Finding My Tribe

While watching the new CBS show Scorpion (which Little Man loves as much as we do) I asked my son if he sometimes felt weird or different than everyone around him and his response was “no.”

He is not “normal”, I have cringed for him while watching from a distance as he tries to make friends with kids who ignore him at the playground and yet he does not feel different. I have overheard other children tell him that he is weird yet he does not feel weird. How is that possible? When I was his age I KNEW I was different. I KNEW that I was weird.

hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy.jpg

Growing up as a military child, moving every two to three years made fitting in hard. Others always thought it was hard because I was shy and introverted but I was also weird and slightly socially awkward, and I knew that. Never enough to catch the attention of the adults but enough to often be the butt of jokes. We always moved in the summer just before school started and with a Fall birthday the pressure was on to make enough new friends to have a birthday party. Add to that an introverted child who did not like small talk and you have a recipe for massive awkwardness. Try as I might by the time we left that duty station I was lucky to have made one or two real friends. I am still lucky to have made two friends at a new duty station, even as an adult.

Making friends is very hard. Finding other people, especially women, who understood my thought process or are willing to just go along with my weirdness is still extremely hard. I still don’t know what to say, or not say and even adults can be downright mean when you don’t fit their expectations. There have been several moves where I made several acquaintances but no real friends and as I got older I developed masks, pretend personalities that I knew would make friends. I knew how to act the parts because I was always watching other people. I knew what made some people likable and what made authors annoying and tried my best to put on a show. I have been ridding myself of masks over the last few years but still … very, very few ever see the real me.

The few that have seen the real me and still choose to stick around have become my tribe.

My community is mixed up with great friends and family and it is tiny. I can count on one hand my closest friends. People who think and act like me, none of us live near each other. When I married my husband, my teeny tiny tribe tripled. He is charismatic and outgoing, but he too has a small tribe of people that he considers his closest friends. His closest friends became my friends, my closest friends became his and combined with our families we have created a small but stable tribe that we can rely on.

The kicker is that, in gathering people like us and creating this safe zone for ourselves we have also created a safe zone for our children unintentionally. Like us, most of our friends and family are either gifted or high achieving…so are their children. Not because we are elitists or anything like that, its just that like minded people tend to search for understanding from other like minded people. The people who laugh at our inside jokes tend to think a lot like us. Not all of us are gifted or high achieving, but enough to be noticeable.

We realized that even though our children socialize with other children through community events, church get togethers (like sunday school and AWANA) and co-op like classes regularly they spend the most meaningful time with their cousins and the children of our closest friends.

Children who also obsess. Children who also deal with asynchronous learning. Children who think reading for hours or watching dissections online is totally cooler than whatever tv show is popular. 9 year olds who have no problem hanging out and talking Minecraft or Pokemon with their 7 year old friend/cousin because they enjoy that too. Friends who even if we don’t live in the same neighborhood, or even state, want to Skype/Facetime while playing Lego Batman or Little Big Planet and talk about their newest obsession. Family who doesn’t make fun of his stutter when he gets excited because they get just as excited as he does. Who do not make fun of him because he can’t ride a bike without training wheels because they also learned late.

Inadvertently, we have been blessed with this microcosm of gifted nerdiness where our children can be themselves without feeling like outsiders…at least with their closest cousins and friends. Enough so that, thanks to their social awkwardness and asynchronous development, they are blissfully ignorant of their differences…for now, who knows how things might change later on.

They are also in a nuclear family where all of us are different too. Their mother introduces them to Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who, and Star Wars by their 5th birthday. Muggles is a perfectly acceptable term in our household and they are often reminded that House Elves don’t live with us. Their father teaches them all about Anime (Studio Ghibli films are always chosen over Disney on movie night in our house), Chess, woodworking,knot making, and the inner workings of computers. Their uncles and aunts feed their love of Science with experiment kits for birthdays and books or Art supplies for christmas. A conversation between Little Man and Grandpapa (my grandfather) regularly revolves around astrophysics, chemistry and sometimes philosophy. Their favorite activity with Grandma and Grandpa is going to museums…especially Natural history ones with taxidermy and fossils.

Surrounded by their siblings and me daily means that imaginary friends, places and adventures are normal. Singing everything they’ve learned in the last few days while acting out epic battles are commonplace. Where our idea of a great night in is filled with watching back to back Science or Nature documentaries. It’s ok for my 7 year old boy to play with his sister’s fairy doll and not realize that its a “girl” toy or for my 3 year old daughter to wear a camo tee under her Cinderella dress while sporting a Nerf bow and aiming at her Lego prison. Where a single conversation can mix together English, Japanese and Spanish and everyone knows exactly what has been said.

We have redefined normality and our Tribe has helped us.

That is what it means to find your Tribe, To find people you trust and love. People who trust and love you, for being you…not a mask or persona. Online communities have helped me realize that I am not alone in this search for those like me. Shows like Scorpion and Leverage (real or not someone had to be dealing with these feelings of isolation to be able to present them to the public!) help me see that a small tribe is still a Tribe. Now it is my turn to help my children find their Tribe and move this cycle onto its next reincarnation.

