Friday, August 29, 2008

One of those easy to report weeks

It's "back to school" for us and it's been a fun week. I can't say we went out of our way to do anything differently; we just pay different attention to our lives, so that we can remember to report it. We attended swim classes, went rock-wall climbing and worked on some story writing. We had a tie dye party and finished up the structural work on the treehouse. When we finish the week up, we'll have had guests five out of seven days. It's been busy.

This day in particular was funny because it was the middle boys leading the charge on a full-out project. It's days like this that make being an "eclectic homeschooler" really enjoyable. I knew they were picking berries. That's standard fare around here. I had no idea, initially, to what task they had set themselves.

The boys picked copious amounts of blackberries, huckleberries and strawberries. As evidenced by what they did with them, they've been paying attention to all the canning we've been doing. They even set aside a smaller bowl of berry mash and let the three year olds eat that, so the big boys could continue working unmolested.

One of my berries was THIS BIG!

Slow and controlled!

Almost done!


Mr. Man also lost his second tooth. Sniff sniff. He was more interested in showing that off than displaying his handiwork.

When Niki came home to her children, she asked her son,
"How did you get
berries in your hair?"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who says I am uptight?

This is how Mr. Man chose to greet his grandparents on their recent visit.

Anyone willing to implicate an older, female sibling would not be exactly wrong.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


See that radiant smile?

The one in the post below this one?

The lady sitting in my yard, framed by sunflowers?

That was her birthday.

And I forgot.

Had it on my calendar and everything. I just spaced and thought it was another Saturday.

Oy vey.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lazy Saturday

Well, not lazy for the guys. I am happy Grandaddy gets to help with the treehouse.

Think they missed each other? It had been about a month! N-man was in serious withdrawal!

Tea time. My dh is such a hobbit. We have photo after photo of him imbibing from oversized containers!

Niki has a flower on her head.

It looks charming and innocent.. but these are the two who put those flowers on the ground to begin with. And now there's a stick... and cheering.... hmmmmm

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Port Townsend

Ready to Go!

That's Canada back there!

Our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, as it becomes the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This turtle had a map of Puget Sound on its back. I told my daughter I'd give her a dollar if she could find our beach. Shouldn't have done that. She made me pay up, too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Homeschooling Choice

In my blogosphere, one of our homeschooling families is sending their son to school. That's somewhat misleading-- he is a freshman in high school and is choosing a small, private situation, so there's no real "sending" about it. Indeed, the real point of this blog entry is the absence of that sense of having something done to you or chosen for you. There is such a variety of homeschoolers out there, but for those of us who do it specifically to raise emotionally-intact autodidacts and self-sufficient people, the day will come when we have to hand over the tools of path finding to the very ones for whom we are blazing that trail. Chances are good that it comes a bit sooner for some of us just by the nature of children raised in intellectual freedom.

This morning, EHLT was musing that many people were confusing this event as a failure of her homeschoooling program; that perhaps either she was giving up, or the boy was rejecting it. I have become so immured in this worldview that homeschooling is such a natural lifestyle, that I found myself surprised by those assumptions. Further, I discover myself increasingly annoyed with the attitude I encounter that "homeschoolers struggle so much" when they enter a school setting. While I realize that may be true for some-- especially kids who were schooled-at-home in deliberate, exclusionary methods-- kids raised in an open, eclectic fashion tend to feel and be responsible for their own intellectual prowess. They own it. That responsibility is what makes these kids actually really GOOD at "school."

I'd like to share her take on it, written here on The Homeschooling Legacy:

In fact, I see the Boychick's choice as one that fits as well into the trajectory of our homeschooling journey as would homeschooling high school. As we progressed in homeschooling 'middle school,' we also progressed in handing over more and more of the decision making about his education to the Boychick. Over those years, we moved from being "sages on the stage to guides on the side" as our philosophy evolved from school-at-home to a certain kind of unschooling. The Boychick has become used to thinking of himself as the master of his education, as well as the learner. He has learned to take responsibility for his learning methods and goals. He did not decide to go to high school because homeschooling was a failure; rather, he was able to choose because homeschooling was a success.

