Saturday, October 09, 2010

And the rain, rain, rain...

The sounds of the rain are coming through my half-open window. It's like a particularly good white-noise machine, and I love it. Alas, I am missing some key ingredients to make some good soup for dinner, so pizza will have to suffice (once the oven gets up to temperature). Once upon a time we made our own pizza, and when I can be sure of an hour without having to hold the baby, I suppose we can again: this one is from Costco.

It's gorgeous outside in that "I'm really glad I'm INside" kind of way. We did venture out today, to see a doctor (AGAIN) about Boyness' ear (which now obviously sports an infection, for which we now possess the necessary pharmaceuticals), and to do some grocery shopping. I got one of the main ingredients for my favorite soup but alas, forgot the other. One of the perils of shopping with children; even with your grocery list firmly in mind, by the time you've said "PLEASE stop poking your brother" for the 50billionth time, you've forgotten to buy both milk and sausages and the trip has gone almost* completely to hell (*"almost" rather than "entirely" simply because you've managed to acquire a six-pack of pumpkin spiced beer, a pint of ice cream, and several donuts; none of these things have anything to do with one another, but they're all awesome).

*breathe* the baby is asleep, the rain is lovely, and the children are playing messily and loudly but happily in the den.

Our Tuesday was awesome and horrible at the same time. I couldn't really post about it earlier because I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Tuesdays are usually "my" days, and Fran (true to form) got up and gathered the kids early to take them to his mom's despite the fact that he had some training-something (I try, as much as possible, not to pay attention to his work, just because I have enough to pay attention to already) and a lasik consult. They got about a mile down the road before the car just.stopped.going, though. I picked up the kids and he arranged towing; I had an appointment of my own, which I kept with all four kids in tow (which was quite the fiasco you're thinking it was), and then went and ran some highly important (like, we really shouldn't wait until the day the rent is due before paying it, right?) errands. By which time, of course, Fran was at a mechanic we've never gone to before (but the towing fee for our favorite one was prohibitive), so we went to get him. And then played with a friend who was fortuitously available to play at a park not terribly far away. And then, when we had to go eat and they had to go do their afternoon, we ran entirely by chance into another lovely friend-family, and had an absolutely lovely time playing with them.

Which would all be wonderful and happy-sunshine-kumbaya-warm-feeling-y, except that our car repairs totalled nearly $600. Astonished (and more than a little nauseated) by this sum, we called our usual mechanics (with whom we have a labor exchange deal, Fran's networking expertise for their fix-our-car-damnit skillz), only to find that the bulk of the charge was in fact the parts and they really couldn't do any better. Fuck. Fran cancelled the lasik consult, because that handily ate his eye-fixing money. We attempted to justify the expense in a way that made it feel better, but really couldn't given how freaking broke we are.

See? Mind-bending how much that day's awesome collided with it's crappy.

Friday, October 08, 2010


I wasn't sure how to spell "Hooky" ("Hookie" "Hookey"?), so I looked it up Google-style only to find out that there isn't, in fact, an agreed-upon way to spell this particular word, and I'm stuck with the galling fact that I cannot be sure whether my post title is misspelled.

Anyhow, Wednesday was far too autumn-crisp and beautiful to justify spending any time at all indoors, nevermind our usual 6 hours at the YMCA. Instead, we spent way too much time packing ourselves up and left home at about 11am, heading for the Olympic National Park.

Side note: I was unreasonably angry with my husband because I prepared all three meals and some snacks that day. And then I realized that I must have a pretty decent husband if I am upset that for ONE day I had to make all of the food my family ate.

