Trailer Park Unschoolers

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


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Something to Think About: Banned Books

Corde and I just started reading the Junie B. Jones books.  She and I are reading them independently and talking about them afterwards.  In reading the reviews on GoodReads I found out that some parents are strongly against these books.  I did a little more reading and found that these are on the top 100 banned/challenged books of 2000-2009.

I guess I can almost get where these parents are coming from.  Junie B. is a nightmare of a child with a significantly bad attitude.  She’s got horrible grammar and mispronounces a lot of things.  She’s not exactly a role model for kids but books aren’t always about setting a good example.  Books shouldn’t have to be of a purely educational nature.  Sometimes some good, humorous fun is what we’re really looking for.  Why should kids be any different?

I’ll use myself as an example.  I like reading books like Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter.  I often call this “candy reading”.  It’s like a sweet desert and equally as addictive.  I spend most of the sections laughing so hard I can barely manage to read them aloud to my boyfriend, even if I’ve already read through it a couple of times.  If you were to take that book as serious and educational you’d think author was completely insane.  Her life would be filled with nothing but yarn that she dotes on nightly, sweaters with mismatched arms, yarn bursting out of every seam of her house, and insanity based obsessions with double pointed needles (or DPNs).  However, the book isn’t meant to be taken that way at all.  It’s funny and every reader who reads the book can identify with at least some of the stories, or if you’re like me, most of them.

At the same time, knitters everywhere aren’t running screaming in terror from squirrels, stuffing yarn into every available nook and cranny in their home, and taking on disastrously large projects that they’re doomed not to finish because they read it in a book.  They’re not prone to talking about their insane fetish with the stuff because that’s how the author talks.  They don’t write catty tongue-in-cheek letters to the designer whenever they have a project that they just can’t figure out.  They don’t start acting like this character the author creates, “The Yarn Harlot” who isn’t likely anywhere near as insane as her books portray her.  We understand that she’s hamming it up for the sake of comedy.

The Junie B. Books have come under fire for the exact same reason.  The only difference is these are fictional stories, not non-fictional stories that are well exaggerated.  However children are expected to be unable to understand the difference between what they should do and what it’s okay for this fictional character to do.  Actually, no, it should be what they should do and what this character does do.  Junie B. gets in trouble for a lot of what she does, spends half her time in the principal’s office, and is always getting eye rolls, made fun of, and knocked down a few pegs.  She’s not exactly rewarded for the way she acts.

All of this got me thinking.  What are we saying about our kids if we credit them as being completely unable to understand the concept of humor?  Are we saying our kids are so unintelligent that they read one book and their whole behavior is changed for life?  It’s kind of scary how little credit some people give children.

The controversy over Junie B. Jones is simple.  Parents don’t feel their children should be exposed to bad grammar and Junie B.’s horrible behavior.  The books are written from Junie B.’s perspective, complete with her lack of understanding of why the adults around her do certain things.  This lends a certain humor to the books.  Junie B.’s rude behavior and horrible grammar generally have my kids cracking up.  More importantly, it’s actually getting Corde to read, which is a feat in itself, let me tell you!  Junie B. faces challenges that most kids understand.  I’ve only read the first six books and so far she’s covered fear of taking the school bus, difficult feelings of a new baby in the house, constantly misunderstanding adults, curiosity getting her into trouble, feeling bad because of other kids, competition, feeling left out, and dealing with kids you don’t like.  Junie B. handles all these situations horribly and often has to rely on the adults in her life to help her come up with positive solutions.  She spends a lot of time in trouble for the bad things she does too, so it’s not like she’s sending a message about getting away with bad things.

Thinking about it some more I realized that everyone knows at least one Junie B.  I’ve had the luck of knowing two.  Our first Junie B. was a little girl named Brigid.  She was the neighbor’s five-year-old daughter from across the street.  She’d come over and play with Beekee and Corde.  Her attitude and the way she’d talk was just like Junie B.  If I didn’t know better I could easily say that Brigid was what Junie B. was written after!  Next we met Maddy.  Maddy talks a lot like I can imagine Junie B. would if she was nine, bad attitude and everything.  That makes it a little more comical too.

Looking at the list of the top 100 banned books in both the decade I was last in school for and the one following I’ve noticed that almost every single book I read in high school is on one of those two lists, if not both.  Some of those books really made a difference in my life.  Others didn’t make much of a difference at all.  We were granted with the intelligence to understand the books and to take something way from it.  They weren’t just written off as being “inappropriate”.

I have to admit, some of the books I read in high school might not have been considered great books for teens, but they were balanced out by fantastic teachers that really did their job in helping us understand the novels.  One of my personal favorites was Fallen Angels, a book about soldiers in Vietnam. It was dark and a bit on the violent and gory side, but it really helped the kids in our class develop a strong understanding of the horrors of war. Go Ask Alice shocked a lot of kids into understanding the reality of drug use and addiction. It was a little dated as her drugs of choice aren’t as common today, but it’s the journey. While I hated The Catcher in the Rye, many of the kids in school adored it. Fahrenheit 451 is on my list of favorite books of all time and has made Ray Bradbury into one of my all-time favorite authors. I never really liked Lord of the Flies it was a fantastic social commentary and I loved it for that.  This is just a tiny fraction of the books that are challenged or banned each year.

