The days are winding down until my Eldest Girl Child heads out into the world for her 8 month adventure in Ecuador~ to live with an unknown host family in an unknown part of the country and work an unknown internship. I’m realizing as I type this just how many unknowns that is, and what a brave and amazing young woman I have been blessed with.
A number of our young family friends are also flying from their nests this fall, but most of them know exactly where they are heading, where they’ll live and who with and for the most part, how they will spend their days. Most could also drive home for holidays or even long weekends.
My Girl has none of these cushions. But even though it’s a lot of trust in the unknown, as her mama, I know in my heart she will do great.
At 18, my Girl Child has already been navigating young adulthood pretty darn well, but all of the prep work, paperwork, bureaucracy, and loose ends she has to deal with to make her upcoming adventure happen are like adulting on steroids. Understandably, there’s been a bit of stress and emotion permeating our happy home life lately.
On a recent random day, I noticed that she was terribly frustrated and annoyed ~ and if her burning glare and verbal barrage were any indicator, she was about to karate kick her brother in the throat. Around that time, something in my mama instincts revved up and told me that I needed to get my family out of the house and into some nature.
We have lots of nature, quite literally in our backyard, but there is also wifi and the view of the home and the impending feeling of all the things that need to be done.
I knew that wasn’t going to cut it this time. I needed to get her away from all of it, someplace where she literally couldn’t do anything about all the distractions and where she could sleep uninterrupted and under the stars. In my vision, we would preferably be next to running water.
So, I posed the idea of taking her and her brother camping~ just for a night to someplace nearby~ a little last rendezvous to the woods.
The three of us have had so many good times (and some not so great ones) adventuring near and far in a tent. We’ve dreamed and schemed, laughed and planned, philosophized and grown together, and seen so much of our beautiful country with our cheap fabric walls as shelter.
Taking one last trip before the Girl headed out sounded good in theory, but with all the to-do’s and life in general, we were were all a little wishy washy about my lukewarm presentation of the idea.
But as the stress and exhaustion wore on my kid, I knew I needed to do an intervention.
The Boy, had been busy most of the summer, and had just returned from several days of backpacking himself. He was tired and reluctant to pack a bag and leave the comfort of his bed again so soon. But I knew what we needed was to be together~ both kids and me.
So, I gave the Boy a hard stare and told him that we needed to go support his sister. He knows where my hard stares go, so he sighed and repacked his backpack.
I scrambled to finish my work for the day, threw together a random assortment of food, clothing and shelter and kidnapped them both.
Well, I couldn’t exactly kidnap them because they could easily overpower me, but I firmly told them to grab their bags because we were going. I took the dogs too, knowing that they are going to miss the Girl in her absence and that the Elder Dog doesn’t have as many adventures left in her.
We loaded the car, and hit the road~ And as with our 6 state Southwest adventure years ago, our destination was not exactly known~ except this time we’d only be gone one night and only traveling a few hours from home. But still, the feelings of freedom, exploration and escape with my chillens were there, and honestly, they were quite refreshing.
We drove about an hour into the mountains, watching the scenery change as rapidly as our moods. As our car went up in elevation, our stress levels went down.
The first two campgrounds we stopped at were fine, but there were people and other dogs, and realizing that we don’t always like people and our dogs are really rather ill behaved, we kept moving.
Thankfully, the third stop was a charm~ we found a spot along a huge and fast flowing creek and we were the only people in the whole campground.
Just me, my kids, my dogs and nature. Perfect.
We set up camp, hiked around and explored a bit, created a decent dinner from random ingredients, and hiked some more to watch the sunset. Then we roasted marshmallows over the fire and told stories and laughed under the dark starry sky.
The bickering floated away and we were all just happy and together and I was so, so, so very glad that I had followed my instincts on this one.
They were both glad too~ I could see it in their beings, but they said so as well. They exhaled, relaxed and smiled all the way from their inner souls.
We had all that I had wished for. Stars overhead, trees all around, clean water flowing and each other. As I looked at my offspring, I realized how very much things had changed since their younger days of tent life. Now, they could share in the driving and wander off as they pleased, But some things were also still the same. Goofy jokes and a whole lotta making fun of each other and life in general was still a prominent part of our time.
The next day, we ate breakfast and took a short walk along the creek before we packed up and headed down the hill towards home. As if on some GPS location activated system, when we rounded the corner a few blocks from where we live, the bickering started back up.
All I could muster was a sigh and weak request to please don’t. I still don’t know really what was up with this, but it wasn’t how I wanted to spend the last few days with my Girl Child in the nest.
