Family

Sometimes I fantasize about a post-apocalyptic lifestyle

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The Walking Dead #TWD will start back up in October. The show always sparks something inside us that makes us believe we are invincible. Survivalists. We talk a big talk.

So we camped out for 3 days, trying to experiment with what life would look like “Post-apocalypse”. We tried to make our meals without the use of the refrigerator.  We slept in #ENO hammocks in the trees and keep all activities outdoors. The truth is, CAMPING is hard! Even when we are only camping 50 yards from the house!  We soon realized that we are no match for zombies.

1. Food:

Living off the land is a lost art. I can’t imagine trying to find food while being on the run! The first night, we cooked a delicious feast of meat and potatoes on the fire. Made monkey bread for dessert.  We discussed our meal with the children.  If we were survivalists, the meat we are eating would have to be trapped or shot, skinned, and cleaned before we could even put it on the fire.  These potatoes MIGHT be available to us, if we stayed in one place and could tend a garden.  Oh and forget about the monkey bread! The next morning I woke up at sunrise, went to the hen house and collected eggs (plausible), stoked the fire back up and prepared scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Then it hit me, I NEED COFFEE.  So, I went upstairs, got my coffee pot, and plugged it in at the camp site.  Hardly the way a survivalist would make her coffee! The rest of our meals, while consumed outdoors, made use of the fridge, oven, and microwave. It took me 3 meals to realize that I very much rely on the convenience of my kitchen!

2. Sleep:

We love our hammocks. We love setting them up, swinging from the trees, competing to see who can get their hammock the highest and tightest.  However, when it comes to sleeping in them all night for 3 nights… wow.  Not only did it get cold, but it was also creepy!  I would have to get used to all the night noises.  I kept two of the dogs outside with me, which helped me feel secure. They kept watch over us all three nights. But still, the places my mind wondered off to – it’s amazing.  I had all kinds of visions of how we might die if I close my eyes.  Needless to say, I did not get very much sleep!  Lastly, I desperately missed my bed.  Each morning, I got up and hobbled around like an 80 year old woman. Humans need rest!  I began to understand how living on the run would not only be exhausting, but without good rest, everyone would be grouchy and on edge!

3. Higiene:

We did make all three days without a shower or bath. But we sure were foul when we finally came in!  As I scrubbed the soot from my face and washed the sticks and ash out of my hair, I marveled at how someone could live this way everyday, for weeks, months, years. The children and I laughed at all the gunk between our toes and behind our ears and under our fingernails.  And we each enjoyed a long HOT bubble bath.

As a homeschool mama, I am always looking for opportunities for learning.  This 3 day camping experience  gave us much to discuss.  Our discussion generated three main themes.  1) We realize that the only way to get good at camping, is to practice.  2) We have a huge new found respect for survivalists.  3) We are immensely grateful for our creature comforts.

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Like a girl

I have raised my children intentionally to see girls and boys as equals- equals in voice, intelligence, and potential.  My husband and I have always been extremely careful about our words and actions regarding differences between boys and girls.  For example, we have always bought gender neutral toys and games for both our boys and our girls. We have encouraged and allowed the children to play with whatever they might find around the house. If the boys carried around my purse, or pushed a baby in the stroller, no big deal. If my daughter played with balls or trucks, no big deal.  Our goal in modeling gender mutuality has been purposeful and calculated.

You can imagine my shock yesterday when I heard my daughter tell me a story about how “when Daddy snuck up and scared Canon, he screamed like a girl.”

I’m sure that she was equally as shocked by my extreme response! “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”, I interrogated. “I never want to hear something like that come out of your mouth again.” Poor child probably had no idea what she even said!  We talked more about it and I encouraged the children to come up with some other simile for the intensity and pitch of scream she heard. We all giggled as we went through a whole host of options and then came up with, “Canon screamed like a howler monkey!”

What is the big deal? 