Not all of the books under attack are classics. As I said, Junie B. Jones is on that list. Harry Potter, a widely popular series is number one on the list for last decade. It’s likely because the occult influence may lead children astray. I guess we don’t grant our children the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. The Hunger Games Trilogy is number two on the list for last year. It’s right up there with the other social commentaries, probably thought no better than Lord of the Flies. Shockingly, The Twilight Saga didn’t make the list. So what they’re telling us is it’s okay for a teen to get impregnated by a vampire and be caught in a love triangle between that vampire and a werewolf, but a hard-hitting social commentary is not okay. Doesn’t this bother anyone else?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t censor our children with reading to some degree.  I’m not exactly going to hand Corde a copy of Go Ask Alice any time soon, not that I think it would interest her anyway.  At the same time it would be wrong of me to tell her she couldn’t read it, especially since I have a copy in the house.  As parents, it’s our job to be aware of what our children have access too and know what they’re ready to handle.  It’s one of the many reasons I try to read the books my kids are reading, even if we don’t read them together.  I might not read the whole series, perhaps just a book or two depending on the time I have available to commit, but it’s my job to know what they’re into.

More importantly, if I saw Corde picking up Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Go Ask Alice, or Fallen Angels, it’s not my job to tell her she can’t read it, but I should be there for her to help her process what she’s reading.  Okay, maybe I’d strongly advise her against reading Go Ask Alice and I’d have no problems telling her it’s because of the problems the girl had with drugs, body image issues, and everything else.  However, if she still wanted to read it, I wouldn’t stop her, but I’d be right there beside her, page by page, so I could answer any questions and help her understand what she’s looking.  Hey, Go Ask Alice is a huge part of the reason I never got into drugs.  I can’t credit good parenting or a relationship with my parents, but I can credit not wanting to end up like her.

As parents it’s our job to be actively involved in our children’s lives.  Our children should feel comfortable coming to us with questions.  Our children shouldn’t have to feel the need to hide or steal some book that all their friends are reading because they know they’re not “supposed to” be reading it.

I remember in the whole abortion debate I read someone (no idea who at this point) stated that if you’re pro-life you don’t need to make abortion illegal.  If you raise your children well there could be an abortion clinic on every corner and your child will never make use of it.  It’s true.  Either they’ll prevent an unwanted pregnancy by any means or they’ll take responsibility for their situation and make use of one of the other options available to them.  If we raise our children well they will take the messages and the education from these books without being tempted to engage in any kind of violent or racist acts as a result.  We can trust them to learn valuable lessons about censorship and freedom of speech, the horrors of war, genocide and utopian societies, and some of the more painful aspects of human nature.  Through reading our children can become thinkers.

More importantly, our country was founded on freedom of speech, and that should apply to all kinds of communication.  To truly support free speech you need to tolerate everyone’s opinion, no matter how nasty or disturbing it is.  In other words, you’ve got to let the Neo-Nazi speak.  You have to let the white supremisists speak.  You need to allow the Satanists to speak.  You need to let the communists speak.  Whatever you’re against, you’ve got to let the people who stand for those things share their opinions.  You don’t have to like it.  You can speak out in opposition to all of it.  You can teach the world a better way, but you can’t silence their voices.  Shouldn’t the same be said for authors?  Shouldn’t we teach our children to make intelligent decisions for themselves in what they read?  Can’t we trust them to recognize when something is offensive?  Can’t we trust them to make the right decisions and not just copy everything they read in a book because it’s okay?

I’m not saying that censorship in children’s libraries and school libraries is completely wrong.  Books should be kept to an age-appropriate level for the children who will be attending that library.  I wouldn’t put an Anne Rice novel in an elementary school library.  Then again, elementary school kids probably wouldn’t have any interest in reading an Anne Rice novel anyway.  It’s not really censorship at that point, but intelligent planning.  After all, if you censor books from being allowed in schools a student that’s determined will find a way anyway, especially if it’s a result of “adult content” and a teen.

If you’ve read through all of this, congrats for still being with me.  You all know I’m pretty long-winded.  If you’d like to know more, check out the American Library Association’s information on Banned and Challenged Books.  While you’re at it, check out a few of the titles on that list that you haven’t read already.  If you think your kids will be old enough to handle them, maybe try them out.  If your kids are younger, I definitely suggest the Junie B. Jones books, but you’ve got to read them in a theatrical way.  Read like a fast talker.  Give it some attitude.  Yell as loud as you can for things in caps.  Totally make the character come to life.  You’ll be glad you did, and probably have your kids rolling on the floor with how comical the whole story is.

And if you want to help support me and my family in thanks for providing you with thought provoking posts, interesting articles, and a snapshot perspective of what it’s like to walk in our shoes, any of the book title links above will take you to Amazon where I have an associates account.  If you’re not familiar with this, any purchases made within 24 hours of clicking one of those links will be credited to my account.  I don’t make much off of each sale, but every little bit counts.  All proceeds from my Amazon Associates account are being put towards making it possible for Oz to be a part of his other son’s life.  We still don’t know what it’s going to take to make that possible, but visitations out of state at the very least can be quite expensive.  Every little bit is one step closer towards uniting him with his son.

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Project Awesome, by Team Awesome

Today I decided we’ve been stuck in too much negative.  It’s been too much of a struggle to get everything done.  The house seems a disaster half the time.  We’re having a hard time keeping on top of everything.  We really just need something to motivate us.  When times are hard we can’t just let everything all apart.  If we do it all goes cascading out from under us.

