Thursday, October 30, 2014

Busy busy busy

I can't believe we are two months into our school year, the twins turned TWO, we had a super fun family Staycation and I haven't blogged about any of it! I tried to post from my phone on our homeschool blog, but it kept erring out so that didn't happen, either.

In the past few months, we have definitely turned a corner in our post-twin-arrival life. We can actually DO things, and plan things, and have them go somewhat as expected. The twins go to a sitter who lives down the street from us three mornings a week while we do some of our homeschool, and after the first few times of crying for 5 or so minutes, GubGub was just fine with it. Now they look forward to playing with "Hayla" (Makayla) and Peyton. It has been so nice to have the time to do school uninterrupted, and to not feel like I'm just shuffling them to the side while I try and do things. Noodle is a pretty fantastic babysitter, and can manage for 2-3 hours without a problem, so David and I get to go on DATES again! They go to sleep around 8 o'clock and the vast majority of the time they sleep until at least 6 a.m., often 6:30.  GubGub is the early bird, sometimes waking too early (5-6:00) and not going back to sleep, but overall it's pretty good. Sleeping well is something I will never take for granted again as long as I live. Okay, I probably will take it for granted because that's how humans are, but I certainly have a new appreciation for it after the 15 or so months of lousy to awful sleep I had after they were born.

So now that I am feeling human again, I am trying hard to find some parts of the old me that kind of went into hiding the past couple years. It's hard to feel just sort of broken, and realize you've been feeling that way for a while but there just wasn't time to really look at yourself and assess the damage. I've also come to the somewhat painful realization that some areas in my life that need attention and improvement aren't going to just get better on their own. Some things you don't grow out of, no matter how old you get. You actually have to dig in and do the work yourself. Talk about disappointing! I guess there really aren't a lot of automatic perks that come with aging. Self-improvement requires effort. Boo. (Imagine a somewhat sarcastic winky face here.)

I'm feeling hopeful about life, generally, though. David is totally rockin' the data science world and it is neat to see him excelling at something that suits his interests and talents so well. I'm grateful beyond words to have him doing something that he both enjoys and provides for our needs and many wants. It was a long time coming.

Well, I'm sure I could go on a bit more about various things, but it's past eleven and I'm trying to be responsible and get enough sleep. Most nights, anyway.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Older, Wiser Me

For my status update tonight I posted, "Man, sometimes I wish there was an older, wiser version of myself that I could ask for advice. I could sure use that time machine. Or a Tardis would do the trick, I guess."

It's true. I know plenty of wiser (some older, some not) than myself, and plenty of older people (some wiser, some not) but none of them ate able to give me the advice that I feel so desperately in need of, which is how to be ME living MY LIFE and trying to do well at the things that I feel are important. I have homeschool friends and associates, but not many of them have toddler twins, or a particularly challenging student who challenges them in a similar way. I have friends who have twins, but they don't homeschool. I could come up with additional examples but you probably get the idea, which is that it is really tricky to forge your own path in life precisely because you are having to forge your own path. (Is that a phrase that is used? It just occurred to me that forging seems more like a blacksmithy thing than clearing a path...) I was talking to a dear friend the other day and we both shared how a particular challenge in our marriages was that we didn't have an example of how we wanted our marriage to be to look at. Both her and her husband's parents divorced and remarried. My parents and David's parents have stayed married, but I don't look to either of their relationships as something I want for myself and David. I hope ours lasts as long as theirs, but the dynamics of their relationships are not anything I'd want to emulate.  

I feel similarly with how I was parented. I am grateful to my parents for all they did for me growing up, but as the youngest by six years with both parents working full-time (until my dad's retirement), I felt kind of like I was left to raise myself. We never had the type of relationship where I felt comfortable talking with them about problems or challenges in my life. We saw very little of each other, and kind of did our own things. I also only remember two of my 5 siblings living at home, as the others are 12, 14, and 16 years older than me. To contrast that with my current situation: 5 kids within a 10 year span, homeschoolers, stay-at-home-mom. I have a hard time knowing how best to respond to the normal sibling squabbles because there really weren't that many that involves me as a kid. I remember we got sent to our rooms on occasion, but most of the time the parents weren't around. And by the time I was 12 (Noodle's age), I was the only kid at home, so I can't really relate to how irritating younger siblings are, especially when you are a moody adolescent and MANY things are irritating. 