It is a big deal to me that we make insulting distinctions for boys and girls. The language we use shapes their image of themselves. Everyday. All the time. Girly girl. Tom-boy. Princess. Like a girl. If we only paid attention to the gravity of our flippant classifications.  Last year I confronted a 9 year old boy when he ridiculed his friend on the playground after being beat in a race by my daughter, “You got beat by a girl!” AH no. Mama don’t play.  Don’t worry, I was kind, but what I really wanted to do was kick him in the shins. The phrases we think are ok in referring to boys are a big deal as well.  Boys will be boys. He’s a mama’s boy. He’s all boy.  Man up. Really people?  These cliches are both dismissive and damaging.

Influence of culture

We don’t even realize the sludge that slowly seeps into our psyche. My daughter could not even remember where she heard the phrase, “like a girl”. She doesn’t know who first told her that she was a “tom-boy”. What does that even mean?  You may think I am overreacting, but I steer my family away from the tween and teen trash that hollywood cranks out.  I can not shield them forever, I understand that. But I can for a while at least, while they are in my care, and while their mind, will, and self-understanding are still in development. With fierce effort, I kick out the walls of the boxes that american culture tries to stuff my kids into.

Under normal circumstances, I would not necessarily commit free advertising for a panty liner company, but #ALWAYS has made a brilliant commercial on the subject of #LIKEAGIRL. Enjoy!

Back to school.

We have been back at it for a couple of weeks now.

I can honestly say that as I begin my 4th year of homeschooling, this is the first time I have felt confident and non-anxious about school.

If you are new to homeschool I want to just give you a shout out to KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!  I was a wreck for the first two years. I compared myself to every other homeschool mom I talked to. I compared my kids to every other homeschool kid I saw.  I battled discouragement and self-doubt. I sat online every Monday searching for jobs and for private schools.

Think you’re not smart enough?  Nonsense.

Think you’re not patient enough? Breathe, smile and count to 10.

Think you are not organized enough? We are all in process.

I remind myself everyday that I have been given a gift, three to be exact. I finally stopped fighting my own insecurities, and started celebrating my strengths. I finally took my eyes off of what everyone else is doing, and turned my heart toward what is right for us.

Back to school: Back to simplicity. Back to focus. Back to schedule. Back to one day at a time, one morning at a time. Back to one breath at a time.

Unattached to the opinions of others

Last week, a mama left me a voicemail, “Nikki, I need to have a conversation with you and it’s not going to be fun.”

You can imagine my angst in returning that phone call!  My mind was spinning about all the ways I might have offended her, or inappropriate deeds my kids might have done.  Was it a Facebook post that didn’t set well with her?  Is it my choice of reading material? My use of technology? Is she concerned that I practice yoga and have introduced it to my kids, and thus to their friends?

My mind spun for about an hour. Then I came to myself.  Although I know I have blind spots, I am parenting my children in the way I have chosen, and I have nothing to fear from the opinions of others.  This realization and reminder was so comforting to me that I picked up the phone and made the call.  I received her concerns with humility and understanding.

This mama and I talked through everything and it worked out fine.  The issue was regarding security and safety during playtime on my property. Her concern had to do with girls and boys mingling – and she needed to understand my play protocol. THAT WAS IT!!  What an easy conversation it could have been. Instead I allowed her initial voicemail trip me up into insecurity and self-doubt.

It is so freeing when we can be bold and confident in our own skin – and in our own intentions. When we unhinge our identity from external influence, we can soar without hindrance.  When we are true to ourselves, authentically, we can buffer the criticism and even judgement of others. And what’s even better?  When we respond with a clear head and interact with the person humbly, the conversation has nowhere to go but UP!

Ultimately, I am thankful for this experience because it reminds me that being attached to the opinions of others is toxic. There is no room for this in the healthy soul.  Call me and let’s talk more about this.  🙂

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JUICE!

We love juice!  Well, I take that back. I love juice. The children love TO juice.  There is a difference….

