Monday, November 29, 2010

Wonderfully Random Tristan

It really is amazing to see what distinct personalities your children have. Shannon came into this world like a ball of fire. Tristan has always been more mellow. Very mellow.

*When we would go through grocery stores Tristan, riding shot-gun in the cart, would throw his head back and look at the lights. He'd stare and say "whoa......." really drawn out. ~ It was funny. We never turn a lot of lights on at the house so we figured he was just impressed.

*When he was still learning to talk, Tristan's first full sentence was "I want a cracker." This eventually got shortened down to "I want crack." That's really funny until you have to go through a grocery store, trying to hold your head up and not die, with a toddler sobbing and screaming "I WANT CRACK!!"

*Sitting around the kitchen table one evening, I hear someone kicking the table. I look at Shannon and tell him to quit it. Shannon looks at Justin who then looks at Tristan. We're all now looking at Tristan, who is off in his own world yet all the while still kicking the table. I snap "TRISTAN!!" and he jumps and with a shock replies "What, I didn't pee!!"

*Both boys are musical but it is Tristan who remembers songs. Of course he doesn't always remember the correct lyrics. First it was Tom Waits. They love his song 'Big in Japan' & they call him/it the 'Silly Man Music.' I didn't think anything of it until, again in a grocery store, Tristan starts singing it, mimicking Tom Waits' voice quite well, and singing "Hey but I'm big in your pants, I'm big in your pants..."Then it was them walking in while I was listening to the Beastie Boys. Tristan walks of singing "NO .. SLEEP .. TILL BROCCOLI!!!" ~ I am seriously going to put that on a shirt!

*The other evening, a weekend evening, Justin ran an errand really quickly. It had been a holiday weekend so Justin had been home from work for several days before said weekend. Justin comes home from running the errand, walks through the door and is greeted by Tristan asking "Daddy, are you home from work now?"

*We used to get milk delivered, and the milkman still comes by every Monday morning to bring us cheese and other items of our choosing. He usually is here around 10:30am. That evening, around 5:30PM Justin's father stopped by to drop something off. He was only here a minute but he did make sure to say hi to the boys. Several minutes pass. Tristan walks to the front door and starts asking "Is the milkman here now??" Although he stated it clearly enough from the beginning, I am in disbelief and have to get him to repeat it. I reply "no" and Tristan just blankly says "oh" and walks off.

Nourishment & Trying Times

It's tough out there. These are tough times. - These are phrases we hear a lot and that we say a lot. And they are true and accurate, but they are also over-used. The truth is that it's always been tough out there and that times have always been tough. Historically speaking, we've probably never really had it easier. I'm reminded of this clip of Louis CK on Conan: - Everything's amazing and nobody is happy. But still, even though everything is amazing, that doesn't mean that at some given moment of time life isn't tough, that times aren't tough. It's a balancing act.

So we seek out what we think will make it better. What will make these tough times ok? We desperately seek out the solution that will kiss the wound of difficulty and make it all better.

This all causes me to get really stressed out, depressed, and down right angry. Not because we're seeking out what will make it better, that of course is a good thing, but because there are so many snake oil salesmen out there and they are craftier than ever.
Every where you turn there is a magazine full of solutions that will make your life better. It will make your kitchen look pristine, it will make a pile of throw rugs on the floor look like a decorating statement and not like you're a sloth, it will make your kids so deliriously happy that they won't ever bicker or back talk again, it will make you lose _x_ many pounds, it will make your spouse fall literally heads over heels in orgasmic awe of you. And if you buy now (or through the next three days) you can get it for 20% off and with $5 shipping! It's an even better deal!!! If you delay dinner with your gathered family to stand in the freezing cold & avoid being trampled or attacked in the ensuing stampede, the store will offer you magical discounts on the perfect products to make your holiday season absolutely perfect. You don't even have to think about your shopping list, the store has made it for you with their special deals! It's amazing!!

