Monday, September 28, 2009

What a weekend!

Our very good friends, Todd and Shawna, are moving to Colorado this week.  It was sudden in some ways, and they have been hurrying to get their stuff squared away.  That "very good friends" part means that we have been helping.

Last Tuesday, Ben went over and killed their pigs, then put them in cool storage for us.  On Friday, I went over to help them dispatch the last of their chickens.  On Saturday, we rounded up some people to help cut and package the pigs.

I'll start by admitting that I do not mind cutting up dead animals.  I do not know why.  I have not had to kill any of them, but I have now cut up over 100 chickens, two deer, a moose, and four pigs.  I find the work oddly satisfying.  Maybe, it's the sense of filling the freezer and putting food by, or the final nature of the act.  I often feel a vague worry that it does not bother me, but it doesn't.

Anyway- the chickens were three-year-old layers.  They were still laying, but our understanding is that they cost more to feed at this point than they produce in eggs.  We do not have a place to house chickens.  Todd and Shawna did not want to take them with the dog and three children on the cross country car trip.  So, the chickens were killed as quickly and humanely as possible.  Well, almost.  We had some help, as we often do, and one of our helpers, a neighbor's son, could not quite bring himself to whack the neck with the force necessary to fully sever the neck.  This is a case where a kind heart might do a greater evil.  Todd ended up using his boot method to finish the job.

We are using the chickens for dog food, so Shawna and I skinned them, I gutted them, and the neighbor parted them and packaged them.  We had many anatomy discussions looking at the egg laden ovaries, the green gall bladder, the tube-filled lungs, and the rough inside of the gizzard.  Also, there were two fryers we killed which turned out to be roosters, so we all got to see one way to sex a chicken, though the chicken has to be dead to see the testicles.

Jason fetched the pigs from Ben and Penny's cool storage before 8:00 Saturday morning, then took the older two children to ballet.  I raced around making a good processing space for the pigs.  These pigs were killed a bit early, so they were each only maybe 80 pounds dressed.  We moved the butcher block up from the barn on Friday afternoon and sanded all the crayon and paint off the surface, then oiled it well.  I moved that in, covered the table, sharpened knives, and set out butcher paper, scissors, and masking tape.

Susie and her family arrived around 11:00, and we got to work.  The first half did not go so well.  The meat is all edible, of course, but the cuts are not any that you would possibly find in a butcher shop.  Part of the problem was that the pigs were much smaller than we had seen the year before, but really, our inexperience was the main hindrance.  We pressed on and had the first pig cut up and packaged (Thanks Mike!) before anyone else got here.  

The second pig went faster, and we were done and cleaned up by 2:00.  We sent our helpers on their way with some fresh pork, and shuttled the rest into the freezer we brought from Todd and Shawna's house.  Then, that evening, a new acquaintance brought over a 1.5 horsepower grinder and ground the meat we had set aside for that.  Two pigs, minus a few gifts, now sit in our freezer ready for winter.

We also rendered the lard and started bone broth from those parts of the pig.  The half pig last year resulted in 1/2 a gallon of lard, but these two together only had a quart of lard between them. The nice thing about doing the lard and broth at the same time is you get all the bad smells over at one time.

Yesterday, we canned applesauce, and we figure we'll do one more batch this week.  Jason picked up drops at Shelburne Orchards one evening last week and he'll do it again this week. We eat applesauce mixed with other canned fruit all through the winter, so we like to have a large supply put up.  The drops make it more affordable.

And finally, it rained and rained and rained last night.  Jason went to see how dry the basement was only to discover a small creek running through the rocks on one side and right on across toward the garage.  I guess it's not so dry.  Apparently, a well- designed basement would have channels dug into the dirt floor to move the water along.  This excess of water is strange territory for this ex- Tex.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's for Dinner?

A friend who is watching the children right around lunch time Sunday asked if there was anything they would not eat.  I stared at her for a minute before I answered slowly, "Ezra says he doesn't eat rice."

