Trailer Park Unschoolers

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

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Mr. All Grown Up

After everything yesterday, we’ve decided to go hardcore on getting rid of stuff.  We’re going to have this house as good as possible.  While going through it all, I pointed out that Corde hadn’t brushed her hair this morning, which isn’t usually a problem.  I get on her about ten times about doing it a day and after that she finally gets it done.  I finally told her that, since CPS is involved, she really needs to make sure it gets done without problems, or I’m taking her to get her hair hacked short, short enough that she’ll be able to get away without brushing it.  Sadly, Corde is cursed with the hair I had growing up.  Sure, now I can get out of bed without brushing it and it’s okay, but I never could get away with that as a kid.  I just don’t want to have to worry about getting on her ten times before she’ll finally do it.  I’m just done with fighting with her over it.  She had ten minutes to find her brush and get it done or I was taking her to get her hair hacked off.  Amazingly, she found where she had obviously hid her brush and got it done.  I hate that I had to bust it down to a choice like that, but something had to be done.  Her hair was a horrible mess when the caseworker showed up.  I can’t have that happen again.  Unfortunately, CPS means your image is under extreme scrutiny.  That means I can’t negotiate on baths, hair brushing, clean clothes, any of that anymore.  We’ve got to stop letting the kids get away with making their own decisions quite as much.  I mean, generally the kids aren’t dirty.  They usually don’t have messy hair, well, aside from the fact that Corde and Sander’s hair both gets so easily messy though the day. That means I’m going to have to be really careful about staying on top of it.

Then something shocking happened.  “Mom!” squeaked a little voice, “I want a hair cut!”  I eyed Sander suspiciously and asked him if he was sure, did he know what that meant.  He had to prove he knew exactly what that meant.  He grabbed my scissors and repeated, “Hair cut!”  He held out his hair so I could cut it.  I told him once the hair comes off, we can’t put it back on.  He’ll just have to wait for it to grow.  Then we did a test run.  I snipped a little bit of his hair so he’d know it wouldn’t hurt at all.  I know getting your hair cut can sometimes be a little scary for kids.  He was very excited and wanted me to cut it all.  Unfortunately for him, I don’t do haircuts.  I’m not even going to talk about my last very necessary attempts with Corde’s hair.  It was time to go get some help.

Oz called down to the hair salon to get a price and find out how long they would be open.  We had a half an hour to get down there, so we were soon on our way.  We got shoes and coats on, grabbed the diaper bag with my wallet, and were on our way.  Sander was so excited he didn’t even want to wait for me to get my coat on.  Then he insisted on running almost the entire way there!  He was so excited to get his hair cut, which he promptly forgot when we had to wait.  He got completely sidetracked with playing with the small stock of toys.

When it was his turn he hopped up on the chair, a toy in each hand.  He sat patiently while she cut his hair.  He didn’t say a word the whole time, just sat quietly and played with the two toys in his lap.  We asked him several questions, but he wasn’t in a talking mood.  It was all business.  He was there to get his hair cut, so he was waiting patiently until the job was done.  I was so proud of him, though I did worry a little bit about what he thought of the process.  I’m starting to learn that he’s just a “down to business” kind of guy.  He was there for a purpose, not to talk.

After all was said and done he admitted quietly that he liked his new hair cut, then was ready to be out the door.  The hairdresser offered him a lollipop, and he ended up with milk duds and five lollipops, which she thought was funny.  He was so excited he hurried out the door with a “thank you” and “bye!” as he went out, not even turning around to see who he was talking to.  The whole way home he had to talk about all the things he was going to do when he got home now that he had a big-boy haircut.  He was very excited.  The way home took easily three times as long as the trip there, thanks to all the talking and the lack of running.

I know, I know, what does he look like?  Well, here’s a picture for you, probably the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  You’d think with his new hair and all the excitement he’d want to show it off, but he’s been increasingly difficult to get pictures of lately.  This was the best we were able to get.

Mr. All Grown Up

Mr. All Grown Up



Frustrating Day

So, as much as I don’t want to advertise this, for the sake of being honest, I’m going to.  We had CPS show up at our house today.  Why?  Of all the reasons, someone complained that we had trash on our floor and the baby could eat it.  The CPS caseworker seemed almost annoyed at having been here.  She rushed through the entire visit.  It was almost like it was just a complete inconvenience for her just as much as it was for me.   I can’t blame her.  I wouldn’t want to be called in about a little bit of trash being on the floor where a normal, likely, sane person would just clean it up.  I’d want to be more worried about the abuse cases, the drug dealers, and all of that.  It seems like a stupid reason to be called in.

So we sat down and had our chat.  She was looking for evidence of anything that would make her visit worth it.  Sander had decided to poop on the floor in Corde’s room.  He’s been doing so well!  He’d been using the toilet without assistance for a week, but today, of all days, he had to default to the floor.  She took pictures of the kids while I cleaned up the floor.  She said everything looked fine, I just needed to clean up the toy chaos in my living room, which only existed because I’m trying to reorganize the toys so we can downsize some more.  In other words, had she shown up Monday when I was done, we wouldn’t have even had a problem!