But it isn't, is it? No. It's soul depleting. It leaves us empty, because as soon as you've bought that wonderful deal a better deal, a newer model, comes out and then .. well, you're deal just sucks. And your life sucks. And that great gift makes your ass look fat. It's not only depleting it is insulting.

I would like this to be a general, any-time-of-year kinda post but the fact is that I am writing it as the holiday season is officially under full-swing. It is what it is. And as I look around I see the increasing amount of soul-depleting, life-draining false promises. Viruses don't spread this fast. Evil-do'ers dream of viruses that spread as fast as these shiny promises of happiness.

We need nourishment y'all. We desperately need it. We need a hug that isn't just an empty embrace by someone thinking of what else they would rather be doing, but a hug that is there.
We need loved ones who are there not to demand more but to offer help and support, and who will get it in return in spades.
We need friends, acquaintances and neighbors who aren't there to try and one up you. We don't need these same people who would say nice things to your face but roast you in hell behind your back. We need the ones who notice you left your front door open when you went out of town and not only call you but double check that all is well by asking the police to do a quick run through. Ones who lend several tablespoons of baking soda when you need a pinch, just to make sure you have enough .. just in case. Ones who bring by chicken noodle soup when they know you have a cold. Ones who realize that dogs bark, children leave out toys, and sometimes taking down holiday decorations can take all damn year.
We need family that doesn't make you feel bad for losing your temper with your kids when they've been pushing your buttons for too long, but instead offers, if nothing else, just the simple encouragement and reassurance that you're still a good parent. That your kids won't hate you forever. Family members who can help you through those times in a marriage (or any relationship) where you just don't know if it's going to work out, if you haven't grown apart. Family who can reassure you without assuming divorce is immanent.

We need love. And we need to be able to give that love back. Return it ten-fold. Not just to strangers we've never met, or that we only know online. Not just to those who are in poverty around the world. Even though everything is amazing, it seems like we're dying from the inside-out. We need the love to nourish ourselves whole again. True nourishment. Not sold to us by a book of how-to's, but what is already deep inside us, to give and to get. It hasn't been that long, our bodies still know what true nourishment is.

I hope you all can give and get the nourishment you need. I wish you all so much happiness, true happiness. I want you to know that I do believe in you, and that I do have faith in you. These are tough times but you will get through them, and you will do it wonderfully, even if you stagger at times, you will do it wonderfully. You are a good parent, you are a good person, you are a good partner and spouse. You are beautiful as you are and I hope you know that in your soul.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unschooling Life

Unschooling takes you places. Wonderful places. This place happens to be Lane Stadium, located in Blacksburg, VA. We are die-hard Hokie fans and Lane Stadium is the Hokie's home field. This was the boys' first trip there. They didn't get to go inside, but wandering around outside a bit was just fine.

I had always intended to write a lot more about homecshooling and our journey on that path on this blog. After all, it is a big part of our lives, so how could I rightly leave it off? But a couple things happened.

First - when you tell people, or when they find out that you're homeschooling your kids
it's like you've just walked into a giant mine field. Things can quickly turn into a nearly literal war zone. You're bombarded with questions wanting (sometimes demanding) to know every detail of every aspect of their education. Whether it pertains to them in the current measure of time is irrelevant. What are you going to do about trigonometry??? What about this? What about that? HOW are you teaching them? What makes you think you're qualified to teach them?

I realize that often these are asked out of simple curiosity. If you tell someone you just managed to fly from tree-top to tree-top you're likely going to get asked why. But, as too many homeschoolers can & will attest to, too often these questions are asked too snidely. Condescending, judging, like vultures trying to pick you apart.

What makes it a war-zone is the attempt to stand one's ground and not put the other person's choices regarding their child's education down. It is very difficult to say why you think school is a bad idea for your child but perfectly ok for another child. MINE FIELD!! Add that you unschool and you get a double or triple mine field because even homeschoolers have been known to turn on each other.

