sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘homeschooling’

Making the Difference in the Life of a Child

I have been part of an on-line journaling community and here is this week’s writing prompt:

“There’s a wonderful quote that says when we die, it doesn’t matter how many things we have in our possession; what matters most is the differences we made in the life of a child.  There is so much wisdom and power in this statement.  Imagine if we lived our lives with only this intention?  To make a positive difference in the life of a child.  All of our fears, inadequacies, and self-doubt would disappear.”

And then….

“This week, write about the most important things you would teach a child.  Even if you’re already a parent or grandparent or great grandparent – start from a blank slate.  What are the most important lessons you would teach him or her?  Why are they important?  Do these lessons move us towards peace, love and joy?  Speak from your heart.”

  • I see a big difference in these two paragraphs:
  • “To make a difference in the life of a child”
  • “start from a blank slate– What are the most important lessons you would teach (a child)”

Children are not blank slates. Even if that was not what was intended by this statement, I think it implies that we must teach children everything.  I disagree with this idea.  Yes, we do “teach” children. We teach them all the time in our actions.  They learn from watching us.  Just like they learn to crawl and to walk and talk, they learn how to act and respond based on what they observe.  We need to be the change that we want to see in our children.  Not in a “hey look at me, I am doing it this way and so should you” form of  modeling but in our everyday words and actions.

I see this all the time just by watching my children.  With three children, I see how the youngest, who is 3 years old, copies the actions of his older brother and sister as well as how the older children copy each other as well as me and my husband.

When I think about “making a difference” in the life of a child, I think of stopping and listening to a child. I think about loving a child, meeting his needsjoining her in her world, spending time with him, connecting with her, being there for him.

My mind goes to the birth of my children and all my choices prior to their birth,  during and after.  I recall how I began to really think about what I was putting into my body and how my diet evolved and changed over time -which has been good for my health too!  My birthing choices, the classes I took and how much I learned after my first was born and the changes I made for my second child’s birth as well the changes I made for  my third child”s birth.  My decision to breastfeed my baby and attending La Leche League meetings and learning more and more about nursing my child and mothering.  Learning about attachment parenting and child-led weaning.  For me, these are very powerful ways I have made a difference for my children’s lives.

Here I am, almost 15 years after I gave birth to my first child remembering those early days.  How can I continue to make a difference?

I read books, educate myself and reach out to like-minded communities to connectshare information, resources and support. It doesn’t matter how long we have been a parent, it is a continual learning process.  I can improve my communication skills and modify my “parenting method” as I grow and evolve as a mother.  Our children are all unique and have their own strengths, weaknesses, gifts and talents.  I see my role as nurturing, supporting, empowering, and maybe at times guiding them.

But even as a homeschooling parent, I do not feel I am here  to “teach them”.   I believe that my children have far more to teach me than I could possibly teach them.  

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The Gift of Life: Reflected in My Children

Happy Birthday to me!

I prepared for today’s post by reflecting  on my entry from last year: My 42 Year Journey

This year we celebrated at home the day before my birthday.  My husband and three children shared their cards with me as we enjoyed homemade gluten-free and egg-free chocolate cake with coconut milk ice-cream   And my amazing 10 year old daughter wrote this story for me.  She has been doing a lot of writing and I really enjoy hearing her stories and poems. She has also been collaborating with her PA cousin via Skype to write stories.   All of this has been her idea and her initiative– aka- unschooling at it’s best.  It is exciting to watch my children develop their interests and really take off with something that they enjoy doing.  It is also a great reminder to me that my actions do affect my children and one of the best things I can do for their “education” is to show them in my actions that I am pursuing my interests and following my passion!  

This has been very clear with my oldest child, Harrison as his personality is one of concentrated persistence.  Many of his interests have been easy to nurture with trips to the library and home made items.  His focus on achieving what he sets out to do has enabled him to find a way to build a computer and obtain software as well as purchase a digital camera.  It was really cool to get a handmade -with paper and crayons- card from him this year.   A pleasant variation on his recent 

computer generated  cards and picture compilations.  It helped me to remember that despite having an “old soul” beyond his years persona and the fact that he will soon have a driving  learner’s permit, he is still in his  childhood and his younger self is so much very alive in him in a new teenage form.  I can see similarities in my youngest and oldest. Maybe having a three year old and a fourteen year old simultaneously is the key to seeing the similarities between teens and toddlers as well as being able to appreciate that they are their own person at every age.