Instead of fighting with the kids to get the house clean, I decided to try something new.  We’re calling ourselves “Team Awesome”.  We have a mission, to make everyone around us feel totally awesome.  Our first target?  Oz.  He hasn’t been feeling very awesome lately.  Everything with his son has gotten him down, especially since it seems like his ex-wife just wants him to pay the child support check and stay out of their son’s life.  It’s hard because I understand being a parent means sometimes putting yourself out there.  It sometimes means letting your kids get hurt because they need to know the truth, no matter how bad it is.  My kids have to struggle with their father being in and out of their lives, but it’s not my job to prevent Corde and Beekee from knowing their dad.  My job is being there to support them when he does the same thing all over again.  Oz’s ex-wife doesn’t seem to understand that, by sheltering their child from the truth, it’s only going to hurt him that much more when he finds out.  When he’s older and finds out that his dad has tried to be a part of his life and she refused, how will he look at her?  He’s probably not going to be grateful and thank her for preventing him from suffering.  He’s probably going to be angry with her, possibly to the point of damaging their relationship in a way she might never know how to repair.  I don’t want to see that happen, but all I can do is support Oz in trying to work things out and hope that some day she realizes that holding her son back from knowing his biological father isn’t doing anyone any favors.

The kids don’t really know what’s going on with all of that.  They have a little bit of an idea because we don’t exactly hide it from them, but they don’t ask questions so we don’t volunteer information.  If they want to know, they’ll ask.  Instead we’re focusing on the important part.  Oz is feeling really down lately and he needs a little bit of positive in his life.  He needs a little bit of awesome.

Today Team Awesome has an incredibly important project, so big we’ve called it “Project Awesome”.  Our goal is to get the house clean again and organized.  I’ve been slacking on the cleaning department because I’ve been feeling down and the weather change has had my arthritis acting up.  That’s been helping Oz stay down.  However, we all know how good he feels to come home to a clean house.

I’d planned all of this ahead of time.  I knew what I was going to be doing later today, so I made a deliberate effort to sound completely drained and worn out.  I told him I didn’t think I’d be able to get much done today, as I’ve been feeling the past couple of days.  It’s true.  I don’t feel great today.  I have a sore throat from the heat being on.  My joints hurt.  The truth is, I don’t care!  I’d rather work through it.  Of course, he didn’t have to know that.

Sander, Blinket (red), Minket (brown) and Cuppy

The kids and I have been spending the day getting the house to look pretty darn good.  We even went so far as to put in a new scent in our Scentsy warmer.  (Click the link and any purchases will go towards yours truly!  Yup, I’m a consultant, and supporting my business is a great way to help us out!)  Then we started cleaning, doing laundry, and everything we can.  Sander even handed over Blinket and Minket to be washed without a fuss!  You have no idea how impossible that is.  He never wants to give those guys up!

We’re really trying to turn over a new leaf here.  Instead of fighting about getting things done, Team Awesome has become our greatest asset.  Team Awesome is about everyone realizing that we’ve all got to work together to make everyone around us feel awesome.  It’s good to know you’re awesome, loved, and important.  The kids will get a chance to help other people feel awesome, who will turn around to make sure they feel awesome too, at least I know Oz will in appreciation.

I think this is the best idea we’ve ever had.  Now I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.  Team Awesome needs to get back to their important work of being awesome!


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We See It So Differently

Today it really struck me out of the blue how differently my children and I see the world.  I was thinking about everything with our experiences with the church.  It’s amazing how free my children are from negative thoughts.  Try as I might, I can’t help but be tied down with negative feelings.  I wish I had the freedom they do to be so positive, optimistic, and light.

Going to church for my children is friends and community above all else.  They don’t care about religion.  They listen and learn, but it’s not what they’re there for.  They think church is all about making friends and finding people that make them happy.

My perspective isn’t nearly as positive.  When we go to church on Wednesdays my mind is on the food.  Dinner at church means one less meal we have to cook.  That means one more meal we can stretch our food stamp budget over.  If you break our food stamp budget down to $1 per person per meal, that’s $6 every week that we save, which totals to a whopping $24-30 per month depending on how many Wednesdays fall in that month.  It might not look like much to you, but that affords us a little bit of wiggle room.  Sundays come with donuts in the morning, which leads me wondering if that could change our budget to allow that money to be saved twice a week.  Yes, the community is nice.  The uplifting messages, music, and all of that is nice too.  I love those aspects, but I can honestly say it would be easier not to find an excuse to skip, such as the baby not feeling well or just being too tired to walk if it wasn’t for the food.  I know it might seem like doing it for the wrong reasons, but the truth is that temptation of food is enough to light a fire under my butt and make sure I actually make it out the door, no excuses.

My children see our neighbors going to church as part of the routine.  They’re the ones that invited us, so they probably go because they’re religious people.  Either that or maybe they really just want to learn about religion too.  My children’s innocence prevents them for looking for ulterior motives.

When I see my neighbors at church I get the overwhelming feeling that they’re there for the wrong reasons.  They haven’t lived here that long, but the first thing they did was seek out a local church, they didn’t seem to care which.  Most of their furniture came from another church.  She was bragging about knowing how to get hooked up with all the free resources, food banks, churches, everything.  The first week we went to church with them she had to talk to the pastor about money.  She can’t have been going there for more than a month and she was already begging the church to help her pay for her rent.  They go for the free food and then don’t seem to be involved in the actual church experience at all.  They sit in the back.  When everyone is asked to stand, they don’t.  I understand why she doesn’t.  She’s supposed to be on bed rest.  However, her significant other has no excuses.  He could stand.  Instead he’s usually sitting by her side or hiding out in the nursery.  I have to admit, I don’t stand, but most of that’s because Luca’s on my lap and it’s easier not to have him in my arms after having him strapped to my body.  It’s more than just standing or sitting.  They don’t say any of the responses.  They don’t sing the songs.  They don’t even seem to enjoy the music.  While I can admit that I’m usually in the back as well and I don’t open my mouth for any of the responses, I sing the songs I know.  I rock with Luca to the beat or dance with him in my lap as best I can.  When there’s someone talking I hang onto every word like it’s made of gold, not because I idolize these people, but because most of what they say is so uplifting and I need that right now.  It’s hard for me to look over at my neighbors and not think poorly of them because it seems like the only thing they’re getting out of church is free food and money.  The church has already given them gas money several times and is trying to help in any way possible.