Really, at any point of their waking hours, there is definitely something each will not eat.  Sylvie mostly does not eat spicy stuff, but Phaedra and Ezra definitely do.  Phaedra does not seem to eat eggs with any gusto, but she eats enough to make it until lunch.  Ezra has strange grain aversions, like the rice thing.  Phaedra does not like foods to be too sweet.  Sylvie prefers white bread and milk for every meal.  The list goes on and on if I actually try to mention all their food preferences. That is not the way the kitchen works at our house, though.

I am not a harridan about food.  These vague preferences I try to note, and I try to make sure we're not having excessively sweet potatoes and extremely spicy rice for one meal.  On the other hand, I will definitely serve things that one child or another is not fond of if any of the rest of us like it.  And the rule is one taste, no complaining, no yuck faces.  I have been quite pleased with the results of this policy.

Ezra occasionally forgets and eats rice just because he is hungry.  Sylvie will eat greens if it improves her chances for another slice of bread.  Phaedra will eat eggs before ballet to have plenty of energy.  And with all these things, their tastes and preferences change.  Tomorrow or next month or next year, Sylvie may value a bit of spice in her curry and Ezra may eat chocolate cookies again and Phaedra may deny she ever disliked eggs.  If I do not get too locked into identifying these food things as Truths about the children, it leaves them room to change their minds.

Sometimes, the children are even pleasantly surprised by a food they thought they hated.  Phaedra likes to talk about how much she loves greens, because a year ago she would not touch them.  Ezra delightedly ate liver tonight, wondering if his appetite for it meant he was growing up.  Sylvie... well, Sylvie had 3 glasses of milk and some winter squash for dinner.  

Maybe even more importantly, they learn not to burden others with their preferences.  Their mother earnestly hopes they will be able to sit with others and eat or not eat without commentary on the food choices of others.  The art of being companionable at the table is a fine one to learn, and vocal pickiness can be a hindrance to others' digestion. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sewing and other things

One problem with being the at home parent and homeschooling is that it can feel like I never have time to myself. I feel like one of the children can call, "Mama!" at any point in the day or night, and I am duty bound to respond. There are times that I do not, but I am ever alert for whether or not I ought to.

Homeschool means that more hours of my day are devoted very specifically to the children. This is no sleight against mothers whose children go to school; it's just that I have a very loose parenting style. My normal mode of parenting is interaction interspersed with large blocks of, "Go play!" In order to feel like I am actually doing the work of schooling the children, I believe I need spend more time knowing exactly what they are doing.

Also, in the past years, I have written the curriculum by pulling from different sources. On any given day, all of the material presented to the children was chosen by me alone. I felt I was doing something important, that I was "ensouling" the material I presented. I also felt responsible when the children were not interested or even rebelled. I wondered what I did wrong that I failed to even mildly prick their curiosity.

This year, we are doing a heavy dose of Charlotte Mason alongside the Waldorf flavored curriculum. I am using two different prepared math curricula, too. I fretted a bit that the children would not be held in the warmth of my love by using someone else's Cliffs Notes to decide what to bring them. But, that's not what is happening.

The children are delighted. They like all the different material. They like the new math work. They move easily (for the most part) from one task to another without asking me over and over why they have to do this or when school will be over. Even Phaedra, who is adamantly opposed to learning German, was suddenly speaking German today just for fun. They excitedly tell Jason and other people about what they're reading and what new thing they learned in math. Heck, I'm delighted.

What does this have to do with sewing?

Well, on Tuesday, our second day of school, I just took pictures of the children as they worked because I had a few free minutes. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I had time to write a couple of letters. This way of doing school is actually giving me a bit of personal time during school hours. I cannot talk on the phone or absent myself emotionally, but I can do things that permit chatting and stopping and starting.

I spent all of today cutting out about 10 different things to sew. Next week, during school, I can spend some time putting a few of these together. It will bring joy to my life to be able to do this; partly because I love sewing, but also because I will be working alongside the children, not just overseeing their work. And that was what I imagined homeschool would be about.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Opportunity Cost

We love many things about where we live, but we knew we were picking a set of negatives with this set of positives. For example, moving from Texas to Vermont meant leaving our entire family in order to live somewhere we fit in. Trying out cohousing meant losing a few connections we had established in Chittenden County.