We think of our youngest as the busy, full of energy, and action kid, yet I keep getting reminders how much he loves to sit with art supplies.  We spent time together last night coloring with markers in a coloring book and also with blank paper and he said to me, “I’m good at drawing. I’m supposed to be an artist”.  One of those moments when you feel like you are getting a big glimpse into their soul.  He has also made a similar comment to me some time ago about sailing.  I have to wonder if these thoughtful responses are coming from a deeper place than just his physical three-year-old self.

I hope I am able to nurture all of my children’s passions.  I know I began my parenting journey with that focus and see it clearly with my oldest child who was an only child for four years.  I feel like my daughter has been given more and more opportunities to pursue her passion since we adopted our dog and now that she is  able to act more independently with pursuing her interests.  Jason’s future remains a mystery and their is something exciting about that.  Sure, I don’t know exactly what paths any of my children will take in their adult lives but I have a much clearer picture with the older two who are almost 15 and 10.  At three and a half years of age, Jason’s future has yet to unfold.  He loves food and helping to prepare food.  He is also very nurturing and I could see him in a helping profession and he has a very physically engaged side and does love fire trucks.  It is possible that having had the experience of fireman coming to the rescue of his dad while he suffered a heart attack, might influence his future career path.  He also has a very imaginative and creative side and loves taking pictures and videos, an activity likely inspired by his big brother.  And I aim to not put any expectations on who he will become but rather spend time nurturing who his is now.  Who knows how these early years of his life could shape his future.

I decided to homeschool my children because I wanted to nurture their love of learning and empower them to nurture their interests.   I have chosen to work less hours in order to be there for them and with them in the process and my husband choose to leave his former work which involved regular travel and too many hours away from home.  Making that choice has involved financial challenges (Note to Universe: I am open to abundance and  moving away from that experience! ).   I would like to believe that despite our limited resources,  my husband and I have been able to at least expose our children to different experiences and help them to further their interests.  Maybe the fact that we have limited financial means will only further their passion to pursue their interests.  There are times when I doubt this.  Yet, I am very aware that childhood is a short period of time.  I am happy to celebrate another year of my life knowing that I am giving my children something more valuable than anything money can buy, my time.   Being a mother is the greatest gift of my life.  I know I have made mistakes, more than I would like to admit, yet, I can be an example to my children in my failures as well as my successes.

I look forward to another year with a renewed focus of being not only with them but present in their lives and available for them emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

 

 

 

Choosing my life… the life I am living

I can’t believe my last post was January 5…so much time has passed since then, nearly 2 months.

Life happens

I’ve been slowly getting over reoccurring Bronchitis since November.

My youngest child turned 3 and we enrolled him at Romp N Roll again, for a gymnastics class with mom.

My daughter turned 10, fell in love with a rescue dog who lived a short time, and recently began ERP therapy.

I have been exercising 2 or 3 times a week with my oldest son and helping him with pre- Algebra, at his request.

Time spent with my children is always time well spent.  They come first in my life. Sure, I need to meet my basic needs, put my oxygen masc on first, yet, I enjoy life most when the larger chunks of my time are spent with them.  I chose to have children and to be there with them as they grow and figure out living in this world.    I sometimes forget this, but when I look at how I am spending my time, I always desire to have more time with my children.  The reason that I do not want to work away from the home is to be with them.  Sure I have writing dreams that I want to pursue and I make time for this as life allows, but my real frustration is being there consistently for my children because I have needed to work outside the home.

I have three children, spread 11 years apart.  The biggest reason for the age spread is because after I had my first son and had to return to work full time when he was 12 weeks old, I wanted to wait until I could be working less from home before I had another child.  The third one came about only after my husband sold his business and went to work for the person he sold it to- full time job.  It was the first time I felt like I didn’t “have” to work.  It was a great feeling.

