Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bedtime story.

I've mentioned Liam and I are taking piano lessons, right? Well. This week my assignment was to take a series of notes (quarter, half, eighth...) and turn them into a melody line. It felt like a hugely daunting task. Like...writing a song.


Writing a song is something I've never done or, honestly, ever even thought about wanting to do. I procrastinated for days (like I always do) and then finally sat down to face the music (ha).

I was surprised to find the process came pretty naturally to me. Like all I really had to do was decide where to start and then the rest sort of took care of itself. Once I chose my first note there was only one direction the song could go. It was like certain notes HAD to be there while others had absolutely no place at all.

Maybe that's how everyone's ears work. I have no idea. All I know is that when I mess up playing a song in my practice book, I know it. And when I tried to put an A where a G should be, it just didn't work.


Tonight on the long road to bedtime (homeschool + daylight savings = "Oops! It's 9:30, kids!" every single night x the last few weeks...), I was practicing my song while the guys brushed teeth. When I climbed in to read bedtime stories, I was humming my very own melody line.

"What that song?" Finn asked, the way he asks about everything, always.

"That's the song I wrote," I told him. "Do you like it?"

"What's it called?" he needed to know.

"Hmm. I don't know. How about...Finny Forever?"

"Nooooo," he said somewhat annoyed. "That not it's name. Wet's call it, 'Bella."

I laughed. Bella is our neighbors name. The girl Liam would marry if he hadn't already committed to being a bachelor forever. "You love Bella don't you, Finny?"


"Did you know that Liam wants to marry Bella someday?"

"No," he said immediately. I marry Bella." He sounded pretty serious.

"Uh oh," I said, laughing. "You can't both marry Bella. What are we going to do? "

"I give her a toy," he said.


Sending a "mailbox" from our treehouse to hers... pre-pre-pre-teenline

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Strawberry paletas.

Last week the boys and I picked a bushel of strawberries at Circle S Farm just east of Nashville. I'd never gone berry picking before and, honestly, if you'd told me in the morning that I'd be spending the afternoon bent over a row of strawberry plants, I probably wouldn't have believed you. But we overheard some friends talking about it at our bird workshop at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center and thought, "Hey, we like strawberries..." Next thing you knew, we were on our way to the farm.

We went ahead and splurged on the $10 basket and filled it to the very tip top (while helping ourselves to berries along the way just like the farmer told us we could!). Well, I filled it to the top. Liam spent most of his time asking when we could go on an adventure and planning just how awesome it was going to be. I was like, "Dude, what's wrong with this adventure?" But apparently the neatly manicured rows of plants and convenient highway access were far too mild for him. "I want the kind of adventure that has a forest. And maybe a lake or something. I want at least a 90% chance that we'll get lost in the woods and have to build a shelter and survive..."

Is that a bow staff in your pocket...

Poor Finn spent most of his time at the farm trying to poop.

Alas, we had our strawberries. A whole bunch of them! I dumped them into a reusable shopping bag for the drive then shoved them in the fridge when we got home (we were in a hurry - we had that other adventure to get to!). Yesterday I pulled them out to take to our neighbors' house to share and found they were not nearly as beautiful as they'd once been. Since the big strawberry fan in our house doesn't do well with ugly fruit, I knew I'd have to come up with a creative way to use our remaining berries.

This was taken before they got a bit squished and ugly.

At first I thought strawberry jam would be perfect but we didn't have that many left. Then this morning when Finn helped himself to a popsicle for breakfast again, I realized the answer was right in front of me, dripping off my baby's chin.


Strawberry Paletas (aka, fancy pants popsicles)

3 cups strawberries (leaves removed, cut in half)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
a few mint leaves
a bit of lime juice

1. Stir strawberries and sugar together in a small saucepan. Let sit for about 15 minutes so the berries soften a bit and release their juices.

2. Add water and mint. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Pour the strawberries into a blender and add the lime. Blend until smooth (or not if you like them chunky).