What gets me about all of this is someone could have easily said something to me about it if they saw a problem.  Instead, CPS is involved. This whole thing is not only a waste of their time and resources, but completely ridiculous.  It’s not exactly like I let my child crawl around the floor unattended while I eat trash all day.  I actually pay attention to my children.  Sure, sometimes food ends up on the floor because I let the kids have chips or a candy wrapper ends up on the floor instead of in the trash.  It happens.  When I notice it, I pick it up.  When it needs to be vacuumed up, I wait until morning.  Since Sander often goes to sleep after Corde and Beekee, it’s not uncommon for him to drop chips or something on the floor while he’s watching Oz play video games.  He likes to carry around peppermints in his pockets and I don’t always see the wrappers on the ground right away when he finally decides to eat one.  These are simple little things.  I also tend to feed the baby sitting in my lap, and since he only eats things he can self-feed, sometimes that means there’s a mess at my feet that I need to clean up.  These things happen.  I’ll admit freely that maybe I should get it cleaned up immediately, but I try not to stress about it.  My energy is focused on time with my children, not jumping on every little piece of dropped food as soon as I see it.  Spilled juice and drinks?  Sure.  When Sander has an accident or Luca strips off his diaper than pees?  Definitely.  But little scraps of food?  Most of the time Luca is chilling out with me, so he’s not even on the floor to get into things even if he wanted to.  It just doesn’t make sense.  How hard would it be to say, “Hey, I notice you’ve sometimes got some stuff out on the floor at night.  Aren’t you concerned the baby will eat it?  It makes me worry.”  That would be much more polite than calling CPS and it would have gotten the situation handled just as effectively.

On top of that, I don’t want to see my tax dollars wasted like that.  I know a lot of people say “Poor people don’t even pay taxes so they have no right to complain.”  In some states that might be true.  You can file as “exempt” or you can get all that money back in your tax return.  However, in Texas there is no state tax.  It’s all done through sales tax.  In other words, unless I’m buying food, I’m being taxed on it.  My school supplies?  Taxed.  My cleaning products?  Well, only some of those are taxed because some are food products.  Clothing for my kids?  I forgot to check, but I’m pretty sure the thrift store does taxes there.  Even Amazon charges state sales tax.  So how am I not being taxed?  And given Child Protective Services is paid for by the state, wouldn’t it go to say that my tax dollars are going to pay for CPS to operate.  Normally I don’t have much of a problem with this.  There needs to be some program out there to protect children that are in real danger.  I will admit, I’ve known a lot of families that have gotten help from CPS.  When Sander was little they gave us a Pack’n’Play for him to sleep in.  That was really useful and he used it for quite some time.  The social worker at the hospital when Luca was born went out of her way to get us a car seat, even though we already had one, but ours didn’t come out of the car.  It was one of those convertible ones, not one of the ones with the little basket you take out, like the travel systems.  She thought this would be easier and it wouldn’t be questionable whether the hospital would let us leave.  These programs can be very helpful, but I’d hate to think that while they’re wasting time on checking my house for trash that’s supposedly on the floor they’re wasting resources that could be used to, say, deal with the teenage girl down the street whose parents are meth heads.  Why are they wasting their time on me when they could be worrying about some domestic violence situation.

The funny thing is it’s all a matter of who calls.  There are some people out there who will place a call on anyone.  Then there are some people who won’t call even when they know for a fact very intolerable things are happening.  I knew of a boy who was locked in his room to the point where he piled up things in the corner to pee on because his mom wouldn’t let him out to use the bathroom.  I didn’t report his mother because I didn’t know how and I wasn’t able to research it without her knowing.  Then there was another mom who used to strap her child to a chair with a belt at meal times and wouldn’t let her up until she’d eaten every last bit of her food.  If she peed herself, well, she should have eaten her food!  I wish I could have reported that, but I didn’t have any evidence until months after I no longer knew how to track her down, and I wasn’t even a first-hand witness.  I saw a little girl living in a house that was so severely cluttered that she had no room to play or do school work and so infested with all nature of bugs that she always looked like she got in a fight with a swarm of insects and lost.  These are the kinds of families that need CPS called on them, but often times they never do because no one cares to report them.  My family, however?  My family has had more than our share of calls, two of which we were practically flat-out told were vindictive, and one from the social worker at the hospital where I was flat-out told it’s because we were “alternative looking people” and the woman probably made assumptions about us based on our looks.  Last year they showed up on my birthday because a woman we knew said if Oz ever left me she’d call CPS on me after I called her out on stealing from the kids and I when we moved.  She stole my chocolate truffles, my ice cream, Corde’s ice cream, and the rest of the kids’ Halloween candy.  Oz took off for two weeks to help a friend whose wife just left him with his four kids, so this woman called to report that we had a bug infestation (that was true and the management of our building was supposed to be taking care of), that the kids were apparently being starved, and that I never kept food in the house.  Ironically, the day she called happened to be the day she was babysitting the kids while I went to the grocery store with her room mate.  I was furious.  On top of that, the caseworker came to the door and said, “I can already tell this is going to be an open and shut case, so I’m (name) from CPS.  Let’s take a look at what’s going on here, but I can already tell we’re probably going to be looking at closing this case as soon as possible because just looking at your kids, they look healthy and well fed.”  I mean, really?  Not only did that ruin my birthday and bring Oz home from helping out his friend to handle everything, but it also annoyed me that the guy pretty much told me he thought it was bogus from the start.  The same thing happened today.

But, oh, how I love my kids!  They did make the stress of it all better.  Corde, always the curios one, had to ask who this person at the door was.  We’ve had people here from Freecycle and other things, so she’s always curious on who comes for what reason.  The woman introduced herself and said she was from Child Protective Services.  I heard Corde say later (though hopefully she was quiet enough that the woman couldn’t hear her), “CPS again?  Why won’t they realize that we’re just normal people?  Don’t they have better things to do with their time than to bother us?”