So I'd like a role model, an actual real person who has lives my experiences and knows what works. I don't want to pick through the many gems of wisdom from a variety of sources to pull together my own brilliant plan. I've been working on that, though, with David's help, but the real problem is that every day the execution is left up almost entirely to me, and with so many people involved, each little hiccup or disturbance seems to wiggle the supporting beams of my vision just enough that by 4 pm I feel like it has all crashed down around me. I look at the mess and the casualties and my vision and hopes for my family just seem insanely ambitious and likely to do more harm than good. But yet it's time to muster up some energy and try to get goodwill summoned from myself and "the troops" so we can push forward and I can make dinner and maybe we can tidy things up enough so that David won't be too irritated when he comes home. And after they are all in bed there is still more cleaning that could be done, it would be so lovely to wake up to a clean counter, but its been a long day of cleaning and re-cleaning and picking that thing up again and changing the diapers and rotating laundry and answering the requests and pleas and whines and tears that I just want to claim that last hour or two for myself and maybe read or watch a show or do some homeschool prep work, even. And I go to bed and sleep deeply until 5:30 or maybe 6 if I am lucky, when Gub Gub's internal alarm clock must crow like an over eager rooster regardless of what time he went to bed, and he tells me that it's time to do it all over again.

Sunday, July 06, 2014


Sprout sat down next to me while we were eating our dessert and said, "I want to talk about cars and motorcycles and how they work."

Me: "Hmm. Okay, well I don't know very much about that."

Spud: "Okay, well just tell me about how engines work."

Me: "How about we find a video?"

So we watched these two videos and I learned quite a bit! 

Hooray for the Internet and YouTube! 

what counts as evidence?

A friend of mine is moving away. She expressed a lot of sadness and discouragement to a group of us, largely stemming from the dreams and ideas she had about how her life would be when they moved into their present home, and how few of those have been realized, and some of them are as close to 180 degrees opposite how things have turned out. Her life is not what she imagined it to be. I think she is feeling fearful and hopeless that moving to a new city in a different state will not improve things, because this situation she was in didn't improve her life like she had thought it would.

I was talking to David about this and he brought up what he thinks are the three keys to living. He calls them Mindfulness, Thoughtfulness, and Flow.  I will hope to get into those more later (in future posts), but the thought I had while we were talking was something he has frequently said before, which is "What counts as evidence?" meaning, "What metric are we using to demonstrate progress and/or success?" (He is kind of a mantra/catch-phrase kind of guy, so yes, he really does say things over and over and over again. It can be a bit annoying, but I have to admit that many of them are quite astute and useful, so overall I appreciate it...maybe not at first but eventually.)

So, what counts as evidence? For myself and many of my peers (I am thinking primarily of my friends who are stay-at-home-moms), we were raised with an achievement mindset. The vast majority of us went through the public school system, spending the bulk of our waking hours learning and being tested.  What counted as evidence was good grades. I also took piano lessons and what counted as evidence was good performance at the recitals as well as performing in the Music Festival.  I had jobs after I was old enough to work, and what counted as evidence was the paycheck. Then there was more school for me, so grades and projects again were the evidence. Grad school required a larger demonstration of understanding and completion of work projects rather than simply grades, but it was still obvious what counted as evidence.

Then we entered into the realm of Motherhood. What counts as evidence in this effort? Is it good behavior from your children? Is it good grades once they enter school? Is it happy kids? Is it well dressed kids? Is it a clean house? Is it nutritious meals? Is it great family portraits every year? Family vacations? Awesome birthday parties? Achievement at sports? Being service-oriented? Having a good work ethic? Having a good sense of humor? Staying active in your religious community? Marrying and having their own family? Getting into a prestigious college? Graduating from college?  Successful careers for your children when they reach adulthood? I could list many more, but I think you get the idea.

The above list includes a lot of events. Events feel like good evidence because it is obvious that they are completed. Events are difficult as evidence because there are many days, weeks, months and maybe years before they materialize, which can result in days, weeks, months, and years of stressing over the likelihood of desired event happening or not happening. Additionally, I doubt that most parents would only have one event on their list of evidence, so at any given time you are stewing about a host of future events, over which you actually exert very little control. What little control/influence you can exert could be easily overthrown by something that is not even on the radar this far away from the goal. If even one of these evidence-of-success events doesn't materialize, will that mean failure? Will you recast all the years of effort and love and time and energy as being largely a waste because the end result wasn't what you determined counted as evidence? That would be a true tragedy, but I have seen it happen.

I posit that we need evidence that we can see regularly. We need evidence that doesn't get undone after a crazy weekend. If I'm only succeeding at Motherhood when the house is clean, then I feel like a failure after a week of vomiting kids who kept the laundry perpetually cycling so there was no time to do the usual chores. If I'm succeeding at motherhood when my child graduates from college, how do I feel if she takes a year off to work at something or to do some travelling?

