Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!


No More Cooking for Corde

I love my daughter, I really do.  I love giving her the freedom to cook what she wants whenever she wants to.  She loves having the ability to have what she wants instead of making her eat whatever I’m willing to make at the time.  She can eat on her schedule too, which is a huge benefit to her.  She loved it so much that she’d constantly tell me I wasn’t allowed to do anything to help her.

That being said, I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is for me to strip another freedom from her.  I don’t want to do it, but I don’t have a choice.  She can’t be trusted in the kitchen anymore.  She’s hitting that point of just doing whatever she wants without a care.  It’s bad enough that I can’t trust her to be outside by herself anymore, so I’ve taken away that freedom.  Now I have to take away the freedom of cooking too?  She is not happy with me in the least.

This wasn’t exactly a “one thing goes wrong” snap decisions.  I don’t do that with Corde.  This is something that’s been developed over time, much like her recently lost freedom of going outside.  That one I still feel bad about, but I can’t have her running around wherever she wants unattended if I have to wander the whole trailer park to find her.  If there’s an emergency and I need her to come home I need to know where she’ll be at.  If she forgets to come home when it’s time to come in, I need to know where to find her.  It’s too hard to dress Sander (he’s still obsessed with not wearing pants and has started going so far as stripping everything), and the baby all packed up only to drag them all over the neighborhood looking for Corde and Beekee.  Sadly, there have been a few occasions where Beekee was the easy one to find because he either was inside all day or stayed in the yard like he should have.  Between running off without telling me not coming in when it’s clearly dark out, and deliberately hiding from me so she won’t have to come in I can’t trust her to be outside on her own.  She’s shown me she’s not ready for that responsibility.  On top of that, management let us all know that there have been a few drunk driving incidents in the neighborhood, one of which took out one of the trailer’s front porch.  That being said, I don’t want my kids out after dark, or even twilight where visibility is low.  Given safety is a concern by management, I can’t blame them for wanting us to keep a tighter leash on our kids.

So you might be wondering what happened with the whole cooking thing.  The first time she set the pot to boil and walked away to do something else.  It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but she completely forgot about the pot.  We got on her a couple of times to check her water and she claimed she did, but my guess is she didn’t.  I thought the water was taking an awful long time to boil, so I went to check it myself.  The water had boiled down to almost nothing (though there wasn’t much in there in the first place).  When I asked her about it she confessed that she didn’t check.  I know I walk away from the kitchen when I’m just setting a pot to boil, and I don’t have a problem if she does too.  However, letting a pot boil away to nothing isn’t exactly good for the pot and it certainly isn’t productive for cooking.  How can you cook with boiling water if there is no water?

The next time she was making Ramen.  She had  to have it.  She was starving.  I didn’t think anything of it.  She’d made Ramen several times before.  I didn’t feel the need to sit over her like a hawk while she was cooking.  I could trust her, right?  I was pretty confident in her skills and her lack of need of help.  I checked the water anyway before she went to add the noodles.  She makes it the way Oz taught her, which involves making the noodles like regular pasta, then draining most of the water.  She added the noodles and I left her to it.  Oz and I left her to do her thing while we were trying to figure out something to watch together.  Neither of us saw her sneak into the room and fall asleep behind us.  I just thought it seemed like it had been a bit too long and I hadn’t heard any noise in the kitchen, so I was going to check things out.  She should be done by now.  I nearly tripped over Corde in the process of getting into the kitchen.  Sure enough, the noodles were overcooked.  We talked to Corde about the dangers of falling asleep while you’re cooking and the risks of starting a fire.  It was frustrating, but we figured she was tired.  It was a lesson learned.

After that she was making one of those pasta side things and did nearly the same thing.  She’d mixed everything up with the noodles and left the kitchen.  I told her with things like that you can leave the kitchen long enough to go to the bathroom, go get your drink, something quick, but the food needs to be supervised because it’s easy for the noodles at the bottom of the pot to burn.  Our neighbor stopped by while Corde was cooking, so Oz and I stepped outside to talk to him for a minute and when we came in Corde had run off to play with her brothers.  Sure enough, the pasta on the bottom of the pot had burned.  I thought that was my fault for stepping outside, but, again, she’d made them several times before and I thought she could handle stirring the pot for a couple minutes while no one was standing over her.

The next time I was smart.  I realized she needed supervision, but I was in the middle of feeding the baby.  I told her to clear off the counter and set the pot with all her ingredients on hand, but not to add them until I got there.  I’d be over as soon as I was done feeding the baby.  Did she listen?  Nope.  She already had all the ingredients added and the pot on the hotplate before I’d gotten there.  Unfortunately, she also didn’t clear off the counter and there was a towel resting against the hot plate.  Again I got on her about fire safety while cooking, probably a little more harshly than necessary, but that was a huge fire risk.  If I assumed she’d wait for me and took my sweet time feeding the baby there could have been a fire.  I’m just glad I took a sense of urgency, knowing she wanted to cook, and as soon as Luca was done nursing I put the half-asleep boy down and went into the kitchen.  I’m glad I didn’t wait until he’d completely fallen asleep or took the time to put him in the Baby Hawke.  Every second I delayed was one more second closer to a house fire.  The whole thing could have been avoided if she waited like I asked her to.

Then there was the mac and cheese incident.  The mac and cheese was done when again, the neighbor came to the door.  I left it on the cool heating element of the hot plate.  The cool burner was still warm enough to keep the food warm if we took more than a minute or two, but it wasn’t hot enough to burn the food.  Next thing I know Corde’s poking her head into the conversation and showing me a burned cheese packet from the mac and cheese.  “Mom, this is burned and I have no idea how.”  If course, I knew how.  It had the burn lines that matched either the bottom of the pot or the top of the heating element.  I didn’t care to investigate to find out which one it was.  I knew exactly what had caused it, given the cheese packet was set well away from the hot plate.  She’d been messing around with something up there and burned the cheese package in the process.  I took a deep breath and realized I couldn’t even leave the kitchen unattended when there was food in there because Corde would be messing with something.  I understand she’s curious about the whole process, but I’ve told her before that the kitchen is not a place to play.  Hot plates are notorious for starting fires.  She could burn herself.  She could get seriously hurt.  As it turns out she did burn herself in the process, which she told me after I talked to her about why you don’t burn things in the kitchen.  Here’s hoping she learned that lesson.

Things had been in order.  I’d managed to keep an eye on her every single time she’s cooked.  We’re not exactly hovering over her, but we’re not far off either.  We know she has the skill and the ability to be unsupervised while cooking, but she’s not ready for the responsibility.  She’s made that dreadfully apparent.  Every time we give her an inch in the kitchen, things go horribly wrong.  I’m not worried about it.  Everyone makes mistakes.  More importantly, we wouldn’t know if we could trust her to do it on her own if we didn’t give her a chance.  The simple solution is just to supervise.  I can handle that.

So tonight when Corde asked to make some instant potatoes and throw some corn in like I’ve done for them before, I thought nothing of it.  I told her she needed to wait a bit because I had a few things I had to do first.  While she was waiting she should do some of the dishes because I hadn’t gotten to the dishes yet and she needed a mixing spoon and a plate to eat off of.  We don’t exactly have more than one meal’s worth of plates, so that limits us a lot.  I walked off to do what I needed to do.

Corde had gone in and out of the kitchen a couple of times, but I didn’t think to ask her what she was doing.  It’s normal for her to go in there to fill her water bottle, scrounge for a snack while waiting, or do any number of other things.  Sometimes she just likes to look at her artwork in there or passes through to the dining room to look at her games, art books, or whatever else.  It would never dawn on me in a million years to bother her about what she was doing because I know it annoys her and makes her feel like I can’t trust her to be alone for five minutes.  She wants so badly to be trusted, so I’ve stopped asking.  When she wants to share something she’ll come tell me about it, show me, or ask questions.

