Sunday, August 13, 2017

You Have Arrived.

Colonial Williamsburg.

Jamestown Settlement and Powhatan Village.

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Traveling backward and forward in time as we visited living history museum after living history museum exhausted our feet and filled up our brains. We learned new things and reinforced previous understanding by walking the streets and encampments and engaged the people around us in conversation.

I think smoke was coming out of the boys' ears. And there might have been an incident or two of total breakdown and rolling on the floor.

It was time to stop. To decompress. To process through all the information of the past days. And there is no place better to unwind than at the beach.

So we plugged the address into my GPS and waited for that red target to appear and the voice to let us know, "You have arrived."
We not only arrived at an adorable purple cottage with a little slice of heaven just steps past the back door, we arrived at the perfect spot to just sit. To be together and to enjoy each other after days of pressure and agendas.
We arrived at a place where a kid doesn't have to worry if he is allowed to touch. Or to laugh too loudly. Or run.

The kids had arrived.

And at 40+ I've finally arrived at a place in my life where I don't care.

For the first time since the twins were born I put on my bikini.

And not the one with the cute retro high waisted bottoms.

I put on my bikini because I'm 6'1", dang it, and one pieces don't even fit me that well and I'm tired of picking my bathing suit out of my crack. I put on my bikini because tankinis kind of drive me nuts, the way they flutter up around my middle when I'm actually in the water.

I put on my bikini because I'm tired of believing that stretch marks, extra skin, and a "broken" belly button are things that need to be hidden. This is my body. And it is a body that stretched and grew 3 babies -- 2 at the same time, for goodness sake. And if I can't admit that 15 pounds of twins growing inside me might have stretched out the skin on my stomach and left me with an outtie rather than an innie, well, that's just dumb.

I put on my bikini because it's important for me to believe that my body is normal. That my body is nothing to be ashamed of. And it's important for my boys to know that, too. Normal is not what they will grow up seeing on TV and in the magazines. Normal comes in all shapes and sizes. Reality ages and gets stretched out.

This is what reality looks like. In a bikini.

I have arrived.

(But not quite at the place where I will be posting a photo of myself in a bikini online)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Little Pink Houses/Ain't that America

 On we drove on this crazy field trip we have been on. It was not a long drive, and the kids managed a snooze through an entire state. Perhaps it helped that that state was Connecticut and is pretty much only a blink wide. But they still slept. I had to force them to wake up to wave at New York as we drove by.

We almost wished for another couple of days on the road so that we could have stopped to explore that city too. Almost.

And then we drove on to the city of brotherly love. Good old filthy-delphia. To start the next chapter. The one in which we see lots of houses where important people lived and worked.

We've trekked from place to place checking out all these houses.

From Benjamin Franklin.
 To the current presidential administration.
 To George Washington.
 To Thomas Jefferson.
To James Monroe.
To James Madison.

To the homes and cities of friends scattered here and there around these historical locations and all the fascinating conversations that have been a part of those too-brief visits.

There have been stops at museums and other historical buildings along the way, too, but the thing that has really stuck out for me. And I think for all of us. Is the fact that these people. These people who had brilliant ideas. Revolutionary ideas. Who did great things.

Had flaws.

Big ones.

For some, almost unforgivable ones.


Despite their flaws. Despite the parts of their lives, the aspects of their world views, the bits of their stories that are unpleasant. Or that I disagree with. Or that shock me. Or that I find flat-out horrifying...

In the midst of all that.

Were ideas and actions and moments that changed the world for the better. And the ugly parts don't change the good that was done.

It can change my view of the men...and it certainly reminds me why it is dangerous to idealize, to idolize these real, these flawed, individuals.

But it also changes my view of my own place in the world. And that of those around me. Despite my (our) many flaws, ugly bits, inconsistencies in world view, there can be so much change, so much good done.

We don't have to be perfect or to have it all together in order to see something in the world that needs to change and speak out for that with boldness and revolutionary ideas.

Thank goodness.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Oh, the Places We've Gone!

A quick stop for lunch on our way to Boston left us with some great inspiration for the next leg of our adventure.

And an adventure it was.

It was a nonstop, action-packed, cousin-filled, crazy three and a half days that somehow felt like both a blink and a lifetime at the same time. I can't explain it.

It began with lobster and steak and s'mores and a "driveway-in" movie.

