Posted in Life Writing, Parenting, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Unschooling, Weekend Coffee Share

The Practicing Mindfulness Edition: #weekendcoffeeshare and #SoCS

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I thought I’d get to this post earlier in the day, but that earlier in the day was instead filled with the ever-present Other Things.

You see, my Accomplice is starting a business, I am engaged in goals around that, my writing (it’s July #CampNaNoWriMo, and I’m writing a book without a plot for the first time in a few years, so the writing feels more…vivid than it has of late), and learning about marketing, platform and design. More, my daughter became a teenager a week ago, and my son will be going on a camping trip out of state with friends. He’s visited out of state friends before, but never for camping.

My kids are growing up, and their parents’ horizons are expanding too. For all of us, this is a time of exciting change and shifting. They are becoming adults. Jeremiah will be 16 in early September. He’s been studying the driver’s manual and the state licensing laws already, because he’s a practical, safety-minded person who also happens to love doing research on things that interest him.

We’re at that point where many families are dealing with “teenage rebellion.” As a matter of fact, I was told be a family member, back when the kids were 8 and 5, that “all teenagers rebel, even if only a little.” Because we don’t impose rules on our kids, and haven’t since they were 7 and 4, I was assured their teenage years were going to be disastrous.

And they certainly could be. I wasn’t a very nice mother, before I made a conscious, and very difficult to enact, decision that I needed to become a kinder, gentler, more respectful version of myself.

My kids, shortly after this change, referred to my former self as “Mean Mommy.” As in, “Back when you were a Mean Mommy.”

That hurt, to hear them say it. It still hurts that it was true, even though it’s been years since I lived up to that title.

But that’s a litlte off topic. I wanted to say, that if I had gone on down that Mean Mommy path I was on, I would almost certainly be in big trouble right about now. I’ve spawned a fifteen year old who is about 6’3” tall – and burly about the chest and shoulders, like his father – only bigger.

If I had made myself his enemy, way back then when he was still much smaller than me, I might be in very deep trouble now. Instead, I have an almost-a-man son with whom a maintain a close and connected relationship, even as he stretches toward independence. We don’t just tolerate one another, or have a state of truce.

We enjoy one another’s company. We take long walks together, where he shares his thoughts, and, sometimes, asks me for advice or opinions on his plans for the future. He’s recently discovered an interest in in local history, and we’ve visited several significant sites together.

I know that if I need to tell him I disagree or have serious plans about something he wants to do, that he’ll consider my opinion – because I’ve earned his trust and his respect.

As I said above, it wasn’t an easy change. The life I had as a child offers little in the way of positive examples, beyond that my parents did foster a sense of curiosity and a desire for learning, and they could be goofy and loving.

But the reality includes the shadow of abuse. Physical violence, screaming and shouting, inconsistent and sometimes harsh punishment, emotional manipulation and abandonment, and intentional, systemic humiliation were all a part of my childhood, and, at one point, I was very close to bequeathing them to my own children as their birthright.

I didn’t decide one day to change the entire way I raised my children, and then do it. The process of deciding took nearly a year. That was followed by a great deal of research and learning.

At first, I had to be mindful every moment – every thought, gesture, and word. I made a tremendous number of mistakes and missteps. I relapsed more than once, falling back on those old patterns I’d known since I was a small child.

If I hadn’t practiced mindfulness, I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be the mother of two teensI know I can guide without controlling. Whose judgment I trust, within the parameters of the maturity they’ve attained.

When I think about the way life might have been, I’m profoundly thankful that I chose mindfulness instead.

The post is a joint venture of Stream of Consciousness Saturday, hosted by Linda G.Hill, and the #weekendcoffeeshare, back at its original home at Part-Time Monster Blog.

Posted in Challenges and Contests, JuNoWriMo, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling, Weekend Coffee Share, Writing in Freedom

The Countdown to Thirteen Edition: #weekendcoffeeshare

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that we’re on the final countdown to a major event – the girl I’m watching Gravity Falls with is in on her last month of being a preteen. So, today, once we’re settled in with our beverages of choice, I’d like to take you on a little journey into the life and times of Annalise (who, these days, goes by simply Lise).

