So, what IS your opinion on raising kids?

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This seems to be the age where EVERYONE has an opinion and they all want to blog about it. Wait! What am I doing? Well, everyone but me is highly opinionated and wants to blog about it. Now that I’ve outed myself, here is my opinion:

I have “liked” this group on FB called Free Range Learning and it’s dedicated to homeschooling and unschooling and, for the most part, she posts some good ideas or tips on things to do with your kids. But more often than not she posts these articles about the latest research that links, well, everything she doesn’t believe in to how awful children will turn out if a family uses these practices.

Today the article is how spanking is linked to obesity. Then there is a smattering of comments from women who apparently don’t spank. So here’s my issue: I find sites, groups or movements like crunchy ‘mamas’ (why are they always called mamas?) that are devoted to raising kids in a specific way to be very judgmental and graceless. The main comments on spanking and obesity were, “low income and uneducated families usually spank and will usually have obese kids anyway” (I’m reducing all of the comments into this one sentence, of course). And this is the kind of BS that drives me crazy!!!

Moms already feel like they are failing  and they wonder if they are totally screwing up their kids due to all of the research out there, so why do other moms feel like they need to create sites to make them feel better about how they are raising their kids and shame others for doing it poorly?

Also, this research gives people more proof that “If your kid is fat, it’s likely that you spanked. You really should have nursed more, slept with your kid, wore them on you all the time, never had taken them to McDonald’s, never used a stroller and never circumcised.”

The reason I even read these sites is to find moments where they are celebrating their children and finding ways to encourage other moms rather than post stupid research off THE INTERNET (It’s the internet, people!) Research that has no grounding other than it presents a good argument and articulates a well written debate. Also, posting this “research” presupposes that all of the rage in kids and poor behavior is always linked to parents doing something wrong. Damn! Has your child never acted out in public, done something aggressive or thrown a fit? I thought those moments were sort of normal and even healthy.

I really have nothing against attachment parenting, crunchy parenting or the like. That’s basically how we’ve raised our kids anyway. But I have an issue with parents banning together and forming groups that judge and alienate other parents for doing it wrong. Most moms feel isolated already; feel like we’re doing it on our own and still wonder, almost daily, if our kids are going to grow up to be the next Unabomber.

So, my advice? Well, thank you for asking…..Stay away from those articles. They are ubiquitous on FB and besides, that research is more likely founded by a college undergrad who doesn’t have children anyway so they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. I’m sure that 90% of parenting is intuitive. Find a book or see a counselor or take a class to get some tools to get you over a hump. But if you’re paying attention, and most of us are, the answers will come.

It’s not even the articles that bother me so much. It’s all of the self-righteous comments that people leave after the article that really irritate me. I read a crunchy mamas site that started the circumcision debate and one women’s chime-in was, “I saw a boy flipping out at the store the other day and I knew that all the rage was because his mom likely circumcised him”. Oh barf! Get over your totally awesome and perfect parenting-self, mama! Embrace your fellow moms, even those who spank and sit at the park together, under the trees, and watch your kids play. They need a break from you too.

Here’s to raising kids and embracing all of our imperfections while doing it….sometimes doing it poorly!

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Birthday fever

One of my oldest and dearest friends gave me a pretty substantial gift card for my birthday in February and this past week….wait for it….I finally spent it! Well, most of it. It was a whack load of a gift card for World Market, yo! I bought myself stuff I never do; Caviar, sparkling white wine, pumpernickel bread (besides the Germans, who buys that stuff?).

The kids ran amuck and kept asking for things like the blow up shark or the metal kazoo but I was determined to just get stuff for me. Then I came home today to find my husband dipping into my stash and I had to pinch him by the ear.

But two nights ago, after taking home my booty from World Market,  Matt and I busted out the color-embellished caviar that was supposed to look like black fish eggs and we rocked the night away. Cheers to living the high life, on a sweet gift card. BAM!

A new studio space

Chloe's creations

There are weeks that go by where I deeply miss my friends back in Madison; I even miss a bit of the snow….just a bit. Really. If it snowed a bit then melted, then snowed again but remained above -12 six months out of the year, I really would want to be in that snow. Lately, though, I’ve been very stoked to be back in T-town.

Today Lori and I took our kids to a space that is screaming for a new name: The Tacoma Art Place. It was more of a studio than a ‘place’. It’s Art Month in Tacoma and this means that there are tons of events and workshops going on all over town, all month long. I may just have to check out a dress rehearsal of A Christmas Story this year at the little theatre. I swear, some year I’m going to audition for the mom in that production.