Unlike most of the students who entered East Mountain High School this morning, the Boychick sees attending school not as something he must do, but as something he has chosen to do. He knows that the responsibility for his successes or failures lies on his shoulders, and that although there are people ready to help him and guide him, in the end, the secret to his education lies within. He has become a self-directed learner.

This has always been the goal for me, as the homeschooling parent. I view preparing them for learning with the same gravity as I view preparing them for leaving my home for the outside world. Homeschooling is not an extension of my parenting, as so many are wont to say. It is an integral part of my parenting. The big joke on me is that this whole gig started when I was trying to prepare my first, wee preschooler for a Montessori school with a waiting list. I bought some supplies, applied the method and discovered a world of joy I'd not anticipated. In some respects, I suppose, I continue preparing my children for their place to open up. The difference is that I can expect it will be my children telling me when it is time for them to matriculate somewhere. I hope I can be as graceful letting go then as EHLT seems to be now.

She goes on to write:

Homeschooling, regardless of the individual's reasons for it, is a political act.

Making a choice against the received wisdom of the dominant culture forever changes how one views that received wisdom, as well as how one views the locus of control over individual decisions. In so doing, a person steps outside the herd mentality and lives liberty in reality. And succeeding in doing so means never being quite so willing to let others assert control over individual choices again. This is the legacy of homeschooling for us, just as it is the legacy of homebirthing, the legacy of living Judaism, and the legacy of growing up libertarian.
While we aren't Jewish, the rest of it certainly applies. This legacy we are creating-- this life we are crafting out of thin air and Thoreau-- I am betting everything we have that it is the best gift we can give our kids. But that legacy, I have taken some of that into myself. Homeschooling has been something I have done for my children, but it is something that most certainly nourishes the parents of this family as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

For Danny

In response to this, I drag this out of the vault from a vacation long ago.

I bet it was the same porch! :)

For those gentle readers who think I've lost a bolt, I will hasten to add that Miss Danny has not posted all the pictures on her blog that she did on her facebook. Ahem.

The Rents are in Town Redux

And now we have a portable room a/c. LOL!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Rents are in town

So far things are going well. They're tad jet-lagged but really engaging with the kids and us. It's been nice so far.

Of course it's HAWT, so we have full redneck curtains going; and really, when you have sheets and towels hanging in the windows, how worried about the state of decor can you be?

The nice thing about the horrible heat inside is that when you're dealing with vacationing Charlestonians in August, 83 degrees (even inside) isn't that much of an imposition. If the a/c goes out in Charleston, you're looking at a lot more heat than that on the inside. Trust me- we did it with a newborn in July. Wasn't pretty!

Our family has pretty much acclimated to it, (memories) and it happens every year at least once or twice, but I find it amusing that we're trying to entertain whilst only moving in the morning.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Community of mothers: full circle

This is not an easy blog entry to read. Please clink on if you are feeling sensitive today.

Today was an emotionally exhausting day. We've been prepping, full-tilt and with the not so insignificant assistance of friends, towards propping up the house and making it look like we actually live here. The retro-closet look is so out, after all. Today we had plans for another massive project and instead, after canning a batch of peaches, I chose to ferry my friend out to Silverdale.

She'd never been to Tuesday Morning. Oh no, said I, no homeschooler should do without Tuesday morning. So I gleefully took a break. My spirits improved and we did what we needed to and all was well. Until the van wouldn't start. In the hot, so hot parking lot of treeless Silverdale shopping. After about half an hour of cajoling, I managed to convince the thing it was not in alarm mode, and it started. We continued on to the waterfront park.