Lives are full of these trade-offs, and they are unavoidable. Even really excellent things have drawbacks. We are not blind to these losses, but we actively choose to celebrate the things we gain. As I sit in a slightly chilly house that is currently unheated, I am reflecting on the things we do not often mention.

I am thinking about how fun it was to swim with five months of summer and how easy it was to travel before we had children. The easy walk for either coffee or groceries was a benefit to our place in Shelburne. I really enjoyed the access to the Nature Conservancy land along the La Platte. I miss cycling and quick jaunts into town. When I'm feeling anxious, I even miss being in an apartment with people all around. It was comforting living so close to a fire hydrant. I never knew how great it was to worry about only my illnesses.

The negatives specific to this place include a decrepit (but improving) house, strange neighbors, an ATV/snowmobile trail, very sandy soil, bad plumbing, outdated electrical service, creepy basement, poorly positioned mailbox, tons of trash, and a long commute. Really, that's not too bad of a list. I think I'm ready to focus on the positives again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What About Me

The past two days I have managed to sit in the hammock for more than three minutes in a row. Our hammock is beautiful and comfortable and in a desirable spot. A dear friend made a disparaging remark about how infrequently I would actually sit in it, and I took it as a dare. Therefore, I make a point of sitting there for a minute or two almost daily.

The funny thing is it's no good only spending a couple of minutes in a hammock; it means you're getting out of it before you've even really gotten settled.

But, the past two days, I was in the hammock for at least half an hour before I was ousted or inspired to other things. I could have been weeding, and I will, but the weather is so perfect and I am worn a bit thin with Jason's schedule this past week. I decided to take a break, recharge, and then power on through the day.

One interesting discovery is that most of my tasks still got done even with my lazy ways. I had a sense of humor this afternoon even after I got the "Beth" phone call (you know, from the KISS song), and the children lost their minds when they found out Jason wouldn't be home for dinner. I managed an apology after being snippy with Ezra. I think the hammock could be just the thing to keep me peaceful, and fewer people will cast a sideways glance at my 3:00 hammock appointment than my 3:00 hard cider.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day of School

We finally started school today after nearly six months off. I have felt twinges of guilt when others discussed school. I worried about taking so much time off. I wondered how things would go when we tried to get our school schedule started again. I talked to friends who do very little formal school, and they do absolutely nothing until November. I worried then about slipping that way.

With the move and the work related to the move, we just were not ready to start school. Phaedra has learned to read during our lull and Ezra has pondered many math miracles and Sylvie has developed a real yearning to be in school, too. I guess it was not too bad.

Our morning started well with Phaedra explaining that she could not do the math work, would not do the math work, hated the math work, and hated me, too. She does not like anything new, so this was an expression of all the resentment around a new math curriculum. Ezra chatted me up about one thing and another as he wandered around the house looking for a pencil, a sharpener, a book, the cat, etc. Sylvie wanted to start sewing TODAY! I tried to remember that there's no hurry.

By 9:30, we were just about finished. Phaedra had done math, history, spelling, form drawing, and reading. Ezra had finished math, history, spelling, and reading. Sylvie had been in everybody's business trying to get an education. We managed a brief break before going to the homeschool group. Then, we had a late lunch and did handwork and German. Ezra had a bit more work to do that he did with gusto.

Our first day was really quite good. I often feel pulled in ten different ways, but if I remember to never hurry and to have faith that it will all work out, things stay peaceful. 179 days to go.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Jason admitted to me very early in our relationship that he is a bit of a pyromaniac. I thought that strange since I like fire just as much as he does and so do all of my siblings and at least two of my cousins. I figured it must be normal.

When we camp, whatever the weather, we make a fire. We justify this fire by cooking all of our meals over it. Since everyone knows it rains every time we camp, you can get a sense of how much we like a fire.