Next thing I know I hear Corde saying, “Mom, the potatoes won’t do anything but look like apple sauce and I don’t know what to do.”  I tried to keep my cool as I walked out to the kitchen to find out what she was talking about.  I had a sneaking suspicion and I was right.  Not only had she started cooking without me, but she clearly forgot all the rules we’ve made about cooking.  Instead of blowing up at her I tried to keep my cool and find out how to fix the problem.  I asked her how much water she used.  “I used half the pot because I didn’t know how much I was supposed to use.”  Dear god!  Half the pot?  That’s about four or five cups of water!  The instructions called for one cup of water!  No wonder the potatoes were little more than potato flavored water.  I was really tempted to dump the whole thing out and call it a loss, but I can’t bear the thought of wasting food.  I started the long process of trying to boil down the potatoes to get them to thicken up, which hasn’t been working the best.  As I write this I’ve been getting up between each paragraph to check and stir it.  It’s about the consistency of soup, which is better than it was, but it’s still bland and pretty nasty.  I don’t know if I can salvage this, but I’m certainly going to try.

This was it, the last of it I can take.  She didn’t wait for me, which she knew she had to do.  She didn’t read the directions.  She may have just wasted food.  Our hot plate seems to be having issues with being used for long periods of time now.  I’m so frustrated and angry right now.  I would come up with some way it’s not her fault, but it’s completely her fault.  She knows what is expected of her.  She knows that cooking is a privilege and is a sign of how much we can trust her.  We let her do it because she follows the rules we’ve set in our kitchen, which are nothing more than rules for safety.  If you can’t cook safely on your own, cook safely under supervision.  We can’t afford to waste food, so when you don’t know what to do, ask.  These are simple things.  I really don’t mind helping her in the kitchen.  It’s kind of fun.  However, when she goes and does something like this something that proves that she’s not ready for cooking at all.  I’m starting to regret ever having taught her to cook because now I have nightmares of waking up in the middle of the night to the house on fire because Corde decided to cook in the middle of the night.  Obviously she thinks she doesn’t think she needs my help.

Of course, I asked her why she started cooking without me and she said she didn’t know.  I asked her why she didn’t read the directions. She said she didn’t know.  I asked her if this was what she did every other time we’ve made potatoes together, which admittedly isn’t much, but we did it together a couple of days ago.  She again said she didn’t know.  This “I don’t know” every time she does something she knows she’s not supposed to do is getting old.  I would have much preferred she say, “Because I thought I could do it on my own and didn’t want to bother you” or “I thought this was how we did it the last time” than “I don’t know”.   Every time she says “I don’t know” I just want to scream and tear my hair out.  I want to go back to the days of spanking her.  Nothing pushes my buttons like her muttering “I don’t know” because she doesn’t want to be bothered with giving us a real answer.

So, I’ve put my foot down.  Corde is having every freedom slowly stripped away from her because she lacks the responsibility required to have those rights.  When Luca is feeling less fussy I’ll give her another chance, but I don’t want to risk walking around the park with a screaming, unhappy baby to look for a child that’s probably hiding from me so I’ll have to turn over every stone in the park or hope Beekee stayed with her and will have the decency to give up their position.  If she does it again, then that’s it.  On cooking, I don’t know when she’ll get that privilege back.  I’m going to give it a week before I make up my mind on that.

It’s just so frustrating.  She I know regression happens, but I want to trust her, I really do.  I want to give her the freedom to do what she wants to do.  She’d earned the trust to start getting the freedoms she’s already had.  I don’t know why she’s doing this to herself.  It’s starting to make me crazy.  I know part of this is Maddy’s influence, but that can’t be all of it.  She’s got to see some benefit to letting Maddy have that kind of sway over her or she wouldn’t do it.  She’s got to understand that I want her to have the ability to do these things.  I want that trust.  It makes my life easier because she’s not always cranky with me about not letting her do things.  It makes her life easier because she doesn’t need to wait on me for everything.  We were making so much positive progress.  It’s so easy to blame Maddy for all of it.  A part of me wants to blame Maddy because that means there’s nothing else going on in that head of hers.  At the same time I know it’s not Maddy.  Maddy can’t control Corde’s urge to just go ahead and cook without waiting for me when she knows she needs to wait for me.  Maddy can’t tell Corde not to read the directions and just do it however she’d like when she’s not here.  That’s all Corde.

I know in the end we’ll get to the bottom of all of this.  I know we’ll figure it out.  I know I’ll eventually be able to trust Corde to go out with her friends without having to have me supervise.  I know she’ll be able to cook on her own at some point (or better be able to or she’d better have a good job and be able to afford eating out a lot when she’s grown and moved out).  These set-backs aren’t going to last forever.  It’s just frustrating to go through now.

And if you’ve read this far, thanks for reading.  I know this is long and drawn out, but it really says it all.  I just can’t wait until we get some sense of normal again.  Until then, I just need to keep reminding myself that this too shall pass.


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Something to Think About: The Financial Crisis

Okay, it seems Sundays have become political activism day, mostly with posts written in advance.  I don’t want to be writing on our family day, so I’m trying to be good about putting something together in advance.  I’ve been focusing on the events, movements, movies, etc. that have been inspiring me.  While I try to share these lessons with my kids, it’s not always easy.

This week I was scrolling through my options for documentaries.  There are a shocking number of documentaries on the food industry in America.  It’s surprising how many there are.  However, I was eating at the time and the last thing I want while noshing on all kinds of food that I probably shouldn’t be eating, but don’t have much choice because it’s affordable, is watch a documentary about all the bad foods I’m putting in my system.

Thankfully I found an older documentary I’ve been interested in seeing for years.  It’s called I.O.U.S.A.  It’s about the debt crisis in this country, where it originated, and how it came to be.  Strangely, it pointed out everything that I had been saying for years and I hadn’t even had half the facts this movie presented.

So, where does the problem with the economic recession come from in this country?  Well, it’s not completely the government’s fault.  I mean, sure, there is the problem with the governments debts and spending, but there’s also a problem with people spending fictional money, this credit, something that doesn’t exist.  It’s spending money on the promise of having money at some future time, with interest, of course, to pay for the advantage of borrowing.

I remember hearing about the government borrowing money from the American people in the past.  I think that’s what the whole thing about war bonds were about.  The government would borrow money from the population with the promise of paying it back at some future point.  It meant most of our federal debt was held by our own people.  In other words, we owed ourselves a good deal of money.  That’s kind of a good way to do it.  It’s like borrowing money from your savings account to pay your bills with the intentions of paying it back some time later.

Unfortunately, our country isn’t in a position to do that.  Why?  Most Americans are either too much in debt or simply have no savings to draw on.  Americans have gotten into the habit of paying for things they can’t afford.  Of course, this has caused hell on our own economy too.  When credit allowed consumers to start buying houses they couldn’t afford, the housing market went nuts.  Houses could be sold for outlandish rates because people could simply pay it off over the next 30 years.  There was nothing to put the cap on how much a house could cost but borrowing power.  With a huge demand and a pretty stable supply, we all know how that goes.  The demand greatly outweighed the supply so costs soared.  The same goes for everything else you can buy.  Why should cars be cheap when dealers can pretty much set their rates?  Why should entertainment be cheap?  All of this, in theory, is turned back into R&D to develop better things which will raise our standard of living and all that jazz.  Of course, the reality is we’ll eventually hit a wall where the population can no longer afford to pay the high costs of the things they want, so there’s a high demand in theory, but due to purchasing power the demand goes through the floor, yet all these companies have put so much money into their products and everything else that they can’t reasonably bring down their prices and keep providing superior products.  Advancement slows down and prices either drop or stagnate.

Well, we’ve hit that wall.  A lot of families I know are suffocated by debt.  The cost of living is out of control and it’s getting to the point where no one can afford to live to the standards they’ve become accustomed to.  This virtual money has eventually run out.

I guess the way to look at it is when you pump enough money into the system, money starts to lose it’s value.  I remember when a gallon of gas, the good stuff, cost less than a dollar, and I was old enough to have friends buying gas, so maybe fifteen years ago?  I remember being able to go to the store and buy a gallon of milk for a dollar with my mom on Sundays after church.  We’d come home with a gallon of milk and a dozen donuts.  It cost us about, I don’t know, $5, I think.  We used to go down to the corner store and get penny candy that actually cost a penny per piece.  We’d pick up a pack of baseball cards to see if we could find any for my dad’s collection and they cost less than a dollar per pack, and came with a piece of bubble gum, which was always my favorite part.  Yet in my lifetime everything has skyrocket.