My children aren’t embarrassed to be themselves, not ever.  They can go into church and have no problems inserting the correct responses.  They dance to the music.  They’re completely free.

In contrast I’m very closed off.  I hide away in the back.  I refuse to speak if I can at all avoid it.  I’ll dance with Luca in my lap or rock with him, even sing, but I’m completely self-conscious about it when my neighbors are sitting next to me.  I don’t want to move and sit away from her because she’s the only person I know.  I don’t want to make her uncomfortable because I don’t want to sit near her anymore, all because I feel awkward being more involved than she is.  This leads to even more bitter feelings like she’s using the church and I don’t want to be associated with her.  I don’t want people thinking I’m trying to use the church just like she is because I’m not there for the free meal or for help paying my bills that I can’t afford.  I’m actually proud of how little assistance we need even though we’re cutting it pretty close on everything.  Our neighbors are splurging and that’s why they can’t afford to pay their bills and need help from the church, but we’ve been on a very strict and tight budget.  We’re not allowed to buy anything new, no matter how much we want it, not until we’re caught up on bills.  Getting fed by the church, as I’ve said, isn’t the reason we’re there.  It’s what lights a fire under our tails to get us moving.  It’s added incentive.  I’d still go otherwise, but I doubt I’d bother if it was just going to be me and all four kids on a day Oz is working.  This just makes sure I’m more motivated not to have excuses, which is good because I really need it.  I’m finding hope there.  I don’t want to be associated with people who can so easily be perceived as just trying to use the church.

It’s striking how my children don’t see the neighbors as anything more than a part of the experience, yet I see the neighbors as holding me back.  I see them as a negative influence I don’t want to be associated with.  I can’t help it.  I’ve grown pretty jaded.  I’ve seen all too many people act as they have, going to church just for whatever they can get from the church, but otherwise they wouldn’t bother.

I really shouldn’t hold any negative feelings for the neighbors.  They got us to go to church in the first place.  They were the reason we even gave it a chance, not that they really invited us.  Oz kind of invited himself along and volunteered all of us to go with him.  I should just let go of these negative thoughts and take it for the positive underneath.  I need to stop letting all of this negativity hold me back.

This is just one of the many joys of the unschooling experience.  Not only do our kids learn from life, but we learn from our kids.  I’m learning that a positive, uplifting experience that I kind of need right now because times are dark should be just that.  I’m too jaded and hold on to too much negativity.  I need to open myself up with the eyes my children have on everything.  I need to stop looking through this gray and foggy lens.  Life is so much brighter that way.

I can honestly say if it wasn’t for unschooling I don’t think I would have thought to let go.  I would have been holding on to the baggage of the negative feelings I had for my neighbor for quite some time.  It’s too easy to say that the kids just don’t get it because they’re too young, but the truth is I’m the one that hasn’t been getting it.  It has nothing to do with the kids being too young.  It has everything to do with me being too closed off.

Maybe through our unschooling experiences I can learn to view the world through their eyes, where everything is magical and beautiful.  Maybe I can shake the jaded exterior, built from a need to function in the world, a need to protect myself.  If they can do it, why can’t I?  Sure, we see the world very differently, and it’s time for that to change.


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An Evening of Church and Good Influences on the Kids

We decided to go to church again tonight.  Going once when I was incredibly tired really wasn’t a good way to judge what was going on, and even if I decided it wasn’t for me, I’d still get dinner out of it, and I’d know for sure.  I’ve been trying to tell myself that I can’t really give something a chance unless I try it three times.  Why three times?  It’s just always seemed to work out for me in the past.  If I try it three times and don’t like it, no matter how many more times I try it, I never really develop a taste for it.  After three times, even if I don’t like something the first time, that’s enough time for it to grow on me.

Tonight’s dinner was really good, even though Sander really didn’t eat it.  He chose to sit in the exact same chair he did last time, right next to the pastor.  Luca was strapped on my back in a more traditional ring sling.  I’ve found the Baby Hawke is just too much pressure on my back and I end up with an aching back.  I have a feeling that will be better when I can wear him on my back.  For now the sling worked great.  I had him tucked up in front, laying down solidly asleep on the way there.  I tried him on my hip, but couldn’t eat with him there, so I stuck him on my back, which he loved.  Then he rode on my back all the way home.  My back is still aching, but it’s better than it was last time.  I think I might just need to build up some more strength in my back.  I’ve never had that strong of a back.

Shortly after getting there Corde had to point out all the kids she’d met the last time she was there.  None of them were her age, but she still really liked them.  After dinner she went to talk to her friends.  I came over to hear one of them telling her, “Obedience is always better than disobedience.  Obedience is a mark of respect to your parents.  When you listen to them, you show them you think they’re important, which means they want to do more with you and spend more time with you.”  While I don’t want my children to be obedient little automatons, I’d rather them listen to what I have to say, or question it, not just blatantly disregard it.  If they think I’m wrong, they’re free to discuss it with me, but ignoring me only ticks me off.  I have to say, I’m really glad for this girl being a part of Corde’s life. She’s really someone I think is a good influence.