It seems like just yesterday she was a baby, wearing the bunting that was mine when I was a baby. Or nine months old, speaking her first words and giving us a hint of how articulate she was going to be in a matter of months. One of her first words was, “happened.” She used it for an impressive variety of purposes. It could mean something was funny, broken, inexplicable to her inexperienced mind, or that she wanted me to think she had nothing at all to do with whatever had gone wrong…


Or she’s fourteen months, throwing herself on the floor while yelling, “I’m FRUSTRATED!” It took me a while to understand that being able to name the emotion she was feeling didn’t mean she had any capacity at all to deal with the emotion rationally.

She might be two, able to quote Shakespeare or repeat anything we challenged her with. She might be giving the chemical formula of DNA – almost: “deoxyribonucleic BACID”. From a very young age, she had a facility for wordplay that has been a constant ever since. She brought me a folded piece of wrapping paper and “read me a story.” And yet, she said, ‘aminal. Algalator. Psghetti.’ like so many other tiny children. The combination was absolutely endearing, and I missed those mispronunciations when they were outgrown.

She might be three, staring up at the airplane that didn’t answer her pleas of, “Wait for me!” The to me, and the words that revealed a broken heart a mommy couldn’t fix. “Mommy, I’ll never really be able to fly, will I?” How hard to have to tell her she wouldn’t. And how surprising to hear her, all alone in her room that same year, spelling out “A-N-N-A-L-I-S-E”, and seeing her writing it – by herself, when no one had “taught” her.



Or at five, taking her first lessons in Parelli Natural Horsemanship, fearlessly leading animals many times her size, or directing them with a stick, learning their habits and how to befriend them.

Or making her first steps into independence at age 6, at an unschooling conference. Losing her first tooth.

The world opening up at 8, when she went from non-reading to reading at warp speed.

At nine, when she wrote her first poem, without really meaning to, and could read pretty much anything.

And then a whirlwind of growing up and up and up, and all the things that happen as girls transform, as if by magic, into women.

Yes – she’s transforming. New curves, a face grown more beautiful than cute, a fresh maturity in the way she sees things….

And yet, she’s still wonderfully a child. Not quite ready to be an adult just yet.

I’ve been here before, in another form. Her older brother is closing in on sixteen, now – but it wasn’t so long ago that he was where his sister is now – just at the threshold to the foyer that leads to adulthood, with all the possibility ahead, and the inner stormy chaos of hormones and physical and intellectual growth that is greater than at any point since infancy.

It’s an interesting and sometimes challenging time. But we all survived it with my son – and learned some things along the way. Even though it’s different, and maybe even more chaotic with all the added extras of impending womanhood, we have learned a few things that are easing the transition for all of us.

Self-portrait by Lise Burton, June 2017


And I have the example of that boy, now very near to manhood. He’s – impressive. Seriously. Helpful, kind, thoughtful, and testing out the waters of adulthood in ways that are, well, more and more adult.

No, I don’t think my daughter will be just like him when she moves into her teen years. But she will be her own kind of teen, and, eventually, her own kind of woman.

And there’s a magic in that.

This post is part of the #weekendcoffeeshare, hosted by #nerdinthebrain. Clicking the link will take you to more conversations – and please leave a comment in the box below, because it’s not a very good conversation if I’m the only one talking. =)

As you venture out on your way, I wish you a week that’s filled with all the joy you can imagine – and then a little more!

 

Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Nature and Outdoors, Parenting, poetry, Travel, Unschooling

Zero, Zilch, and Zestiness: #atozchallenge for April 30, 2017

 Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

Today’s Poetry Type:

ZaniLa Rhyme

    Two siblings explore their connection to the other...sweetly, and with smiles.
    Two siblings explore their connection to the other…sweetly, and with smiles.

Zeroing In

When you see zero, what does it mean?

Is it a void to your mind?

An absence, null. What makes a life dull?

A cruel lack, the deficit unkind?

 

But what if zilch amounts to much more –

Potential waiting to fill?

What makes a life dull? An absence null.

The void contains vastness, if we’re still.

 

We know the richness of unfilled time

The zestiness freedom brings.

An absence, null, that makes a life dull?

No! Inspiration with graceful wings!

We got lost on our way to The Wild Center of the Adirondack Museum in Tupper Lake, New York.  We found this bit of historical reality we weren't expecting.
We got lost on our way to The Wild Center of the Adirondack Museum in Tupper Lake, New York.  We found this bit of historical reality we weren’t expecting.

There’s a lot of “no” in my kids’ lives. No school, no curriculum, no chores, no rules, no punishment….does that mean that nothing is being learned, or tried, or explored?

If you’ve been here before, I suspect you’ve already got an idea about that. If you interacted with one or both of my kids in person, you’d know for sure…

Zero enforced education doesn’t equate to “zero learning.”