We arrived at the park a little later than we'd wanted to, but the hike we chose wasn't particularly long. We went to Four Stream, from the Staircase trailhead; the hike is 2 miles each way. I wore the baby on my back; she weighs 19.5lb now and isn't super cooperative with the babywearing. She likes it fine, but she chews on the straps:

And leans out sideways to look at the trees (yes, she spent most of the hike leaning sideways and looking up):

It was a glorious fall day:

With the changing colors (a little muted, due to the overwhelming prevalence of evergreens and moss) and the sunshine:

We stopped for a belated lunch (the trail winds alongside the North Fork Skykomish River:

Once upon a time, (from some unspecified time until the mid 90s, anyway), there was a loop trail; on our way back, we detoured for a brief look at where a bridge used to cross the river to connect with another trail on the other side. We will probably take that trail (the one that skirts the other side of the river) if we have just an afternoon to spend hiking in the area again. Here's where we can't cross over anymore:

The reason we'd probably choose the other trail if we were doing this again (aside from the fact that we'd get to do something new) is that while we felt fairly deeply submerged in forest murk, the other bank was getting some glorious sunshine:

And oh look, just before we finished the hike, here's Chubble leaning out and looking up...still...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Grind

First, some Chubble-ness; she'll happily plunk away at the keyboard for at least half an hour, which is a LONG time for a five month old to stay occupied with anything.

We're back into fall. The "school year," which can be a confusing designation for an unschooling family. So, to clarify, we're not exactly sitting at home playing video games once the rest of the underage world gives up on summer and starts spending ungodly amounts of time in their desks; we basically attempt (largely in vain, due to the shortening days and the crap...ening (? how do you make THOSE verbs agree?) weather) to continue the hustle-and-bustle high activity level of summer. This year we are, however, also spending an ungodly amount of time at the YMCA. Our YMCA fills classes by lottery, and we had the ill fortune to have our classes spread out in a really inconvenient way that basically necessitates that we stay put, in the area if not actually in the building, for over 5 hours two days a week, with a bonus swim lesson late in the afternoon on another two days.

This means two days of the week get "eaten" by the Y, another by piano lessons/lunch with Nana, and another at art club. By the time the weekend rolls around, we're just as ready for a break as anyone else.

We try to cram family things in on days when Fran is off, which unhelpfully coincide with Y and piano days. This Monday, we shoved pumpkin-carving in before and after the Y:

And I shoved pumpkin-cheesecake making in after a full day out for doctor appointments and playdates and that bonus late-afternoon swim lesson, yesterday.

It seems like despite the lack of nameable things to fill our time (we can't say "the kids are at school from 8 to 3"), we are always struggling to accomplish all those little day-to-day things that we set our sights on; not just the notable achievements like baking cheesecake (that was a nice use of the unwieldy hour between getting home from the store and needing to get ready for bed last night), but the everyday miscellanea like laundry folding and living-room-vacuuming.

This all makes me wonder - because we are pretty happy with the pace of our lives right now, if not with the entirety of the details therein - how many families are living in "survival mode." You know, that just-get-through-the-day glazed-over attitude that so many parents of young (and young-ish) children exhibit.

There would be a certain ease, I'm sure, to sticking the kids in school. I certainly wouldn't have to spend car rides attempting to sneak in math drills without making them SEEM like math drills anymore. I've seen the wholesale abdication of personal responsibility with reference to schooling/education that happens when parents assume their children will go (of course) to the neighborhood school. It's never disputed, then, whether the parent is doing well enough to make sure their child is educated; the onus shifts, the new variation on parental responsibility becomes a kind of habitual nagging of ones' children to finish everything someone else thought they should be doing, while involving oneself as little as possible in the actual details. Most families never even consider doing schooling - really, childhood - another way and thus never face up to the fact that there are options at all, that accepting a public schooling route is actually a choice in and of itself (regardless of whether that family has looked at alternatives, the fact that they are existent means that there was a choice made). It's an interesting paradox; I had to think long and hard about my choice before I decided to homeschool while the parents who send kids to public school often do so with little thought, and yet which of us is questioned - by perfect strangers, even - as if our decision were a mere flight of fancy? And yet, my choice to opt out of that particular childhood institution is viewed with a level of skepticism that is usually only allayed by my childrens' high standardized test scores (I am convinced that they'd have to be drawing pictures with the bubbles to fall below the median, but that's besides the point at the moment), while it seems that the decision to send a child to public school is rarely if ever questioned.