Later I told the kids what the complaint was about.  Before I could get the words out of my mouth, the kids were already guessing.  They were too loud.  No, it was the bugs (they seem to be a problem in all these trailers).  Wait, no, it had to be the dishes.  Someone complained because no one was feeling well so the dishes didn’t get done.  Not the dishes, the fact that there were art supplies and school books all scattered under the tables in the dining room.  My favorite was Sander’s reason, “Because Baby Bear did it and broke it all!”  I have no idea what he was talking about, but it was funny.  Finally I told them about the trash.  Beekee got angry about it.  He said he ALWAYS cleans up his trash and his plates.  The only things he leaves out are the toys, of course.  How could they not know that?  Corde said that it was a stupid reason to come here because someone could have come in and said, “Um, excuse me?  Your house is messy.  You need to clean it or I’m going to have to call CPS so they can make you clean it because I don’t like it.”  Then Corde made an even more wise observation.  “If they see one of Sander’s candy wrappers on the floor, why don’t THEY be proactive and clean it up?  Or they can tell Sander to clean it up.  You have four kids!  You can’t be expected to pay attention to every tiniest detail.  You always get to it and clean it up so why does it matter if it’s right away or before you go to bed?  Do they really think we’re going to all choke and die on a piece of trash while you’re watching us?  Some people are so stupid…”  I love Corde.  She really threw some logic down on the whole situation.  As she’s been saying for months, “If people helped each other out then no one would have to be more stressed all the time.  People just need to take care of each other more.  It doesn’t seem like such a hard thing to me.”

Hmm…you know, she’s right.  If the people who claim to be our friends would just stop for one minute to see how stressed Oz and I are in trying to take care of bills, education, and the needs of four kids they might be more interested in stopping to help us out.  I mean, since I’ve gotten to Texas I’ve had three different friends who come over and clean my house while visiting with me.  One was in exchange for taking care of her kids while she was in school.  One was simply because she enjoyed cleaning and helped me get off my butt and enjoy it too.  The third saw how sick I was all the time while pregnant with Luca, so she’d come over and help me out while I listened to her and tried to talk her through some of her challenging situations.  I had another friend come over and help me out with sorting through my kids toys to figure out what had to go to charity because I was completely overwhelmed.  Their toys took up a whole closet as well as their bedroom and half the living room.  She could tell I didn’t know where to begin, so she helped me find a place to start and get motivated.  As she said, “It’s going to be hard and you’ll probably hate me now, but at the end of it you’ll feel so much better.  Just trust me on this one.”  She was right.  In return I’ve listened to friends, given free dance classes to people who couldn’t afford it, but really needed the added body confidence, did some free landscaping work, and most of it was a “pay it forward” kind of situation.  Someone did good for me, so I went on to do good for someone else.  Even when I really can’t afford to or I’m worn incredibly thin I still find time to do for others whenever I can because I hope that in doing so, when I really need it, someone will be there for me, though that’s sadly not the case as often as I might like.  At the same time, I know I’ve never got more than I can handle and when push comes to shove and it really matters, I always find a way to make things work with the help of friends, family, etc.

I guess what I’m saying is if I saw a friend that I felt their house just needed to be kept after a bit better, maybe handle the clutter, instead of reporting them to CPS and wasting the time of a state resource, I’d just go help them get everything in order. Instead of calling CPS on us, someone could have done the same.  It’s amazing what happens when you actually reach out and help someone rather than just taking the way out that doesn’t involve any interpersonal connection.  It’s easier to cause problems in my life than to take the short while to offer any kind of help or advice.  It’s easier to get Corde and Beekee’s dad to blow up at me over this stupid thing and threaten to take custody of them because they don’t have to deal with it.  I just don’t understand.  All I know is CPS is going to get really sick of being called out to see us only to turn the case over each and every time.

So, that was my bad day.  Hopefully all of your days have gone better.  In the mean time, I’m going to finish the task I started yesterday.  The toys need to be sorted out so they can be put on Freecycle or donated to charity.  After that it’s the books and clothes.  I’m going to try and let this CPS thing go.  I know she was just doing her job and I feel really bad because she seemed really annoyed at having to come out and breezed through everything.  She wasn’t thorough in the least.  She didn’t even do half the things I’ve come to know as pretty standard operating procedure.  I’ve come to recognize the less they do and the less they really pay any attention, the less they think there’s an actual legitimate problem.  I have a feeling I’m going to have yet another case overturned.  Until then, I’m just going back to life as usual.

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Pickle Juice and Cleaning Magic

Today was filled with learning opportunities, even for me.  It all began really late last night when Corde came into our bedroom complaining that she was throwing up and said she had a sore throat.  This was unusual because Corde never gets up in the middle of the night to wake us up.  She went right back to sleep, so I didn’t think much of it, at least not at 4am.

When I finally dragged myself out of bed, that’s when I got the real story.  Poor Corde was not only throwing up, but she also had horrible diarrhea.  We had no idea what was going on with her.  No one else was sick.  Our only thought was that she somehow got into something that she shouldn’t have.  It was horrible, like pulling teeth to get it out of her.  She swore that she didn’t get into anything and she had no idea why she was sick.  Oz had gone with that story until I asked her what happened and she told me a completely different story than she’d told Oz when I questioned what was on the floor next to the couch.  Of course, Oz hadn’t noticed this because he tends to tune out spills and things like that.  He tends to view it all as “stains on the rug” until I finally step in and point out what wasn’t there the last time.  That’s when Oz and I both saw it, the jar from the pickles sitting on the couch, stuffed down and wrapped in a blanket.  We were pretty sure we knew what the culprit of Corde’s nasty illness was.