I am so thankful that they don’t realize how different they are. I want them to be them, even if that stands apart from the rest of the world. Even if they are different. It took me decades to learn that lesson. If I can spare them that pain then our Tribe has done its job. Nothing is being lost. They still learn how to associate with others who are different, we are not shielding them from the realities that are out there. They spend more time in the normal world than with our Tribe, but the time that they spend with the Tribe has already taught them that they are not alone.

Isn’t that what we search for when we look for friends?

Proof that we are not alone?

Like a Lighthouse we each shine our “Muchness” out on the World, searching for lost members of our Tribe.

 findingmytribelighthousecapecod.jpg

Advertisements

Lost on the Journey

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the map that you get lost and almost miss out on the journey? Of course I am speaking metaphorically, but seriously, I am so there! So overwhelmed by where I am that I feel completely lost and the thought of what might be coming ahead scares me so much that I just stop and stare. How do I facilitate this? How do I inspire them to dig further? How do I get them to recognize all the steps between a and z? How do I find resources for this?

lostonthejourney.jpg

I am lost. At the point of freaking out. I listen to these interests and wonder how on earth do I facilitate this?

Little Man wants to know everything about chemistry…last year it was astronomy. I finally got to a place where I understood the questions he was asking and found him resources (entirely online because the curriculum that we found wasn’t deep enough for him and the encyclopedias all held the same superficial answers). We watched lectures from Princeton, watched youtube videos, NOVA episodes, listened to lectures and topics via podcasts and I finally felt like we had gotten into a grove of things when one of the lectures mentioned the chemical diversity of the universe. Well thanks mister professor man, now I have to find all new resources for chemistry. We have science encyclopedias that go into the periodic table, acids/bases, metals/gases, atomic structure and all that jazz. We went through all of that, the elementary aged sites and covered it all in three weeks. Well guess what, know he wants to know how to combine elements into chemical equations. He wants to know how to balance chemical equations. He wants to know how scientists use chemistry in real labs…he wants to blow stuff up. I live in an apartment, we are on a limited income…how do I even find all the stuff needed to help him without homeland security thinking we are building a bomb? He also recently decided that he needs to build a computer from scratch and understand how they work… Where do I even start?

…and thats just one kid.

Little Miss want to learn photography (we don’t even own a camera…just a smartphone), how to play the guitar (we have youtube and a used guitar but I have no idea how to help with that) and she wants to paint…several paintings, daily. She wants to know about people from other cultures, she wants to know everything she can about our family. She wants to write stories about people and she wants to learn how to swim (its almost winter!). While each of these are relatively easier to facilitate they still require funds and time. How do I help them both when they both require so much from me?

Add to this:

Curly Q is learning to read, she wants to know everything about the human body and how animals live in habitats, what their life cycles are and how predators find food. She wants to store every leaf,twig and “treasure” in the house while also having fossils and skeletons in our house…our tiny house. She is also obsessed with Pokemon, Ninjago and Digimon…I don’t even know how to begin.

Itty Bitty is obsessed with dinosaurs and marine wildlife. She wants me to hold her and read to her ALL THE TIME!

Honestly, I’m failing at balancing all four them. I can’t hold Itty Bitty and set up a chemistry experiment. I can’t help Little Miss write her stories and help Curly Q learn to read.

I get so overwhelmed that I sometimes shut down. I can’t do it all. We can’t afford to get tutors/lessons. Curriculums don’t work in our house. The energy levels are too high to expect them all to sit and listen to audiobooks.

filmstripducks.jpg

So how do we get anything done?

I have to turn the questions back on the questioner. I can not find every resources. I can not answer every question. They have to be independent learners. They have to find their own answers too.

I help them find their own resources, they are still young and need help with search functions. I can not find the resources myself but I can hold itty bitty, answer Curly Q’s question and oversee a web search while Little Miss is painting on the balcony. We go to the library weekly, often checking out 20 books or more, but I don’t read every book. I don’t have the time, neither do they. Little bitty sometimes just looks at the pages (we get her ones filled with illustrations). We look up videos for some of them to watch while I work with another on something else. I have art supplies out for daily use and then special supplies intermittently. I ask daddy to tackle some of the subjects…like computers, I know nothing about computers. We go to zoos, museums and aquariums regularly, 2 -3 times a month. However, the biggest thing I have to do is let go. I just cannot do it all as well as I would like, but you know what…neither would a traditional school environment.

squidwatching.jpg

They are not loosing anything if they cannot answer every question right now. They have a lifetime of learning ahead of them. These questions will keep coming up. We will continue to find every resource we can afford, we will find every material that is possible. We will try our best to meet their needs and eventually we will have to outsource…maybe sooner than I would like to think.

For now, we let them ask the questions.

We google, youtube and library ourselves crazy trying to find answers.

And I freak out. Daily. It is now part of our rhythm.

I still feel like a failure, I am still overwhelmed by it all. I often feel completely alone. Lost and alone.

