Killer Whales and Kids

With the holidays in full swing (yes, even now in January we continue to celebrate several things), and my house full of family, food, and fun, there isn’t much time to write. But I happened upon this article again while “cleaning out” my phone today:

A Thousand Rivers by Carol Black.

It is something I will be thinking about as we enter the new year, especially with my daughter showing signs of reading and math readiness.  And if you are an educator, a parent, a student, a homeschooling parent/student, or a human being in general, I urge you read this excerpt:

“Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day, by asking them to learn from text-based artificial materials instead of contextualized real-world activities, by dictating arbitrary timetables for learning rather than following the unfolding of a child’s developmental readiness. Common sense should tell us that all of this will have complex and unpredictable results. In fact, it does. While some children seem able to function in this completely artificial environment, really significant numbers of them cannot. Around the world, every day, millions and millions and millions of normal bright healthy children are labelled as failures in ways that damage them for life. And increasingly, those who cannot adapt to the artificial environment of school are diagnosed as brain-disordered and drugged.

It is in this context that we set out to research how human beings learn. But collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.”

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I Didn’t Want to Be Brave.

Last year at MOPS, I was A Beautiful Mess – and it was perfect. Feeling that it was okay to be a messy new mom, and still be beautiful – if maybe only in God’s eyes most days – was terrific.  We had lots of fun, untidy activities where we were free to be raw and real and sloppy.  It was probably the best introduction to MOPS a new mom could ask for.

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Then, at the end of last year’s session, they announced this year’s theme: Be You, Bravely.

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Oh boy.

I didn’t like the idea of being brave. On purpose, that is. I had already gotten pretty real with the ladies at my MOPS table – we’d had a few good ugly cries together and I thought it was brave of me to show that side of myself.  I don’t usually cry in front of others.  Plus, I was brand-shiny-new to this whole motherhood thing – which is brave, in and of itself, too.

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But now I’d have to be brave – on purpose? As a theme?  In my life?

I decided that I had all summer to stew over it and so I let it go.

Until the end of the summer came and it was time to register for MOPS again.

And there it was: Be You, Bravely.

I did not want to be brave. I knew that I would be asked to try new things, dig deep into myself, take a good look at my life, analyze.  Can’t I just have the safety of my sofa and yoga pants?

Bravery, to me, is bold. It is taking a stand, speaking up, and not being concerned about what others think.  In my mind, bravery looks big, strong, and risky.  It’s not always safe, and sometimes, it might be life threatening.  And I felt like some of the decisions I’d been making all along were “brave” already.

Then I thought, “Well, I could just not participate in the activities.” And then quickly recognized how ridiculous that was.  How would I realize the fullness of the fellowship I could have with my MOPS moms if I was holding back?  I would be cheating myself, and them.  And besides, maybe a new adventure or two would be good for me…

So, instead of backing down, I’m meeting bravery head on.  And it has occurred to me that bravery wears many different hats:

What if bravery isn’t about being bold, but being humble? What if bravery isn’t always taking a stand, but stepping back?  How would it feel if bravery was more about listening than speaking my mind, and being concerned about what God thought of me, instead of everyone else?  And maybe bravery is big, and strong, and risky because God created it that way – and what He creates is ultimately good.  And maybe being brave isn’t safe (socially or emotionally), but I’m always safe with the Lord.  And as far as “life threatening” goes… well, I need to lose this life to gain my new life in Christ, right?

The New Life In Christ

Right.

And the truth is, I can’t wait to see what happens when I partner with God to be me, bravely.

Autumn Catch Up

You may wonder where I’ve been since February.  Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t know where you’ve been since February.

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Since my February 2014, I’ve packed up 11 years worth of personal belongings, moved said personal belongings to a new house (which is actually an old, historic house), unpacked and organized said belongings into a cohesive, functioning, household – all while still working, mothering, wife-ing, social-life-ing, and generally being alive.

This does not include the unforeseen, and oft aggravating, projects that a new/old house blindsides you with – because, you know, old houses.

Lots of cool things have happened, as well as some not-so-cool, but one thing that is literally cool is the fact that it is now Autumn in New Jersey and that means things like this:

She's growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

She’s growing so fast, we had to capture some prints before she gets too big.

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary!

It's apple picking time!

It’s apple picking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

So, it is also pie baking time!

I'm getting back to taking cool pictures again.

I’m getting back to taking cool pictures again.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

And luckily, my backyard is a great place to get back to my photog hobby.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can't stop photographing.

Which is good, because I have several lovely trees that I just can’t stop photographing.

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And MOPS started up again for the year!

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking.  Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

And, most recently, we went pumpkin picking. Which means that photos of pumpkins and other various gourds will be appearing soon.