Now people look at pennies and simply throw them away.  A lot of people don’t value pennies because, while yes, each penny saved will eventually add up, it takes far too many of them to make an impact.  When I was a kid my parents would put all their spare change into a long-necked wine bottle.  When it was full, about once a year, they would dump it out, roll all the coins, and take it to the bank.  I always loved that time of year.  It was so much fun to count all the change up and roll it all.  I think in pennies we only ever had about ten dollars.  Right now that wouldn’t make much of a difference for my family.  Ten dollars in pennies per year wouldn’t even make a dent on one of our household expenses.  I know more than a few people who don’t bother hanging on to change unless it’s a quarter.  That should say something about the value of a dollar.  The economy has been flooded with so much spending power that good, legitimate money is simply passed up because it requires collecting too much of it to make a difference.

With the whole 99% or 98% thing, a movement that can’t seem to get it’s act together to make a decision on what percentage it actually is, they’re demanding that the Federal Reserve release more money to the population, since that will solve the problem.  Unfortunately, what they don’t seem to understand is the more money we flood our economy with, the less value it will have.  The rate of inflation will rise as a necessity.  The problem won’t be solved.  It will only be worsened over time.  The value of the U.S. dollar will further decline.  Interest rates will rise.  The lesson that really needs to be learned, for people to only spend what they have and stop relying on virtual money, won’t be learned.  Why?  Because the Federal Reserve can always bail us out, right?  The 99%ers won’t like the suggestion that’s helped in the past.  Decreasing the amount of money in circulation actually raises the value of the dollar, and while that means there’s less money to go around, the increased value will eventually balance things out, but no one wants to hear that as a solution.  They’d rather just throw money at the problem, isn’t that always the way?

Beyond the Federal Reserve, we’ve got to look at who’s holding our debt.  I’ve heard a lot of people complaining that we’re sending all of our good jobs to China and the whole situation with China has a lot of people really heated in this current campaign.  I wasn’t aware of this before the movie, but there’s this whole “financial war” going on.  Technically we started it when France and England were considering war on Egypt.  I wish I’d taken notes because I don’t remember the year, but I think it was back in the 70s or 80s.  We threatened to use our buying power to prevent England from declaring war on Egypt, just so we could keep the peace.  That set an example for other countries to follow, such as…oh…say…China?  Who holds a large portion of our financial debt right now?  Who do we owe large amounts of money to since we can’t owe it to our own American citizens?  Yeah, that’s right, China.  So, most of our foreign debt is held with China, so that gives them a lot of power over us.  If we don’t play nice with them, they’ll demand we return their ball so they can go home, which kind of puts a damper on the whole ball game.  Cutting the metaphors, if we don’t respect their country’s wishes, they’ll decide it’s time to reclaim the money we owe them.  This would bring complete ruin to the U.S. economy.  This leaves us with two option, play along, or find a way to reconcile that debt.

Then again, in order to manage our debt and get back on track, we’ve got to look at another issue.  Our country is importing a lot more than we’re exporting.  I already knew that, but I hadn’t linked it to this fancy term “trade deficit”.  Our trade deficit is massive.  Other countries, such as China, are really in the positive when it comes to trade.  They’re making a lot of money on exports, but not paying out a lot for imports.  Our country is totally backwards in this regard.  A lot of this has to do with outsourcing jobs to other countries like India and China, but when you consider how much money we owe to other countries, we kind of have no choice to outsource there if they demand that we do it.  Remember, they’ll take their ball and go home.  It’s not about cheap labor.  It’s about keeping their governments happy because we can’t afford for them to demand their money back at this time.

But this also ties into the last topic I talked about.  As I’ve been taught to believe (which, if someone knows different, please let me know) a good portion of our exports lie in the food industry.  We produce far more than we eat and have always been able to send our foods to places that can’t produce as much for a profit.  Only there’s a problem with that now.  Other countries don’t want our produce.  They don’t want our meat.  Pretty much, if we produce it, they don’t want it.  Why?  Because of the GMOs.  Because of the growth hormones.  Because of all the junk we put into our food during the growing process that is proven to be unhealthy.  As a result we’re unable to offload this food onto other countries for a profit.

It also doesn’t help that we waste so much money in this country.  Look at all the trash the average household produces.  Look at all the food waste that ends up in landfills.  Look at all the senseless, unneeded items that are bought in this country.  There are homes filled with electronic gadgets and fast food kids’ meal toys, all manufactured in some country other than our own, that never get used or touched.  Eventually they end up broken and tossed or given away.  Kids seem to be the biggest sink-hole in this regard.  I can’t count the number of houses I’ve seen with so many kids’ toys that they can’t possibly play with them all.  Even my house was that bad at one point, but mostly with things that other people have bought for my kids or gave away to us.  In the years I’ve been in Texas I’ve gotten rid of over 20 trash bags full of toys and another nearly 15 full of clothes at least.  I used to have a running tally but somewhere I lost it.  I could have easily given away over 40 bags of clothing and toys we no longer used.  That’s not counting the bags of fabric, yarn, boxes of books, and everything else I’ve given away.  Then there’s everything that’s gone out in the trash as a result of being broken, torn, or otherwise unusable.  We still have more to give away too.  What’s sad is my family hasn’t given away as much as other families I’ve known.  Maybe if we started buying only the things we needed and were more conscious about where our products were made we might reduce our shocking consumption of imported products.  We would also learn to live within our means and not on this fictional money that we promise to pay back at some later time.

In short, this financial crisis has been a long time in coming, and the solution isn’t going to be easy.  It’s not as simple as “cut federal spending” or “raise taxes”.  It’s not as simple as no longer supporting industries giving business to China.  We don’t want to push them past their tipping point to the end of having them demand a return on their money and making our whole government bankrupt.  It’s a process that’s going to be a long time in coming and it’s going to require a lot of time and patience.

Here’s my suggested list of solutions, for what they’re worth coming from an “uneducated” American.  Yes, I say “uneducated” for a reason.  According to the government I can’t be too bright.  Not only do I not have a college degree, but a real shocker for most people, I never graduated high school and don’t have my GED.

First, we all need to start taking responsibility for our own finances.  Getting ourselves out of a debt-based economy would be a huge start.  That means making sacrifices.  That means living within our means, not above them.  I know I’m probably preaching to the converted if you’re reading this (since most of the people who read my blog seem to be financially responsible people on their own), but it’s worth being said.  Say no to credit whenever possible and when it’s not possible, like buying a house, pay it off as quickly as possible.  This will free us up to start saving money.

Second, stop the trend of over-buying.  This leads us to become a society that has less waste, which is a good thing.  This also cuts our reliance on importing goods from other countries.  Sure, many goods will still be manufactured in other countries, but buying less of them will mean less money goes into importing goods.  Of course, with all the money saved on buying excess it will be much easier to turn that money around and spend it on more expensive American-made goods, which will further reduce our reliance on importing goods into the country.  That will do a lot for our trade deficit.

Once the country is living in a cash-based economy again instead of a debt based economy and has freed up a lot of the money tied into buying in excess and buying foreign goods we can look into instituting a “war bond” kind of thing.  The American citizens can spend their free money to invest in our own country.  The benefit?  That money can be spent to reconcile our foreign debt.  We can pay back the countries we owe money to, like China, so we’ll no longer be over a barrel when it comes to foreign relations with them.

Okay, so getting our country’s financial independence back is a huge start, but that’s not going to fix everything.  We’ll still have problems like our government’s over-spending problem to deal with.  Foreign wars are definitely a part of that, so resolving the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq would go a huge way to doing that.  We need to disentangle ourselves from those causes because they’re costing more money than we realistically have to spend.  We can’t fix the world’s problems until we fix our own problems.  We can take up those causes again, if need be, once we are in a position to afford a foreign war.

What about that whole Federal Reserve situation?  Well, from the way the movie explained it, it looks like we need to get more money out of circulation to raise the value of the dollar.  This would also decrease inflation.  From the way it was explained in the movie (and I’d have to do more research into the reality of it to say with more confidence), that would help us get out of debt because the value of our dollar would be worth more.  Having more purchasing power means that the federal government can get more bang for it’s buck too, which means they can work on finding more balance in their own system.