While I’m not all for pushing religion on my kids, this church is turning out to be a great place to meet people, good people, accepting people.  I got compliments on my tattoo.  Oz got comments about how I’ve got to have a back of steel to be carrying around my baby on my back, and good for me for doing it!  The man who speaks every Wednesday is filled with nothing but messages of hope, acceptance, and love.  He talks about walking away from the gossips, the users and abusers, and the thing that bring you down.  You don’t need to drink or do drugs to be happy.  And you certainly don’t need the people who treat you bad and want to bring you down a peg.  I think I’m going to have Corde write a list of questions for him because he’s very unbiased, believes in love, not laws, and is one of the few people I’ve met that’s clearly non-denominational in the truest sense of the word.  He doesn’t believe what you label yourself matters, just that you don’t get tied down by all the things you should and shouldn’t do, because if you approach life with love, acceptance, (and Jesus, of course) then you’ll always know the right thing to do.

I can’t say as I’m turning into a devout Christian or anything, but I think I’ve found a place that I can truly feel like I belong, where I’m accepted for being me.  Maybe I won’t spill on everything.  I think some things are still a little taboo (this is a church and all), but I’m finding that I’m okay with being there, and I find what I need more than anything, hope.  My whole family is already making some wonderful connections and we’re finding the strength to carry on because other people are there to help us believe in ourselves, even Corde who is so easily down on herself.  It feels like we’ve finally started to find a second home.


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Finally, a Little Freedom

Okay, so this might not be freedom for all of us, but I’m one step closer to not going positively insane.  I’ll soon have the ability to go out places, even if it is just to the grocery store.  We’ll have transportation for Oz to go to work.  Best of all, it’s entirely free once you get past the repairs.

I’ve been looking on Freecycle for things we might be able to use.  Yesterday I finally got something that will be of more help than anything else we’ve seen.  Sure, there’s tons of other stuff we can use, but we won’t be able to get most of it.  This was close enough to be good for us, and incredibly useful.  I’ve finally got my own bike.

This bike isn’t the greatest.  The seat needs replacing.  The gears are rusted.  The rear breaks need a good cleaning to function right.  The chain is rusted to the point of being worthless.  The tires are both flat and probably need new rubber and tubes.  However, that bike brings the promise of freedom.  I can do all the repairs for a minimum investment, much less than a car.  I can put a rack and some saddlebags on the back to increase carrying capacity.  I might even be able to talk the guy into the neighborhood into making me a cart to attach on the back of it so I can have extra space and do all my grocery shopping by bike.  It certainly would beat walking all the time.

Coming on the tail of the mass-eviction of half the families in the trailer park, I’ve got to say this makes me feel better.  Sure, we can’t spend a lot of money on getting it fixed up, but we also don’t have to worry about asking for rides.

This comes with an added benefit.  We can also teach the kids about caring for and maintaining a bike.  This is kind of important for us because we don’t want the kids to get bikes and learn after that point.  We can’t afford for them to see what happens by not taking care of your bike as a result of neglecting it.  It’s better to get a neglected bike in the first place so they can see what happens and fix it up.

All our problems won’t be solved by this.  We’ve still got a lot of challenges ahead of us, especially with all the people leaving.  It’s especially going to be hard on the kids.  At the same time, I think it will be better in a lot of ways.  Maddy came over today and pretty much announced that they’ll be gone soon.  We’re not sure what’s going to happen to our neighbors.  All in all it’ll be nice to have a little peace and quiet for a while.

This is a good time for something positive too.  Oz has finally tracked down his ex-wife.  He’s finally found a picture of his son, and now he’s even more determined to be a part of his son’s life.  However, his ex-wife doesn’t want to allow him the chance.  Her boyfriend has been “raising him” for a year.  Oz’s son calls this guy Daddy, and while Oz doesn’t have a problem with that, he does think that his son deserves to know the truth.  Most states feel that a mother cannot deny a father access to his son, but she somehow seems to think she has the right.  He’s been trying to do this the friendly way, but I have a feeling we’re going to have to appeal to the state to get Oz his visitation rights.  He’s not even talking about having his son a lot, but at least being able to send him Christmas and birthday presents, give him a chance to know who his biological father is.  He’d also like to see him for Christmas and maybe even his birthday now and again.  Honestly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but his ex-wife (who has gone out of her way to prevent Oz from being able to contact her in the past) doesn’t seem to think he has the right.  I have a feeling this is going to get messy.

The whole thing with Oz’s ex-wife is really tearing him up right now.  Every time he has contact with her it destroys him.  In the past I credited it to the fact that it was still too new and bitter, but time has passed.  He’s paying child support, which is taking away money that our family could really use to support ourselves right now.  It’s hard on him.

Having a bike might not make a huge difference in his mood, but it gives him a sense of freedom coming soon too.  He can go further to get a better job without having to rely on a ride.  Grocery shopping becomes easier.  It’s really something we need right now.  It might not be much, but something’s better than nothing.


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The First to Leave

Of all the families we expected to leave, we never expected this one to be going.  Corde made friends with two incredibly sweet sisters that are only around on weekends, since that’s when they visit with their dad.  They came to the door yesterday and said they had to say good-bye.  Their dad had the whole house packed up and the U-Haul was there in the driveway.  They’d try and visit when they could, but they wanted their friends to know they wouldn’t be around much.  They were going to live with their uncle.

