homeschooling is about working FOR you not against you.  YOU are in control it, not it in control of you (like in public school where they call the schedule). Oh, and newsflash for ya'll..if you find you are too crazy going from activity to activity: you are in control of how many you sign up for. Stop signing up for so many if it is driving ya'll crazy!

6) How can I buy a homeschooling curriculum on a tight budget? Well, use the world! Use the internet! Use a great book that has 1400 free links for learning. Use your library! Use your....imagination. (Of course, I picture Spongebob and Patrick in their cardboard box when I say that word...imagination.)  Point is, homeschooling can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you want. Are you willing to do the work to track stuff down that your child is interested in? Great. It can be cheap. You aren't? Well then, buy it for pete's sake but don't complain about the cost if you aren't willing to do the leg work. Truth is, even unschooling is expensive because you can flit from interest to interest, class to class, book to isn't free. Nothing in life is free.  Everything has a cost, some financial, some time, some both.  Tight budget just means more creative thinking..which as a homeschooler, chances are you already are good at.

Basically, dear reader, I find these 6 questions amusing. They touch upon our fears, not our fascination.  Here are my main 6 questions about homeschooling in year 4 of our journey:

*How can I help my children be prepared to be thinkers and problem solvers in this new world?
*My child is already a unique individual (social wierdo) How can I find a place to help him/her fit it and learn to love who they are for who they are?
*How do I keep focused on all the great things we want to do and help them get those accomplished?
*I've discovered the educational philosophy which works best for us, THIS WEEK, what will it be next week? Next month? Next year? Anyone have a crystal ball......?
*How can I get more hours in a  day? I'm planning but there is no time for laundry, dishes, cooking or cleaning. Again...crystal ball? Magic potion?
*Who has the winning Lottery numbers? I'm happy to split it....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Help! There's a 3 Headed Monster In Our Life!

I've been wondering what to post for the past three weeks.  It's been a hard three weeks, to be honest. Three weeks ago, we adopted a new puppy. Yes, this would seem very exciting and it was, for about 72 hours. Then the gravity of what we did hit me.  No longer are we free to come and go as we wish. Our eight year old dog was having to put up with a hyper puppy. I was cleaning pee off the floors and steam cleaning the floors more than I was enjoying life. Now, three weeks later, he is almost fully house trained but now is chewing everything in site and anything that was on my floors is now on every available open raised surface. Some Barbie's hands have suffered at his teeth.

But that is not my challenge anymore.  I have a bigger one: A 3 Headed Monster

For years, Honey Bunny has suffered from depression and mood swings. She has always been uncomfortable in social situation and I have always been her biggest advocate.  Two weeks ago, we took a 14 hour journey to an excellent psychiatric hospital in Connecticut because she came to me saying she needed help for her anorexia and suicidal thoughts, again. This is our third trip to an inpatient hospital and by now I know the ropes.

I know what to look for, which one I want and why. I know the questions to ask, how long an intake will last, what the week will be like, what to expect during the week, what to expect after we leave. Truthfully, I am tired of it. I am emotionally tired. I am physically tired. I am saddened. I am heart broken.

You see, this time, the doctor's actually listened to me. They took the time to sit with me and truly listen. It was no longer situational which set Honey Bunny off. We aren't uprooting again. We aren't changing life situations like we were with the past two hospitalizations. This time, we are stable and this is real. Honey Bunny has Bipolar 2 and Aspergers as well as Anorexia.  Our three headed monster.

Let that sink in for a moment. My child, who I have always known had these issues and have been fighting for someone to help us see the light, has finally been correctly diagnosed, at least for now. *Big sigh*  You see, even when we get what we want and suspect, it doesn't make the child change.

Yes, she will now get the correct medications. Yes, we will now get different and better support as a family when it comes to counseling. Yes, everything that has happened in the past makes better sense.


And yes, there is a but, IT DOESN'T CHANGE ANYTHING.

Honey Bunny is still one of the most talented, creative, amazing young women I have ever had the pleasure to meeting. Honey Bunny is still going to suffer from more horrific depression that most. She is right now. Her boyfriend broke up with her on Sunday and although her recovery was going very well, she has now slid back into the blackness where every movement and every action is like crawling through cement.  It takes every effort for her to breathe. She's doing as well as she can be expected considering how much she loves him, and the new medications are helping, but she is still hurting. Medication doesn't take away pain and loss.

We fell into Unschooling because Honey Bunny needed a different kind of life. She needs routines and schedules, but those SHE picks. She needs consistency and dependability, but on HER terms. Unschooling a child with mental illness is far more gentle than what I have read being recommended.  I am not going to be a bitch. I am not going to demean, demoralize or diminish my child just because she has these other challenges.

Attachement Parenting and Unschooling allow Honey Bunny the ability to be loved WITH her challenges. It allows for us to be honest with one another. I stayed up all night with her on Sunday, holding her, because that is the relationship we have BECAUSE of AP (Attachment Parenting) and US (Unschooling). She comes to me and we are IN relationship WITH one another.

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and bought all the breakup food I could think of: chips, popcorn, chocolate, CheeseDoodles, ice cream, yogurt (her favorite) and when I got home, hubby had already called out of work for the day so he could be with Boo Bear, and Honey Bunny and I sat on her bed, in our pi's eating CheeseDoodles and watching a very inappropriate movie, laughing our butts off. For a moment, her pain had lessened. Why? Because we don't have that "Me, parent. You, child" crap going on. We are friends.

Yes. I am friends with my children. And what does a friend do when another is hurting due to a breakup? They hold them, they listen, they cry and hold tissues, they buy junk food and eat it with them while watching stupid inappropriate movies. Why? Because you love them.

So, what will these Monsters called Bipolar 2, Aspergers, and Anorexia do to our family? Nothing that they haven't already done: call us to her side for action when needed.