For me, I think what counts as evidence has been a loose conglomerate of many of the things in my list, as well as some that I haven't articulated.  It's so loosely defined that even if I am succeeding in one area, poor performance in another area makes me feel sufficiently deflated that I can't get any satisfaction from the success.  Being a cluttered person, my house is pretty much never the house that I imagine a successful mother having. Being a homeschooler, we are not focused on grades, so I don't get the external validation of someone telling me my child is doing well in X and Y areas. Due to financial strains, we've not consistently done family portraits or family vacations. It is easy to see lots of areas for improvement and to downplay anything at which I might be doing well.

Another problem with these types of evidence is that they are very much dependent upon the individual child. Some things about your child you have very little control over. I have one son who manifests "happy" in ways that are very different from what I imagine happy kids to be. What if your child doesn't want to go to college, or get married, or doesn't feel a connection with your religion, or has a disability that makes some of your goals unrealistic? Have you failed at Motherhood? 

I think what is necessary is a redefining of success. Success as a mother is an outgrowth of success as a person. What makes a successful person? Money? Family? Faith? Friends? Prestige? Those are all used as evidence, but many have some or all of those things and do not feel happy or content. I would think that most would agree that for their own definition of success, happiness is a key component, more than any of the other things listed. And the keys to happiness are those three things listed above
  1. Mindfulness
  2. Thoughtfulness
  3. Flow
This is getting pretty long, so I think I will save exploring these for future posts. Hopefully I can get to them later this week.

So, what counts as evidence for you? Do you feel generally satisfied and productive as a mother (or human in general, even if you aren't a mother)?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

"It's life, Jim, but not as we know it…"

I was very surprised to pull up my blog and see that I haven't, in fact, blogged EVEN ONCE this year! Wow!  I actually did start another side blog to kind of vent about things and work through some thoughts, so maybe that counts for something in the grand blogosphere of life.  I also haven't read most of the blogs I used to follow in that time.  And it isn't that I'm not online, because I am.  I just do 99% of my online time on my phone, because I'm either nursing toddlers & putting them down for naps or sitting near kids who are working on school and need me "on call," so I will go days without sitting at my computer.  And another factor is that Noodle has become quite the Scratcher  and so it can be a challenge to even get a chance to sit at my computer. And when I do finally have a chance, Gub Gub thinks he needs to climb on the chair, on me, on the shelves next to my desk, so it's a bit of a circus and not conducive to sitting and thinking or writing.  Or really anything for that matter besides going a little more crazy.

But life is pretty good.  The twins sleep through the night most nights, though there's been something unknown going on this past week which has disrupted that, so that means I get a fairly good chunk of uninterrupted sleep and now feel pretty human most days.

We are trying out something new with homeschooling, called "Project Based Homeschooling," which basically means you allow your kids more unstructured school time and assist them in working on projects that interest them and help them develop the skills needed to do what interests them.  We are still just kind of dipping our toes into this approach, but hope to be going pretty well with it for next Fall.  We will still do our core subjects of Math & Language Arts together, and probably History (as I'm  planning a sort of LA/History combined) and do project time in the afternoons.  Noodle has shown me how great this can work with her Scratch stuff.  It's amazing how much time kids (and people generally) will spend on things that call to them and fulfill their interests and desires to create.  Spud also has been working a lot on very interesting Lego creations as well as origami.  And just tonight we started a blog for Sprout so he can participate as well.  My hope is that this will be a good approach, especially for Spud who you could call an intractable learner.  You can not lead that horse to water, even, let alone make him drink.  It's more of a "make him aware that there is water and hope he understands that water is really important," and then there is a decent chance, but no guarantee, that he'll drink.  It is a real challenge to work with him, but I am feeling hopeful.  I feel that raising him to be a useful and mostly happy individual will be a very challenging task (it has been so far) but will probably result in a tremendous amount of satisfaction for me, as I know just how #$&% hard it has been.  Some personalities are just tough.

My 36th birthday is just 3 days away.  My friend started (last year) thinking of a list of X things to do each year that she is X (I think she is 44 this year, so 44 things) which I think is kind of neat.  I'm not sure I'm up for that this year, though.  I guess they wouldn't have to be really challenging things…  I'll mull it over.  It is a "Perfect Square" number, though, and I won't have another of those for 13 years.  That seems notable.

I do hope I can get a bit better at posting.  Life is busy, but we are doing mostly okay most of the time.  It's been such a blessing to finally get some springtime weather, as the twins are loving being able to play outside, which means fewer messes INSIDE.  Hooray!!  And just for fun, a couple of pictures from Easter of my littlest ones.