After finally getting on Corde’s case about what really happened so we could figure out what we could do to get her feeling better, she admitted that she drank half the jar of pickle juice.  I have no idea what keeps possessing her to do all these things at night, but I think she’s finally starting to learn that she should stick to the things she knows are safe.  Oz and Beekee will both take a drink of pickle juice, but they don’t drink nearly that much.  We talked to her about the effects of all that vinegar on her system, which really isn’t too bad, but she definitely felt it.  I gave her a reminder of the list of things she can have when she gets up in the middle of the night (anything that doesn’t require being cooked on the hotplate, the microwave is fine) and isn’t specifically reserved for something in particular.  Hopefully this experience will get through to her.  I just had no idea what else to do for her.

However, this led to a huge problem.  There was vomit on the rug that had been there who knows how long and it needed to be dealt with.  Of course, this all comes down to me.  With no fancy carpet cleaners or anything like that, I resorted to my old go-to, and grabbed the baking soda and vinegar, having no idea how this would effect our poor carpet.  This carpet was supposedly new when we moved in here, not that you could tell now.  Then again, they did a horrible job, leaving carpet tacks and things sticking out which hurt when you step on them.  Complaints about the trailer aside, you can tell the carpets were cheap to begin with so I wasn’t too worried about what would happen if I somehow damaged them in the process.

So I went to it.  I sprinkled down some baking soda and let it sit for a minute.  Baking sodas does wonders for smells, and I have no idea if letting it sit helps deal with the smell any better than if I just cleaned it up right away, so I figured I’d just roll with it.  I mixed some vinegar and water so it wouldn’t be so harshly strong, called the boys in, then I poured it carefully onto the spot on the rug.  A spray bottle would have been better, but we didn’t have one so I improvised.

The boys were amazed!  I turned the “powder dust” into “soda” to clean the floor!  They were even more amazed when the “soda” not only cleaned up the mess I intended to clean up, but it cleaned up a stain from the last time the boys spilled juice on the floor too.  I was kind of shocked.  Thankfully Corde’s little mess wasn’t all that bad since it had already been “cleaned up” by someone earlier, I’m guessing Oz, but he didn’t do a good enough job to satisfy my standards.

After that we made “cleaning soda” for a couple of other stains on the floor and that surprisingly did the trick.  The boys got all excited every time the whole thing fizzed up and bubbled.  Corde, who wasn’t the least bit impressed after having already done that at her homeschool chemistry class, poked her head in a couple of times to see what was going on too.  She had no idea you could use that to clean.  They were studying chemical reactions, not green cleaning.

I guess that’s just one way to turn a negative experience (like drinking too much pickle juice) into a positive one.  The kids enjoyed it and they learned a great new way to clean.  Since it’s such an inexpensive and practical way to clean (and something we can do on food stamps as Corde pointed out) it’s much better than many of the alternatives we’ve had in the past.  It’s a really affordable, easy, green cleaner.  I don’t even have to worry about it being safe for the kids.  It’s so safe I’d (mostly) trust them to use it on their own.  Of course, letting them use it on their own is a relative thing…  I can foresee a giant sudsy mess if I don’t limit how much they’re able to use!

So, even with the rough start we were able to turn it around and make it into something positive.  I’m glad it wasn’t just a horrible day of Corde feeling miserable.  The boys were thoroughly distracted by this cool new way to clean, so they didn’t bother her even once.  Corde was able to rest, nap, and feel a lot better because of it.  She liked that because it’s one of the few times the boys don’t drive her nuts by trying to “help” when she’s not feeling well.  All in all, it turned out pretty well considering the bad start!


Against My Philosophy, But I’m Done with the Arguing!

Throughout this parenting journey I’ve tried to be the model parent. I’ve done my best with no yelling and no spanking, but I’ve got to admit, there have been times when I’ve slipped up. I took solace in the fact that everyone makes mistakes and tried to set a good example by righting the wrong as soon as possible. I’ve never known a parent to go completely cold turkey on their old parenting style under as much stress as we’ve been under lately. Oz working all these closing shifts and being out with his aunt or running errands all the time, I barely see him for an hour a day while he’s awake. The rest of the time he’s napping, sleeping, at his aunt’s, working, or running errands. Days he doesn’t work I see him a bit more often, but it’s stressful. Plus we found out that Oz has to wait a month to get his interview at the job he wanted because the first time they failed to tell him he needed proof of education and now he’s got to wait for his aunt to retake her GED test. On top of that my phone is off because we can’t afford to buy a new card for it until Friday, so that means going a whole week without being able to have contact with the outside world beyond the internet…again. I’ve given up both my last two opportunities for social interaction in the past week. The first being the story hour because Oz let me oversleep, even though I specifically asked him to wake me up in time. The other was a knitting group. Oz failed to ask his aunt if she could watch the older kids so I wouldn’t have to walk them all down to the library or leave early due to Oz’s conflicting work schedules. I was feeling like things are looking up, but now I’m feeling more trapped and suffocated than ever. It’s been stressful.