Another huge change we could make?  Stop producing GMOs.  Other countries don’t want to buy them.  We don’t want to buy them.  They make people sick.  Once we kick our GMO experiment we’ll be better able to export our excess food to other countries, which will mean our exports will rise.  Pair that with a falling need to import goods and we’ll be headed in the right direction.  Pair all of that with a country that no longer feels the need to eat in excess and we’ll be on the fast track to balancing out our economy.  We’ll have that much extra food available for export.  If it’s done right, all of this will cause food prices to fall and for the purchasing power of the dollar to go up, which will mean food will be more available to everyone, even the poor people who have to live on food stamps to survive.  Then again, if we get our economy straightened out, food stamps could end up being a thing of the past, something people only rely on in dire straights, not something they need for their very survival.

I remember in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court the main character was talking about how stupid the people of the time were because they didn’t understand the value of money.  They didn’t get the equation of what money really meant.  Your money is only as good as your purchasing power with that money.  For example, a minimum wage job about 15 years ago was about $5 per hour in the state I lived in.  For that money you could buy about five gallons of milk.  A couple years back minimum wage in that state was about $8 per hour.  For that money you could buy two gallons of milk.  So, in fifteen years you’d make $3 more per hour, which sounds pretty good, until you see that your purchasing power is only 40% of what it used to be.  If I’m doing my math right (which I may not be because I haven’t done this kind of math since high school), that’s a 60% raise, but you also lose 60% of your purchasing power.  That’s not an improvement.  At first glance it looks like a good deal, extra money, but in the long run you’re actually a lot worse off than you would have been.

So what am I saying?  I’m saying that we’re only as good as our purchasing power, which is exactly what’s causing us to get into the rut we’re in.  Our government’s purchasing power is a joke.  Our personal purchasing power is going down the tubes.  We’ve got to do something to improve the state of our own economy, and it starts at home.  We need to get our debt out of other people’s hands.  We need to balance out our imports and our exports.  Most of all, we need to make sure we’re able to live within our means.  Otherwise, sure, wages may keep going up, but our purchasing power will go down the tubes.  Our country will end in ruin.

This movie really did open my eyes up to the state of our government’s financial problem, but it also gave me some good ideas on how to fix it.  Now if only I had the format where I could reach the people who needed to hear this message, not just the people who are doing their best to be a part of a positive change in the world.

Our children will some day inherit the Earth.  Let’s make sure they’re not also inheriting our debt and the messes we’re making of the world around us.  This goes so much more than green living and the sustainability of the planet.  What use is having a good planet to live on if they can’t even afford to live?

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Are They Serious?!?

If I had to place bets on which child was going to be the most destructive in my home, I should be placing bets on Sander.  He’s two and kids his age get into all kinds of trouble.  They’re know for being mess makers and doing crazy things like drawing on the walls.  That’s just what you expect from a kid his age.

The reality is I wouldn’t place my bets on him at all.  Right now it’s a toss up between Corde and Beekee, and usually when it’s Beekee it’s at the direction of his sister.  That girl loves to get him in trouble.  Worst of all she’s usually right there doing it with him and doesn’t confess to it later.  She wants so badly for us to trust her, but there’s no way we possibly can.  I don’t know when she was a part of it and when she isn’t unless I catch them in the act, and even when I catch her making a mess right beside her brothers she’s quick to blame the two of them.  Maddy does the same thing, but Corde’s been doing that for quite a while longer.  It’s sad that even when she’s caught in the act she’ll swear it was just her brothers, even if we know for a fact that her brothers had nothing to do with it.  We all know better, but she somehow still thinks she can get away with it.  Hasn’t she learned that we don’t punish her (aside from making her clean up her messes) whenever she tells the truth, but she ends up grounded and doing chores when she lies?  We can’t just pass of lying as nothing and as much as we try to avoid punishment, our whole family is based on the element of trust.  We need to do something to show her that lies are unacceptable and so far nothing has been working.  She doesn’t care.  She’ll lie about anything and everything, even though she doesn’t get away with it.

Today I was sitting with the baby, looking at random things on that evil thing called Facebook and I heard this sound.  I asked Beekee if he was drawing on the wall, since that’s what it sounded like, someone drawing with a pencil, and his hand was hidden, but the paper was visible in his other hand.  He confessed right away.  That’s when I went to go look at my wall.  My hallway was covered in pencil scribbles.  Corde’s dresser is covered in pencil scribbles.  Some of them were too high for either of the boys to have possibly made, but Corde insisted they weren’t made by her.  Corde was even standing right next to Beekee as he drew scribbles on the wall and didn’t say a thing.  We get the impression that she’d been right there for all of it, maybe even participating, and she didn’t say a single word.

I honestly don’t know how long that had been going on for.  I hadn’t been awake that long when I found out about it and some of that would have been noticed if they did it while I was awake.  Unfortunately, when Oz gets up in the morning and jumps on his video games he tunes out everything else.  When I get up I usually find at least a dozen things that the kids end up in trouble for because he wasn’t paying a lick of attention to them.  I’m really going to need to talk to him about that too.  I can’t have the house destroyed and our possessions destroyed because he’s “being nice” in letting me sleep and in the end that niceness ends when I have my work cut out for me to get the house back in order.  I end up cleaning up the messes they make because he’s not paying any attention to what they’re doing.  I’m about fed up with that too.

This goes right up there with yesterday’s fantastic wake-up.  Oz and I get out of bed to find that the cereal was spilled all over the floor in the boys’ room (at least they were eating it too) and the oatmeal was spilled all over Corde’s room.  The boys had oatmeal in their hair, it was in the blankets, it was all over everything, but Corde, conveniently.  Somehow she managed to stay completely untouched.  We know Corde.  We’ve seen stuff like this happen before.  This is a classic sign that Corde was involved in the whole thing and just decided to go back to sleep after they boys moved on into another room.

I’m just going to have to get an alarm clock.  I’m going to have to start getting up before the sun just to make sure Corde stops talking her brothers into doing things that she knows will get them in trouble.  Unfortunately, with how late Corde gets to sleep, that also means staying up all night to make sure she’s not causing problems before she goes to sleep too, and to make sure she’s not the one deliberately making a mess that her brothers will get in trouble for in the morning.  She’s pulled that one before too.  It’s going to mean I’m a mama that gets almost no sleep.  Between getting up early, going to bed late, and being woken up at night for a hungry baby, I’m never going to have time to rest, all because the trust in this house has been broken too many times.  I would enlist Oz to help, but he’ll only be able to help while he’s home, and his work schedule gets in the way of him staying up late or getting up early to make sure the kids stay out of trouble on anything but weekends.

In all of this I feel bad for poor Sander and Beekee.  They think that these things are okay because they have so much trust in their big sister.  They want to be just like her and think she’s the best person ever.  What they don’t see is she’s constantly and deliberately leading them astray.  Beekee especially looks up to his sister and will do just about anything she tells him to do because he wants to impress her.  He wants her to be happy with him so she’ll spend more time with him, yet every time he ends up doing things that get him in trouble.  It’s gotten to the point where I’ve stopped making him clean up the mess or fix things when I know for a fact that Corde talked him into doing it.  It doesn’t happen often because I don’t catch her in the act of getting him in trouble often, but when I do catch it, he shouldn’t have to be the one to pay.  Otherwise it’s generally the two of them working at it together.

I’m at such a loss of what to do.  Corde used to draw on walls and furniture when she was seven.  This is stuff that toddlers get in trouble for, not grown girls!  Now that she’s stopped doing it she’s always trying to get Beekee to do it.  I’ve caught her a couple of times.  We’ve also seen a couple of instances where clearly she was the one to do the deed and convinced Beekee to do it with her so she can blame him.  When there’s drawings in places the boys couldn’t possibly reach, or stuff that was obviously drawn by her because of the style of the drawing or the level of detail or skill I know she was in on it.  She probably did it and realized she’d be in trouble so she encouraged the boys to join her so she could blame them.  I swear, she must think I’m an idiot if she doesn’t realize that I can tell the difference between something the boys did and something she did.

This whole thing has me so incredibly frustrated and burnt out.  Corde hasn’t seen Maddy in a couple of days because Maddy hasn’t been around and I’m starting to think I may just keep it that way.  Maddy’s mom has commented about how much better her girls have been acting now that Corde’s been around, but Corde’s been a complete and utter nightmare.  We’d gotten all of these problems under control and Corde’s going through them all again.  I just can’t do it anymore.  I want my well-behaved, respectful, and trustworthy children back again.