But I am not alone, I am not the only one trying desperately to meet the needs of my children. Others needs may not be the same as ours but every mother is struggling to find a way to meet the needs of their child. The online community has helped me to realize that I am not the only one freaking out. I am not the only one that feels like a failure even though the proof suggests otherwise.

I am not lost…I am just following the GPS in unfamiliar territory.

I don’t know what directions will come next, or when they will come.

I don’t know the area or the destination so I feel like I am lost, even though I am right on track.

It’s the journey that’s important though, right?

It’s the stops and sights along the way that make it great?

Right?

vintagefilmstripbridge.jpg

The Failure Challenge

I go through phases and lately I have been very introspective, as I’m sure you have noticed but I wanted to break up all that seriousness and write something fun and helpful. I really like reading and for right now education is my obsession. Maybe because I’m elbow deep in it with my children and I really don’t want to mess them up. Whatever the reason, the obsession lead me to a whole new topic, The “Growth Mindset”.

Thanks to Salman Khan (the founder of Khan Academy) there has been a lot of focus on the “Growth Mindset” and treating your brain like a muscle. Originally coined by Carol Dweck, the term refers to how we think about intelligence. Dweck has literally written the book on this and I cannot wait to get my hands on the entire thing, Mindset is already fascinating me and I have only read small bits and pieces online via her articles.

TheFailureChallenge.jpg

I read another article today on the Huffington Post which made me think about how we train our brain and our children’s brains. The article talks about how we praise our children and Khan also has a video based on the same thing. This whole concept makes me think about what I say to my kids and how we as a family approach learning. We already do so much to help them develop independency in their learning and to promote a healthy view of learning so imagine my surprise when I found myself in the static intelligence camp! I am totally guilty of saying “wow, you did such a great job!” instead of “wow, you worked so hard on that” or at jumping in when I see them getting physically agitated and asking if they would like my help. I wasn’t jumping in and taking over, I was offering assistance… but looking back, yeah I really could have let them keep trying and instead encourage the process. In this photo my big boy is riding a dirt bike for the first time. I wasn’t praising him, his father and uncle ran along side him shouting encouragement…right up until he lost control and crashed into a bush. His yellow sweatshirt leaped out of the bushes and with pride he removed his helmet and screamed with excitement “That was AWESOME! Can I do it again?” He did. He got back on that bike again and again. Little Miss did too, even after getting burned on the leg when the bike fell on top of her. We treated the burn and within 10 minutes she was back on the bike, refusing help because she knew she could do it.

bikefun.jpg

I will admit, if given the choice between an easy option that ensures success and a harder option that I might fail, I will always choose the easy option. I don’t like failure. I despise it. Every perfectionist tendency screams at the thought of failure. I will also admit that because the early years of mothering were so demanding, exhausting and downright hard, I have lost my ability to read hard books. Before the both of my younger two I read The Prince and The Leviathan for fun. I picked up Einstien, Darwin and Plato…for fun. Often out loud to my son because I didn’t like talking about nonsense to a baby playing with blocks, I felt silly giving a running commentary on the state of blocks and so I just read out loud so that he would still hear language being spoken around him when it was just the two of us. I read them because I wanted to know why they were considered classics. I also read Farenheit 451, Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar (again) just because I could. I tried, and tried, and tried after the younger two were born and I couldn’t get past page 3 of ANY book above a tween/teen reading level. Now I can focus better but I have to build it all back up to my previous ability and its hard, so often I really did not even try. It actually saddened me and for a while there I was convinced that it is just how things worked. It is not how things work. I can change.

Bookbag.jpg

This newer way of looking at intelligence though doesn’t say that your born with innate intelligence and once you met that cap you must give up all hope of rising above. Your not smart or dumb. Instead you learn and grow through failure. Novel concept isn’t it? I am fairly certain that this isn’t a new way of thinking. In fact, I am positive that this is not new. There is nothing new about it because it is the very foundation of the scientific method! It is not new but it has been renamed and re-marketed to the current generation of parents. A response, if I may be so bold as to make a generalization, to the growing resentment our generation has with the whole instant gratification concept that we have been duped by. This idea is probably gaining so much steam because it is a kernel of wisdom that has been lost with the rise of instant gratification and labeling. My question is how do I actively instill this in my own gremlins so that they do not fall prey to thoughts of inability?

The answer scares me and challenges me.

We Fail.

All of us, openly and proudly.

We fail, we analyze and we try again until we find a way that works.

The whole thing actually reminds me of Disney’s Meet the Robinson’s and the “Keep Moving Forward” catch phrase that came with it. I loved that movie, my son LOVED that movie…so much so that he destroyed the disc by watching it too many times. My favorite scene in the whole movie is when the family has a party to celebrate the main characters failure. How cool is that? A Failure Party.

Tablesnchairs.jpg

I am going to create a challenge, a Failure Challenge, to celebrate learning through failure.

There are a couple of ways to join in the fun, choose one or do both:

1) Choose a day, once a week to celebrate your failures as a family or keep. If your a Tea Party kind of family then have a Failure Tea where you celebrate each others failures and the learning that grew from it. It doesn’t have to be a Tea Party, it can be any kind of party that fits your family.