In addition to it being an awesome autumn, summer was full of all sorts of goodness, too.  Lots of trips to the beach, our annual family trip to New Hampshire, and the highlight of my summer:  my sweet little nephew, DJ, was born!  He looks just like my brother.  And my sister-in-law.  It’s funny how one person can look just like, well, two.

And I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I get starting to feel all the feelings in Autumn and well – that gets me thinking – which then makes me want to blog.

So, I’m back!  Stay tuned… there’s over 800 photos on my phone right now, along with 22 different recipes I want to share, a zillion things to say about learning and education, and copious, gratuitous photos of my new digs that I’m pretty proud of.

How to Entertain Your Toddler for 25 Cents

Oh, Target. You thoughtful, retail sweetheart, you. My find in your One Spot section has helped me to hit the Toddler Jackpot: stickers.

My daughter not only loves stickers, but she also loves smiley faces, so these really hit the… (ahem) target.

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Just one sheet of these stickers (available as 4 sheets for $1) has entertained my daughter for hours. Yes, really – hours.

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Sure, my house is now covered in little, colorful, smiley face stickers.

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But how could I put a stop to this?

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She’s so happy, and I’m so happy that she’s entertained…

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And, I’ve discovered that the stickers are easily removed… thank goodness…

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Plus, every time I see those little stickers, I’m reminded of her – and her cute, quickly-fleeting, toddlerhood.

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And that’s worth much, much more than 25 cents.

Inappropriate Politeness

So, this is my rant for today.

People who are overly polite.  Polite when it’s totally unnecessary.  I call it inappropriate politeness.  An example?  Why, sure!

At my favorite shopping complex, there is a 3-way intersection in which incoming traffic does not have a stop sign, therefore incoming traffic does not stop.  Traffic waiting to turn or leave the complex, however, does need to stop.

Guess where I’m going with this.

I cannot tell you how many times I am the person at the stop sign being “waved on” to go by someone incoming who thinks they are making my day.

You are not making my day.

You are making me mad.  You are making a traffic jam.  You are making inappropriate politeness.

road rage

Another example?  Well, I don’t mind if I do!

The other day as I was coming in to work, a young female student held the door open for me.  Before I could say “thank you,” SHE said, “thank you.”

I can’t make this stuff up, people.  The real world has just too much blog fodder.

awkward door hold

And then, there’ this last example.  It has to do with driving, again.  There is just so much to say about driving… I could fill a whole blog on the joys of driving in New Jersey.  But here’s my dig:

New Jersey Drivers + Inappropriate Politeness = Certain Death.

You know it – that moment when that person in that car (who has the “right of way”) SLAMS on the brakes to let a merging car (who does NOT have the “right of way”) into heavy traffic… that moment when the merging vehicle is perfectly happy waiting their turn but the jerkhole in the other car decides that he/she hasn’t done something nice for someone in a long time so they risk the lives of EVERYONE around them to let the merging car in and be “polite.”

That moment is the one – when it happens – when I get as close to a murderous rage as legally possible.

Don’t be Inappropriately Polite people.  Your life may depend on it.

I bet someone here was being overly polite.

I bet someone here was being overly polite.

 

Finding My Place (part deux)

Since the day I decided to venture out on my own and buy a house 11 years ago (and subsequently marry the realtor), I’ve had this deep-rooted desire to sincerely connect with a small town community.  I’m pretty sure it stems from having moved so much as a child, but whatever the case, I’ve always wanted it.  I had this idea that it would be charming to walk downtown to the deli, or bakery, or antique store – and they’d know me by name when I walked in (and naturally, a small bell would chime as the door to their shop opened).  I would feel connected to those people in a very small-town kind of way – the kind of way where they would ask how my husband was doing, if I was going to grow my heirloom tomatoes this year, and if my cat – Leroy – was still afraid of the vacuum.

Of course, at the time, I had no husband, I’ve never grown heirloom tomatoes, and cats are well – cats.

pissed cat

But I still moved into said Small Town and started patronizing the local businesses.  At first, all things were rosy and rainbowed, set against the scenic river backdrop.  My old, tiny home’s walls thick with possibility, promise, and just a little lead paint.  But in time, as I restored my home and attempted to make new connections, the dream of living in “pleasantville” started to fade.  To my dismay, many of the downtown shops I liked so much closed as the real estate market took it’s historic nose dive in 2008.  In addition, I wasn’t always able to find the things I needed downtown and (admittedly) the Big Box Stores started to win when it came to furnishing my home and, well, eating.  But, it was still a small town with nice people, adorable homes, a scenic river, and that charming small-town vibe, complete with 4th of July parades and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.