Unfortunately, it took time to conceive and then my husband lost his full time job when I was 3 months pregnant.  I worked during my pregnancy but then held out going back for an entire year, even though, financially, we really needed me to go back much sooner.  We have lived off savings, and now have some debt beyond our mortgage that we are not happy about and never had before and are even dipping into our IRA funds now.  But you know what, when I think about how I worked hard for the money in my IRA accounts (401K rollovers), I feel blessed to have that money there to use now when we really need it and so that I do not have to find full time work.   I can always work more when my children are older.  But right now they are 14, 10 and 3 and we homeschool/ unschool and they need me and I need them.

They need my support, my time, my love, compassion and assistance in various ways. Of course the 3 year old, just wants mom around.  He played happily by himself for about 3 hours at my sister’s house this past weekend  because I was resting on the bed in the same room.  He did not “need me” until I got up and went down the hall to the bathroom, “Mom, where are you?”  He went searching for me, not realizing where I had went as he was absorbed in his play.  My husband and I were surprised at how long he was content in the room with me sleeping on and off but not really talking to him.  Of course, when I thought about it, I wasn’t really that surprised.  Toddlers need to know mom is near by even if they can play on their own and not need mom to interact with them.  Attachment parenting in action.  He also needs mom to listen to him and pay attention to his endless conversations and imaginary play. And to answer his questions about everything in his world and all those things that fascinate him.  He needs me to engage with him, to get his needs met including his needs for physical activity and mental stimulation.  He needs me to pay attention to his behavior and how it varies with  foods and when needs are not met.   He needs me to play with him, to read to him, to take him new places and engage in life with him.  Exploring the world with a toddler is so fun and exciting and brings out the child in me and it is also mentally and physically exhausting!  I feel my age, being 42 now as opposed to 31 when my oldest was 3.

My daughter needs me because she is 10 and generally an extrovert and because she has been dealing with an anxiety disorder for the past 2 years.  She is limited with making food for herself and needs help to put on her shoes because of the anxiety.  She is by nature a very compassionate, kindhearted and generous child.  Yet, when her anxiety overwhelms her, her behavior looks very different, nearly the opposite of her personality.  She has needed our help in understanding and dealing with her issues, supporting her, as we figured out by trial and error, what to do and not to do.  She has needed us, her parents,  as advocates, researchers and encouragement to deal with her anxiety and be able to live her life.   She also needs me to help her find the resources and materials to pursue her interests and to keep her mind busy and engaged.  She is a very intelligent child and her anxiety is noticeably less when she is engaged in pursuits she enjoys and most especially with her passions.   And she needed us to say “Yes” when our neighbors who moved suddenly asked us if we wanted to take their dog who had become my daughter’s  best friend” -her words.  I am a cat person, and her dad is someone who enjoys pets, when they live outside or at least that was how he was raised.  She needs us to help her find and participate in dog related activities because this is her passion.  Loving animals and dogs is who she is.

My oldest child, my 14 year old son, needs me because for at least 2 years, if not 3, he has not gotten as much attention as he needs and especially now as he experiences puberty and all the changes that are happening within his body.  He likes structure and plans despite our unschooling life.  He has many interests and pursues them independently.  I don’t think that he has ever uttered the words “I am bored”, or at least rarely.  Yet, he needs help organizing his time and getting things done that he wants to do.  He has been very interested in pursuing computer science for some time and knows he needs math and so we are now using a curriculum for the first time (in our own way) because of his desire to advance with higher level math.  He needs 1:1 time with me, as all my other children do, and even more so now than he did a few years ago.  He needs to be able to vent and talk freely with one of his parents and share his life and experiences with mom and dad.  He needs us to help him with getting together with his friends and to transport him to all his social gatherings and and all his other activities.   He is an introvert, yet, an outgoing introvert, and a calm, quiet- natured person,  yet, he has had a growing need to get together with his friends.  Sometimes, I think and he admits, he needs to just get out of the house and away from his high energy- physically active younger siblings.

They all need me and in different ways.  I enjoy having children of different ages and I know that I appreciate my toddler much more because my older two children are long past the toddler years.  Sure, it has its challenges having 3 children all in different stages of life.  We join up for the summer reading program at the library and join all three age-group programs, one with each child.   My son is in a middle and high school only co-op where nearly everything is only for him.  It took many years before my oldest two could participate in an activity together due to the 4- year age spread.  Now, my 3 year old, who tells us he wants to “stay wittle” and  “not get big”, strives to do all the things his older siblings do.  He gets things out of the refrigerator himself and wants to make his own sandwich and help mom in the kitchen.