We are really comfortable with the children around fire, as well. There are occasional sillies that must be squelched, as physical foolishness does not belong around any fire, not even the little burner on the stove. Still, the children really enjoy fires, and for the most part, they are properly respectful of the awesome power of fire.

We have gotten to have many, many fires since we moved. I've made a fire ring. It was really quite easy; I just made a really big fire and then put cement trash around the edge of the burned place. We have burned a variety of construction debris and all the burnable trash from the barn, basement, house and garage. We also burn our paper trash. We have had many very nice bonfires and a few that we kept the children away from for fear of noxious fumes.

Everyone has learned new fire etiquette:
1. Get your own box of matches because Mama and Daddy are using these.
2. Keep a shovel handy as it is the only thing long enough to poke a really hot fire.
3. Get another shovel because Mama and Daddy are using this one.
4. Wear boots if you want to walk inside the fire ring because there are nails.
5. Pretty flames mean avoid the smoke more carefully.
6. Tell the person opposite you before you throw something in.
7. Watch for flying sticks that overshoot the fire.

I figure everyone is getting to indulge an interest in fire, so maybe no one will need to experiment outside of the fire ring. The fire ring is less fragile than the bathroom sink we experimented in as children.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still Cleaning

The basement is creepy. It's dark, the floor is dirt, the walls are stone, the cobwebs are thick enough to mistake for insulation. In spite of this, we want to use this space, and we must regularly access it for a variety of reasons. The furnace and pressure tank are there. The plumbing and electricity all pass through and are serviced there. The root cellar is there. The garage opens off of it. It is, really, the foundation of our house. And it needs some real cleaning.

First, I have to do it alone. Jason is in the throes of getting the catalog to press, and he just cannot help me. The fellow who delivered the dumpster wants to pick it up in the early part of the coming week. He delivered it ten days later than originally planned, so Jason's ability to help was severely compromised. I got the barn emptied and I can do the basement. If only it had a window.

Second, it is a type of cleaning I strongly dislike. There are all those cobwebs, no natural light, a petrol type smell, strange wiring to work around, and so many dark places. I keep thinking of spider bites, startling mice, and tetanus.

Third, I just have to do it anyway. I get surly just considering it.

I started today. I used the shop vac to clean the spider webs, then I cleaned the plastic jugs, can lids, old paint tins, school papers, vinyl remnants, broken window panes, wet insulation, bits of pipe, parts of coolers, and baskets of decrepit silk flowers. Then I vacuumed more cobwebs, and the cycle moved forward.

I'm finding ways to get some light down there, but the stone walls really soak it right up. I figure I'll have to paint something down there white just to help the light move around. I'll also have to really evaluate what to keep. There is an entire shelf of canning jars. The full ones go immediately to the dumpster; I cannot even guess how to sort good from bad. The wide mouth jars are definitely keepers, but the old rubber ring style jars are outside my realm of knowledge. No one I know uses that type, and no one seems able to tell me how to safely use them.

The rusty metal shelves went to the scrap metal pile for my neighbors to pick up, but the wooden ones seem to be holding their own and worth keeping. We could definitely use some shelves in the root cellar, but that seems to be my job, and I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

That's what I'll be up to this weekend. Maybe in my spare time, I'll build a frame for stacking the wood that's in a huge mountain at the end of the driveway and move the mailbox before our mail carrier reports us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


That's the magic word when people first hear that we homeschool. Really, it just was not that big of a deal. In Texas, we had neighbors, and we saw cousins once or twice a month, and we had our friends and their children in and out and all around. Socialization just did not seem like much of a concern.

When we first moved to Vermont, the children were 5, 3 and under 1, and I worried a bit about friends for us all. I found a homeschool group and then another, and we met a family through Jason's work. Once everything sifted, we saw some different kids about once a week, and we had other friends. Ezra seemed to be consistently the oldest in everything, and he did not seem to have peers. This just did not seem that important; it was on my radar, but I was not seeing a need to change things.