What’s worse is I know Maddy is a bad influence on Corde.  I saw Maddy trying to drag Corde out of our yard when they were under very specific instructions to stay in the yard after Corde didn’t listen to me the last time.  Later Maddy held Corde behind the big electric pole and told her not to answer when I called.  Apparently she said, “No!  Don’t go!  If you don’t you can stay out and play a little longer!”  Sadly, Corde was made to come in because of that stunt.  I was just calling Corde to tell her it was getting dark so she’d need to come inside soon.  She still had about a half an hour, but I was going to be making something to eat and wanted to know if she wanted me to cook for her too or if she wanted to cook on her own again.  I just wasn’t going to wait until they decided to come in to star cooking because I had a window of opportunity.  Luca was asleep and I could put him down.  Instead she hid from me (even though I could see her head and Maddy’s poking behind the pole to look at me) and then swore she didn’t hear me when I told her she was done and coming in for the rest of the night and it would be even worse if I had to go get her to make her come in.

Since Maddy has come into our lives I’ve had to have more talks with Corde about trust and how she’s going to lose the ability to go do the things I let her do now.  She has the freedom to poke her head in the door and say that she’s going to the park, a friend’s house, a walk around the block, whatever.  Unless it’s starting to get dark, I don’t care.  If it is starting to get dark I want her in the yard so I don’t have to drag the baby to go track her down and tell her it’s time to come home.  She clearly can’t respect the “come in when it’s dark” rule and she goes to far for me to poke my head out the door and yell for her to come home, so once it’s close to dark, she’s on the lot and that’s it.  However, otherwise she’s got the freedom to do what she likes as long as I know.  She disappeared off the lot without telling me because it was getting dark and she knew I wouldn’t let her go.  I specifically told her not to go outside the yard.  I informed her she’d lost her right to leave the yard the next day.  Then she pulls this stunt of hiding behind the pole and refusing to come in.  Now she’s lost the ability to go outside unless I’m outside with her, which is almost never because it’s too sunny and hot for the baby and we don’t have a good, safe place to put him down outside.  We’d already talked about letting her try again in a couple of days, but it’s been raining and no one’s been out to play.  Now I’m wondering how I can trust her to be alone outside if I can’t even trust her to be unsupervised at all.

What kills me about the whole thing of me calling her is Corde knows I’ll call her over several times throughout the day when the kids are all outside playing.  I call her over to ask her a question about something she’s left out.  I call her over to show her something I think she’ll be interested in.  When I’m making food I call the kids over and ask if they want any before I start cooking.  If I can’t see where they are and they haven’t told me they were leaving I’ll call their names and wait for their heads to pop up from wherever they were, typically Corde is in the tree and Beekee is on the far side of the truck parked in the empty lot.  When I’m done with whatever I’ve called them for I send them out to go back to play.  Generally they’ve got at least fifteen minutes after it gets dark before I finally come collect them if they don’t come in on their own.  It’s been getting dark so early that I give them a little leeway.  I have no idea why Maddy would have been so convinced that I was going to make her go inside, or how she talked Corde into believing it too.  I might understand if I was like Maddy’s mom and the only time I poked my head out to call them was to tell them it was time to come in, but I don’t.  All the kids in the neighborhood should know this by now.

I don’t know, I’m just really fed up with it all.  Corde is teaching her brothers not to have any respect for me, and worse, not to have any respect for anything around them.  She’s teaching them that the house can be trashed and that’s okay.  Some of it, like leaving out dirty dishes, is just learning from example from Oz, so I can’t complain about that, but throwing food everywhere and drawing on the walls is completely unacceptable.  Trying to rope her brothers into it in hopes that she doesn’t get in trouble and they do is unacceptable.  Proving to me that she can’t be trusted is unacceptable.  I just don’t know what to do with her.  If there is no trust this isn’t going to work, and every time she proves she’s untrustworthy and can’t have any respect for anyone else it gets that much harder to keep up with the gentle parenting stuff.  I’m starting to miss the days that Corde didn’t have any friends.  Then I was more able to find a way to be the parent I wanted to be through it all.  Now it’s getting harder and harder.

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Witch Kitty Day

Sabrina the Kitty Witch

It’s Sabrina’s birthday.  She’s officially a whole year old today.  She’s become such a fixture in our lives.  I can’t imagine life without her.

Sabrina’s had it rough, well, for a typical house cat.  She’s had to deal with two moves already.  She’s lacking her scratching post (something we’ve promised to replace).  The neighborhood animals have been driving her batty.  The neighborhood kids have been even worse.

At the end of the day, Sabrina always shows us she still loves us in spite of it all.  She comes and snuggles with Oz and me.  She harasses Corde to get the petting she deserves.  She taunts and teases Beekee and Sander until they chase her around, and when she gets bored of being chased, she chases back.  She cuddles a safe distance from Luca, snuggling up against his feet or some other part of his body that won’t allow him to grab her and hold on.  She loves us all.  Of that I have no doubt.

Sabrina has taught us all a lot of lessons.  Corde has learned about responsibility.  Oz and I have learned a lot about Maine Coons.  The boys have seemed to learn that cats are a lot cooler than they thought they were.  Cats used to seem disinterested and boring to them.  It’s been wonderful having her around.

Since she moved in she’s been our little huntress.  Bugs don’t stand a chance whens he’s around.  She’s likely to chase out anything that comes in her way, though we’ve had to teach her not to go after wasps.  Frogs, bugs, I doubt even mice would give her pause.  My kids strive to be like her sometimes, hunting for things just like a cat.  It’s wonderful to have her.

It’s really too bad we can’t do more for her.  We’d love to get her a present for her birthday, but money is tight.  We’re going to wait until we’re a little more stable.  She’ll definitely get a present for Christmas though.  Our precious (not so little) girl is definitely a gift. I look forward to years of having her share our home.

Happy birthday, Sabrina.  May it be the first of many!


The Great Chef Beekee

I haven’t been talking much about Mr. Beacon of the Squeakin’ lately.  It’s easy to get distracted with Corde’s drama because it’s so much more overwhelming and pressing.  She’s the one who seems to be into so much more.  It’s easier to focus on the one that seems to be doing so much more.  Besides, as much as I love my Beekee, he’s so chill it’s easy to forget to talk about him.  It’s not so much that I forget about him, but he’s so quiet and unimposing that he doesn’t come fresh to my mind, not like his sister who always pops to my mind with all the crazy going on in her life every day and her need to show me every little thing she does.  Every picture, painting, and detail she has to tell me.

Beekee has decided he’s interested in learning a lot lately.  He’s into disasters.  He likes watching construction shows.  Most of all, he enjoys cooking.  He wants to be in the know whenever anything is going on in the kitchen, and he’s so particular about everything.  I think he’s going to make a fantastic chef some day, even if the only person he ever cooks for is himself.

I wish I could get the pictures off of my camera right now.  Beekee was peeking over his sister’s shoulder while she made lunch today.  Once again I was exiled from the kitchen so she could cook, but both Beekee and Sander were curious as to what she was doing.  Beekee had to help.  He couldn’t mix the ingredients, mostly because our current system of measuring is creative at best.  Instead he peeked over her shoulder and told her when she had to mix it, when it might get stuck to the bottom of the pan, and most importantly, when it looked like it was done.  They weren’t making anything fancy, just one of those pasta side dish things, but he was all about learning how to do it.  I find quick and easy not only matches with our current budget, but it also means it’s something easy for the kids to throw together.  Those things may not be a great, healthy meal, but they’re cheap and we can easily teach the kids to spice it up and make it healthier with simple additions.  It’s a great skill for those broke college days, especially since they’re already learning to cook on a hot plate.  Best of all, these simple dishes are easy enough that Beekee can mix them up and cook them on his own (supervised, of course) and he’s only five!