I understand why years ago, people told me to have my children close together in age.

But, I wouldn’t change anything.  I always wanted 4 children or at least 4.  If I had had another, I would have liked to have one between my 10 year old and 3 year old.  Yet, this is the life I have and the children who are in my life and my care.  I need to make the most of it and appreciate them for who they are and their special gifts and spend my time seeing the beauty in their souls and empower and affirm them as they are.

If you read what I write and think that I live a blissful life enjoying every moment of my children’s lives…..

….Don’t kid yourself!

I am living a human life with all my human traits, my own past experiences, fears and doubts.  I  strive to be the best parent that I can be.  Far more often than I like, I fail to follow my own basic principles and beliefs as a parent.  I believe that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience but  I need to write about this in order to remember it and to truly live it!

Holiday Gratitude

I started November with a goal to blog daily.  I published 14 posts.  Not bad for someone who came down with Bronchitis/Pneumonia during that time!

Here it is December 21, and this is my second post for the month.

I can be grateful that I have felt much better this month and so have been busy working, doing laundry and cooking, taking care of my children, Christmas shopping and living.

Here is my December Gratitude list:

My friends who created a grateful photo group– a small private group where we share photos of things we are grateful for and have fun conversations about our posts.  This is now my favorite part of Facebook and I enjoy it so much better than all the random posts on my wall, too many of which are negative.

This lap top which my wonderful husband got from his wonderful friend who has assisted us with computers over the years and shared business with my husband.

My wonderful family who managed without me for almost a month while I was in my room, coughing and watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix because I had no energy to do anything else.

My extended family, especially my siblings,my mom and my oldest son who have been pulling pictures together to prepare a surprise video for my father who turns 70 next month.  Don’t worry, he isn’t on Facebook or email or the computer hardly at all, except when he has to for his work which is part-time for him now.

Looking forward to a week at my parent’s house on the lake with my sister, her husband, their dogs, and my brother and his kids.  Our kids have so much fun together and there is nothing better than watching my kids enjoy time with their cousins.  And they are all old enough (just about) where I can sit back and relax for the most part.  -we’ll see how my almost 3-year-old does as he will want to be included in all the older kids do.

My husband.  There aren’t words for my gratitude to him.  I am very grateful that he is here with us this holiday because he came very close to leaving this world back in May and I really can’t imagine life without him.  He went to all 36 session of cardiac rehab and is doing so well continuing his exercise at the YMCA- so proud of him- and so inspired by him and how he is improving his life!  He is an amazing man and father and my best friend.  I need to tell him that more.

Simplicity.

Our experiences back in May, really showed me the beauty of simplicity in life.  Then I got sick and learned to appreciate my breathing and again it was a reminder to slow down and keep it simple!  There is really no reason to rush around like the Tasmanian devil and I am working to keep it simple in my life and to remember there really is no reason to hurry 99.9% of the time!

It is all perfect.

Even when it looks like it is not.  Somehow, it is all perfect, all in divine order.

Life experiences that help me realize the above even if it takes time to see the divine order.  And even when I still don’t see the divine order in the experience.

Quiet time to myself-  I am blessed to have a supportive husband who knows that I need time alone away from the house for my sanity, for my health and he has helped me make this happen nearly every week of the year.

Blogging and WordPress I have been journaling since I was 10 with notebooks and paper and finally began this blog, just over a year ago.   I love being able to take my lap top and write and publish my blog and then share it on Facebook.  Sharing what I write has been a new adventure for me and a BIG step out of my comfort zone.  It has been a wonderful experience despite my fears!

Reflecting- I have come to see how essential it is for me to write.  It helps me tune into myself, to reflect and make sense out of my life.  It calms the chatter in my head, the fears and most of all it allows me to be more of who I truly am.  It is so healing for me that I knew I needed to get out today to write despite also needing to prepare food and start packing for our upcoming trip.  Writing is as important to my physical health as what I eat and exercise.

All my virtual friends–  Finding other blogs and other people through WordPress and Facebook.  It is an introvert’s dream to have access to so many people in such a non threatening way!