When we moved in 2008, I suddenly realized Ezra was ready for peers. I really think family should stay central, but there comes a point when you need a friend to talk to, not just your mom or sister. We scrambled a bit last year, but we did not find much community for any of us in Johnson, even with our connections. Ezra did find friends at Earthwalk, but the other participants lived too far away for more casual get-togethers.

Now, we've been in Hardwick for two months. We've been really busy getting the house ready. However, I know that finding friend-opportunities for our little homeschoolers is one of my big responsibilities. It helped that we had a couple of ties here before we moved, and it helps that the librarian is very friendly and a homeschooler. But, really, things have just gone so well. We met many families at swimming lessons who have made us feel welcomed in this community. We met one family with children of very similar ages to ours. There is a homeschooling group that also has a convenient age span. And, there is a lego club. Ezra definitely has a chance for real peers, and it looks like as the girls come to a similar point socially, they will have a similar opportunity.

Part of my job in all this has been to ease up on some issues as the children get older. I still do not want any of them watching tv, but if Ezra watched a movie at a friend's house, it would be okay. I'll still be adamant on Sylvie's behalf. The glass house from which I discipline our children leaves little room for me to comment on the ways of others. I am ready to discuss with a nine-year-old how different families have different priorities, and no one can prioritize everything. On the other hand, I'm not quite ready to try to explain all that to a seven-year-old. I can see that how right I might be is less important than the children's needs for connections as they get older.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Empty of

This to me is a pleasing room:

I like the way the light can touch each surface and I can see every corner so clearly. Spaces like this leave a calm feeling for me; everything is under control and there are no emergencies in this room.

Unfortunately, while the living room looked like this, the kitchen and dining room looked like this:

Because while I was having my overly simplified dream, Life was still going on all around me. Life in our house includes five people who must put on clothes and occasionally be clean and eat quite regularly. It includes some schooling which has its own set of cumbersome stuff. Add to that a few perks, like nice pencils, a computer, and a comfy couch, and room number one just isn't about life.

Of course room number 2 isn't really about life either, as no one could actually function in that room. We ate 4 out of 6 meals out while the kitchen looked like that because we could not function in that space; we would not make it work. No one felt peaceful enough to assemble ingredients; the clutter smothered all the prep space.

Mostly we live somewhere between that empty room and that room overflowing with the detritus of our daily lives. We can feel peaceful in an empty room, but we cannot relax, as that room does not allow us the messiness of life. And we can feel neither peaceful nor relaxed in the cluttered room because the possibilities are hidden under stuff. Now, we have to find that space between.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Into the school year

All the extra-curricular things start this week. With three kids, that means we either do three times as much, or everyone agrees on the activity. Our family works better with the latter arrangement. So, on Thursday, we have one thing, on Friday another plus some socializing, and on Saturday, three hours of ballet. It's a little crazy, but really, it's only fiddle, dance, and one other thing. I bet most people would think that pretty mild, and then throw one or two sports in for good measure.

I do not like all the driving, but I really believe dance and music are good, and the older two are very definitely interested. (Sylvie is interested, too, but we do not do such structured classes for such little people.) The Thursday activity is a prime, fairly unstructured time for Ezra to socialize with kids his age and older. Next year, we want Phaedra to participate in the same program for the same reason. I can teach math and Norse mythology, but I'm not a peer.

Can you feel my tension building? Here's the problem- I do not want to spend every day of the week driving people to different activities. However, I also commit as a homeschooler to making sure the gaps in my curriculum (like playmates and music lessons) are filled some other way. These things are apparently mutually exclusive, and the second one takes precedence.

That's all. I'm just a little bummed that it's time to start driving again, but the children are thrilled. Phaedra has asked every day for two weeks, "How many more days until ballet?"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Moving in and Having Company

Packing is an excellent time to get rid of things. When I look at a room and the stuff in it, I think, "Who would want to pack all that?" Then I don't pack it. However, unpacking is overlooked as another very nice sifting time, and I have been sifting.

I have sifted through the sand in one bay of the barn until my shoes are full. I have sifted a stranger's detritus and put most of it into a dumpster. I have sifted my boxes to figure what comes up to the house, goes to the garage, or stays in the barn. And, I have quietly sifted through some boxes while no one was looking.