Some days I forget just how young Beekee really is with how capable he’s become.  I keep thinking he’s six already, but he’s not.  He’s five.  He’s not even five and a half yet.  I’ve known tons of kids his age and they don’t view the world the same way my special guy does.  I don’t know many five-year-olds that can cook.  I don’t know many kids his age that are interested in getting in the kitchen and cooking.  He’s got a very mature view on life in a lot of ways too.  On top of it all, he understands concepts, like zombies not being real (though it’s fun to pretend they are) and how disasters work.  He’s our little survivalist and disaster expert.  He’s not like other kids his age that are into Dora and Diego, cars, and other things like that.  He’s into some really adult things.  Sure, he’s got a bit of a thing for guns, but he understands that playing is all well and good, but guns are dangerous and he doesn’t really want to go to war.  He knows war isn’t the way everyone makes it out to be.  It’s not glorious or honorable.  He doesn’t even think fighting “for his country” is particularly patriotic.  He thinks it’s more patriotic to be a hero, to protect the people who can’t or don’t know how to protect themselves.  He’d be the first one to sign up if there were “people trying to steal our country”.  He just doesn’t think it’s very nice to go to another country to fight and kill people.  I didn’t even put that idea in his head.  It’s how I feel, but with a dad in the Army I’m VERY careful what I say in front of the kids.  I find it interesting that Beekee and Corde came to the same conclusion, that they don’t think it’s right to go over seas and fight people in their own home.

Beekee is already turning into a great chef.  He’s making suggestions on what would be really good to add to different meals.  Some of his ideas are really good.  If we add meatballs to this it would be fantastic.  A little bit of corn and carrots would be great.  He’s got a real sense of flavor and texture that could give him a lot of potential as a chef.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  With his texture sensitivities and how particular he is with everything it shouldn’t be surprising.  He’s so careful about everything that he’d have to know what he likes with conviction.

Some day he’s going to grow up to be a really awesome chef.  Whether he does it as a living or just carries it into adulthood as a useful life-skill, he’s definitely got a gift.  While Corde can cook, for her it’s functional and artistic.  For Beekee it’s something different.  It’s like he understands the magic of the kitchen, the taste, the texture, the aroma.  That boy has certainly got a gift!

Though I doubt it’s their path, I can’t help but think about what would happen if they took their skills and started a business together, a restaurant of some kind.  Between the two of them they’d have fantastic tasting food with incredible presentation!  No, I’m not attached to anything they could become.  They could grow up to be an environmental scientist and an astronaut, a corrections officer and a street artist, a fashion designer and a journalist.  It doesn’t matter what they choose to do in life, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about what they could some day become if they pursue each interest to the fullest.  What can I say?  I’m a dreamer!  And my children definitely give me some incredible inspiration for dreaming!


The Death of the Frog

I know it’s been a while since I wrote anything.  We’ve been going through a lot here.  My blood sugar levels are so unstable right now that it’s all I can do to get through the day half the time.  Having our food stamps cut definitely didn’t help our situation any.  It’s getting pretty rough on us.  The kids are hungry.  I’m unable to maintain my blood sugar and iron levels.  The only person who isn’t effected by the lack of food is Oz, and that’s only because he’s taken to not eating at all.  He doesn’t eat much when he’s depressed.  It’s going to be rough on us for a little while.

Then there’s everything else going on.  It’s been hard enough on all of us with the food, bills, and all of that.  Now we’ve got a whole new issue with Corde that we just can’t ignore.  She’s back to stealing food at night, eating the juice mix straight from the container, and those sorts of things.  I wouldn’t care so much, but that’s why my blood sugar has tanked, because she’s eating everything I have stashed away in case of emergencies or that I snack on to keep everything level.  The whole stealing thing, I’ve already told her in most cases I don’t mind sharing stuff that’s specifically for me, if she asks.  Unfortunately, now we can’t have soda, cookies, or any kind of sweets unless we want her to sneak it in the middle of the night when she’s supposedly sleeping.  She claims it’s because she’s hungry, but it’s nothing that ever fills her up.  In the case of the juice mix, I’ve had that stuff before.  It tastes pretty nasty.  I can’t imagine why she’d ever want to eat it.

These patterns start every time her dad pops up in her life.  Every phone call, every promise, it all triggers a back-slide.  Maybe if he’d kept his promise about taking her and her brother for the summer it would be different, but as always, it turned out to be a lie and I was responsible for bearing the bad news.  He didn’t want to tell her himself.  Hell, I had a hard enough time getting him to tell me anything.  It was about a week before he was supposedly coming out to pick them up when I begged him for details so I could arrange transportation that he finally said he couldn’t make the trip.  I was about ready to tell him that I couldn’t allow the kids to visit anyway because I couldn’t arrange transportation to and from the airport last minute like that.

Normally the back-slide is over in a month.  The first couple of weeks are horrible, but by the end of the month she’s mostly back to usual.  It’s been a month since the start of school marked her father’s inability to keep to his word, so she should be getting back to normal.  She should at least be on the way to getting back to her normal self.  This time nothing has changed.  We’ve already gotten to the point where we can’t keep soda in the house (a 24 pack of cans only lasts about 2 days and it’s too expensive and too unhealthy for that).  If I want something quick to grab to even out my blood sugar it’s getting to the point where I have to hide it.  I just don’t feel comfortable sneaking away to snack on something so I don’t pass out because if she sees that I have it, she’ll tear the house apart the moment I’m not there to watch her to find it.  Oz is really no help on this.  As much as I love him, he’s glued to his video games so he doesn’t notice when the kids are scrounging around our room looking for whatever they may be looking for.  It’s extra frustrating because a month ago she never would have done any of this.  She’s been improving slowly since January.

Feeling the need to find the root of the problem, I started talking to her.  I know she’s never going to tell me what the real problem is, even if she knows.  Oz thinks it’s because she wants him to leave so her father can come back.  Personally, I think it has to do with the way she’s treated by the other neighborhood kids.  It’s not just the start of school that triggered this change, but that’s when she met the other neighborhood kids.

Slowly I’ve had a lot of information leaked to me about the other kids in the neighborhood and I really don’t like what I’m hearing.  Corde is constantly complaining that Maddy is telling her mom that Corde and Beekee do everything wrong so she doesn’t have to get in trouble.  Maddy tries to blame Corde and Beekee so her sister will be mad at her too.  I’ve even seen Maddy lie straight to my face before.  There was one day she put some frogs in an old soda 24 pack box.  I told the girls not to do it because Maddy originally had them in a Ziploc bag, and though it was open, she was holding it tightly and the frogs were crying.  Corde went to bring the box in, realized something was in the box, and dumped it.  When I asked who put the frogs in the box, Maddy and her sister both swore it wasn’t them, but Corde didn’t answer.  She was too busy trying to find the frogs to see if they were alright.  She was horrified at the thought that she could have dumped them out and hurt them.  That’s how I know it wasn’t her.  She wouldn’t have been so upset if she’d known the frogs were in there all along.  I knew it was Maddy because her sister had been hounding me every five seconds to play with the boys who were too busy watching shows on survival and disasters to play.  Maddy was the only option that seemed reasonable.  Maddy has lied to me about having permission from her mom about things, like asking if Corde could sleep over because her mom said it was okay and then saying, “Let’s go ask my mom!”  She’s not exactly the most honest sort.

It really started to get bad when she began causing problems between Corde and me.  I told Corde and Beekee they could play out in the yard.  Normally I let them go where they want as long as they ask me, but it was getting dark.  I told them they had to be in by dark and not to leave the yard because it was so late.  The sun went down and I waited.  Then I waited some more.  Finally, about fifteen to twenty minutes after it had been good and dark I packed up the baby in the baby hawk, dressed up Sander, and went looking for them.  I was furious.  Not only had they stayed out past when I’d asked them to be in, but they took off without even telling me where they were going.  It turned out that Maddy convinced them that they should go over to the new neighbor’s house and it would be okay since they were right next door.  It was pretty much the yard.  Then she dragged Corde over there by the arm.  I don’t doubt that because I’ve seen Maddy pull Corde around, and Corde is too afraid of losing a friend to stand up to her.

Maddy really is a controlling bully.  Corde’s not allowed to play with any of the other neighborhood kids if Maddy isn’t around.  Corde doesn’t care and does it anyway, but Maddy throws a fit every time she does.  “Maybe your friends will get jealous if you play with other kids.”  Corde, instead of standing up for herself as one might expect from Miss Attitude herself, she just backs down and lets Maddy boss her around.  Maddy is the only friend that’s out to play with every day so Corde is terrified of losing her.  That and Maddy kind of controls who plays with who of the kids their age and younger, so if she ticks off Maddy, Maddy might not let anyone else play with Corde.  For all those people who say that kids who aren’t in school will never learn how to deal with bullies, this is evidence of how wrong that statement really is.