4. Have a little person pour the mixture into popsicle molds or ice cube trays.

5. Freeze and enjoy!

{Original recipe found here and modified because that's what we do.}

{Baby Liam photo tutorial on how to make juice pops here. Sniff...}

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The middle place.

I love being a mother. I always have. It's a role I feel completely comfortable in. Even when I wasn't a mother, mothering other people's children was second nature to me. It feels like something I was born to do.

Being a daughter has always been a bit trickier. I don't feel like I've ever really found my footing. I don't know how to explain it other than once I got old enough to take care of myself, I couldn't quite figure out how to act or talk or be around my parents anymore. Like I was trying to fit into a role that felt completely unnatural to me.

As I've grown older and become more comfortable in my skin, it's gotten a bit better. Less awkward, I guess. But I'm afraid it's maybe too little, too late.

My mom doesn't know me anymore. Perhaps she never really did. But it's different now. She doesn't know I'm her daughter, or even that she has a daughter. The name Maggie is as foreign to her as if she were speaking Swahili. To hear her say my name like she's not sure how to pronounce it is really hard. How could she not know me...

This is heartbreaking. Especially on a day like Mother's Day. But the part I'm most sad about is that we didn't know each other better when we had the chance. Not just each other's names or faces, but the real stuff. Our hopes and dreams, fears and regrets. What did my mom have to teach that I never got to learn? What could I have given her if I'd been more comfortable opening up?

My sister and I just spent a long time on the phone talking about all the stuff neither of us really talks to anyone else about. The stuff most people wouldn't understand. I'm so lucky to have her. Even though by the time we hung up I felt like the rest of this post had been completely hijacked. "Moose, how am I supposed to finish writing about how sad I am not to have a mom now that I'm laughing?" It's the risk I take starting a post in the morning and then trying to finish it after a few mimosas and a long talk with my sister.

What I wanted to say before I got it all out of my system is that I wish I'd tried harder to know my mom when I had the chance. But now I know I did my best. Not that I'm giving up. I mean, who knows? The best may be yet to come. Maybe if I step away for a minute, talk to my sister and have a few mimosas, I'll get another surprise ending.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers and daughters and fathers and sons. Give each other a great big squeeze and be open to whatever may come next.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Unschooling myself.

Someone in our homeschool group recently summed up our first year of school at home perfectly. She said, "Most homeschoolers break the year roughly into thirds. We start out really gung ho with classical education, slide into more of a Charlotte Mason style a few months later, and by the end of the year we're all pretty much unschooling."

I couldn't help but laugh. It's exactly what our year has been like. Well, aside from starting out with classical education. That is just way too much structure for anyone in this family. But mentally I did spend the first few months sizing up all of our options, making sure we had found the best fit for all the important first grade subjects, and just generally worrying that I was somehow going to mess my kid up for life.

Then I started to find my groove and relaxed a bit. We introduced the list and started enjoying our time together rather than constantly wondering if so-and-so was doing homeschool better or how much more the kid next door might be learning with seven hours a day at school plus homework.

But it wasn't until recently (probably the last third of our year considering we'll be learning "year round") that I let go even more. And the last week or so, I've been running a real loose ship. Because the more I learn about unschooling, the more I want to drink the Cool Aid. And as I integrate it more and more into our lives, I am seeing what a great fit it is for our family.

I don't know why I'm surprised. We've been "unschooling" our kids since they were born. We just didn't call it unschooling. We called it parenting.

Intentional parenting.

We tune into our kids, listen when they talk, dive in when they express an interest in something, give them lots of unstructured time to be creative (whatever that ends up meaning), and use the whole entire world for our classroom. There are no school days or hours because learning happens all the time. Everything you do presents a teachable moment. Everyone you know becomes a teacher.

Geocaching with a friend/teacher @ Cumberland Park.
Once you realize that as a parent, it's only natural to surround your children with opportunities for positive growth (they're going to be learning no matter what...why not guide them to pick up some of the basics along the way?). It's why our home is filled with books and music and games and flashcards. Why we've been doing workbooks with Liam since he was really little. Because when you don't think learning is hard or boring or something you "have" to do, it's actually really fun.