2) Keep a Failure Journal: its like a thankfulness journal or a blessings journal, only we are going to chronicle our failures and the lessons we are learning from them. This is not a bashing exercise of everything we are doing wrong. This is an active way to change how we view failures. Do not look down or feel ashamed of these failures, each one is teaching us or preparing us.

The point of this challenge is to celebrate growth. To teach our children and ourselves not to fear failure but to expect it, grow from it and preserver.

Are you brave enough to Fail publicly?

To appear fallible in front of your children, family or peers?

If so join me!

2Corinthians129-10.jpg

My American Dream

MyamericanDream.jpgThe internationally renowned American Dream where anyone from anywhere can find their place and live their lives freely.

Wait, is that a little old fashioned? Hmmm, Let me try again. This time in a radio show host “voice” a la the 40’s.

Ah, the illustrious American Dream. Where the little guy from nowhere breaks it big and the world falls at his feet.

No? Ok let’s try a salesman pitch.

The One and Only American Dream, Available now, where anyone can become a success! All you have to do is get a college degree, drive a nice car, own a beautiful house and buy everything you could ever need!

Terms and conditions apply. Please read the fine print. Sign your soul on the bottom line. Debt may be incurred. Purchase at your own risk.

There it is!

Yep, that’s the message I was taught.

Not by my parents, oh no. They are totally not cool enough to get with the “hip lingo”. No, like all the cool kids I got that gem of “wisdom” from the mainstream media, bombarded over time.

Now I’m not going to blame a specific show or even channel with bombarding my malleable mind with images of illicit consumerism. Nope, because besides the TV, I also learned that in my school, church and playground. Not from the curriculum, Bible or playground equipment…that wasn’t the culprit either. Nope, it came from other people’s actions.

No, little Susie on the see-saw was not trying to push her business ventures as we sat on scorching hot equipment. Bobby was not trying to push his brands name over the competition. Not at all that overt, but, Bobby just may have been wearing that Michelangelo t-shirt I saw on TV and holding that Raphael figurine that just came out. Or little Susie was probably rocking out to Michael Jackson while wearing a Rainbow Bright tee, which I needed too.

Dora is the new Barney.

Dora is the new Barney.

All that merchandise, all the commercials with happy people buying things they must have in order to be happy…it gets ingrained into you after a while. It did to me.

Funny story…
When I was about 7 -8 years old, walking through a drugstore with my mom and little brother, I stopped in front of the creams and exclaimed with massive amounts of excitement a phrase that made my mother laugh riotously, even though I was completely serious. “Mom, I really think I need to buy some Preparation H.” I remember her laughing, and laughing and my brother staring at me like I had broken her. Her words were simple and to the point. “No you don’t. That’s butt cream.” Now it was my brothers turn to giggle uncontrollably. He laughed and called me “butt girl” for most of the day (that’s pretty funny stuff when your a 5-6 year old boy!)…and that was when I learned that commercials are not always true.

True story.

Come on though, think about it. Does anyone even remember those 80-90’s Preparation H commercials? It was some woman or man doing fun stuff and then claiming that it was all because of Preparation H! I wanted to ride horses and go mountain biking too! So, logically I would need Preparation H to do it!

Soooo, anyway… um… ya, this is just how my mind works. It is very black and white when it comes to things like rules or laws (or at least it took years for me to understand that greys exist). To break down the thought process would look like this:

If lying is bad

and children have to listen to and have respect for adults

then logically adults don’t lie

and since adults make TV,

then TV didn’t lie either.

This is also why we don’t let our kids watch commercials…my son is as literal as I was…no I take that back. He’s probably much worse. Afterall, when he was learning how to talk he called his blankie “this”. He kept that up for four years. All because when he was crying as an infant we would ask “is this what you want?” Or “do you want this” and then hold up the blankie first. His sisters had the same conversation occur, not one called their blankie anything other than blanket.

7 years and going strong.

7 years and going strong.

Fast toward a few decades, into the time of great clothes,and hair, and wallah! You’ll find me trying to build my own piece of the American Dream. My husband saw the Americam Dream differently. Why wouldn’t he? He grew up differently and his idea of want vs need is vastly different from mine. That was when I started seeking advice.I went to bible studies, and learned so much. I talked to older women, and learned so much. Read blogs and went “hmm.” Every mentor and bible study kept telling me to simplify. Focus on priorities. Put God first, everything else will fall into place later.

Simple right?!

Man I worked so hard on that already! I WAS prioritizing and God WAS already at the center of my thought process so all I needed was to simplify right? This is no lip service, there’s a reason I went to the Bible regularly searching for answers and talking to Church mentors, I needed those how to references! Yeah…remember my post on balance…this is when the epic battles became nightmarish massacres. The simplify part just didn’t fit my idea of the American Dream. I’m an American, so shouldn’t my American Dream be huge!

I had been trying to go full fledged “simple” for about 5 years. It was a long and slow journey that has opened my eyes to many truths over time. However, until recently all I really did was change the way I got more stuff in a simple/inexpensive style, not the mentality to a more simple life.