Adding to the stress, the job front is frustrating. I’m at my breaking point. I need a phone. Bills need to be paid. I want to move out of this trailer into a place that’s more…well…tolerable. I’m tired of having the wall in Corde’s bedroom turn into a river whenever it rains. I’m tired of having a refrigerator that leaks. I’m tired of having every bug in the known universe trying to get in my house. It would be nice to have a place where the doors actually sealed shut properly too. All of these things were supposed to be fixed, but never were. I’m just so tired and frustrated by it all, and I can’t wait another month before we have a source of income at this job Oz is up for, IF his aunt even gets hired on out there. In the mean time he’s supposedly got a pretty sure thing working at an assisted living center. He’s got a job offer at a local company that does heaven knows what. It’s a cruddy job, that’s all I know, but it pays $14 per hour, full-time, plus benefits. He’s also got a job offer detailing cars, but he doesn’t want to do that because he’s done it before and he doesn’t like it, but it would also be a sure thing at full-time work making more than he’s making now. I’m thinking about all the expenses we’ve got hanging over us and the ability to solve those problems happening with money, and I think logically. He NEEDS to get one of these jobs. Oz, on the other hand, much as I love him, seems to want to put all his eggs in one basket again, holding out for the job at the school, which isn’t even a sure thing right now.

With all that stress sitting on my head, I just lost it today. Beekee did nothing but whine endlessly all day long. He was clearly over-tired, but trying to do the whole “radical unschooling” thing and letting the kids sleep when they’re tired hasn’t’ been working for the past two weeks. Beekee has been getting so exhausted he can’t even pay attention to one single simple direction, such as “Stop swinging that around the baby. I don’t want you to hit him,” or “Put your wrapper in the trash, not on the floor.” I couldn’t even get him to look at me long enough to listen to what I was saying. I asked him to pay attention while I asked him which documentary he wanted to watch out of the ones I could find about human beings and he refused to even let me give him the titles. He just talked over me and got very frustrated with me. He does this regularly when he’s over-tired, but never like this! He was starting to do really well about settling down to sleep when he was tired. We instituted quiet time. He was willing to observe it. Now he’s gone completely off the deep end and has had several nights where he barely gets 6 hours of sleep, which is half the reason Oz and I have needed to take shifts on sleeping. He lets me sleep in, because I can’t fall back asleep once I’m awake, not unless I’m completely run into the ground. He gets a nap in the afternoon or he’s too tired for work that night. We would just let them stay up unattended, but they’ve proven in the past that leads to me getting up to find the house completely trashed and the kids, again, only getting six hours of sleep and being cranky because they can only sustain that kind of sleep schedule for a day, maybe two, before they become completely unbearable to live with.

Even Corde was in on the sleep boycott. She was so exhausted that she did nothing but whine and complain to me all day about everything and how nothing was fair. I asked her to take a nap, and just like her younger brothers, she threw a temper tantrum. She finally fell asleep while watching a television show and when I asked her if she was awake and wanted to watch another episode, or if she’d rather get some sleep, she threw another fit because she wasn’t sleeping! The drool coming out of the corner of her mouth while she lay slack-jawed while her brothers loud play didn’t even rouse her usual look of curiosity told a different story…but fine, she wasn’t sleeping.

At the end of it all I got so frustrated that I instituted bed time again. If the kids can’t get enough sleep without me making them go to bed, I was going to make them go to bed. I cannot possibly tolerate a day with worse attitudes than today as the result of sleep deprivation.  I’ve completely had enough.  I’m getting frustrated and exhausted by trying to keep this schedule and combining that with my stress is making me a not terribly fun Mommy to be around.  The line’s got to be drawn somewhere.  Of course, tomorrow probably won’t be a cake-walk either.  Beekee passed out an hour after I sent him to bed, and only after I turned off all the lights, and made him lay there in the dark because I know he makes up the “afraid of the dark” thing.  As it turns out the real root of the problem is the toys all over the floor that are actually dangerous to navigate.  I understand their room is small and they have very little space to play, but they’ve decided instead of cleaning their room they’re going to take over Corde’s room and trash that with toys, playing so loud and rowdy that Sabrina is afraid to use her cat box and decided to use other things in the house in it’s place…not exactly my idea of fun.  Corde ended up asleep two hours after she was sent to bed because she kept coming up with excuses to get up.  She kept “finding things” that she absolutely had to put away that exact minute, things she wouldn’t have found if she’d been asleep.  This is one of the reasons I canned bed time in the first place.  It never worked for us and was always more of a fight than it was worth.  With a baby that’s been incredibly difficult to get to sleep even though he’s also extremely over-tired all the time, I’m limited to what I can do for the bed time routine myself.  When I wish I could be spending some time getting the kids settled, I’ve got my arms full of Luca who was just woken up by the boys excessively loud play for the fifth time that day, and he’s so tired he doesn’t know what to do but cry.  I can’t even put him in his carrier because he starts arching his back like he’s in some kind of pain.  It’s horrible.  As a result I’ve got no option but to pace for an hour or two in order to get him to sleep.  What I need in order to can the bed-time routine again is another adult who can be on board with helping every night, and not just playing video games and talking loudly into the headpiece to his friends.  I need someone who is going to be a part of the solution.