Corde was really upset about this.  Of all the kids in the neighborhood, those were the girls she liked the most.  They were always friendly, kind, and very polite.  They were respectful to everyone around them.  Corde always felt comfortable around them, like she could be herself.  They never had a problem when Beekee or Sander wanted to tag along in their play.  They didn’t even make fun of Beekee because he’s taken to almost exclusively wearing girl clothes.  They were the most accepting people she knew.

It’s going to be hard for her.  Just Saturday we saw another family packing up in a U-Haul down the end of the street.  We didn’t know them and I don’t think they had kids Corde knows, but it’s a shocking reminder of how fast things change in a trailer park, at least in this one.  The rules are pretty strict statewide.  All it takes is being three days late on rent and management can evict you.  The first day you’re late they stick a three-day notice on your door informing you that you need to vacate.  If you don’t, they haul you to court and you’ve got all of a week, maybe two before the judge orders you out.  This isn’t at all like it is back home where eviction could take months to process.

We’re seeing the first families go running from this month’s round of notices.  It looks like there are a number that are trying to get out before the evictions hit.  Management is usually pretty good about it.  They give you a six-day grace period after rent is due, that way for families like ours, where child support doesn’t hit until the third of the month, we can get our rent in with no late fees.  Then they’ll offer another extension if you’re late on rent but were able to make a partial payment.  Six days after that, which is about mid-month they go through and give everyone a reminder of their balance, exactly what we received about our water bill.  It seems like everyone has been getting that little note on their door at the beginning of each month after rent is considered late.  Apparently a lot of families have gotten notification that they’re behind mid-month too.

I don’t know why it is, but it seems everyone’s got it hard right now.  We’re able to make it work, but a lot of families aren’t.  I’m going to go light on my judgment here because, well, I really don’t want to be knocking anyone and I have no idea who reads this, but I can’t say it’s all because of bad luck.  I know a couple families who are tight on money, but have a bad habit of splurging when they get money in, even though it’ll put them behind on bills.  We occasionally do that too, but we’re learning to live lean.  I know a couple of families who aren’t able to pay their rent after big-ticket purchases.  This is why we don’t have a car.  Sure, we could find the money to buy one, or at least put a down-payment on one, but we’d probably fall shy on rent and bills that month, and between having a car and having a home, I’d rather the roof over my head.  I can walk to the grocery store if necessary, but homelessness is something I never want to do again, even though we were in a shelter and not out on the street.  Doing it once is incentive enough to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Maybe other families don’t feel the same.

Beekee just kind of rolls with all of this.  These families don’t pay their bills, they get kicked out, and in his mind it’s probably their own fault.  He sees how hard we always try to make sure everything is covered and seems to think it’s a no-brainer.  When families can’t afford their bills for outside reasons they generally are pretty open and honest about it.  Someone lost a job or something happened that made it impossible for them to keep up.  He thinks “someone” should help those people, but he’s got no sympathy for the people who have no reason for it.  His answer is, “Well, they should have paid their bills!  That’s so stupid.”

It’s not as easy on Corde.  She doesn’t view her friends as “replaceable” the way Beekee does.  To Beekee one friend is just as good as another.  He doesn’t make close bonds and more often than not prefers to play by himself, or as he’s taken to doing with the other kids, kind of playing together.  He’ll have his toys in his spot, his friend will have the same, and only occasionally do their two games cross paths, and only when it’s mutually agreeable to do so.  My favorite of his games is when he plays things like pirates, assassins, or super heroes.  He and his friend both play on their own, except when they come together for epic battles and great adventures.  Once that’s over they go their separate ways until they need the other’s help again, or until war breaks out between the two of them.

Corde wants to have more regular friends.  She probably wouldn’t care so much if these kids leave if she knew they’d be replaced with a new supply of friends, preferably better than the last.  She really enjoys having other kids around to play with, but not just any friends. She wants to be able to put together a club or a game that they can go back to day after day.  She wants to share her interests with her friends and have her friends share their interests with her.  We could really benefit with being able to get Corde to a homeschool or unschool group, since those would be kids with at least one more thing in common.  At least they wouldn’t be a bunch of boy-crazy girls obsessed with makeup and looking grown up as her current friends do.  She much prefers the boys next door because they don’t care about all of that.  She even takes offence when the other kids call the older one her boyfriend because she knows they’re just really good friends.  The younger one is actually closer to being her best friend these days because they get along so well.  Funny how the younger one is like her best friend and the older one is Beekee’s best friend.  It’s just further proof that peer group and age have nothing to do with friendship, which is good.  If it were all about peer group and age, Oz and I would never have gotten together!  He’s six years younger than me!

But I understand where Corde’s coming from.  She wants to have good friends that she can rely on.  So many people have come and gone in her life that it’s hard to have anything to hold on to.  I had to remind her not to count her friends as gone before they leave.  Nothing is set in stone until they’ve got the U-Haul in their driveway and they’re packing up to leave.  We don’t know which of her friends’ families are going to be able to work it out and stay a little longer.  It looks like the next door neighbors are going to be sticking around because it seems like they’ve found a way to work it all out.  I don’t know about Maddy and Mackenzie, but we’ll see.  So far I’ve heard no word of them leaving.

After all of this Corde asked me, “Mom, can we just pack everything up and go live in an RV?  Then I’ll never have to worry about losing friends because I’ll make them wherever I go and we can visit any time we like.  Maybe I can even visit Daddy.”  Hmm…  That ones a tough one.  I’ll admit, I’d love to pack it all up and live on the road like modern-day Gypsies, but it’s not a reality for us.  Other families have the luxury of selling their home to buy an RV but we don’t have the money for that kind of investment.  There’s also no way to be sure living on the road will mean she can visit her dad.  I’m not sure how serious he is about seeing her.