The next day, there were spooks and haunts and true historical tales and visits to memorials for our 9th great grandmother, who was hanged as a witch in Salem.

"Let Goody Martin rest in peace, I never knew her harm a fly,
And witch or not - God knows - not I?
I know who swore her life away;
And as God lives, I'd not condemn
An Indian dog on word of them."  -John Greenleaf Whittier

After we had done all we could manage and seen as much of the town as humanly possible with the munchkins in tow, we decided it would be a great idea to go to the carnival. 
Because. Childhood. Y'all it ends so quickly. Sometimes you just have to ride the rides.

There was about 500 miles of walking as we first toured Boston Common and the Public Garden then walked the entire freedom trail, including the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. Sing along with us, now, as we Follow the Yellow Red Brick Road with Sweet Caroline.

Please remember that this was 3 adults plus FIVE CHILDREN UNDER TEN YEARS OLD.  We must be crazy.
If we weren't then, they might have driven us there now.

Then just for fun we basically did the whole trail again while riding on a trolley.

After that, I'm pretty sure our feet were about to fall off. And the kids' brains could not possibly absorb another historical detail. We all needed a break.

So what did we do?

We hopped in the car and drove to New Hampshire. Because they have pretty lakes there. And mountains. And more cousins. Who have kayaks and are gracious hosts who don't mind having their own vacation crashed for an afternoon. And it was glorious. 

A perfect ending.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life is a Highway

So I got this brilliant idea to culminate our school year with a field trip road trip that would highlight some of the US history we have been studying this past school year. I started planning and getting excited and adding destinations, and before I knew it, it had become a monster.
I am super crazy excited to see all the sites (and all the friends and family along the way).

Or maybe I am just super crazy that I am attempting this trip.

The hubs is able to fly out and meet us for the center portion of the sites, but the bulk of the driving will be done by yours truly with little help from the peanut gallery (but perhaps a little help from some doses of Dramamine).

We've been away from home for 5 days already, yet I feel like we've barely gotten anywhere. It seems to me like the Midwest is ridiculous that way. Finally, today, we were able to see see a "sight."
Although it has zero to do with US history unless you count the number of American idiots who have tried to go over the edge in a barrel.

Despite a lack of historically significant points of interest so far, the trip has been far from dull. I've ended each day completely emotionally drained. Between the Wild Things and the family and friends that we have been able to spend time with, there has been laughter, encouragement, tears, politics, shouting, hugs, chit chat, and the bearing of souls.

It's not at all been what I thought I was getting myself into when I planned this adventure. Honestly, I had a list of things that I wanted to see that I could count as both fun and educational. It was a list of things to do and to see.

What this trip has been so far has been more like a list of emotions to feel. Of dark places in my heart to uncover. Of fears to expose. Of people I miss. Of words to be spoken, for good or for bad. Of love to be felt and given. Of tears to be shed -- of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of anger, of laughter.

I'm a little nervous to discover what the next weeks have in store for us!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


You've seen the pictures in the homeschooling journals and blogs.

You know the ones I'm talking about.

The ones with the beautiful homeschool classrooms. The ones with the kids feeding the family chickens, digging in the garden. The ones with boys and girls all dressed in adorable anoraks and wellies tromping through the forest of their backyard or neighborhood woods.

Maybe you, like me, look at those pictures and feel...inadequate.

Maybe you live in an apartment with beige walls and carpet. Maybe you can't paint one entire wall with chalkboard paint. You can't wallpaper with maps. Perhaps you don't have room for a dedicated homeschool space and your school spills out into the dining room, the living room, the bedrooms.

Perhaps you don't have a huge and lovely farmhouse table at which to do all your work. Or perfectly coordinated individual desks for each one of your students, all lined up and tidy with just the right amount of papers and pencils to be picturesque and organized.

It's possible that your kitchen is hardly an example of those warm and inviting spaces for entertaining you see every time you turn on HGTV. It could be small and cramped with room for one, possibly two, but is hardly set up to serve as an extension of your classroom. Your counter space might make it difficult to spread out in a way that includes your kids, despite the fact that you long to invite them in and learn to cook some of their favorites and yours.

Maybe you don't have a garden. Or chickens. Or even a dog or a cat. Maybe because you don't want them. Maybe because you can't have them for one reason or matter how much you'd like to give that experience to your kids. Maybe you can't even make a container garden on your patio because it's surrounded by brick and faces south so everything you put out there dies.