In other less-than-ideal parenting maneuvers, I’ve taken away the kids’ art supplies for a week.  I know Corde particularly hates me for this one, but it’s become the source of a lot of problems.  For example, Luca was hanging out on the bed with me while I checked my e-mail this morning as I’m expecting an e-mail with the tracking number for a diaper I bought.  I was then going to do some other useful things, like put away the laundry, maybe start up another load.  Corde came into the room and stole Luca, which is no big deal.  I normally don’t have a problem letting her play with him.  All of the sudden I hear this blood curdling scream come from Luca.  I was betting he just fell down, and once again, got exceedingly angry at whatever he was trying to use to support him that didn’t do it’s job.  When I went to ask Corde what happened, she was in the dining room at the kids’ table, happily drawing away while Luca was clear across the trailer.  I made my observation, “I thought you were playing with Luca”.  She informed me that she’d wanted to do her art.  I observed that she shouldn’t have come and gotten him if she wasn’t going to stick by him.  He could have gotten hurt.  The least she could have done was brought him back, or told me so I could keep an eye on him.  She completely ignored me and went about doing her art until I asked her if she had heard me at all.  To which she threw an exasperated sign and informed me that she hated playing with her baby brother because he was always so annoying.  Ugh!  Child!  Then why did you bother to come get him?!?  Of course, I didn’t actually ask her that.  I just informed her that if she wanted to do art, not play with her brother, she needed to either not come and get her brother in the first place and haul him off, or to make sure someone could look after him.

Then there was the art supplies.  Not only did Corde insist on leaving all her art supplies all over the house, but I found Beekee writing on the walls with some of the markers.  By this point I was already pretty done with the attitude I’d gotten all day.  I decided to take all the art supplies for a week.  I got tired of stepping on markers and pens and having to take them away from Luca every time I turned around because someone left something in his reach.  I’ve decided I’m taking those for a week.  They’ve been the bane of my existence all day, so I’ve kind of hit my limit.  We’ve been asking Corde to clean up her art supplies for weeks because it’s been a cause of constant bad attitude when she leaves them out and the boys use them.  It’s been a source of too many headaches, so now she’s going to lose them for a while.  I told her I’m not deciding on my own on this one, but I’m thinking a week sounds about right, given they’ve been left out every night for a week.

And then there’s the toys, my goodness the toys!  I’ve been asking the kids to clean up their toys for weeks!  The boys’ room is so bad that they insist on going into Corde’s room to play.  Beekee’s sheets don’t ever stay on his bed because he’s always yanking them off.  Sander’s aren’t much better.  I know it’s hard for them to keep that room clean because they don’t have much space in there, but they both refuse to clean it.  I’ve decided they’re losing their toys for a week.  I’ve been threatening for a while, but at the point that Beekee’s afraid to sleep in the dark because he’s not able to get to the bathroom and back in the dark, and the point at which I’m getting hurt trying to get in and out of there to help them get to bed, that’s the point at which I have to put my foot down.  I’d love to say it’s their space and they can choose what they do with it, but it’s also getting to the point where they’re trashing Corde’s room because they’ve got no room left to play in their own room.  I’m done playing games and it shouldn’t be my job to clean up after both of them.  Beekee used to clean his room when he was Sander’s age.  There’s no reason Sander can’t do it too.  More importantly, if it’s my job to make sure their toys get cleaned up at the end of the night, then it should be my choice as to how much I have to clean up.  I think that’s fair.  Therefore, for the next week I’ve decided I’ve got my hands full with getting the house organized, catching up with laundry, trying to get on a better schedule so I can get to the library on Wednesday, and other things like that.  They’re just going to have deal with me not having the time to clean up after them right now.  They’ll have to be creative to play.  Besides, they have books and I’m not going to take away their writing supplies.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I was in the bedroom with Luca while he was asleep while Oz was visiting with his aunt this morning someone let Sabrina out.  I thought I heard the front door open a couple of times before Corde and Beekee came in to ask where Oz was.  I thought I must have been hearing things, which certainly wouldn’t have been a first, so I didn’t even think to ask who was opening the door.  Sure enough, someone must have.  Corde, Beekee, and Sander all know I’ve got VERY strict rules about them just walking out the door or even opening the door without letting an adult know first.  With Sabrina being poised to bolt out the door at the first available chance, I can’t have them opening the door whenever they feel like it.  However, I have a feeling someone let her out and just isn’t owning up to it.  I wouldn’t be surprised because Oz and I stepped out on the porch to discuss something that had happened at his work the night before and the kids were at the door every two seconds!  You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not.  I couldn’t even get two words out of my mouth between the door being opened so someone could whine, complain, or throw a tantrum over something.  We originally snapped at them every time because we thought the cat was still in the house.  That’s when we saw that she was under the porch.  I was about ready to scream when no one would at least own up to it and then they insisted on coming to the door every five seconds.  Oz and I tried to have some really important discussions and sometimes we really don’t want to be discussing things that are inappropriate around the kids!  Thanks to Oz’s work schedule, we don’t have much time but to do it outside.

I’ve just kind of had it.  Something’s got to give.  I’m tired of the toy situation and the boys not cleaning their room.  I’m tired of Corde not cleaning up her stuff and causing fights with the boys as a result.  I’m tired of the over-tired kids.  I’m done with the temper tantrums.  I’m sick of never seeing Oz because keeping our house from being destroyed and trying to get everything done means I never see him.  I just can’t do it anymore.  I hate to be breaking down on all of you, but I don’t like to be the parent that yells, screams, and takes away things that rightly belong to my kids.  I just can’t do it anymore.  Oz needs to be around more often and he’s got to be a part of the bedtime routine.  I just physically can’t be in enough places doing enough things at once and the kids really are starting to be affected by his absence.  Worse, Sander has become super-clingy, which is understandable as Oz isn’t home near as much as he used to be.  I fear getting a new job isn’t going to help that situation much, but at least he’ll be home in the evenings more, and once he gets his first check from a new job he’ll hopefully be able to quit his current position.