Facebook and Friends-  Being able to reconnect with old friends as well as new with my computer and more often, my Black Berry.  As a busy mom of 3, sometimes it is my only connection to friends and other adults, something I need!

My Black Berry-  I got it just after my youngest child was born.  Thank God I did! I was able to keep up with the homeschool world and my children’s friends because our world is by email and now Facebook!  It survived being dropped in water with baby bottom balm lotion as well as many drops on the floor.  It acts up and currently won’t allow me to type i, k or m most of the time. Yet, it serves me and allows me to spend less time on my lap top and so more time with my children.

My three wonderful children- Despite my frustrations with them, I am grateful for their strong personalities and sense of who they are.  They have taught me far more than I could possibly teach them.  I love seeing the world through their eyes and witnessing their life and growth and being a part of their lives.  They all have strong passions,  feel deeply and have an amazing zest for life.  I can’t imagine life any other way than alongside the three of them.  They often seem so different from I was as a child, yet, I do see myself in them often and also know they are their own person- each one of them.  I have learned to enjoy where they are more and more over the years. This is a good reminder to me to enjoy 14-year-old Harrison, 9-year-old Abby, and almost 3-year-old Jason.  For, too soon, they will be older,  grown up and no longer living with me.

 

Living outside of the box in a boxed up world: not for wimps!

How does one navigate in a closed-minded world full of rules and regulations that take on a life of their own when one has chosen to live outside the box?

Outside the Birth Box

Since I became a parent, my life has been a journey of exploration and discovery into unknown territory.  I gave birth to my first child in 1997, desiring a natural birth.  Yet, I had grown up in a culture where birth was portrayed as an evil experience requiring strong pain medication.  Just watch any sitcom or movie  from the 1980s and 1990s where there is a scene involving a woman in labor.   I also knew nothing about breastfeeding.  My mother had been discouraged from breastfeeding by her doctor in 1966 when she was pregnant with my sister, her first child.  She was also given sodium pentothal during labor in 1966 and again in 1969 when I was born.   Because I have always been a reader and researcher, I had discovered that having a natural birth and breastfeeding my baby was the best thing that I could do for my child.

And then my child was born, after being induced and then the inevitable epidural after a full day of increasing levels of pitocin.  We survived the hospital experience and the early difficult days of breastfeeding.  When my baby boy was 3 weeks old, I made a decision that would forever have an impact on his life and mine.  I attended my first La Leche League meeting.  La Leche League is an organization that provides mother to mother breastfeeding support, encouragement, information.  I was introduced to the world of attachment parenting and got to observe nursing mothers with babies and children of varied ages.   It was a new world for me.

Flash forward, 4 years later, I attended Bradley Childbirth classes before the birth of my second child who was born by nurse midwives in the most baby friendly hospital in my area and my daughter never left my side during our short 24 hour hospital stay.  I signed several waivers at the hospital to prevent standard procedures that my baby did not need.   And seven years later, my third came into the world in my quiet, dimly lit kitchen assisted by a Professional Midwife and her assistant.  And because he was born at home, we had to provide proof that I was pregnant and drive downtown to file papers to get his birth certificate and file for his social security number.  And if we had not done that, would he then not be really here? Born in my kitchen in North Carolina, but not a US Citizen.

Life Outside the Typical American Diet

Our diet has also evolved over the years. Granted, I grew up eating two veggies, one green, for dinner, fresh fruit and limited sweets.  My mother is 100% Italian and she cooked in way that looks very much like what is now called “The Mediterranean Diet”.  My husband and I decided to stop eating red meat about the time that our first child was born.  He wanted to lower his cholesterol and felt it was a healthier way to eat.  Over time, we eventually eliminated all meat but fish from our diet.  Later, I learned I was eating too much soy and way too much processed soy.  I added poultry back into my diet but we continued to eat many vegetarian meals.  I learned more about the importance of whole foods and over time greatly reduced the number of processed foods in our diet.  My diet changed once again when I learned my cholesterol was low and possibly too low to become pregnant and so I began to purchase grass-fed beef from a known source, yet my husband continued to avoid red meat most of the time.  When my oldest was about 8, he decided to become a vegetarian, not surprising because he grew up eating very little meat.