Here's the thing- when I was packing, I had three little helpers anxious to get all the bits of string, bottle caps, strips of finger chaining, and pages of artwork into the boxes. They never ask again for any of this; it collects in the corners of their rooms, under tables, and behind shelves the same way spiders multiply at the top of the basement stairs. So, I sweetly packed most of it, and lastnight, we had a nice bonfire full of it.

Also, we moved more furniture into the house. I am actually sitting at a desk to type this. Our beautiful table and our comfy couch glow invitingly in their respective spaces. The beds are all resting on bedframes, and my paint can bookshelves have been disassembled. Very nice...

So, in the midst of all this, I decided to have a party. It was so much fun. One guest asked why we would do this at this point in all our work. The truth is we just love company. It was exciting to race around and see whether we would have a bathroom sink before the guests arrived. It inspired us to get some of the construction debris out of the yard and into the dumpster. Ezra and I mowed a baseball field down by the barn. We even made it so people could actually get in either door.

Then, we tried to play baseball. It did not go the way I thought it would, but the players all had a good time. We ate together sprawled across the grass. Then everyone played a rollicking game of freeze tag; Jason was the most determined, but we all had fun.

I'm glad we're here. I'm glad our friends came to our slightly disheveled house and enjoyed themselves around the mess.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Time Alone

Jason left around 9:00 this morning with the children and they were not home until after 4:00. It was a delicious day.

Jason had deliberately left the other keys, so I could go somewhere, but I knew I would not need them. We had joked that I might spend the day in the hammock. I knew I was going to work and listen to inappropriate music and work and eat a half-ass lunch and work and not answer anyone all day long.

I have little fantasies about days like today. I dream that I start a project and finish it without one interruption. I dream that I am able to do tangential things without the main things getting messed up before I get back to it. I dream about working until I'm shaky, eating a little peanut butter, and going back to it without worrying about anyone else. I dream about being at home without being on duty. Today all these dreams came true.

And what did I do?

I put finish on the rest of the pine floors. I did NOT do dishes. I ate half a piece of bread with peanut butter and a cucumber. I worked in the barn for an hour, then another coat on the floor, another bit of bread, some more work in the barn, another coat, and back into the barn until everyone got home. It was heavenly.

I love taking care of my children; I love the various aspects of my job. Sometimes, though, I just want a break, and not from the physically exhausting tasks, but the emotionally draining ones. When Jason and the children are away together, I know everyone is well cared for, or at least as much so as when I'm alone with the children, and I can just let that part of concern slip for awhile.

Oh- and my music of choice today was Jane's Addiction, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Sublime, and Lyle Lovett.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Break on through

Today, we sanded the floors. Jason laid these pine floors, Todd counter- sunk the nails, and now, we're almost done. I actually ran the sander. Jason was fretting about whether he could do it right, and I offered to take that risk. We used a 4 position orbital sander, so it wasn't too scary.

Things I learned today: Sanders are heavy. You can run a sander over a hole in the floor with no ill effects. You can angle the sander into the corner. Sanders are really very heavy. It's probably worth it to do the coat, sand, coat treatment if you want buttery smooth floors.

Tomorrow, we'll get the rest of the floors coated (we only did the kids' rooms today), and then we can finally move our stuff from the barn to the house.

Also, the dumpster man brought us another dumpster. We figure we can pretty easily fill it with the rest of the remodeling trash, the stuff from the basement, and the stuff from the barn. That will be the second dumpster we've filled. I hope not to leave so much crap for someone else to throw away.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Be True

I have a problem. Well, I have lots, but I'm thinking on how my desire for harmony leads me to betray myself sometimes. This is nice at times, especially in short term interactions, like the grocery line. I can nod and smile and let most things slide right off my back. I do not have to let everyone know how dumb they are or how right I am.