Now you know why I've been silent. I just haven't wanted to deal with it, with the drama. But this is my blog and damnit, I'm going to talk about the things that are going on in my life, in OUR lives. And unschooling is a big part of that. So, here it goes. (And, fair warning, I usually don't delete comments but if you bring drama that I don't care for here .. I will delete your comment.)

Overall Unschool Lesson #1: It all begins with Sit/Stay

We happened to have gotten a new puppy this Summer (yes this relates, just hang in there) and so he went to puppy obedience class at the end of Summer/beginning of Fall. There is something we learned there that I haven't been able to shake out of my head, and I think this is a good thing. The instructor told us repeatedly "It all begins with the sit/stay command. If you can't get 'em to do the sit/stay you can't move on to anything else." And so, this has become a mantra for now. For schooling, for growing. For moving our lives into the child-centric model to the model where they orbit around us (parent-centric?).

Tristan & Pre-School:

This year Tristan has started pre-school. Unschooled pre-school, only measured with any sort of formal significance (that anyone from the "outside world" -- ha ha, that's a joke people) coming from the fact that he goes to Storytime at the library once a week. We're blessed in Salem to have such a wonderful public library.

One of the biggest goals of pre-school for Tristan though is learning to dress himself. He takes longer than most grown women who are trying to put on their faces and do their hair. He usually leaves his room, where he is supposed to be getting dressed, to come find me and talk to me at every .. single .. possible .. conceivable stage of undressing and dressing. This is usually followed by a scream/whine when Foster is "near him" and then the derailing to where he wants me to dress him. I've told in no uncertain terms that if he wants to go to kindergarten then he simply must learn to dress himself. Those are the rules. The Sit/Stay.

Shannon & 1st Grade:
Shannon is now in 1st grade. He goes to homeschool gym class at the YMCA and loves it, though I don't care for the instructors. I haven't taken him out yet though. I'm there while he's in class, so I'm .. well, there. And he loves it.
His reading is amazing, almost too good. Math hasn't clicked yet. We're still working on it, very gently showing him how things can add up. He can get it a little bit, but it hasn't clicked. We're not worried. I'd like to work with him on learning money, if only I can get myself organized and ahead of the game enough to get there.
What I've really been impressed with him about this year is his empathy and caring for others. When my uncle died in August we took the boys to the burial. Shannon was upset, but I think it was more because he saw everyone else upset and that bothered him. At Halloween he wanted to color pictures to pass out to all the trick-or-treaters (we wound up making special goodie bags for friends). Thanksgiving comes around and there he is with a stack of paper and a tote of crayons, drawing & coloring hand-turkeys for everyone .. writing their names on them and then folding them up just so, so that they had to be opened just the way he wanted them to be, and giving them away.

Then there are the rules and things they learn together. For instance, while Justin was putting in my dreadlocks Saturday evening we put the movie Elf in the dvd player. The boys saw the dinner scene where Buddy puts maple syrup on spaghetti and drinks an entire 2-liter of soda & then they saw the breakfast scene where he eats plain spaghetti noodles topped with marshmallows, m&m's, various syrups, pop-tarts, and likely more sugary stuff. Both boys commented (without our prompting!) that he wasn't eating very healthy!! I was proud.

They know where their food comes from because they go with me/us to pick it up from the farm. They see the baby piglets, then the larger pigs, then the pork. Shannon infamously welcomed Thanksgiving guests into our house a couple years back with the very enthusiastic greeting of "Come in! Would you like to see our dead turkey??" He then proceeded, during dinner no less, to explain how the turkey came to be dinner. How they killed it, how they processed it. Even though he hadn't actually been there he knew the steps.

Not all the things they learn together are related to food though. They've recently been allowed to start riding their bikes/scooters/tricycles down to the playground when we go. We live on a VERY, VERY busy street so this is a bigger deal than it may sound otherwise. They started having to ride near me, stay close to me. When they do that successfully I start to let them ride ahead a bit. Never out of sight, but a bit of freedom none the less.