And so, we stayed and persevered, and fixed up this little home, and trudged through the toughest financial times we’ve ever faced.

After 11 years here, I’m happy to report that business downtown has been on the uptick recently and real estate is getting better.  At the same time, though, I’ve not connected in the way I really wanted to with my community, and I’m feeling sad about this.  My husband and I have often waxed sentimental over the fact that we’ll miss this place when we move.  Unfortunately, that means leaving my current small town – because there really aren’t any homes for sale in my town right now that will suit our needs.

silly house

And so, in the hope of attempting to atone for the sin of not fully connecting with my current small town, I’m hoping to start over  – I want to truly connect with the next town in which we live.  I’ve been getting excited about what new people, events, places, and adventures I’ll be having soon.  Luckily, we’ve found a great home in a nice, small town (that unfortunately doesn’t offer as much “downtown” as my current town, but it’ll work nonetheless – there is, afterall, an antique store, thrift shop, deli, flower shop, pizza place, quilt store, and watering hole… what else do we need?).

There are a plethora of positive aspects to this move – but there are also some things that make me a little sad.  While I’m ridiculously excited to be making this move, to a new town, where I can fulfill my wish to start over, make new connections, and find my place – all while learning from, and respecting, the place I’m leaving – I realize that I will inevitably miss my current community.

Especially the river.  I’m really going to miss the river.

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But, when everything pans out with this new house, I’m sure I’ll get distracted by the many new adventures I’ll be having, along with all the DIY/Restoration/Decorating things on the horizon, too… it is, afterall, an old, historic home in need of some love.  Fifteen rooms’ worth of love, to be exact.

All of which will make excellent blog fodder!

Wish me luck.

Finding My Place (part one)

There are stirrings afoot in my life – a new home is on the horizon and a big part of me doesn’t yet want to get too excited.  I suppose that particular part of myself is the part that is frightened that things may still go awry – but I keep hoping beyond hope – quiet, but hard, in the back of my mind, mostly when no one is looking, or when it’s just me and my daughter at nursing time – that this is finally IT.  It is finally happening…

we are moving to a new house!  After 11 years – about 6 years longer than I ever thought – we are moving on.

This has me feeling so many different things – aside from the hesitation that it isn’t quite real yet.  Many of the people who know me outside of the “internets” understand what I must be feeling these days.  They know how long my husband and I have wanted a new home and the reasons for why it has taken so long.

But what these folks may not know, is the deep connection I have with the notion of “home” and why my anxiety about this move is sky-high.

I blame my parents.

As a child, my home was a place of solace, joy, and wonderful memories.  I realize this isn’t true for everyone – so please do not misplace my expression of gratitude as bragging.  My parents made our home truly homey… even though we moved 8 times over the course of my childhood – up and down the east coast, with a stint in Texas – wherever I laid my head, it was home and I was safe, warm, secure, and loved.  For that, I am truly thankful.

Plus, my mom always did a good job decorating.

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So, it’s no wonder that when the time came for me to set up my own home, I had placed very high expectations on myself to make it just as homey as my childhood.  And the anticipation of waiting for things to be Final and Real for this next move has me on the edge of a salty blade… coupled with all the other *normal* stuff of life (parenting, working, etc.), sprinkled with packing and packing and more packing – I’m just really fun to be around these days.

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When you’ve wanted something so much, for so long – it heightens the emotions associated with waiting – and you find yourself singing the chorus from Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.”  At least that’s what I do.

And, I just keep focusing on Jeremiah 29:11

Plus, the idea of “home” for me goes beyond a place to live.  It is the place where we make a life.  It goes without saying that “home” is a safe place, but for me, I place a lot of emphasis on the importance of my home in how I live my life.

Within the sacred walls of my home, I have relationships with the people in my life absolutely closest to me.  We make and share meals together, we celebrate holidays, and we are at our most vulnerable – we bathe, dress, sleep, laugh, and cry – and in my particular case, give birth – in our home.

So, for me – it’s more than a structure where we “make memories.”  It’s where life is – and because of that importance, I cherish it.  I cherish the space by keeping it clean and organized, by decorating it beautifully and making it comfortable, by fixing things when they break and improving things when they need it.

Home is my life.

And while I have enjoyed living in the tiny space we currently call home (and I will miss it someday), I also realize that, like in life, we grow out of things – and in this case, it’s our tiny home.  And that is okay.

So, I’m waiting, hoping, packing, parenting, working, packing, waiting, hoping, packing, and on and on and on.  And I’m getting to the end of what has been the longest 30 days of my life – as we are scheduled to settle on the new house next week.

Seriously, I was more relaxed waiting to give birth to my first child.

But wait, there’s more!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about all the stuff I’m feeling about moving to a new community.

Stay tuned.