We all have such a good time peeling and cutting and watching all the different veggies and fruits go into the juice machine. We can spend an hour creating different combinations of juice.  Pretty much, the only kind of juice the kids will drink – at this point – is Pineapple/Apple, or Pineapple/orange.  And that is ok!  Sure, I want their juice to be full of Kale and Spinach and Beet. That just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But at least Pineapple/orange is better than red Gatorade or a CapriSun!IMG_0644

For the juicing mamas out there.  I want you to try my “hot mama” recipe.

  • 1/2 of a beet
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 3 apples
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 of a ginger root
  • 1 whole jalapeño!

It is amazing how the ginger and the jalapeño give this SWEET juice a spicy  kick!  Disclaimer: this juice is not for the faint of heart. Channel your inner TEXAN.  Of course, like any recipe you will need to play around with it.  Add another apple or two if you need to offset the veggies or the spicy. Depending on what I have, I will add a celery stalk or pear or mango here and there.  But you get the point!

What kinds of juice do you make with your children?

Have any ideas of how to get the kids to introduce more veggies into their juicing?

Calm, cool and collected

Do you think some parents have an intrinsic knack from being non-anxious in any situation? I was talking with a fellow mama the other day about children, sibling conflict, defiance and disrespect, and general fussiness. We joked about how easy it is to shout, “Would you stop SHOUTING!?”

How do you keep your cool as a parent?

Even though it may seem like some parents have a higher threshold for madness, I do believe that harmony and temperance can be learned and practiced.  When we are loving unconditionally, we have no reason to blow our top.  Even when I become the target of my child’s aggression, I must respond with compassion. I don’t see that as weak – in fact I see it as supremely strong.

I think there is a level of detachment that has to happen in intense situations with children.  I can not be tied to whether or not my kids like me in any given moment. I can not be worrying about what they might say to me. If I have clearly and consistently laid out boundaries for them, then I can confidently stand by those boundaries and not be swayed by their agitation or imbalance.

Let WAR fall to the FLOOR

Since adolescence is right around the corner for my crew (12 boy, 10 girl, 8 boy), I have experienced a few, ahem, outbursts. The increased changes of mind and body can generate a spike in emotional energy, and suddenly without warning, a battle ensues.

My daughter in particular, the 10 year old, middle child, has recently become a little more prickly.  Because I know that hormones are the culprit,  I can simply respond to her with compassion, even when she behaves in a less than gentle manner.  When it is aimed toward me, I say, “I don’t yell at you, so I would appreciate the same kind of respect.”  She sometimes takes a pause, and reccaliberates,  “Mommy, I am sorry for yelling, what I meant to say was….” And other times, she stomps off.  I can only assume that she is going on a pilgrimage to some safe space to soothe herself.  And that is ok.  Upon her return, she is greeted with a loving welcome.

When the children have an emotional flair up, I don’t take it personally.  And neither should you! When their heart is at war, I hit it head on with PEACE.  I respond non-anxiously and let the WAR fall to the FLOOR. I don’t have to engage in a battle with a child.  I really don’t. When I remain self-defined, their eruption carries no power. Kids need this, do they not?  They need to know that we are strong enough to handle the full gamut of their emotion.

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My mother [God rest her soul, 2002] was a great example of unconditional love.  We always knew where we stood with her. She never took her love away from us regardless of our mood or attitude.  And you know what – – we respected her for it.  She was confident and full of grace.  My mom is the one I channel during difficult emotional moments.  I try to remember my own adolescent turbulence.  I breathe, and muster up the tenderness these little ones need from me, to continue on in their journey.

My hope is, that at some point in their 20’s and 30’s, my children will look back and reflect on our time together. They will unquestionably say that their mom was consistent, tolerant, and gracious. That they were loved regardless of their actions or inner unrest.

C’mon mamas and papas, we can do this. We can get through these turbulent times together! Let’s lock arms and move forward.  But please, I beg you. Don’t lash out at your child, whether they are 4 or 14.  Don’t yell at them just to show them that you can yell louder. Be the adult. Be compassionate. Be aware. Show them that their turbulence is normal and that you understand what they are going through.

At the very least, you will give them less to talk to their therapist about when they get married and have kids of their own!