Hopefully this will all work out.  Oz will get a great new job and we’ll be able to get a car.  There’s an unschooling group in the city, and while that’s an hour away, I think it would be worth it for the kids to get to know other kids like them.  There’s a few homeschooling groups in town too and I’d be happy to see them make some friends there too.  It might give them more of a sense of stability than being rooted down to one place ever could, especially in a place where people come and go so frequently.

For now we’re just going to hold on and see what happens.  The first family has already gone and we’re not sure what will happen when the rest of them start to follow, if any of them do.  All I can do is be there for Corde, remind her that she’ll make new friends and that we’ll do our best to stay in touch with the friends she has now.  Beyond that I can’t do much until I know what’s happening with all of it.  I hate those moments of “wait and see”, but for now that’s all we can do.


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Something to Think About: The “Healthcare” Crisis

The kids and I have been talking a lot about food and health care lately.  It’s kind of been a topic of curiosity since Luca was born.  Corde wanted to know why babies are born in hospitals and it’s just gone on from there.  She wants to know why everyone is supposed to have “check-ups” and what doctors really do to keep you healthy.

The more I thought about it, the more I understood where she was coming from.  The whole system doesn’t make sense.  Healthcare isn’t about keeping you healthy.  It’s about dealing with what happens when you get sick and trying to stop that from happening.  She’s heard me mention “sick care” from a couple Facebook posts and she seemed to think that was much better suited.

Thinking about it myself, it makes sense.  Why do we have this obsession with doctors fixing everything?  This has led to a number of problems that are really quite challenging today.  One of those problems is the lack of proper health care for the poor.  Because the medical industry is such a huge industry and it’s forced to keep marching forward which means everything has to cost more in order to pay for research and development.  The poor just can’t afford those advances, especially when they’re unable to get health insurance.  This means they often go without the care they need.  In other words, a lot of people end up suffering because of the high cost of medical care, yet the medical industry makes a lot of money.

A few years back I used to work for a doctor’s office.  It wasn’t a real doctor by some people’s standards.  He was an eye doctor.  His eye exams were on the expensive side.  He didn’t want to take particular kinds of insurance because the pay outs weren’t good enough.  He also ran a practice that drove me nuts.  You see, there was this machine that took a picture of the retina, meaning a patient didn’t need a dilation.  This is a preferable way to do it, sure, but most insurances didn’t cover it.  It was $40 in addition to the eye exam.  When I had mine done the tech didn’t even alert me to the extra cost.  I didn’t know until afterwards, and by that time it was too late and I had to pay.  When I started working for the office I found out exactly why.  The doctor was having a competition.  Whoever got the most Optomap patients would get a bonus at the end of the month.  He did this because he would make nothing but profit on any Optomap scans beyond the first 20 every month.  In other words, the more scans he did, the more money he made.  It was really nothing but greed veiled in the appearance of caring about his patient’s health.  In truth, I think he did care to some degree.  He’s spend hours going over those images.  I remember him pulling me into the office to show me something incredible he’d found.  He was always wanting to show us the incredible details and I remember him telling me repeatedly that retinas were as unique as finger prints.  He was always looking for any minuscule detail that would indicate something was wrong or needed to be watched.  Then again, that could be that an eye doctor’s patients having eye problems isn’t good for the reputation.  It’s better to have a reputation of giving the best eye care possible.  Still, it just struck me that it all seemed about the bottom line.  Let’s cram as many patients in as possible, make them get expensive procedures so the doctor can make a profit.  He was always complaining about his “problem patients” when it seemed like the problem wasn’t the patients, it was the fact that they didn’t have money.  He was always sugary sweet to those who came in looking like they had money to spend.

This doctor also had a problem doing the free eye exams offered by the company for the poor.  He was supposed to pick one day a week where he’d do the exam, but he’d only offer one exam on that day at the least busy time possible.  This meant we were booked for that program over a year in advance.  We weren’t allowed to call and confirm the appointment, so over half of the appointments never showed up.  Of course, the good doctor was happy about this because he didn’t really want to do the appointment anyway.  He would always complain about “these people”.  Little did he know that when I got the job I was one of “those people”.  I was living in a shelter and had just gotten out on my own when I was transferred to his office.

That year we had a going away party for the store manager.  Everyone was invited to his beautiful home.  It was one of those white stone townhouses you see in Northeastern cities.  There was a rooftop garden where we had our dinner on fine china, not on disposable dishes.  In order to get to this rooftop garden we had to climb up all five stories of his house, seeing a massive television with theater surround sound and his kitchen that looked like something out of home and garden.  This wasn’t a man who needed the money, nor was he a man in a difficult position to give to charity.  A part of me was in awe at the beauty of it all.  A part of me felt incredibly uncomfortable being the kind of person he detested, yet visiting his fancy home.  Most of me was disgusted that a man with so much success was little more than greedy.  He had the money to give back, but he just never cared to.

I might draw the line there if he was the only doctor I’d seen act that way, but he wasn’t.  All the doctors offices that ran through the chain eyeglass retailer were much the same.  They were all pushed to make profit their bottom line and they were truly quite successful.  After having run several of their books it was disturbing to see how much profit they made by the end of every year.  I felt positively ill knowing the way these people treated people like me.