I never was the materialistic type. It’s not like I was buying crazy stuff, I wasn’t shopping weekly or placing my self worth into brand names. I had kids, student debt, a deploying husband, and a single income to live off of. I was frugal! I was cutting corners and making things work. The dollar store and thrift shop was my best friend!

Looking back, instead of having a few nice things we needed, I had lots of cheap things.

When I wanted something pretty I would Pinterest that baby! The stuff was never a priority, we lived in wildfire country, I knew without hesitation that the only thing I would ever need in a hurry , besides my kids, was my computer, where I stored our family pictures. Anything else in the house could be lost in a fire without a single regret. We own no heirlooms or  items steeped in righ tradition…I have nothing to offer Antique Roadshow for appraisal. Even if none of it mattered to me, it was still always there, and just too easy to get more of and then stash somewhere.

I went DIY crazy! I bought more materials so that I could make more stuff. I created elaborate birthday cakes that we ate within minutes of finishing. I learned how to craft…sewing, crochet…do you know how much stuff comes along with needle work? You need so much fabric and yarn…stuffed in every basket or bag. I saved money everywhere I went and I had the satisfaction of having made the item…I love creating, its so empowering!

See, I told myself, I made it… Simple!

I was focusing so much on how we were saving money, on NOT buying what we didn’t need that I didn’t even realize that I was still accumulating stuff…stuff we didn’t need…or even really use.

Elaborate or Simple, either way my Family is the focus.

Elaborate or Simple, either way my Family is the focus.

In my mind I was living the dream. It was wonderful. We were happy. Well, we thought we were happy.

The almighty Corps handed down the orders and everything changed.

We said goodbye to the most perfect house I’ve ever lived in, on military housing, as a family. Left behind an amazing 50’s TV like neighborhood where children rode bikes in streets, walked to the bus stop alone while moms chatted in pjs with coffee mugs, and teens babysat for reasonable prices or mowed lawns for the deployment single moms. We hugged our new best friends and cried crocodile tears as we drove away. Two adults, a kindergartner, 3.5 year old, 2 year old and 9 month old plus all their stuff crammed into a van heading across the country for four days (8-9 hours per day in the car). One child threw up half way through day two forcing us to find a hotel with washing machines. The two year old was potty training. Daddy had only been home from his second deployment in two years for two weeks and we were all ready to be home.

The new base was a joint command run by the Army. Beautiful but strange and unfamiliar. The schools were lovely but just didn’t fit with our family. There was a rich community outside of base but on base it was cliquish according to both rank and service affiliation. So many outside job opportunities for wives meant working families, which in turn meant few children playing outside or at daytime programs for my Newly homeschooled (again) children. Finding a church was awkward, a Bible study, even worse…due to my newly homeschooled children.

The house was in front of an adorable playground with attached woods for exploring but was about 300 square feet smaller and a townhome, so we lost the benefit of a two car garage.

We had to downsize. Stuff was bursting from the seams. We got rid of one third of our stuff. None of it bought by us. I thought I was being “simple” and living the American Dream when I said yes to all of those hand me downs and gifts.

I thought we needed the baby toys, clothes, sofas, gadgets, etc…

When others moved, we received. We were still under our allotted weight so we weren’t that bad, we were by no means “hoarders”. The kids had everything they could want and they were turning into brats. They fought over every toy. Everyday. They would have tantrums over cleaning up their messes and epic battles would ensue with great wailing and gnashing of teeth by all involved parties. Now that we were in a new place, with new seasons, stuck indoors for days on end, it was a big problem that wasn’t getting any better. I had no real solution either and all the organizing ideas required even more stuff.

"If I just get organized enough, it will all get better."

“If I just get organized enough, it will all get better.”

Eighteen months later, after much prayer and a change in circumstances, we decided the smart thing to do would be to get out of debt so that we could be prepared for whatever gets thrown our way next. We decided the best way to do that is to move out of military housing.

It was with this drastic move that the epiphany knocked me flat on my rear.

We needed to downsize. Again. This time to an apartment. With two bedrooms and a loft, this place’s square footage is more than half the size of the last house. I was preparing my self for even more monumental battles over cleaning and organizing. I was researching a million ways to organize small spaces and we started watching and/or reading everything we could find on the tiny house movement. I still wasn’t sure if we could pull it all off.

Guess what. We did. I didn’t think that having less stuff could be such a huge help! I didn’t think that it would help me prioritize. I didn’t think that having less stuff would help our relationships grow. I didn’t realize that having less stuff would help ME center God again…I hadn’t even realized that I had moved God out of my center. I started this blog to chronicle the amazing blessings hidden in the everyday…but I was getting lost under my stuff. If the American Dream is centered on freedom, than why, like so many others, did I not realize that I was giving up my freedom? I was handing off my inalienable right towards the pursuit of happiness in order to be enslaved by the Debt and collection of trivial and inconsequential rubbish.