It gets trickier when I am dealing with people I want to call friends. And the parenting spot is the one I find trickiest. I can be completely honest about my political views or thoughts on abortion or beliefs around god, but I might not admit that I let my kids eat dirt, discuss poop, and climb on top of swingsets. The first three or thirty times I am parenting around someone I am not comfortable with, I am extremely likely to follow their lead.

They tell their children, "Put on a hat, here's some sunscreen, stay out of trees, put down the stick, be nice..." Suddenly, I hear myself repeating these things I do not believe, or quietly whispering that my children should stay out of the trees to make this person comfortable.

I do believe in the comfort of others, but I think it can go too far. If I really believe sunscreen is bunk, then I can just not use it without talking about it. I think tree climbing is good; I understand why someone might not allow it, and I am happy to discuss it or suggest other activities, but I've decided my children can definitely climb the trees around our house. I have more important things to teach than the evils of poop talk or playing with sticks. I feel the rule of non combatants is much more important than whether or not it is ever okay to brandish a stick. Also, the fact that rules change based on venue is a frequent speech, and I also think more important than, "Be nice, be nice, be nice...."

There is some line between respecting what I believe and respecting the beliefs of others. When I can make my choice on my own without making it about all those other people, then I can be confident I am making my own mistakes. I can also discuss my choices without judging a different choice. When I get defensive and feel a need to convert others, then I open myself up for conversion and judgment. When I start chanting another mother's parenting speeches, I'm going to lose my way pretty quickly, as I won't be able to convince my children when I am not even convinced.

Sure, people probably judge me even when I am calm and sure of the mistake I'm making, but it's like that tree falling in the forest. I'll just have to hope none of my children are in it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I am not religious in a god way, but I believe in the greatness of the universe. I believe that there are things I cannot understand and that I do not need to understand. And, I believe no one can actually know, but this minute, right now, is all there is.

Still, I feel gratitude to someone or something for the beauty of my life. I had all that normal screwy stuff from childhood, but I would tell you it was mostly good. My mother is dead, but I feel her love every day. I am married to the exact right person. I live here.
We happened into Vermont and onto this land. We have met some really wonderful people here seemingly by chance. We seem to have landed in a welcoming community. Call it luck, call it grace, but it's good.

Sure, I have days when the last shoelace breaks and the plumbing is backed up and the keys are in Jason's pocket. Even then, I have so much good in my life that I end up laughing at my human frailty. I have to hope that this carries me through whatever it is we're wandering into next.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Missing Spouse

Here's the arrangement that makes our new living situation palatable to two people who think we as Americans use way too much gas. Jason spends two nights a week sleeping on an air mattress in a warehouse sixty miles away.

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This is a strain in some ways, but one of the perks is that most of the time he only works away from home four days a week instead of five. We're a solid month into this system, and I would give it an A+ so far. However, Jason finds being away from us hard at times; I am reluctant to put words in his mouth, but I would get lonely in his shoes. Also, our first plan was for him to be home Wednesdays, but this made to disjointed a week for him. He said it felt like he had two Mondays. This is the second week we are trying a longer weekend instead.

On our end, it has a few problems, like I have to make breakfast two more mornings and there is no one to call in as back up when I feel at the end of my tether. The children definitely ask for him as we sit around the dinner table, and all the funny stories have to be told over the phone. I have to avoid troubling thoughts as I lie down for the night; I absolutely must never think of the genocide and rapes in Rwanda, for example, as I am beginning to drift off. Also, I get lonely for the person I like best in all the world.

On the other hand, I get to parent without checking to see how Jason feels. If I want all three kids in bed by 7:00, I can do it. If it seems fair to let Ezra wander around outside while the girls are going to bed, I can say yes. I can serve ice cream or tomatoes and cheese for dinner. It also means I have to check myself on whether I am being reasonable in a discipline situation.

I think this plan is working, but we will have to monitor the toll it is taking over time. There will be times in winter when the weather or the Christmas rush will force the plans this way, and then, perhaps, the resentment will build. But, maybe, we'll all get used to it, we'll tank up on Jason's specialness when he's around, and then send him off full of our love for another couple of days.