Potter's wheel and kiln

This particular studio was opened all day and it turns out that it’s just down the street from  us. I have passed by this space several times since we moved here and haven’t thought much of it since I usually see really old women in there selling their crafts. Isn’t it funny how pompous one can be when trying to delve into their artsy side? Anyway….

Turns out these women are pretty much rock stars. They volunteer their time and they loved interacting with my kids who were able to throw a few pots today on the potter’s wheel, along with making a few pieces of jewelry and copious amounts of glitter-invested pictures. It’s a studio space that is all volunteer run, resources are donated (good quality resources, I might add- dang! Impressive!). They have totally reasonable annual fees to rent the space and…wait for it….whatever you decide to make, you can keep or sell for profit in the shop. Unreal! So they have a potter’s wheel, two kilns, a plethora of glass beads for jewelry making, canvas stretchers along with canvas material, paints and what-have-you, sewing machines and a serger and endless amounts of materials to use. I was blown away. This is exactly what I’ve been wanting to tap into but we’re on a tight budget so unless a studio is willing to take payments in pine cones, we’re pretty much left to our own creative devices around here.

Olivier's creations-not bad!

Well, it’s very reasonable to get a membership (in the end it’s about $12 a month- WHAT?) and I get to hang out with these amazing, old ladies who are super creative and who are aged like a fine Bordeaux. Today, I feel blessed and well taken care of. Today, it’s good to live on the Hill!!!

Now

My friend, Leslie, posted this article and besides the fact that it’s incredibly moving and heartbreaking I was trying to figure out why her story seems sort of freeing to me. I don’t mean to say that I’d like to be in her situation. I don’t think any parent would want that.  I’m intrigued that her journey in having a terminally ill child has freed her from a heaviness that a LOT of parents struggle with; parenting for the future.

She mentions that her style of parenting isn’t typical because her son has no future so their family must focus on now; enjoying kisses, naps together, cuddles and kisses and little milestones that will be very short-lived. Over the past six or so years I have come across so many books, magazines and blogs that try to point a parent towards a better and brighter future for their child. In the end I have literally thrown books across the room because I’ve felt that I can’t possibly live up to the standard that’s set before me by “experts” or just mommy bloggers who seem to have it all figured out. “Homeschool your kids in order to ensure they will actually be smart and creative. Teach them to read at age four, so that they can live a productive life without the likes of Elmo and Power Rangers. Give them enrichment classes and enable them explore their inner creative genius. Spend every waking moment intentionally investing into your kids to ensure they have a better future, you know, the one you wish you had!”

Dramatic? Me?  I don’t believe any of these models are wrong, per se. But I have felt an enormous pressure to do it all properly, to have thought through any and all of the implications on how I parent. What lies behind all of this intentionality seems to be so future focused; so they don’t end up screwed up; so they change the world by how well I’ve trained them! It makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy today with them.

I recently read The Idle Parent and had a good laugh. For a few days I even felt so free to be ok with my own imperfections as a parent. It was glorious to not feel the daily pressure of parental failure. I’m certain most of the message comes from the Western-cultural view that we are to make our mark and leave the world different than we found it; become Steve Jobs! “He changed the world, what’s your excuse”….slacker!

This article moved me in a variety of ways. It must be unbelievable to lose a child. I have a few friends who have and the grief they carry is alien to me. Yet, her language suggested a freedom to live and enjoy her child now; to let the future take care of itself and to deal with it when it comes. Something else that is total alien to me. I am trying though. What’s your excuse?

Sometimes, you just have to wear poodle slippers! You know?

Fall Free For All

My kids made this life-like puppet and placed him/her in the living room today. Every time I walk by I gasp, thinking some random hoodlum is sitting in our living room wearing an old school motorbike helmet. It’s the shoes that are doing me in every time. It actually looks like there’s a small, deformed man with no arms hanging out on the couch.

 

They made this because we went to the Fall Free For All arts festival downtown and the kids saw giant puppets that were dressed like a bad nightmare complete with stilts and strange masks. It was a lot of fun and even the breast cancer walk was there handing out free chowder and yogurt. Once they left though the population dropped to about 3/4 of what it was (sigh). We did stay to watch the flea circus but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t really hard to see. Go figure.

She’s five

We took her for a donut and the local LeDonut, then out to a special toy store to pick out her toy. When her and Matt went out for a donut I decorated the house with balloons and pink crepe paper so when she walked in and saw the house, she gasped. Not hard to please and surprise this one! Next we picked blackberries from the bush outside to make the frosting for her cake. Her Tinkerbell candle for the cake was played with so much that her head fell off. I tried to solder it back on with hot wax but Tink ended up looking like a Mattel burn victim in the end. Yet that Disney character WILL sit at the top of a lemon blackberry cake by birthday time!