 The TV lied, again. Not one of us needed that extra stuff. Life is more simple without it. More enjoyable. We still remind the kids to clean up but the battles are no longer epic. Now there is less to clean and less to fight over. I don’t need that extra space. I never did. I would love a library and artist studio one day but I don’t need a big place to have that. I don’t need 2000 square feet to have a happy family of six. I don’t even need a 1000. I don’t need a full closet of clothes. Neither do my children. I don’t need a new camera, TV or computer. The ones I have now work fine, especially if I take care of them. My children don’t need a separate room full of toys… They don’t even need toys in their room. We have four bags of toys (garbage bags not grocery bags) and more clothes that we moved here and haven’t unpacked yet. They don’t even miss them.

housenhome.jpg

We still want to own our own land one day. Maybe one day soon, maybe not. That’s not for us to know right now. But even with that it’s about owning the land it’s a different mentality. It’s not about a big house, near a big city… It’s not even about a small house in a small rural town. It’s about want vs. need. The American Dream is to have the freedom to provide for the NEEDS of your family, not their wants.

Simplicity is not a style. Making things or buying them, either way can be simple. It is not about the stuff at all. Pinterest worthy,  Magazine worthy or out of date… none of that matters. Debt is not a necessity, but getting into it sure is easy and getting out of it is much harder than I ever imagined. Commercials, Billboards, TV shows and even the News build their business off of this perversion of the American Dream…don’t buy into it.

I like to watch PBS history shows (you know where the story is based on truth?) from time periods like the Great Depression and listen to stories passed down through the family because they remind me that providing for needs is anything but simple. It’s filled with hard work, self restraint, balance and integrity.

I need more self-restraint…but thats a fruit of the spirit issue and requires a whole ‘nother story altogether.

The American Dream was never about stuff. It was about people, freedom and life.

About people, living freely.

Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC

Cherry Blossom Festival
Washington DC

As a start I have a new mantra. It’s “relationships are more important than things” the kids and I repeat this often.

Because,

In the end.. No matter what…

People are always more important,

Always.

I still Pinterest stuff and I still buy stuff. I still cook or bake from scratch and we still go out to eat. I still crochet..but that doesn’t mean I’m doing it willy nilly, now we do it with purpose. Living a simple life is knowing that your needs are met and being comfortable enough to say “I want that but I don’t need that” or “I have this but I don’t need this” and moving on. It means focusing on the child playing with blocks instead of being on my phone trying to find a new pattern. It means taking the time to call that friend back and TALK, instead of instagraming my “homemade” PSL right now (I can do it tonight or when I have down time). Its taking the time to smile at the stranger we walk past and recognizing their presence in the world, that’s a big step for this introvert.

So, yes it may be old fashioned but My American Dream is a place

where anyone from anywhere can find their place and live their lives freely.

matthew2234-40.jpg

Ah, Balance. We meet again, my worthy Foe.

balance

This is an experiment. Homemaking, Homeschooling, Blogging, Writing…

A social experiment that I am testing on myself.

An Experiment on Balance. Oh, that elusive concept that I struggle with so very deeply on a regular basis.

I would like to think that Balance and I engage in epic battles. Clashing swords and wearing chain mail as a Majestic Dragon (her name is Life) soars overhead burning us all in its wake.

If not, than the war is waged solely in my head and then I am just fighting with myself constantly (that makes me feel a bit unscrewed so I will pretend the former occurs, its more grandiose).

I never feel adequate. Put together. Or like I am doing enough.

I have a list…

I am quite sure that all women do, regardless of their roles or outwardly appearances.

I’m willing to share mine for one simple fact…this list doesn’t define me

(“grace y’all” as my lovely Sister in law would say)

I am not who this list says I am, I am so much more… but that’s not the topic for this post so movin’ along!

As a woman:

I am lazy. It’s a running joke between my husband and I. I am simultaneously hard working and focused yet unable to get a simple to do list finished or even remember where that to do list is.

 I am forgetful. I often tell my children that we will try out an experiment later or research an idea later on only to completely forget. Or completely forget that I put a load in the washing machine before bed on Tuesday and on Thursday need to re-wash that same load… and in a bad month again two more times at separate intervals in a month.

As a Mom:

I yell too much. I am an impatient person and I yell when I get frustrated or I do the opposite and I shut down.

As a Wife:

I am selfish.

no explanation needed, just purely selfish. I will totally drink the last can of soda while DH is at work or complain when I finally sit down and he asked for a glass of water (he is usually the one who will get up without questions to get me the same glass though if I ask).

As a Homemaker:

I am inconsistent at best.

I menu plan and then ignore the menu. I make everything homemade in a week and then don’t do it again for several months. I keep the kitchen clean for a few days and then its a wreck for a week.

You get the gist… inconsistent.

As a Homeschooler:

All of those things are magnified as a homeschooler. All of them.

As a Blogger:

I am a total NEWB! I am trying to figure out how this works? What is my style? I am in no way trying to be a Pro Blogger but I do want to put forth my best but not in a lets cover everything up kind of way because whats the point of that? I am still trying to figure out that pesky little subject I ignored in school: Grammar. Yeah, that decision came and bit me in the rear!

So…

Yo, Balance? What’s up?

What’s a girl gotta do to get you on her side?