Life in a smaller, simpler box

When I became a parent, I was the sole breadwinner for our family.  After two years, we took a leap of faith and I reduced my hours to part-time and switched jobs to one with more flexible hours that allowed me to do my paperwork from home.  Our income was nearly cut in half that year for the second time in our married life. The first being when my husband quit his full  time job,  encouraged to do so by me, to pursue growing his business that he had begun a year earlier. We could write a book  on living on less and building savings before you have children.  Yet, most people have no clue about our simplified life and can not fathom how we live on the income we have had over the past 11 years.  I want to ask those people who live in large houses with perfectly manicured lawns, why do you live in such a large house and maintain a beautiful yard when you are never there to enjoy where you live?

The un-boxed life

As I give these descriptions of aspects of my life that are outside the norm or average way of living in America, I realize that it only shows a glimpse of how very different from society my life has become.  We live in a world but we are not of the world.  We drive cars that we purchased used and are now fully paid for; our house is over 40 years old; we have a gravel driveway; we have basic cable television- about 25 channels;  I make my own water keifer and nettles infusion and make smoothies adding green vegetables, fruit and coconut milk.  My first two children nursed until natural weaning- it was well past the toddler years- and I can give you a long list of health benefits for nursing past two years of age.  At my first La Leche League Meeting, I swore I would never nurse my child past the age of one.  We homeschool our children or more accurately, unschool, but I prefer to say we learn through living.  My husband and I have shared child care responsibilities over the years and often have worked alternating hours so the other  could be with our children.  Why would you give birth to children and then send them to someone else to raise them?  Why would you give someone else the joy of watching your children grow and explore the world?

When life puts you in a box

And then, my husband, Don, had a heart attack, May 4, 2011,  Cuatro De Mayo.   We had to survive in the system.   I was grateful to the hospital and all the people we came in contact with from the medics who arrived at our home and continue to be grateful.  Yet, after my husband was in the hospital over a week and we were looking to his coming home, I found myself feeling alone and lost.   Don was on continuous cardiac monitors for the entire 12 days he was in the hospital and only the last few days was he up walking around, his unit only.  He could not leave his unit.  Yet, they sent him home, unmonitored and with only a home health nurse who came 3 days per week and  because I insisted on that.  I even had to call the home health  company once we got home because somehow the hospital failed to inform the home health company that he had been discharged from the hospital.   Luckily, I had worked in home health care and knew what to do.

I was ashamed  to cry while I was in the hospital room with him.  I quickly wiped tears from my face when a nurse  came into his room.   Why is that?   Reality did not look anything like Gray’s Anatomy.  I saw him briefly in the emergency room before they wheeled him up to the “Cath Lab”.  And then I was led to an empty waiting area where we sat, me, my children and my good friend, for over 2 hours wondering what was happening and wondering whether Don would live.    A nurse finally came by to inform us that things were going well and if they continued to go well, he would be moved to the CCU and someone would come get us.  She had thought it would be about 30 minutes,and then an hour past and my fear intensified that something was wrong.  Thank goodness for my friend who was not in shock and knew to call the front desk and asked if he had been moved to CCU ~which he had.   There were no doctors holding your hand and standing by as you grieved and felt the emotions of the trauma you were going through- especially for me, the family, the wife of the man who had the heart attack. They treated my husband and took good care of him.  Yet, his heart attack happened to more than him, it affected his entire family, his wife and three children- aged 13, 9 and 2.

It was a traumatic experience for all of us and in some ways more so for us than Don because he has little to no memory of the initial events.  No memory at all from the time he went unconscious on our living room couch until he was awake in the CCU.  At home, when he was having increasing pain in his mid back and his neck, it never occurred to him that he might be having a heart attack. I knew and my 13-year-old son did too.    And those early days in the CCU are very blurred and foggy in my husband’s memory.  Somehow we survived and even became closer as a family those 12 days Don was in the hospital.  And then the bigger challenge, his coming home and continuing to recover in a home with three young  children.  And now, 4 months later, here we are.  Our life greatly altered on some levels and in other ways it looks as it did before.  Life will never be the same, experience changes you, changes your perspective.  My children never again will have the full childhood innocence of feeling like your parents will live forever.  Watching your father have a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest is not a typical experience for a child of 2, 9 or even 13.  The hospital staff kept saying that many 50-year-old men have heart attacks but what they failed to see was not many 50-year-old men have a 2-year-old child.   I personally did not grow up seeing family members have a heart attack in their 50s or any age really, other than my uncle who just two years prior to my husband’s heart attack, suffered a dissecting aorta at the age of 47.