That’s when Maddy crossed the line with me and I’m still not sure how to handle it.  Maddy decided it would be fun to try and kill one of the frogs she caught.  It was bad enough she wanted to torture them by bouncing them around in boxes, stick them in ziploc bags and hold them until they scream for mercy, and try to climb trees with them because “they can hop from branch to branch.  It’s safe.”  Corde was very upset about that last one because she knows frogs, or more accurately, toads, don’t belong in trees.  If they were equipped to climb trees they’d do it themselves.  Now Maddy decided to take their lives in her own hands.

It apparently all started with Maddy trying to stab a frog with a supposedly play syringe.  In this neighborhood I wouldn’t put it past her to have found an actual needle and Corde just didn’t know better.  I wish she’d told me about it at the time so I could know for sure.  Maddy was trying to stab the frog and draw it’s blood, but she couldn’t get through the skin.  Corde thought this was weird, and thought that maybe they shouldn’t be doing it, but was too afraid to say anything.  If she did, Maddy may never play with her again.

Unfortunately, that’s not where it ended.  Maddy’s next brilliant idea was to have one of the kids try and run the frog over with their bike.  Corde said the frog didn’t die right away.  They just kept running it over again and again.  They even tried to get a car to run it over.  Corde thought it was better that the frog didn’t die right away because it had a chance to escape until I explained that what they were doing was torture.  It would have been better if they’d just killed the frog quickly because it wouldn’t have had to suffer so long.  Again and again Corde has told me “I just keep seeing the dead body.  Why would they want to kill a frog?  That’s so wrong.”

I’ve tried talking to Maddy’s mother about it, but I just don’t think I can ever really get through to her.  She always takes everything negative I have to say about her daughter so harshly.  It’s like I can almost physically see her closing up and cutting off.  I doubt she ever said anything to Maddy about killing the frog, well, toad.  We have toads here, not frogs.  Still, I doubt her mother brought it up.  Maddy’s probably forgotten about it until the next time she does it and doesn’t even feel bad.  I’m really not sure I want Corde hanging out with a bunch of children who feel it’s okay to kill and torture animals senselessly.

Worse still, now I have to deal with Corde being upset because the image of that dead toad’s body keeps haunting her.  She’s angry and frustrated at Maddy blaming her for everything.  She’s really upset that Maddy keeps deliberately trying to get her in trouble.  She’s especially angry because I’ll find things, like the kids having drawn on the railing of my porch, toads stuffed in a box, or even the craft supplies all torn up and tossed around.  Maddy and Mackenzie are both always so quick to blame Corde.  In arguments where one of the neighborhood kids is upset over something Maddy and Mackenzie did, both of them are always swearing it was the other kids’ fault, and they didn’t do anything, it was Corde and Beekee.  I’m getting fed up with Corde coming in every day from playing to complain about how incredibly horrible Maddy was to her and all the things Maddy shouldn’t be doing.

It’s getting to the point where I really don’t want Corde hanging out with her anymore, but I know I’ve got to let her make her own choices.  At the same time, I’m starting to think the way Maddy is treating her has a lot to do with the way Corde’s acting out.  I’ve talked to her about it time and time again, but she doesn’t seem to have a solution.

At this point I can’t wait until we can afford to get a car so I can get Corde involved with some better kids.  She might start making better choices with her friends, or feel like she’s got other options than just befriending the neighborhood bully.  She’s got to learn something from her time with Maddy, so it would totally defeat the purpose to make her stop playing with Maddy all together.  At the same time, I know she’ll make a better choice when she’s finally got a few more options.


The Mama Fail Day…

It’s time for a moment of honesty here.  I’ve been really tired lately.  I’ve been drained.  The change in seasons has caused my arthritis to flare up, something I should be used to by now, given I’ve had arthritis since I was only fifteen.  I’ve been having horrible cramps.  My stomach has been upset.  I’ve been tired all the time.  I’ve been cranky.  My head starts splitting at the smallest of things.  This is what happens when I go off my diet, a diet I really can’t afford to keep.  Why?  Well, our food stamp budget has been cut so we’re now receiving significantly less than $1 per person per meal.  Given Luca is put on my food budget, if we divided it up, I’d get a double allotment, allowing me a whopping total of $1.50 per meal!  It is completely impossible to eat three meals a day that are free of dairy, soy, gluten, MSG, tomatoes, and honey.  That’s not even counting my preference for non-GMO and organic.

That being said, I haven’t been feeling well and I’ve been highly irritable.  On top of that I’m worried about the cat who is not being herself lately.  The last thing I need are kids running in and out the door, bouncing off the walls (literally), jumping on the furniture (also quite literal), climbing the closets (yeah, that too), and hounding me for attention every five seconds.  I’m very close to my breaking point right now.  As a result, I gave Corde and Beekee very specific instructions.  They could go outside to play, but they have to stay on our lot or the two empty lots in front of our trailer.  They can play with their friends, but their friends are not allowed inside the house for any reason unless it’s a life-threatening emergency.  Normally I don’t mind her friends wanting to chat with me a little bit or wanting to see or hold Luca, but today I was not in the mood.  I didn’t feel well and everyone was just going to have to respect that.

Of course, that’s not at all what happened.  Maddy kept coming up with excuses to come inside and bother me.  She wanted to ask how the baby was doing, then tried to start a big long conversation about how cute the baby was because he was naked on the floor and pleased as could be.  After that it was to show me some giant piece of tree branch Beekee had found.  Then she came to the door because they made me a little flower bouquet, though there was only one closed up flower and a bunch of leaves.  It was pretty, but I was definitely not in the mood to be harassed over it.  She later had to tell me that her sister was outside and they didn’t want to play with her and how much she wished they could play in Corde’s room.  Then she had to poke her head in to tell me she wanted Corde to come over and they both begged me.  Then she told me that she wanted me to go over and hang out with her mom because she’s not allowed to have friends in the house unless their mom comes over and they were bored outside.  I know for a fact that was a lie.  Next it was to tell me they were bored and they wanted to come in.  After that it was another bouquet, this time accompanied by a cheer that I had to tell them to quit and go back outside because Luca had just fallen asleep and would startle at their every jump and cry.  After that Aubree came over and they all wanted to go to her house, and I HAD to let Corde go because they’ve formed some club and they all have to stay together, or none of them can be together.  Every time Corde was in tow, going right along with it, though she claimed later that she tried to stop them.  I had to inform her that “tried to stop them” comes in the form of telling them I wasn’t in a good mood and shouldn’t be bothered instead of getting all excited and trying to convince or harass them right along side them.  I was very disappointed because I didn’t want to be bothered today and she was just as bad as everyone else today, knowing exactly how I was feeling.

In the house wasn’t much better.  The baby was thankfully not cranky, but he peed on me a couple of times.  That didn’t help my mood terribly much.  He’s been unhappy if I put him in diapers, so we’ve been trying out this EC thing.  Of course, with the kids busting in every ten seconds to demand my attention for this and that it doesn’t work so well.  Three times today I got peed on because I couldn’t pay attention to his cues because they wouldn’t leave me alone.

Then there was Sander, who was literally jumping all over the furniture, climbing the closet, and screaming at the top of his lungs every time he didn’t get his way.  He’s been really sensitive lately over just about everything because the other kids come in the house and get him all kinds of riled up.  Every time they come flying in and out of the house he gets worked up and starts screaming like someone’s trying to kill him because he’s not old enough to go with them and Corde’s not responsible enough to look after him.  I can’t trust her or her friends to keep after him.  Though the temperature has cooled down significantly, I haven’t been feeling well and don’t really feel up to sitting outside to watch him.  Especially with a baby that I can’t follow the signals of and refuses to be in a diaper.  It would also only open me up to even more harassment by the neighborhood kids, something I really don’t want to deal with on a day like today.  It’s meant I have no peace even when the older kids do stay outside and don’t harass me every five minutes.  I just don’t get a break.