We decided to make the most of  lost opportunity, and went instead to Lake George, where Lise made friends with a hansom horse.
We decided to make the most of  lost opportunity, and went instead to Lake George, where Lise made friends with a hansom horse.

What it means is that they have the free time to devote to their own pursuits. Sometimes these are avid and obviously rich in learning. Other times, it’s so subtle no one besides them might see what exactly it is they’re doing.

Something that seems increasingly absent as kids are in school, after care, extracurriculars and enrichment, is the time and space just to BE – to dream or stare into space or meditate or watch the clouds. It’s the time to hug, to sing and dance, to explore new ideas, to play…

Lise at play - learning history and creating stories while dressing up at the Albany Institute of History and Art.
Lise at play – learning history and creating stories while dressing up at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

To learn who they are, and how the world is, and how those fit together.

These aren’t generally part of a school curriculum. Many things that can’t be quantified aren’t. And giving the children in school too much free time can lead to “distraction” and “disruption.” A lot of school depends upon adequate crowd control – with an adult in charge, and the kids acquiescent to that authority structure.

My kids may never become great order-takers. But, so far, neither seems inclined to live a life based on taking orders. They have a moral sense of right and wrong that’s been nurtured with discussion and experience, an awareness of the rule of law, and the time to work out how that applies to them… and, to me, these are more valuable gifts. Of that, I have zero doubt.

Can you think of a time when nothing turned out to be something amazing?

Are you open to what lies within the oval of a zero?

Zero is NOT the number of other Z posts!  By now, you know what to do – click here, or on the icon below, to zip right on over to the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge Highway one last time.

Well, that’s it!  
 

This is the final post on my April calendar, and the last letter in the alphabet, too.  But this isn’t the end of the #atozchallenge. There will be a reflections post, so stay tuned!

After our Lake George adventure, we stopped at a favorite playground. Lise, at 9, enjoyed playing with a spiral structure.
After our Lake George adventure, we stopped at a favorite playground. Lise, at 9, enjoyed playing with a spiral structure.
Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling

You Never Know: #atozchallenge for April 29, 2017

 Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

Today’s Poetry Type:

(Random Pick): Lannet: except it’s got two extra lines! 

 

    You’re Drowning…

    Sometimes in life you don’t know what is next

    When the sailing seemed smooth, the rapids sweep

    you away flailing to sharp rocky drops

    Plummeting, no one hears your frantic cries

    You’re drowning in deep trouble; you might die.

    You realize the truth you couldn’t see

    It’s possible to be your own hero.

    Easier if you’ve lived in swift waters

    Of thought, desire, and possibility.

    Why do we live this life of rich freedom?

    It’s our way of making our children strong.

    While they still have their parents to lean on.

    They can navigate rapids and shallows

    Rivers of joy, sorrow’s bitter oceans

    It’s learning only learned in the living.

    Strong oar and rudder to steer them to shore.

                                           Self-controlled falling selfie.
                                           Self-controlled falling selfie.

    You never know what life might bring.

    None of us do.

    Once, I was pregnant, about to give birth to our second child. It had been a textbook pregnancy, and my water broke four days before my due date…and that began a slow-motion trip to limbo that lasted until our 12 day old son died in my husband’s arms in a neonatal intensive care unit.

    Never saw it coming. No way to prepare in advance for the death of a baby all the textbooks said should have been perfectly healthy. No way to prepare our children for the fact that they will always have a brother who died as a newborn, before our daughter was even born.

    That’s a rather dire example, but a valid one. In all kinds of ways, large and small, life brings the unexpected. And, in ways large and small, my kids are preparing for that, everyday.

    How?

    By having lives that already embrace the “you never knows.” They aren’t in a classroom, being given predetermined assignments, lab exercises, projects, and research papers, the same as a couple of dozen other kids in the class. Their lives are more fluid, more in keeping with the rhythm of their growth. They have a great deal of freedom to determine the course of those lives, and the backup of two parents who can offer guidance and support. Every day, they live “you never know” lives, in safe ways, and that prepares them to do it on their own.

    Do you feel your childhood you navigate the challenges life presents?

    If you’re a parent, can you think of ways to better prepare your children for the uncertainties of their futures?

    Yes, I know. You want more y posts…so you can click here, or the icon below, and you’ll be zipped over onto the  Blogging From A-Z April Challenge highway!