Re-negotiating life and moving out of the box

We continue to navigate in the healthcare system and now the financial assistance system in our county and state.  I have come to realize that part of my angst comes from living a life outside the box yet needing  these systems that exist in our culture.  Systems we were never a part of before or not to the extent that we are now.  They want to put us back in the box but there is not a box that fits us.

Navigating in this world, in the American culture of  this millennium, while pursing life from a spiritual perspective is not a task for wimps.  I have learned that I do well under pressure and that I am a survivor in a crisis.  Adrenaline is addictive but one  can not continue to live with high levels of adrenaline running through your system.  Sometimes, the more difficult part of life is not the early trauma, but the getting back to regular life part, when the flood of support and assistance tapers off and when you are faced with the complexities of life and the new challenge of helping a loved one with a new medical condition to recover and live again.

Over time, aspects become easier but other factors emerge as stressful and challenging.  It is a process, a continual process of recovery.  I do not know how long the process lasts nor how long the intensity remains, yet here I am 4 months later, still feeling strong feelings as I recount and relive the experience.   It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs occurring within a life already full of uneven terrain.  I have moved closer to and further away from my spiritual side throughout the process.   I  have grown stronger, and more in tune with my spiritual self through my writing.   When I do not write, I often fall away from my true self and have found  myself sitting in the bottom of a lonely box.    Sometimes , I get up out of the box and other times, I need to just sit alone in the bottom of the box.  I see now that  I am a strong woman, even when I am sitting in the bottom of the box.

It takes strength to live in this world and each challenge makes you stronger unless you choose to stop and not move forward.  Unless you become permanently and completely dysfunctional and unable to care for yourself in any manner, you do become stronger.  The decisions you make and the life that follows are a matter of your perspective but know that you do become stronger,  you become more of who you choose to be.

Reflections on a simple but miraculous evening with my family

I wrote the first draft of this blog, two weeks ago.  I had forgotten about writing this and even the experience we had just two weeks ago.   Life has been so moment to moment for me lately.   I  have had a particularly  challenging week and so my own blog has helped me to gain insight and perspective.  Here is the post:

I had a success moment last night, so I thought I would share it.

Many months ago (I can’t even remember when I did this,might be over a year ago), I sat down with my older two children individually and asked them what their goals were (in words they understood, one is now 13 and the other 8).  and wrote down what they wanted to work on and made a plan as well as looking at the week.
It was the best connection I had with my 8-year-old (or she might have been 7 at the time, to date with our “home/unschool journey”.  She had many ideas and talked about what she wanted to do.  I wrote it down and we even got books on animals at the library like she wanted and started a notebook for her like she asked for.  I think we met again one more time but then life got in the way…
Her issues snowballed into full-blown ocd last spring and my youngest became more active as he got closer to two years….
Then I  hurt my back New Year’s eve and pain sure brings perspective.
I was “out of it” for 2 weeks, at home but taking 600 mg of ibuprofen every day (and I almost never take pain medication) and laying down most of the time because standing and sitting were too painful.  I had a lot of thinking time.    Once I felt better,  I really wanted to sit down with each child and look at our week.  For the past 4 months or so, I’ve been working nearly every weekend, usually Sat and Sun and so when I get home, I am tired and we eat and then its time to start bedtime routine.
So I seized the opportunity before I went back to work and sat down with each child again on a Sunday.  My husband and I talked some first, looking at our calendars, something we used to do often but have not been doing for way too long despite both of us bringing it up saying we wanted to.  And then I went in the basement with my 13-year-old.
He opened up and shared his frustrations.  Something he has not had much of a chance to do but has needed to with  how the past year has been with me watching a toddler and caring for my  8-year-old daughter who has OCD.  And I wrote some of what we talked about as far as a plan of our days and what he wanted to work on.    And after about a half hour, my toddler needed mommy and he came down with us but we were able to continue talking for a bit longer.
And then I had time with my daughter while she played solitaire.  I think she needed that to help her concentrate and keep the OCD thoughts at bay.  And it was good.
Now this is after me bringing up this idea  just before dinner and her getting mad and resisting all my ideas, saying she wanted to play cards.  Despite my efforts to point out how this has been helpful to both her and us in the past, she resisted  and kept interrupting me.  I got mad, but appropriately expressed it!  (big for me) I let her know how I felt and why I was upset and how important I felt this was for all of us.
So after we talked, she was doing the best she has in a while!!!!!!!!
So despite her initial resistance, I needed to stay strong but kind and calm and keep on and in the long run(as in that same day), it helped her!  And i saw it that evening….she was talking on and on as we got ready for bed and playing with her younger brother.   a sure  sign of how well she was doing, with the OCD, she gets stuck and is in this angry, stuck place where she resists getting ready for bed and needs to wash her hands but doesn’t want to, but has too….and on and on and on…
So this was huge, to see her talking and talking like she used to and happy!
And I looked at my husband and despite his desire for quiet time in the evening, I said just enough, to keep him from stopping her from her enthusiasm and loud playfulness.   She also showed  her little brother how to brush his teeth.  Another good sign, because usually she freaks out if he comes in the bathroom with her when she is brushing her teeth.
We now really know, we can not “hush” her when we want quiet, because it can hush her spirit, and that is not good.    As I type this and think about this, it was just last night, it feels like a miracle with all we have been through.  Sure she still can’t sit down and her list of things she can not touch grows and grows, but, she had fun with her brother in the evening and jabbered on in her old self, happy-go-lucky full of imagination, Abby self that we have missed so much over the past year with her tormented soul going through OCD.