Does it matter if I “succeed” or are you one of those “work in progress” things? You know, the ones where people look like they’ve figured it all out but really they are still just trying to make it through the day or week alive?

Are you “buddy, buddy” with anyone or just the best friend everyone wants and no one has?

“Well, do ya? punk?”

(yeah I totally quoted Dirty Harry…and you are totally thinking it in that uber raspy Clint Eastwood voice, aren’t ya?)

Any how, back to me.

Here’s what I am starting to figure out.

1) Balance is not something I have or don’t have.

Sure I can balance a scale but life is messy and all this balancing wears me out! What if balance is a frame of mind not a state of being? Because when it is a state of being I am saying that a+b+c must be on one side and e+f+g must be on the other, but what happens when a project shows up, or a child is sick, or life goes berserk? Have I now lost my balance? What if instead I look at it as a frame of mind. Instead of saying I need less of this and more of that I look at it as a sliding scale that is ever changing in the face of the obstacles that appear before me.

2) I gotta be gracious with the grace.

I HAVE to look at my flaws with Grace. I have to, or my perfectionism will tear me to shreds. Those flaws are still there and I am working on being a better person so that my flaws don’t overshadow my strengths. It is a work in progress, but that is not going to stop me from seeing the accomplishments and strengths that show so brightly to others (thank you LORD for giving me people that force me to shine my light on myself sometimes!).

So yes, I am selfish, but I’m also empathetic. Yes I am inconsistent but I am also ready to try new things. Yes I am a novice, but I have been given a gift of research and a love of learning. I may be lazy, I may have a short fuse and I may be forgetful but my unconditional love is apparent through my actions and daily sacrifices that I make for my family and everyday I stand up and try again.

So, Balance how about a chat over some Tea in stead of an epic battle next week?

After all Life is a journey, not a teleportation to the end…

that would make for a horrible story… let’s read it together.

The Leap

Ever felt like the future was rushing toward you and you are insanely ill-prepared?

To stand on the precipice of the unknown and know deep down that you have nothing to offer?

What if, instead of feeling fear or anticipation, you felt Exhilaration?

Does that make you Daring or Brave?

Can I call myself Adventurous, if I lean into the wind and laugh maniacally?

Or am I just too scared to face the fear?

I would like to think that Faith has brought me here,

Woven through me the tendrils of Peace so completely that I cannot even conceptualize the gravity of the unknown.

That Grace has lifted me into the bosom of its winged caress,

singing softly the calming melodies of courage and strength.

Have I missed the call to wild anger?

Did I lose the memo stating the appointed time to panic?

Maybe i just showed up early and jumped to the front of the line,

waiting for your voice to call me forward.

Fear and Faith

dance round me,

they beckon and call out my name.

I stand on the edge unbroken, cracks held together with glue.

Together we will hold onto the darkness and jump forth bringing light anew.

Theleap.jpg

Why having a “Gifted” label matters to me.

The Science Guys

The Science Guys

We have not been tested as gifted. I don’t feel like we need to be in order to be gifted. The test does not produce the giftedness, it only confirms it. Even so, knowing that there is a label for people like me and my family has made understanding myself and my family infinitely easier and surprisingly less lonely.

My children have never been formally tested. I have never been formally tested. My parents have never been formally tested. I don’t feel like we need the test to know that giftedness runs in our family. Not being smart, being gifted and all that it entails. From the Aunt who cried because she spilled the milk to the cousin who would not sleep for the duration of her infancy…and toddlerhood. Signs of over excitabilities, Advanced learning and Asynchronous development can be found in every generations tales.

My grandfather was diagnosed as being a Sudden Savant. He and his two older brothers were all members of Mensa, but if you ask him about it (he is a Medical Nuclear Physicist and very respected in his field) he’s just an idiot compared to his brothers. I know very little of their mother, my great grandmother. We do know that she was one of the first Puerto Ricans to come to New York City with her husband, my great grandfather, and that she learned English in 6 months without an accent. We also know that she was the child of a wealthy plantation owner and his field worker, unclaimed until she went back with her own son’s who became the joy of his old eyes. Considered by all in their near Ponce area as a great beauty.

This is my history. I am a part of her legacy. She persevered through abuse, becoming a WWII widow, single mother of three gifted boys, racism and poverty. Always with her head held high and her faith immovable. She watched her oldest son drown himself in drugs and alcohol to dull the boredom of living. An insanely talented man gone too early and missed dearly by his family.

I was raised with this story as a warning. Intelligence is not everything. It does not save you from yourself. It does not protect you from pain. More intelligence is not always better or easier. These were truths passed down and will continue to be passed down. The pain that cursed our family is one no one wishes to see repeated.

However, being gifted, living with over excitabilities and fighting the existential depression that accompanies this is not something a warning can prevent. It is still there. Visible in every generation to varying degrees.

Rainforest minds, tall poppies, creatively gifted, people pleasing gifted, over excitabilities, asynchronous development, existential depression. It’s all there in every generation. Lying quietly, undiagnosed. We are not prodigies. None of us went to college at an extremely early age or created something that changed the world overnight. All of us are “normal”…but not enough to be normal.