And there are more things. Shannon has become rather responsible for pooper-scooping the backyard. No small task considering Foster is an English Mastiff. He wanted the responsibility, we have it to him.

We hung a coat rack on the back of one of the closet doors in the room. They're now responsible for hanging up their coats properly. There is also now a shoe rack with a shelf for each of them where their shoes are supposed to go. That one isn't going as smoothly as the coat rack, but they'll get the hang of it. And there are more things, so many more things, things I just can't think of right now.

And I know some of you will read this and think that it has absolutely nothing to do with their education and schooling. This is where I will, politely, disagree with you. Tristan is 4 years old and Shannon is almost 7. We're still in the Sit/Stay commands. From the number of grown "adults" (that word is used very loosely) who still live at home or who can't support themselves properly, I'd say that a lot of kids could've benefited from some more Sit/Stay lessons.

But this is our life. I am proud of it. I am proud of my boys. So far, this unschooling journey is a good one.

The Dreadie Experience

Eight years ago I got the idea to dreadlock my hair. I had really wanted dreads for a while, and I loved dreads on other people. I had just met Justin that Summer and we were quickly becoming very close buds. He had dreads, gorgeous long dreads, and that only made me want dreads even more.
So I trusted a friend who assured me that she had put in dreads for several people to put in my dreads. Unfortunately, they .. to say it nicely .. weren't done quite as nicely as I would've hoped. They were kinda hideous. But I loved having dreads. After the mess was done I began doing research and finding sites about dreadlocks. ~ Lesson Learned - ALWAYS do your research FIRST!!! That, and if you're interested in dreadlocks do yourself a favor and head over to - they've got lots of info & products to help you out!

Anyway, eight years later and the bug bites again. Actually make that 6 or 7 years later as I did a friend's dreads a year or so ago and that put the seed of desire in. My brother in law was growing out his hair with the intention of putting in dreads and so we agreed to do each other's dreadlocks when our hair was long enough.
A year or two later, he's cut his hair off and I decide I simply can't wait until my hair is long "enough". ~ For those not familiar with dreads, your hair can & will shrink up .. a lot!~
So I talked it over with Justin. I talked it over with a good friend. I had made up my mind and just needed a little reassurance (don't want a bangs crisis on my hands, ya know?). Since we had court on November 23rd (blog on that coming soon), we agreed it would be wise to wait until after that.
I made an appointment to have my hair sectioned into roughly 1" squares by my hair stylist. This could've easily been done at home but I thought I'd spare Justin the hassle and reassure myself that we were starting with a good base. I also ordered the following from DreadHeadHQ: locking accelerator, dreadlock shampoo, lock peppa (the best stuff EVER!!!), a loose tool (for wrangling in loose hairs), a dreadlock comb, and tiny rubber bands for the initial sectioning. Justin and I each had our wax leftover from our previous dreadie days so I was all set there.
I also ordered a crocheted headband off of an awesome gal at etsy. Since I don't have a photo of me in the headband yet, I'll just give you this link to it on her page: (Thank you Grace!! I LOVE my headband!)
So .. here is a photo journey of my dreadie adventure so far:

This is me, pre-dreads. Obviously this photo was taken over the Summer. I'm not exactly wearing tank tops in this chilly weather!! Anyway, this is pretty much what my hair was looking like before the dreads.
I didn't get a photo of my hair sectioned off before we began dreading it. I should've, it looked pretty silly. ~ Dreadie Lesson ~ Be prepared to look downright goofy at times. ~

Here I am, partially dreaded. In this photo I look more dreaded than I am, but if you look closely you'll see a lot of it is just sectioned off hair. This photo was taken on Black Friday.

The back of my head on Black Friday. You can really see that most of it is just sectioned off hair.
Saturday morning. Remember the stated Dreadie Lesson above?? You're gonna look goofy at times. Just try to own it and you'll get through it.