I guess what it comes down to is all of this stress is really starting to have an impact on my parenting.  Maybe this is why so many people living in poverty are such bad parents…it’s sometimes really hard to step back and do the right thing when you’re living with this much stress.

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Prestidigitation, Sleight of Hand, and Other Cool Tricks

Where do I get these crazy words like “prestidigitation”?  Well, I get them from D&D.  Where does Beekee get them?  He gets them from magic.  That’s what he wants to be, at least for now.  He wants to be a magician.  Of course, he also wanted to be a rock star, an archaeologist, a forest ranger, and a detective.  However, this time I think Beekee’s on to something, and I think I should encourage him.

We watched Make Believe tonight.  It’s a documentary about six magicians competing in the Teen World Magic Competition, or something along those lines.  Originally the kids weren’t sure if they wanted to watch it.  They wanted to watch Dirty Jobs, but I didn’t want to watch it while eating.  Knowing my luck they would be working with something nasty like poop.  They settled with this as an alternative, not what they wanted, but the only one that sounded even remotely interesting.

It didn’t take long for Beekee to become enthralled.  He saw the cool tricks they were doing and, eyes glued to the screen, tried to see if he could figure out a trick of his own.  He decided that’s what he wanted to do.  All the things they were doing were so cool.

That’s when this conversation took place:

Me, nearly spewing my water on my computer, because that’s how these things always happen: Holy *bleep*!  That’s Magnus!

Corde:  You know that guy?

Me:  Yes, actually.  I met him back before you were born at Rites of Spring.  We met around the bonfire.  He’s a friend of mine’s friend, and a really incredible magician.

Corde:  You know someone famous?

Me:  Yeah, I guess you could say I do.  I doubt he’d remember me ago.  The last time he saw me was ten years ago.

Beekee:  Mom, they said his name and it wasn’t Magnus.

Me:  No, it’s Jeff McBride.  He performs in Las Vegas.  I just know him as Magnus.  It’s like your name is Aris, but your friends call you Beekee.  His friends call him Magnus.

Beekee:  WHAT?!?

Corde:  So cool!  You really know someone famous!

Beekee:  Mom!  I want to meet him!  Can he make me a famous magician too?

Corde:  You SO have to introduce me.  You’re the coolest mom ever!

Wow…if I had known that was all it took to become the coolest mom ever.  The funny thing is we’ve talked about Magnus and Spinner before.  Magnus is a famous magician as well as singer and drummer.  Spinner is actually Abbi Spinner-McBride, who is an escape-artist (last I heard one of 4 female escape artists in the country), singer, and dancer.  For those who are curious about her music featuring Jeff McBride, check out Enter the Center, Fire of Creation, Desert Priestess: A Memoir, and The Heart of the Sun: an Anthology in Exaltation of Sekhmet (not exclusively her work, but she’s one of the artists).  I personally own the first two albums.  They are very Pagan in feel, but they’d be worth a listen for anyone who (religion aside) would enjoy some beautiful chant.  One line of lyrics in the song “Enter the Center” really sums up my philosophy in life:

Buddhist, Muslim, Chrisian, Pagan, Jew

We welcome you, we honor you and all you do.

Aww…the heck with it…  It’s an awesome song. Here’s a video that has the song…it’s a video of a hooper doing some practice…so side bonus! This is the kind of stuff that the kids have been exposed to all their lives! Maybe we’ll do some more videos to give you an idea of the community we’ve been distanced from since moving here and can’t wait to get involved with again…but that’s for another day…first!

Anyhow, they’re VERY cool people.

Back to the point, Beekee has decided he wants to be a magician when he grows up.  He’s already started doing some pretty cool tricks with bits of paper, bottle caps, and other little things, whatever he can come up with.  Now his aunt is going to be looking for a magic book she got for her son when he was younger.  We’re going to let everyone know that this little April Fool is going to be needing some magic stuff for his birthday this year.

Now this is when we get into the real unschooling goodness!  I am totally overwhelmed at the task at hand, but I think in my world of belly dancers and “circus freaks” (no, I’m not being insulting here.  A lot of them describe themselves this way!) I’m sure I can find some  connection or another to introduce Beekee to a real magician.  Maybe we can find him a mentor.  He also wants to learn to juggle as well.  I just wish we lived in Houston.  I have a friend down there that’s a professional juggler.  Oh…yeah…just for kicks, here’s a video of my friend in Houston.  Beekee said I HAVE TO include it because he thinks Noah is completely his hero…so here’s Beekee’s favorite video of Mr. Cirque himself! Prepare to be amazed…

And, finally! One last video recommendation from Beekee! This is his absolute favorite Jeff McBride video…and I’m sure you’ll see why…

Now, praying that all of those work…  So, I’m off!  I’ve got some work to do.  I’ve got to research some age-appropriate magic stuff for Beekee’s birthday.  Thankfully there’s still time.  I’ve got to find a magician that would be happy to talk to Beekee, maybe take Beekee under his wing if we’re lucky.  I wish I could afford to have a magician come for his birthday, but that’s a bit of a reach, and I know he’s not going to have enough friends here for his birthday to really make it worth spending that kind of money on something like that.  It might be more worth it if we were going to have a large number of kids.  Maybe next year if he’s still interested.