As we spread our blanket and the kids tottered off to play, an older Asian woman who was cradling a child called out to me. But what she said, urgently was "Mom! Mom? Mom! Can you come here?" As I approached and climbed the gazebo I called out to my friend to be on alert for the rest of the kids. The girl in her arms was much older than I first thought. Sized like a pre-schooler, she was probably eleven or twelve, maybe older. Her arms were drawn up in a pose characteristic to muscular dystrophy and the woman had her face down on her lap. She was appearing to vomit, but it wasn't her stomach. Given our own medical background I recognized she was expelling large amounts of mucuos, from both her nose and her mouth.

The woman was frantically trying to pull it out of her, away from her passages. Given what she had to work with (not much, we found out later), she was doing a fine job of keeping the child breathing. She introduced herself as Anita, caregiver to this child (she told me her name but I won't write it here) and said "Is she breathing? " She kept asking me, "Is it working? Is she breathing?" I knelt down beside the child and took a napkin I had brought from our lunch and cleared the hair from her eyes. She was seizing slightly, or having a nervous tic, as her head kept shaking slowly as if she was saying "no." I murmured, "It's OK, it will be alright. We're getting you clean."

I stood back up and told the woman she was breathing but clearly not doing well. "Is she verbal? " I asked.

"No, no, she cannot talk."

"What happened to start this?" I asked, looking over their table. There was an unopened salad, some orange soda and a swarm of yellow jackets all over the table. A bowl of melon chunks lay on the ground underneath the table.

She gestured to the bowl and said "She ate that then started to vomit. I call the father but he is not answering. I keep waiting..."

"Have you fed her melon before?" I asked her, helping to clean the girl off again, becoming more convinced this was an allergy reaction I fully dread.

"Yes, many times." To myself, I thought "That leaves the bees." They were THICK, and the girl was completely incapable of speech. At this point she thrashed a little and I could see her face. She was more lucid than she had been, and her eyes focused on me, a stranger. She began to moan and I backed up slowly.

"My name is ~L~ and I am not going to touch you. I will help you but I won't pick you up. I am helping Miss Anita to help you." She faded out again, mollified I guess, but went right back to voiding the mucous, working her damnedest to breathe. She had no hives, no visible edema, no vomit left in her.

The cell phone on the table rang and Anita talked to someone on the phone. I heard her say "No, I don't know what to do." At that point I'd had enough. This reaction was BAD. All I needed to spur me on was a conversation long ago with a National Park Ranger; he had spoken to us regarding our own daughter's allergy and how bee sting had a much worse outcome with regards to time-to-treatment.

"Have you called 911 yet?" I asked her, and she shook her head and said "I, I cannot" and I realized her language barrier was holding her back. "Do you want me to call them? Can I call them for you?"

"Yes! Yes!" I sprinted back for my cell phone and dialed it in. We were very close to a fire station and I knew it, so I wasn't surprised to hear the sirens before I even got off the phone. The entire interaction I'd had with the woman and girl had taken less than three minutes, if that. While we waited for the first responders, I packed the woman's things and cleared their picnic. I continued to help clear the girl and watched helplessly, having done everything I could do.

I called over to my friend, who was on the blanket not five feet from the gazebo, "You might want to tell Cecily (4) and D-meister (3) what's about to happen." They'd never seen that big of a red, wailing truck that close, and it was coming to their picnic.

When the EMTs got there, I got out. I went to the park bathroom and washed my hands and only then did I get out of the-business-end-of-Mom mode. That's when I had a jolt as I realized that I hadn't used our epipen on the girl. Should I have? NO, I thought, I shouldn't have... but would they be able to get anything out of Anita? I sprinted back to the site and spoke to the medic who was taking notes from Anita. I asked him if they carried epinephrine, and he said they did. I told him what I saw, what I thought about the bees, and that the girl was nonverbal. He paled, said "I'm on it," and sprinted back to the medics who had taken her. Right about then, her Dad rolled up and I was satisfied I could release the situation.