    And, can you believe it? Tomorrow is April 30, and time for our Z post….and then, there’s no more …that’s right. Zero….zilch….but will that be all there is to it? Stop on by and see!

               Standing tall and with confidence, taking her time-delayed selfie!
               Standing tall and with confidence, taking her time-delayed selfie!
    Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling

    Xavier and the Xylophonists: #atozchallenge for April 28, 2017

     Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

      Today’s Poetry Type:

    X: Sometimes there is a rhyme (but no reason!)

     

    Xavier and the Xylophonists

    Xavier and the Xylophonists were a band of zenophobics –

    No, I didn’t misspell that!

    They were afraid to relax and just let themselves play –

    they didn’t want to fall flat!

    So they spent twelve years in rehearsals for the show ahead –

    but never beat the high hat!

    When all the years of study were done, they found their passion gone –

    And all their dreams went splat!

    Apprentices for the Saratoga Shakespeare Company - enough of rehearsals - they're playing! =D
    Apprentices for the Saratoga Shakespeare Company – enough of rehearsals – they’re playing! =D

    I thought this poem wasn’t going to rhyme, when I first wrote it. I also just had Xavier and the Xylophonists pop into my head as a title, and, of course, X is one of the Dreaded Letters on the journey from A to Z.

    But it turns out that there is in fact a rhyme there, and even a reason…yes, the band’s story is an allegory of sorts. They’re not unlike school children, spending a dozen years, and sometimes more, practicing and preparing for life in the “real world.”

    Miah enjoys Renaissance music ...not in a classroom, but in person, at the Sterling Renaissance Festival, age  8.
    Miah enjoys Renaissance music …not in a classroom, but in person, at the Sterling Renaissance Festival, age  8.

    And meanwhile, the “real world” is out there, all around, the whole time, beyond the walls of the school building. It’s all but invisible from inside, but, if you’re not contained in that reality, it’s just….life. Readily available, in every breath.

    Xavier and the Xylophonists are endlessly preparing and rehearsing…they never make it to the big time, because they’ve worn themselves out with all their practice. They’ve burned out, and come to the big show passionless and uninspired.

    Too often, this is the reality for young adults coming out of school. They began at age 5, or sometimes younger, and spent more than a decade going through the lessons and lectures, doing the homework, taking the tests, being graded and assessed. If they were passionate about something they learned there, it might be only a day or two of their year, before they’re required to move on to other things, because the curriculum demands it.

    Maybe there’s a benefit to that…for sure, there’s a tidiness in being able to look at a diagram of all that has been or will be covered, and point to the precise place where one’s child is in the process.

    My own children have something that isn’t tidy, but which I feel is invaluable. They still have their passion. It hasn’t been trampled or trammeled in the quest to get them properly rehearsed for the real world they’ll someday inhabit. Instead, they’re living in the real world, every day, on their own terms.

    Maybe they wouldn’t fit in with Xavier and the Xylophonists, but that’s all right with me.

    Have you ever spent so much time preparing for something, that you were exhausted by the time the prepared-for something arrived?

    What happened?

    X marks the spot for more X posts by clicking here, or the icon below – exit onto the Blogging From A-Z April Highway Highway!

    Y’all come back tomorrow, when you never know exactly what will happen….

    A moment of silliness: Lise and I share a snack before going to see The Phantom of the Opera - her first grown up theater experience, at age 9.
    A moment of silliness: Lise and I share a snack before going to see The Phantom of the Opera – her first grown up theater experience, at age 9.
    Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Unschooling

    Who What When Where Why (and How): #atozchallenge for April 27, 2017

    Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

    Today’s Poetry Type:

    Wrapped Refrain

     

    Who, what, and when these questions are….

    Who, what, and when, where, how, and why?

    Ask these questions; reach for the sky.

    For the inquisitive mind

    ever ready to seek and find

    among life’s many riddles answers well hidden

    the knowledge of where, how, and why; who, what, and when?

     

    Or perhaps we will never know

    And wonder will expand and grow

    Igniting imagination

    A brilliant new conflagration

    Will we end another day searching, confounded still?

    Failing to grasp heart’s desire – or perhaps we will.

     

    These questions are a beginning

    To make the workings of mind sing

    The answers matter so much less

    Than willingness to take a guess

    Follow intuition, reach for the furthest star.

    Impetus becoming more than these questions are.

    How does a boy get to the top of a rope ladder to ring a bell? 8 year old Miah figures it out at the Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sterling, NY.
    How does a boy get to the top of a rope ladder to ring a bell? 8 year old Miah figures it out at the Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sterling, NY.