My dreads are skinny and little, which looks better (at least on me) than trying to start out with big, phatty dreads. It also means that dreadlocking takes a LOT of time. Admittedly we did take a long time-out for the Tech/UVA game on Saturday, but we didn't finish until late Saturday night. Justin put in most all of my dreads, and at final count/estimate I have between 70 & 75 dreadlocks on my head now.

Finally done, November 27th.

From the back they're looking real good. We were both proud & impressed.

And here I am, a dreadie Mama Taney. I can not begin to adequately express my gratitude to Justin for spending the hours it took to put these babies in. I am eternally grateful, even if my head was sore as hell afterwards. I'm especially grateful because I know he'll be there to help me maintain them along the way. Dreads are a journey. I'm officially on day 2 of that journey.

PS ~ My ultra-cool and supportive mother (who not-so-secretly hates dreads) gave me a dreadie bead for my recent birthday. I put it in this morning. I love it. I love her for her support.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Tooth Came Out

The tooth came out last Tuesday night. He had fiddled with it and fiddled with it, and after he was already down for bed is when it came completely loose. I gave it the tiniest of yanks and out it popped. We put it in the Tooth Fairy pillow (picture still not here, I know).
Wednesday morning he woke up to find that the Tooth Fairy had left him 3 quarters, 2 dimes, and 1 nickel .. which equals "a WHOLE dollar!!"
The front tooth beside the missing one is very loose as well. And now so are the top two front teeth. In a couple months he should look real cute for photos!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The First Tooth

Our world is changing. Shannon has his first loose tooth.

Most of his friends have already lost several. Apparently girls loose teeth earlier than boys and most of the kids he knows who are his age are girls. I have been informed just this afternoon that the little girl who lives next door has already lost FIVE teeth. ~ much emphasis on that five.

So when we were at the dentist back in September and it was announced that he had a tooth starting to loosen, Shannon's world exploded. His eyes were as wide as saucers and his open-mouth smile took over his entire face. Since then it has been non-stop checking of the tooth. How loose is it? See how it can be wiggled? It's LOOSE!!

Apparently he is going to quite gummy soon, as he is now claiming that he has, at the very minimum, four loose teeth. They seem to magically loosen overnight. It has been confirmed that the two front bottom teeth are indeed loose, but he swears there are more.

Today he showed me just how loose that first tooth was. And it is. In fact, it was just the slightest bit bloody around the gum line on one side. Swished with warm salt water, and we're good to go. Apparently we're good to go straight to the mirror ....

One must check the status of one's loose teeth at every possible moment. These photos were taken before he even was out of his pajamas this morning.

Can you tell he's pretty happy about it??

Everyone has asked him if he wants them to tie a string around it and yank it out. Justin suggested to him this morning that we tie one end to the tooth and one to Foster. I think this has overwhelmed him a little (not just that last one!). He announced to me at lunch that it will come out on it's own when it's ready to.

In the meantime I've gotten out a pillow that my mother made for me when I was his age and starting to loose teeth. Hand embroidered with a Tooth Fairy rhyme and my name. It is green with little flowers (this was the very early 80's), a ruffly green edge along with a lace like trim. I asked Shannon if he would like me to change the fabric. I thought I might add Shannon & Tristan's names to the pillow under my own as well. He thought about it for a second and said that he would like me to change the fabric. I asked him what type he would like. He replied "Something more green." ....... "Um, Shannon, the pillow IS green." .... "Oh, ok, I like it then." -- boys.

And, of course, since I am MOM and this is my oldest, I am weepy over the first loose tooth. All who know me are not shocked as I am weepy over everything. I am weepy as I type this and I think about holding that tooth when it comes out. How long it took for him to get that tooth. How he looked before he had teeth. How my baby isn't a baby anymore. --- Ok, I must stop and wipe away these tears.

I will let you all know when the big moment happens. With photos for me to cry over.