But it's the non "academics" that surprise me the most. When I step back and don't tell Liam what to do for a few days (aside from the classes and things we have already committed to), I am amazed at some of the stuff he comes up with. He stays busy all day, making things, reading, starting businesses, thinking, playing outside, teaching Finn, inviting people over for dinner, you name it.

He occasionally watches a show or plays a video game (there aren't really any limitations), but not nearly as much as I would think that he would. Except when he does, of course (we all have those days...). But he's always learned a ton from screens so I don't really have a problem with it (like making maps for Canada and Greenland then locating them on the map...inspired by Phineas and Ferb).

It kind of blows me away how well unschooling works for our family (although I hate the name). I might go so far as to say we've finally found our niche (a little of this, a little of that plus lots of unstructured time). Although, if there's one thing I've learned this year it's that things are constantly evolving. Check back with me in the fall. I may be singing the praises of a school-in-a-box style curriculum.

Although, I'd be willing to bet we'll still be making it up as we go along, using the world as our classroom. We're having way too much fun to stop now. And you never know where the next big lesson might show up...

"Field trip" - Courtney Jaye at the Basement

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Daydream believer.

Don't laugh, but the other night Bill and I watched The Secret again. Yes, that Secret. The law of attraction hullabaloo that got Oprah all hot and bothered a few years ago and set our lives on a totally different trajectory.


I know it's maybe the corniest movie ever made (and the book isn't that much better) but it's completely responsible for introducing me to the idea that I could have or do or be anything I wanted in the whole wide world, without exception. That the only reason anything is out of my reach is because I think it is. I limit myself by what I think and wish for and the choices I make. We all do. But it doesn't have to be that way. There's a whole other way of thinking and living and being and, silly as it may sound, The Secret is what opened my mind to all that.

Watching it the other night felt completely different from watching it the first time. Whereas before I hardly understood it at all, now it seemed like second nature. My kids would probably think it was a joke if they ever watched it. "Uh, why would something so obvious be called a secret? This doesn't make any sense at all..."

I think they're really lucky. Can you imagine being raised knowing that the whole entire universe was available to you? That anything you wanted to do or be, you just could. Maybe you were raised that way, but I wasn't. I mean, I was in theory (Americans are free to do whatever we put our minds to!) but I keep finding beliefs buried deep down inside that are subconsciously holding me back.

For instance, if I'm daydreaming about how great it would be to live at the beach, I automatically talk myself out of it. "Even if we moved to a coastal town, we couldn't afford to live on the beach. We'd probably have to live in some tiny house without so much as a view and both work eighty hours a week to afford it. Nope. So not worth it."

Because for whatever reason I still don't believe that's an option for me. Isn't that silly? I mean, it's not like my life is any less incredible than living at the beach. And yet, for some reason, certain things still feel completely out of reach. Possible for some people, maybe, but not for me. Like all I can do is sigh and think, "Must be nice..."

Well, that's crazy. I honestly didn't even know I was still doing things like that until our little movie date the other night. I thought I was 100% on board with making my wildest dreams come true. And I am. But I need to stop editing so much.

If I want to live at the beach, I should make that my intention and start paying attention to the opportunities or ideas that arise that just might help me make that dream a reality. It's just as possible as anything else, as long as I'm willing to start taking the steps to make it happen. No one ever got anywhere thinking it must be nice for someone else.

Of course, remembering all this really just confirmed one thing: I'm already living the life of my dreams.

Obviously, right? Still. It's nice to be reminded once in a while. It makes every moment of every day that much sweeter. I guess they call that gratitude. : )

Friday, May 3, 2013

It gets better.

I was just going through the photos on my phone, deleting the ones I didn't want to move onto my computer, and came across a whole series of Finn from right after he turned two that are so ridiculously bad, I had to share.

Guess I just wanted to let you know that if you have a two year old who never listens, draws on everything (with lipstick if he can get his hands on it), bites into bars of soap or drinks a whole cup of syrup and then gets his hand stuck to his chin, HANG IN THERE. It totally gets better.