Once everyone comes in for the night the kids are hyper and won’t wind down.  I end up with yelling and screaming.  Today they brought it to a whole new level with physical violence towards each other, which meant Beekee and Sander both got hurt because Corde shoved one and hit the other.  Realizing that Corde is much too rough for both of them, the two start roughhousing with each other, which always ends with one of them getting hurt, but they’re all riled up and can’t calm down, so they do it anyway.  Poor little Luca spends all his time jumping in reaction to all the screaming.  He fusses endlessly because he can’t relax and calm down.  It breaks down to me yelling to be heard over all the noise, which is hitting the point of being unacceptable and violating the noise ordinance after 10pm because trailer walls are so thin.  We could easily get a complaint on us and the cops at our house because the kids are yelling, screaming, and fighting.  Tonight it got so out of control that I had to quit all my attempts to EC with the baby and I blew out my voice by 9pm, just one short hour after the kids came in.

Once upon a time the kids could respect “I don’t feel well today.  Can you guys try and keep it a chill day?”  They didn’t bother me with a thousand questions.  I could tell them their friends couldn’t come in the house, I didn’t even want their friends on the porch, and they’d respect that.  They knew that I only asked for them to keep from bugging me and to have a chill day if I really needed it.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have a problem with their friends coming to the door a dozen times and being ambushed with a million questions, comments, and things they really wanted to show me.  They would come in the house an hour or two before we requested quiet time and they’d play.  They’d get a little rowdy, but it was never out of control.  It never got to the point where I seriously had to fear that, if they didn’t stop, walls would have massive holes, shelves would fall over, furniture would topple, and I’d end up with a hospital trip because all of the insanity meant at least one person got hurt in the process.  Quiet time would come and they’d go to their rooms and play quietly, read a book, either together or apart.  Fighting was kept to a minimum at all times.  They respected the rules of the house and didn’t treat it like a jungle gym.  I rarely had to yell just to be heard.  It was a lot more peaceful.

I don’t know what happened, but I don’t like this change.  I deserve to have my wishes respected just as much as they do.  I don’t like the chaos and the violence.  I don’t like seeing my baby upset because of all the insanity going on.  I don’t like seeing Sander so wound up that he can’t settle down to take a nap, all because there’s just too much going on.  I really miss my peaceful, quiet house at night, and I definitely miss everyone having respect for everyone else.

Today feels like a total failure.  I know everyone needs some quiet time.  Everyone needs a break.  It’s not a bad thing to need some quiet time, or to have a day where I’m not ambushed with a million questions by inquisitive kids.  Normally I don’t feel bad about that.  My kids generally get that I need a day off and as much as I support their interests, I really just don’t feel up to being in their lives the way I am every other day.  I ended up getting so frustrated that I made up an excuse to walk to the store just to get away from it all.  I definitely wasn’t feeling up to the walk and very shortly after starting on my trip my muscles ached and I felt like I just wanted to curl up somewhere and wait for a ride home, not that it was an option.  I pushed on anyway because I knew I needed the break.  My muscles would recover, especially since they were just sore from being more active than usual and not exactly feeling my peak self.  It was better to get away for a while.  It improved my mood for a while and I did come back refreshed, even if it didn’t last terribly long.  Still, my children’s educational interests have kind of gone out the window since they’ve been spending so much time with the neighborhood kids.  It’s like going through the deschooling process all over again.  It would be different if I felt like the kids were still actively pursuing their interests and doing something educational with their time, but the lack of that made me feel like today was a complete and total failure on my fault, especially since everything got so far out of control.  It didn’t even feel like I had my own kids anymore.  It was like their minds had been taken over by some alien creatures that just pretended to be my kids.

Of course, deep down I know everything will be okay.  Tomorrow the kids will not go out and play with their friends.  I told them I needed a day to recover, which was supposed to be today, but because I didn’t get that, I’m taking steps to ensure I get what I need tomorrow.  If Corde and Beekee can’t keep their friends from coming repeatedly to hound me, they simply won’t play with them.  They can go outside and play before everyone gets out of school.  I feel like a horrible and mean mama for doing it, but we’ve had kids at the house to play every single day and Corde had an overnight on Saturday.  One day off isn’t going to hurt them.

In hindsight, I kind of have to wonder if this mama fail day actually brought up a very important point.  In all my interest in other families and their homeschool and unschool experiences I’ve noticed the same thing.  They don’t spend every day out and about.  For every day or two they have doing something stimulating they have a day of down-time.  Too much stimulation can cause a whole family to burn out, especially kids.  My kids are learning some really valuable lessons about getting along with other kids, but their lessons are wearing them out, which is probably the reason for all the fighting and bad attitudes.  Maybe we all just need a day of down time.  There’s a good chance all the bad attitudes, fighting, and wild, uncharacteristic behavior could all be coming from a lack of down time, just going and going every day without stop.  They don’t get any kind of peace and quiet.  They’ve lost all opportunity to truly relax.  Instead of being the kids I know, they’re now hyperactive, disrespectful, and are even becoming quite rude.  It’s entirely possible that they aren’t pursuing their own interests because they don’t have time between their social struggles with the other kids in the neighborhood and trying to find some down time at home.

Truly looking at it, when Corde’s friends aren’t here she spends a good deal of time just sitting on the couch, either sulking over apparently nothing, staring off into space, or watching other people play video games.  Beekee, who has always been my sensitive child and is prone to being majorly hyperactive and incapable of paying attention or listening to even the simplest things when he’s overwhelmed, has been spinning the office chair non-stop and jumping and tumbling on the couch to the point of driving Sander and Corde batty.  He refuses to go anywhere or be anywhere without Corde, another classic sign that he’s had enough and needs a break. Then there’s Sander, my chill, funny child who seems to be giving a full-blown demonstration of what “the terrible twos” really are, since I seemed to have missed out on it with my other kids.  I know he’s been really put off lately by watching his brother and sister take off and leave him behind all the time.  He used to be okay with it and have a good time hanging out with his baby brother, but I don’t think he can handle having kids fly in and out the door all day long.  It’s meant he’s been unable to take his regular naps and he seems really stressed about that.  Luca is obviously responding to it all because he’s been getting more fussy and clingy by the day.  He always wants to be with me or Oz, which is odd because he used to love to lay on the floor and while his siblings doted on him.  I can’t blame him for being a little overwhelmed by how incredibly wild they’ve all been.  He’s even gotten close to being run over a couple of times because the kids haven’t been paying any attention to where he’s been in their craziness.  Even the poor cat has been stressed out and hiding.

Even if my kids haven’t learned anything from it, I think my day of feeling like a failure has really taught me something.  We really need down time around here.  My kids can’t abandon all of their educational interests and life goals because they’re too busy unwinding from hanging out with their friends.  I think we’re all hitting some serious burn-out here.  Even Oz is starting to feel it because he’s getting overwhelmed with it all.  He’s had his doubts about unschooling and having trust in our kids to meet their own needs and now he’s starting to see evidence of exactly what he feared would happen.  At least he’s recognized that it’s not that unschooling and allowing our kids their freedom doesn’t work, but he doesn’t approve of all the time they’re spending out with the neighborhood kids.  He thinks the kids are a bad influence and we shouldn’t allow our kids to hang out with them anymore, but I think that’s a bit extreme.  Aubree is really kind and respectful.  The three girls are a much better balance for each other when they’re all together.  I don’t even really have a problem with Maddy and her sister hanging around, as much as they sometimes drive me nuts.  I think they’re just much more used to constant social interaction and having almost no down time thanks to school.  My kids aren’t used to that at all.  They’re used to having a lot of time in their quiet, peaceful home to pursue their own interests.  Most people really aren’t wired to be around other people all the time.  Even Oz and I don’t want to have friends over every day and neither of us do well living with room mates because it’s too much pressure to really be “on” all the time when the room mates are at home.  We need our privacy, our alone time.  We’d love to live as a part of a community, a more tribal situation where everyone was as good as family, but that comes with the ability to close our door and to choose not to be a part of the social scene if we’re just not in the mood that day, which is important.

Yeah, this was a long post, and in a way it’s about my own unschooling process (lesson learned the hard way in this case).  If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading through while I’ve tried to sort it all out.  It’s been a long, frustrating day.  I’m burnt out.  I’m really looking forward to shutting myself in the house tomorrow, maybe working on my sorely neglected cross-stitch, and watching Corde and maybe Beekee play some video games while we all chill.  I have a feeling tomorrow will be a much better day.