I don’t know if I was the first to feel alone, in a room full of people. Obviously different, bullied for being too smart, held in place for being too immature. Its not something we talk about but from other conversations we have had, I believe that I m not.

When my first cousin was born, the first and only one to be labeled as anything officially, she stood out as being obviously different. It was the mid 90’s and in the early stages of the popularization of Autism (I sometimes wonder if she is 2E but came before the understanding that a person can be both). She was diagnosed and we all learned everything we could about it, even me who was barely 13 and living far away.  My aunt took on every training possible so that she could assist in classrooms as she grew and was the first to homeschool as more than just an experiment. The epitome of a dedicated mother.

When my son was 3 they visited me and my aunt was the first to notice the differences. Not quite autism, like her daughter, but something was there that looked a lot like it. She gently pointed them out to me while we waited for our dinner and opened my eyes to a whole new world. Over the next two years I talked to pediatricians, read studies, delved into all the possibilities asking every question I could think of but he didn’t show enough of the markers to be Autistic or to have Aspergers. So what was it?

We knew the little guy was smart, we all are, so what.

He started his obsession with science at 4. He obsessed. He taught himself to read. He could not keep still. His hands made (still make) strange movements when he plays. He is extremely sensitive to sounds (a ballon being popped in the same room will lead to a meltdown…his father has conditioned him to prepare himself but occasionally he still melts down). His sense of right and wrong is BLACK and WHITE, there is no grey and his sense of justice is absolute. He can not control his emotions. If he is excited or happy he will literally bounce until you place your hands on his shoulders. If a wrong has been committed a melt down will occur. He has two volumes, thinking and loud. He is ALWAYS using his imagination, always.

His sister is a people pleaser. She will change how she responds to people based on the expectations of those around her. She has an absolute sense of right and wrong and cries to herself alone when she knows a wrong as been done. She is empathetic beyond belief and hurts when others hurt, yet covers it all with a strong facade. Looking at her the wrong way will cause the tears to flow or anger to flash. She has a concrete understanding of the world around her and she sees everything as a beautiful story waiting to unfold. She is a perfectionist and demands perfection from herself. She remembers everything you tell her, except when it comes to reading, which she hates about herself.

Her sister is stubborn. Set in her ways. NOTHING you can say or do will convince her to change her mind but you can persuade her to do things anyway. She is the queen of Meltdowns in our house. Not tantrums, meltdowns. She is the child who will cry uncontrollably if the tights have a tag, even after the tag has been removed. She will not wear those shoes without socks because the sparkles hurt her ankles. She cannot go to sleep without some sort blanket on top of her, preferably her favorite one. She understands people. She can manipulate them to do her will but she can also be surprisingly kind. She has been talking since before her first birthday, in complete sentences. Her vocabulary is so vast that people often assume she is at least one year older then her actual age. She LOVES poetry and stories. Not mother goose and Peter Rabbit, like most 3 year olds although she does enjoy hearing them and has the stories memorized. She wants to hear Robert Louis Stevenson and Lewis Carroll. She waited until her older sister had finally figured out how to read (after over two years of trying- of her own accord and pushing) before declaring that she too would now start reading…and then started reading. She also obsesses, although her obsessions tend to be based on stories and characters. For her, ALL ninja’s are intricately linked to NINJAGO.

Her younger sister spoke late. At almost 2 she was barely stringing together syllables, let alone words. After 2, syllables became words and words, sentences within a month. All of a sudden she is answering questions aimed at her older siblings, surprising everyone around. She never stops moving. Ever. She manipulates people who do not know her. She obsesses over information… right now its dinosaurs and fish.

Being gifted has nothing to do with them being smart, at least not to us. That’s not why I jumped for joy when I found a label that explained the differences and again when the pediatricians agreed. I know amazingly wonderful children, whom I love, that are normal or learning disabled children who are smart and wow me when I’m with them. Who’s parents pour developmentally appropriate goodness their way and their spongelike brains soak it up regularly. I don’t care if my children can read earlier than someone else’s. This is not a bragging right to me. I strongly believe that every child is bestowed with an Amazing gift, regardless of if they are gifted. To us being gifted is not about unwrapping a child’s gifts.

It is about being able to understand and cope with WHY my child is having a meltdown (at 7) because his younger sister said he was wrong when he knew he was right, just because she could. It’s about understanding WHY my daughter is being so hard on herself for not getting something right the first time. It’s about knowing WHY my daughter starts screaming for apparently no reason if we are at the store at 1138 and I don’t have a snack. It’s about knowing WHY my daughter fights sleep every night.

Its about HOW to help them through everyday and maybe one day they will be able to go through it without me. It’s about NOT being ALONE. As a parent trying to help my children. As a person who just wants someone else to get it. As a child growing in a world that simultaneously praises intelligence and condemns it. It’s about the HOPE that one day they will be stronger than me when faced with who they are and how firmly they stand in the PEACE of who they are and who our Creator made them to be. It is also about them NOT being alone, in a way that I have struggled with for most of my life. I want better for them. Like every other Mother out there.