Lots of work to do!  I want to hop on this interest while it’s still hot in Beekee’s mind!  Corde’s got a great direction, something she’s passionate about.  Beekee has never been this passionate about anything (well, except for zombies), so I’m determined to jump on this one.  I’m psyched that he’s finally got a passion!

And it’s Sunday!  So I’ll end this on one more note, a reminder from Corde.  Don’t forget about our Documentary Challenge!  We’ve added a couple more things to the list, and will keep adding things as we see them!  Corde’s very excited about this whole thing, and has decided it will definitely be a custom piece of art made by her, though she hasn’t decided what.  She’s leaning towards a sculpture or painting, but she’s also willing to take requests.  In the mean time, check out the page, follow the instructions, and don’t forget, every documentary you watch and share from the list is one more entry into the contest!


Mom, What’s A Jukebox? And What’s A 45?

When I was a little girl I remember my mom putting on music and dancing like crazy.  We listened to a lot of Abba and Fleetwood Mac.  We had some Disney soundtracks and things.  My mom would put them on the record player and we were under specific instructions that we couldn’t jump.  There were days when I’d be sitting in my parents’ room with my dad while he played the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar or The Who’s Tommy.  I used to watch the red lips spinning on the record (anyone know what record that is?  It’s always fun to see how many people know!)

Looking at my children, sure, some of it’s the same.  We still play a lot of “classic rock” mixed in with more modern selections.  Much like my parents, we play a lot of music from when Oz and I were in high school.  My kids have been exposed to Pink Floyd and the Doors.  They’ve heard Fleetwood Mac.  I’m carrying on that element from when I was little, but it’s just not the same.  I can let them jump and go crazy because there’s no worry about the music skipping when it’s being digitally played.  They can pick a song by way of controller.  They have no idea what it’s like to stop and start a cassette in order to try to find the beginning of their favorite song.  They don’t need to worry about moving the needle on the record delicately so as not to scratch it.  They don’t even know what it’s like to have to flip the disc over because there is no disc to flip!

At the same time, my kids are curious.  Today they were watching Clean House and a woman had a jukebox and they opted to keep the 45s and sell the jukebox.  The kids had no idea what any of that meant.  We got into a discussion of music makers, be it jukeboxes, a Victrola, LPs and 45s.  We talked about cassette tapes and all of that kind of stuff.

I have to admit, it makes me feel old to know that things I remember when I was a kid are no longer in use.  I remember winding cassette tapes that had come unspooled with my finger in one hole until it hurt to wind it anymore.  Only then would I use a pen because I was determined that I’d be hardcore.  I remember recording songs off the radio and making mix tapes.  I remember wishing I could put on the records myself, but my mom never trusted me to.  I loved looking through my parents’ records because of the beautiful covers.

It’s strange to think back on my old childhood and how different it is from my kids, yet it’s the same in some ways.  We share the same classic music.  It may not be ugly green couches that we played on, but I’ll take our ugly “Bohemian couch” as comparable.  We’re still the poor family that doesn’t have everything.  We still manage, just like my family did.

Looking back I realize that there’s a sense of flash and pizzazz that I didn’t have when I was younger.  Nothing seemed as fancy and, well, flashy.  Everything now is so clean and elegant in comparison to the blocky televisions, music devices, etc from when I was younger.  There isn’t so much equipment to run everything either.  It seems so much simpler.  It’s almost strange to relate the two.  It seems like my kids have so much more so we can’t possibly be doing the same things.  I couldn’t possibly have a similar childhood…yet there it is.  Okay, maybe the kids don’t know what a jukebox is (or didn’t).  They don’t know what a “record” is, aside from things you break, like Guinness Book.  They also don’t see the negative things, like cigarette dispensers in restaurants.  Even with those differences, we’re still very much living the same, straight down to a lot of the music.

It makes me feel good to realize we’ve got so much in common.  A lot of what’s stayed the same are things that hold over happy memories from my own childhood.  I guess the truly good things really never change, maybe on the outside, but not at the very core.


The Day the Juice Bottle Mooed

What is our lesson today?  Today we learned that juice bottles can make the perfect “moo” sound.  When you hold it up to your mouth and make a decent sounding cow noise it starts to sound pretty realistic.  It’s kind of awesome.

This is the joy of unschooling.  Lessons happen in totally unexpected places.  Kids are able to have the freedom to explore and create, even late at night.  This particular thing happened just after dinner.  It sparks discussions, like how musical instruments work.  It can be a lot of fun.

And that’s how things work around here.  We don’t have formal lessons.  We don’t plan out our learning.  It just happens while I’m kicked up on the couch with a book, Oz is killing zombies on a video game, and the baby is enjoying his new-found skill of clapping and is learning how to stand up all on his own.  There’s no formality to it.  It’s just fun.

We’ve been watching a lot of television, and in other families that’s not seen as a good thing.  For us it inspires some really great conversations.  I know some families put a lot more emphasis on books, but we’re sadly not a lot of readers.  Television is great because we can all sit down and watch it together, then talk about it.  The pause button is my friend.  We stop movies and shows to discuss things that come up so we don’t miss anything.  What we see inspires games and activities.  It’s just a great time to relax, spend some time together, and learn.

I couldn’t imagine it being any other way!  I can’t imagine how life would be if we had formal classes or if I sent the kids to school.  Our time would be spent very differently.  We wouldn’t have these moments of the kids making very convincing cow sounds with an empty juice bottle.  I would miss out on so much.