Perhaps you don't live near a park. Or a pond. Or trees. Or green space. Or the beach. Or a stream. Maybe as much as you'd love to let your kids learn to be wild and free in nature, there's just not much space to explore it where you are.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. Especially when there are so many pretty, pretty pictures floating around out there on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and all the other ways that we are able to share and compare. Judge and be judged. Feel superior. Feel less than.

I'm here to tell you, mama, that you are doing just fine. Whether you've got chickens or not. Whether people are telling you that your family, your home, your homeschool could be in a magazine or not.

I'm here right now to do what I'm best at: keeping. it. real.

We've been on this crazy homeschool ride for 4 years now, in 3 different houses in 2 states. And I think we are doing okay. More than okay. I think my crew is pretty freaking awesome. And they are pretty awesome despite the fact that not a single photojournalist is knocking on my door asking to chronicle the aesthetic beauty that is our homeschool.

But I think there's beauty in it anyway.

On top of the toy chest in the boys' bedroom there is a clutter of art supplies and images because long after I want him to be in bed, Shorty is up writing books and illustrating them with mixed-media collages. The mess of his creation is everywhere because, when there is no room for a proper desk in the bedroom, he improvises. And when he wants the Hot Wheels tracks out of that toy chest, his mess moves to the floor. Naturally.
Nobody's going to put this in a magazine of how to organize your kids' crap, keep a tidy house, or even how to inspire creativity in your little one. Nevertheless, he's inspired. Constantly. And often against my wishes.

Our adorable crib-turned-craft-table is usually so cluttered with projects that we can't actually do the crafts at it. Honestly, it has become a collecting place for projects. Why? Because I don't think there's possibly space enough in the whole world to keep the enormous stack of books written by the boys. Not to mention the games they have created (and prefer to the store-bought variety) and the bird feeders they are enjoying hammering away on, despite the fact that we don't actually have a yard.
I used to insist that this table to clean and available to use, but they can't even keep up with themselves and their imaginations. How can I? Now we just periodically try to sort through what belongs to whom and file away projects that I didn't realize were finished.

Our classroom is cluttered, and our table is a mess of acrylic paint stains. And I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful space for school work. It's not anything you'd ever see and think, "Yes! THAT is exactly what I want my room to look like!" However, it allows me to not be uptight and control how they are permitted to create.
 And that Red the Angry Bird pencil holder (along with his counterpart the Hulk, who is likely buried in a pile somewhere). Not my choice. It's certainly not the adorable mason jar idea that I pinned several years ago when I thought I might try to decorate. But the boys picked it. They painted it. And it makes them happy. And, really, that's more important than pretty things.

We have more books than our shelves can hold. And I love it. There is no room in this little apartment to add more shelves, so we make due with what we have. That includes this hand-me-down shelf that my dad built for my room when I was a girl. It's chipped and scuffed and drawn on. But it holds a ton of books.
So I'm unwilling to "upgrade" or even "upcycle" and try to make it fit in with some fleeting idea of what is fashionable. I'd rather read a book with the boys.

Or play a game:
We have plenty. And we play them all. Even if they aren't stored in cute matching baskets, but are instead stacked (perhaps a bit precariously) on ugly plastic shelves in the closet. Right next to an even more dangerous shelf of arts and crafts supplies.

Our little kitchen is always cluttered. It's half food prep area and half science lab, with a little bit of dumping ground thrown in for good measure.
My coffee may be next to the butterfly habitat, and there may not be much room for helping hands in the kitchen, but we do what we can. And so far, nobody has eaten a chrysalis by mistake.

We have no yard. No garden. There are never any wild critters roaming by our window. The view is pretty dismal, actually. There's no way to play soccer, ride bikes, fly a kite, take a hike, or really much of anything without packing up in the car and making a day of it. So that doesn't happen daily.
But we make it work. We get outside. We are active. We are adventurous. We just have to be deliberate about it.

Sure, sometimes I daydream about having a homeschool space that looks like this:

Or this:

Or easy access to experiences like this:

and this:

But I am coming to learn that it is not the room, the location, the decorations, or even the natural habitat that make this whole homeschooling gig worthwhile. It is giving my children the space to discover who they are and the equipping them to thrive during these precious, fleeting years...even if that space looks like this:
I promise you, they will grow.

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