The whole thing was a fantastic blur. Was this why my van failed me today? To put an allergy Momma right in Anita's sights? The medics were so fast, so competent, and truly responsive to the changing situation. They didn't blow me off, and as it happened, I was spot on, so they probably saved her life today. Anita came back to me later to thank me. She looked so tired, so small, but she was smiling. "Dad came. He knows, he knows what brings out her allergies," she gestured.

"The bees?"

"Oh yes," she smiled.

We went back to the park situation, my friend and I, while I struggled to stop thinking about anaphylaxis as the elephant in my room. I spoke about how grateful I was that Washington state allows their paramedics to not only administer but to carry epinephrine (they did not in SC), and how interesting it is to me that mothers just turn into everybody's mothers when it falls upon us. How frustrated I felt that the parents had not prepared that woman in any capacity to contend with a known life-threatening allergy. How grateful I was that our children can tell us what the heck is going on with them.

Maybe I shouldn't have said that last bit out loud. The hour ground forward as my friend's son Raeden started screaming from down the hill. The play structure was visible to us, but it is situated just below a little hill so we could hear him, but not see him. He lay screaming on the ground, "Mama! Mama!" as we booked it down there. He'd been stung, also, as one of these crazy swarm had crawled into his sandal. Crazy indeed-- a moving 6 year old boy on a playground does not an attractive hiding place make.

Pascha carried him back up to our blanket where we did our version of first aid on him. He got benadryl, arnica, green goo and Mama hugs. His friend N-man gave him a feel-better toy and he seemed to rally. Bee stings hurt, so it took him a while, but N-man stayed with him until he was ready to roll again. Before that could happen, however, we were approached by a couple of other mothers.

"Is he feeling better?" First Mom asked. "I was hoping to see him again, because bee stings are so hard. They hurt so much, don't they?" she directed to Raeden. Back to my friend, she said, "My little guy is allergic to nuts and so we really watch out for stuff like this. Did you give him benadryl?' Second mom came up and First Mom indicated that Second Mom's family was allergic to nuts AND bees. Basically, they refused to leave until they were assured that Raeden had been administered both painkiller and benadryl.

I sat there, ready to pack it in and leave Bee Park, but I was struck by how quickly I had shifted positions. I had been that Mom, less than an hour earlier, stepping up to make sure someone else's child made it through, survived. I felt very included, along with my friend there, in a community of mothers. Despite the Mommy wars, beyond parenting techniques, there are very basic issues that will tie us together, and you can never be sure when they will appear. But they did today, and I was grateful, so very grateful, for it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Treehouse in the making....

The summer is shaping up in at least part of the ways we'd planned it~ I can already tell we will look back on this summer as a good time. We're grateful to follow through on our promises.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Camera Woes

My blog would be a lot more interesting if my camera weren't broken.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Bags for Fun

I would love to make this happen here. I can totally see some local parks really stepping up for this.

In a terrific promotion we can only hope will lead to more creative thinking, Rye Playland in Westchester, NY recently held a promotion where every child that turned in 100 plastic bags for recycling received free admission to the park that day.

All told, the kids put together some 39,995 plastic bags as they worked their way through the turnstiles in search of a good time at one of the most historic amusement parks in the country.

And while we recently highlighted a high school student who recently came up with a way to make plastic bags decompose in just three months time, the truth is that simple actions like this not only go a long way towards cleaning up the local environment but help educate kids, their parents and the public about what a positive contribution they can make by limiting the use of plastic bags.

So hats off to the folks who run Rye Playland, perhaps those at Six Flags will take the hint and come up with something similar?

I would love to head this up. Who would be the most likely to be receptive to this?

Pacific Science Center is my first, immediate thought. One of the zoos, perhaps-- especially a place like Northwest Trek? Or would something like this catch the eye of a in-need-of-good-PR venue like the EMP or Wild Waves?