 

All day long Chloe kept saying, “You know, it’s my birthday today?” like we were forgetting or something. When our family came to sing, eat and play she opened the door and directed her guests to the designated present placing spot, which was picked out early that day. “Mama, the gifts will all go here.” and she would point to spot on the floor where she would collect and stack the loot.

 

When her guests arrived we all looked at old photos of her from the past four years. I told her a few stories about what she was like as a baby (which is always hard for a kid to understand; they were a baby once). Once her gifts were opened Oliver said, “Is that all she gets?” (hush, boy!) and then she spent the last half of the evening playing in her own imagination in the living room while the adults did boring stuff like sit at the table and talk.

 

She’s just dreamy, if I do say so. What a delightful little girl with a delightful little voice; charming, playful, sometimes shy and very imaginative. She can still entertain herself for hours by playing with small toys. Happy birthday, darling. I think the world of you and I love you heaps!

Chilly weather is coming

Today I woke up to cooler air and a leaky sky as my tomatoes sat under an inch of Pacific Northwest sprinkles. Now begins the colder weather that will lead us into the Autumn. I like to say Autumn rather than Fall because the word sounds crisp and crackly and it seems like it would smell like a clove….not to sound too poetic. I just think the word sums up what is happening to my garden. The sun is also disappearing (no surprise for those of us who live in the PNW) and it’s sweater weather outside.

As a treat, Matt and I took the kids to our favorite burger spot where everything is cooked fresh and the cow is slaughtered in the kitchen sink before you eat it. We’re regulars at this burger joint! I never thought this would be me. I feel like we should have a parking spot or something. Sylvie is also getting older so we actually need to start ordering her food instead of letting her pick off the occasional pickle or hardened french fry (you can’t give away your good ones).

Then we came home and I baked bread, made fresh pasta sauce with tomatoes from my garden and let the chickens run out to poop all over the yard while they have yet to give us just one damn egg! I love days like this for myself. As the season changes I want to sip tea, listen to jazz and write silly, poetic posts or read a classic novel; maybe knit an entire  cozy for our desk top computer  or figure out a new recipe using acorn squash and rosemary, all while I wear an itchy sweater with muted hues and sit on my couch with an afghan over my lap. With three kids, what it actually ends up looking like is this:

“Chloe, get your feet off the dinner table!

Oliver, stop farting while we’re eating!

Sylvie, no no! Don’t throw your food on the floor! Oh, dear Lord! Did she poop…again?

Guys! Quit jumping on the furniture!!! Can we just have it a bit quiet in here? Please? I can’t hear my jazz! I’m sweating while picking up after you all so I don’t even need my sweater with muted hues!”

So much for jazz in the background and camomile tea in an orange and brown cup.

We had to go to the park because the kids were climbing the walls. We also took a kid, and his friend, from down the street and Oliver was kid number three of the crowd so he was the runt that was picked off of the pack. It’s hard to watch your child being left out but, to his credit, he was a bit oblivious of the situation so I didn’t step in too much because he was actually having fun. I just kept glaring at the other two kids and suggesting games to play together. Take that, other- kid-leave-outers!

Meanwhile, Chloe was taking Sylvie by the hand in the park and I had this thought, “Maybe walking in the grass isn’t best for a baby; you know, dogs and their poop and such?”. I shook off the thought…. Always follow your heart!!! Lean into those intuitions! Allow them to guide you in your wisdom, otherwise your one year old might just put dog poop in her mouth because it was on the ground and she puts EVERYTHING in her mouth! There really aren’t words to describe how horrific it is to clean canine crap out of your baby’s mouth. But I digress….It was a decent time at the park and I was able to enjoy, sort of, my crisp, Autumn day.

Our life is slowly changing with the season. We had an amazing summer outside but it’s slowly coming to an end.  We eat a lot of our meals outdoors when it’s sunny and warm but we’ll be moving all of that inside now. We’ve had our share of backyard campfires since it’s been cool and dry. Now the heater will keep us warm. And it’s been amazing to camp, swim, hike and tan our skin in the lovely sunshine these past three months. On with the sweaters and muted tones! Welcome Miles Davis (cliche, I know) and camomile tea! Bring it, squash and rosemary ravioli! Here comes Autumn! How are you celebrating the changing season?