New Year’s Reflection: What is most important to me with homeschooling my children?

I have a homeschool website for Charlotte, NC  area homeschoolers. http://charlottehomeschooling.ning.com/

I have been  posting  a Question of the Week to drum up discussion in the Forums.   I recently posted this question.

What is most important to you (or foremost in your mind) with homeschooling your children?

My response:

When I began homeschooling, or decided that was the path I was taking (in 2002 when my oldest was just turning 5), my goals was to continue to foster my son’s love of learning.  I saw how much he enjoyed exploring the world and loved learning new things and I wanted to continue to foster that love of learning.  I recalled my own experience after I graduated college that the last thing I wanted to do was read anything!  It took me some time before I enjoyed reading again.  I wanted him to continue enjoying learning, like all young children do throughout his life.

I also wanted to teach my child how to find information.  In school I hated memorizing.  I felt that if he knew how to find the information he wanted, then he could learn anything.

I took him to the library often and taught him early how to find books in the library, gave him a general understanding of the Dewey Decimal System, and continued reading to him and following his interests.

I also wanted to be with my children.  I returned to work full-time when my oldest was just 3 months old and it was the hardest thing I ever had to do at that point.  My husband was growing his business and my income was our sole income.  As he grew his business, I yearned for the day when I could work less and eventually be home full-time.

I now with three children, age 13, 8 and 2, see how quickly they grow and how short the time is that they are in my care.  I enjoy being with them.  (Sure, I need time to myself and have days where I am ready to send them all off to school if only for a week.)  I enjoy learning and growing along with them.  This is in part why I describe my method of homeschooling as learning through living.

My oldest is 13 now and he still loves learning new things.  He pursues his interests and understand their are other things he needs to learn to help him achieve his goals (he wants to study computer science in college).  He helps me locate nonfiction books in the children’s section for my younger two kids (because he knows how to find some categories of books better than I do).

I too need to stop and remind myself of my intention with homeschooling and even my beliefs about education to refocus myself.  No matter what your education and homeschooling beliefs are, you can lose site of your intentions as you get wrapped up in the homeschooling world and connect with others who have different focus.

For me, I tend to doubt myself when I am around others who approach things different.  I have many homeschool friends who have a variety of different beliefs about homeschooling and education and I am grateful for all of them.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love the variety. Yet, I personally, need to remember to stop, go within, refocus and tune in to my intentions and remember why I began homeschooling in the first place.  I also need to  connect with others of like mind.For me, attending my favorite homeschool conference; getting together with others of similar beliefs, both on line and in person;  and writing and reflecting on my beliefs helps me to stay connected to my true intentions.