    So often, it all begins with a question. Questions open the mind to possibilities, to wonder, to potential avenues to learning something new.

    Questions ignite the mind and the imagination. Questions give us a path to engagement and conversation. The “what ifs” of life are in the questions. Innovations begin with asking if there’s a better way, or a new way, to do something.

    • Can we get there from here?

    • How long will it take?

    • Where will we stay?

    • What will we do when we get there?

    • Why should we go?

    • Whom should we go with?

    Questions can be simple:

    • Can I have a hug?

    • Would you like to come with me?

    • Want to watch this video I found?

    • Have you heard about….?

    What makes crocuses bloom so early? How do they know when to sprout? 
    What makes crocuses bloom so early? How do they know when to sprout? 

    Questions  can be complex:

    • Why did our brother die as a baby?

    • Do you think there’s a heaven?

    • Is world peace possible?

    Some are just silly:

    • Are you an armadillo?

    • Can I eat your arm?

    But every question contains potential that goes beyond the simple answers, and leads to….?

    If you have children, how do you answer their questions?

    How do you answer your own?

    What are you questioning right now, as you read this?

    Do you want more questing, quiet, or questioning Q posts? A quick trip to the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge will surely quell your longings! Click here, or on the icon below!

    You can X today off your calendar, but you’ll need to pop back here tomorrow if you want to know what an unschooling mom does with the Dreaded Letter X!

    Posted in #atozchallenge, Blog Hops and Fests, Parenting, poetry, Travel, Unschooling

    Variety and Verification: #atozchallenge for April 26, 2017

    Slices of An Unschooling Life Theme Reveal Post

    Today’s Poetry Type:

    Vers Beaucoup

     

    Lively Lives of Variety
     

    We live free, lively lives filled with variety

    See their pride, their smiles real and wide

    When what they tried works; they grow and show

    what they know; prove that it’s true.

    We don’t need tests; we feed the seed

    Inspiration freed to become reality

    I see the proof from floor to roof

    Truth fills our nest; no need for a test.

    Reflections...after an appointment, lunch, and a winter walk with my teen. Variety is everywhere - we just need to notice!
    Reflections…after an appointment, lunch, and a winter walk with my teen. Variety is everywhere – we just need to notice!

    Variety is the spice of life…and it’s also the key to natural learning. It doesn’t work so well to unschool, if a child’s reality is just a tiny slice of all that’s possible. There needs to be diversity, and the opportunity to explore where inspiration and experience lead.

    It can mean a family trip to Oregon, where my Accomplice is from. Days at the ocean, the Oregon Zoo, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), where Miah and I played Connect Four using robot arms), a trampoline park, a covered bridge, and walking in the woods, all interspersed with meeting extended family.

    Exploring Nature, history, technology, art, and their hiking ability! Lots of variety here...but one constant is their friendship.  With a whole field to occupy, they tend to still enjoy being together.
    Exploring Nature, history, technology, art, and their hiking ability! Lots of variety here…but one constant is their friendship.  With a whole field to occupy, they tend to still enjoy being together.

    It can mean an afternoon at the Saratoga National Historical Park, walking the trails and listening to the audio tour, while chatting and taking in the view. It could be making Littlest Pet Shop videos that require the creation of tiny costumes, props, and sets. It could be learning Latin and the layout of a Roman city so that Clash of Clans makes more sense, or how bacterium spread, or what lungs feel like. It could be the state museum, or a walk at dawn, or a day at a lake.

    It could be each of us in our own spaces, doing our own things, with our orbits intersecting from time to time – or not intersecting, and just living alongside one another.

               Zorbing at her cousin's party - a bouncy, bumpy kind of variety.
               Zorbing at her cousin’s party – a bouncy, bumpy kind of variety.

    Whatever form it takes, variety holds immense potential for learning, and the results play out moment by moment, every day of our lives.

    What kinds of variety inspire you the most?

    When was the last time you sought out something different,  apart from your routine?

    How can you add some of variety’s spice to your life today?

    Here’s one way – a wide variety of very spicy posts, or sweet ones. Click here, or the icon below,  and vroom off down the Blogging From A-Z April  Challenge!

    Wander this way tomorrow, and we’ll question things…
    What kind of things?
    All kinds of things!

    Variety can mean a February Monday, walking the South Jetty at Florence, Oregon.
    Variety can mean a February Monday, walking the South Jetty at Florence, Oregon.