I can’t say as all doctors are the same, but I know I’ve gotten that reaction from more than a few.  I’ve been looked down on quite a bit because we’re on some kind of state health care.  I’ve gotten the treatment of being shoved in and out because it didn’t meet the bottom line and I refused too many services.  It’s amazing how some doctors can turn on you because you say no to vaccines or because you call them out on having outdated medical advice.  Too often I’ve seen them try and play themselves off as being the authority in the situation and taking offense when I don’t let them tell me how to raise my children.

That’s not to say I haven’t had some really great doctors.  Some of them have been fantastic and have treated me like everyone else no matter who I am.  Corde’s dentist was great.  The kids’ new pediatrician is wonderful, or has been thus far.  It’s comforting to know that some medical professionals are really there for you.

However, the health care crisis in America isn’t because everyone doesn’t have health insurance.  It’s because the healthcare industry has become increasingly about the bottom line.  Doctors like the one I worked for are all too common.  How much money can they squeeze out of the patient?  Or they have a quota where they have so many of whatever to do during any given day.  If the doctor I worked for got less than 20 Optomaps for three consecutive months he would have the system taken out of his office.  Nurses have often told me that they’re required to give so many flu shots a day.  This isn’t how the medical industry is supposed to be.  Then there’s all the people who go to the doctor to be prescribed antibiotics over a cold or the flu, something antibiotics aren’t going to do anything for.  This is a huge part of the reason antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming so prevalent.  Our bodies need to produce them so we can keep the natural balance of bacteria in our system to survive.  They pass the genes on to other bacteria, and before long we’ve got a serious problem.

The funny thing is a lot of these health problems wouldn’t be health problems if the government would take steps to prevent them.  For example, obesity is such a problem with families in poverty because of the way they have to eat.  It’s eat an unhealthy diet or be hungry all the time.  Smoking is a huge problem because it’s legal, and because it’s a known way to reduce stress.  Well, when you’re living at the bottom of the barrel, it’s easy to get stressed out and need some relief.  Smoking and drinking become really common.  I mean, how else are these families going to deal with stress and depression?  A lot of allergies and other health problems are suspected to be linked to the consumption of GMOs.

Let’s face it, the answer to the healthcare crisis isn’t the program Obama is suggesting.  The more I read about it, the more I understand it’s the answer for middle class, not the poor.  After all, you can be “too poor” by his plan to be required to have health insurance and from what I’ve seen the government isn’t looking for an option for us.  My kids can all be covered for medical insurance by the government, but if I want insurance, I’m going to have to file for social security disability.  While I’ve been told several times that I’d qualify because of my elbow injury, I don’t want to.  It’s not a matter of pride.  I just don’t want to be one more family accepting the handout of social security when we don’t absolutely need it.  I’ve known far too many people who CAN work and just choose not to because they’ve found some way to get on disability.  I know social security will have run dry by the time I hit the age of retirement, but I don’t want it to have run out before my parents retire.  I also don’t want to be taking away from the disabled people who really do need the social security benefits to get by.  That means I spend a lot of time praying I don’t get sick because I know I can’t afford the bills.  It’s not a good way to live.

So how do I propose we fix it?  Well, maybe we should start by looking to take care of our health.  Doctors should be the place you go when you’re sick and need to be made well.  It’s really sick care.  However, caring for your health means taking steps to make sure your entire body gets what it needs to keep working properly.  That means eating right, exercising, and taking care of the physical and mental needs of the body.

I can’t propose a solution for those who have enough money to make their own choices, but I can propose a solution for the people who use SNAP/food stamp benefits like me.  It’ll be a huge inconvenience and make everyone’s lives harder, but I think it would be worth it to make people think about what they consume.

My suggestion?  Limit what can be purchased with SNAP benefits even more.  Don’t allow junk food, for starters.  If a family wants cookies and candy they should make it themselves.  It might make them stop and consider how much they want it if they consider the work involved, which will help with over-eating.  Disallow soda to be bought on food stamps.  Then there’s the one Oz and I don’t totally see eye-to-eye on, get rid of TV dinners from the menu.  This would encourage families to actually pay attention to what goes into their bodies instead of just shoving something quick and easy in the microwave.  I know this will suck for single moms and families with two working parents, but I know a lot of people who make all their meals for the week on Sunday and stick them in the refrigerator and freezer.  It’s not easy, but can be done.  Sure, all that planning ahead takes a lot of time and energy and can be kind of draining.  I know, I used to cook just about everything from scratch if I could.  It was exhausting.  At the same time, I also had so much more energy to do it because I was eating better.

Then, to make the program actually work, double the amount of money allotted per person per meal.  $40 per person per week would go a lot further.  Plus, according to the USDA a family of my size that has a low budget for food should be spending in the ball park of $230 per week or nearly $1000 per month.  We fall within the lower, “thrifty” category, but thrifty implies being able to make a dollar stretch by shopping sales and using coupons, something that we don’t have much luxury to do, at least with the coupons.  Doubling the budget would allow us to buy a good deal of fresh fruits and vegetables, allowing for a more balanced diet.

Offer classes for families on food stamp budgets too.  Teach them how to cook for their families in a healthy way.  There are plenty of quick and easy recipes out there that are still healthy.  Teaching families how to cook would allow them to improve the health of their own family because they’ll be in the habit of putting good foods on the table.

Health care should be about maintaining healthy practices, not towards putting your money into some doctor’s pocket.  Doctors should be there when you need them, but they shouldn’t be the answer to everything.  Instead we should be looking towards what’s really going to improve our health, the things we put in our bodies.

I’ve seen all too many documentaries lately that prove that what’s now known as S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) is causing problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal diseases, and even some cancers to become epidemic in this country.  While food may not cure everything that ails you, there’s no reason not to let it cure what it can.