While I have painted a less than rosy picture of parenting a public schooled child, I have to say that I'm not opposed to public schooling at ALL; what I'm trying to point out is that there's an assumed and widely sanctioned absence of attention to education (and I'm not talking, here, about the homeroom-parent type of "paying attention" - I'm talking about knowing the scope and sequence of what your children are learning and why they are learning it) on the part of public-school parents, while those of us who are conscientiously making a choice and taking the minutiae of what makes children well-learned into our own hands are assumed to be the ones who just might not be paying close enough attention. The constant question of whether we're "good enough" is enough to drive a smart and well educated mom and dad of smart and education-in-progress kids a little zany. We ask that question of ourselves every day. We don't need anyone else to be asking it of us, thanks.

I feel the need now to state that I'm not talking about friends with whom I chat constantly about how we're schooling (or not) and what our progress is or what our plans are. Nor am I talking about the kind of curious and well meaning questions we sometimes get, particularly from family, when people are just not familiar with the whole process.

I've wandered far in the writing of this blog. I don't do well writing about issues, I have trouble compartmentalizing and avoiding "and you know what else?" kinds of statements.

The original purpose of this entry was, I suppose, to state quite simply that our days are full, our lives are relatively happy, the kids are learning and growing, and we're getting our fun in there too.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Farm Tour

The last two weeks have found us mired in the autumnal gray wash of post-equinox PNW melancholy. Glorious days have coincided precisely with days that we've been stuck at the YMCA for classes. Bummer. I tend to think of autumn here as being kind of fuzzy 'round the edges; when the gray descends, the lines around everything (from leaves to street signs, my own hands to the shape of the car in front of me on the road) become ill-defined. The weather claims everything for itself. In my head, this isn't vicious; the overcast PNW-stereotype-gray-drizzle (it's a stereotype because it's TRUE, people) comes flowing over us to tuck us into bed for the winter. We are further north than most people realize, and by the time solstice comes around, daylight hours are precious few. I don't really know who originally told me that the people in our area are better read than usual because of this sleep-inducing weather-stupor that covers us for 4-5 months of the year, but it must be true; this is the weather for sitting in a corner with a spiced drink of some sort (let's just roll with the stereotype and say it's coffee) and a book.

At 11am, the light in my home is artificial. The warmth, thankfully, isn't; our heating bills were atrocious last year and we're putting off turning on the furnace until we have to.

We bring warmth in our own more emotional ways, instead. The smell of autumn, the excitement over Halloween. The sharp ginger-and-clove spices of fall, the warm smells of baking. Pumpkins. Sleeping in.

This weekend we went to the Farm Tour and (aside from a BittyPrincess meltdown of absolutely mind-boggling non-origin) had a great time. That child (BittyPrincess) has been really...emotional lately. "Go change honey, you can't wear your princess dress rock wall climbing." "YOU HATE MEEEEEE!!!!" (runs screaming into her bed). She's probably having issues with not being the baby of the family anymore, but since she still loves everybody, she has no idea how to vent it.

Anyway...Farm Tour...we saw chicks hatching at Gentle Giant Farms (this is the farm that gave us free apples and pears two years ago, because the farmer felt bad about the state of them...even though they were PERFECT for canning):

And (Girliness' favorite) got to feed the horses:

On to Creviston Farm, where the 10yo girls got embroiled in helping the owner's granddaughter care for the chickens (they were extremely happy about this), ate lunch:

And played with little bitty chicks:

We went to the Fiber Arts showing, and the kids got to card wool and keep the finished product (again, extremely happy kids). This was the site of the BittyPrincess melt-down, so no photos.

A final stop at Morgan Creek Farm, where I was intending to let everyone else explore while BittyPrincess and I hung out in the car resting, but BittyPrincess remembered that this is the farm that the flowers at the farmers' markets come from and wanted to check it out. She recovered her cool and walked around taking pictures of the flowers:

It was all in all a successful day, even though we could totally have done way without the meltdownage.