Thankfully, they somehow must have realized they didn’t want to spend their time that way either, and we got back to the business of living, mostly happily.
I am ever so glad for that, but still, there’s a sadness in my heart. As we prep for her looming departure, I can’t really fathom her absence for such a long period of time. I don’t really want to.
I’ve spent her whole life encouraging her to spread her wings and know that she could fly. And she’s doing it. She’s doing exactly what I worked and hoped for, and I couldn’t be prouder of her than I am, but still my heart aches.
I know I have so much to do before I drive her to her pre-departure trainings, but my motivation is fairly non-existent, and a fairly big part of me just wants to stop time.
But I can’t stop time and I know it. I sort of feel like curling up in bed with an alcoholic beverage, but I realize that in the middle of a weekday afternoon, that would be both socially unacceptable, and a bad example for the kids.
Besides, that gives the impression that I’m all sad, and I’m not. I’m more like a big mixed up potion of emotions~ happy, sad, proud, excited~ it's fairly volatile and possibly explosive in what could just as likely be laughter or tears at any minute. The force of either would most likely frighten anyone who didn’t know me.
Anyhow, I realize that the thing I am sad about~ the thing that I’m grieving... it’s that my family will never ever be the same again. It will be beautiful and it will change and grow and do what living things do, but it will never ever be the same. And I will miss that.
My kids and I had a great run, and a whole lotta fun living and learning together. I hope they loved it as much as I did.
OK, it occurred to me that there's a slight chance that most people reading this may already spend a good deal of time staring at random things they find on the internet. Perhaps they don't actually need more things on screens to look at, but might even be better off being encouraged to walk away from the device altogether and go enjoy their families?
But, who am I to judge? I'm staring at a screen too.
Besides, since I keep coming across so many interesting things myself, I thought it would be nice to share. Since this stuff is actually really cool and inspirational, it's not like mindlessly looking at cat pictures. And by inspirational, I don't mean like those ridiculously complex and perfect things everyone Pins but no one ever does. I mean there's educational value here, and I'm all about supporting life long learning.
In fact, some of my favorite findings this week fall into the FunSchooling category. Enough of my rambling...Grab a cuppa something good, sit down and enjoy!
Lego Man Photography
This guy, Andrew Whyte, spent a year traveling around Britain, taking pictures of his little Lego Man, who was taking pictures of landmarks.
How fun is that? And it's super cute too!
This totally reminds me of the many hours my kids and I spent photographing their toys in various scenarios and set ups, and writing stories to go along with them when they were younger. We even have a couple of hard bound books we made from those adventures.
It also reminds me of a friend who was very concerned and surprised when they realized how much of our "homeschooling" time was spent in this way. "Ummm, you did WHAT all day?" Imagine if we had spent a whole year on it! Bwahahaha! (.......)
I realize that I've been writing a lot about philosophical life lessons lately, which is fine, except I'm neglecting some really important things that I want to share~ like the day to day fun that's found in a FunSchooling lifestyle.
While life seems to be full of all of these deep things to ponder and challenges to figure out, it's also full of adventures big and small, and really good times with the people I love most~ my crazy offspring.
Last month, we had a super fun adventure to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for their generous homeschool days. I had to reserve the tickets months in advance, but they were Free~ Yes, FREE! For the 2 adults and 6 kids that were in our friendly adventure party, this would have totaled close to $300 just to get in the door. (In other words, we probably wouldn't have gone otherwise. Thank you Aquarium~ you guys ROCK!)
After having made reservations so far in advance, and getting all excited, life threw a few bumps in my plans. An unpleasant appointment and a funeral came up, and it turned out they would both land on the day we would be returning. Oh~ and we'd be getting in at 1 AM, AFTER spending a full day at the aquarium AND driving over 5 hours.
I actually considered cancelling the trip due to overwhelm, and the realization that I would be heading straight into really hard stuff already exhausted and on no sleep.
Then, I got a grip and realized that neither the appointment nor the funeral would be any happier for me if I skipped out on my fun. Those unpleasant things would still be unpleasant, and I'd rather have the good times than sleep. (.......)
Can someone please explain to me what exactly is the deal with misery and company? I get that complaining is infectious and addictive, but what really surprises me is when misery is an expectation~ when people actually seem to resent others who don't appear to be as unhappy as they should be.
I first noticed this crazy concept a few years ago when my family had been going through some fairly public hard times. Aside from the rocky patch we were in, my offspring and I had been working on our Explore All 50 States Dream for a couple of years.
At one point, we had put together this Pacific Northwest Adventure~ it would take us through Big Foot territory to the Redwoods, to see friends on the Northern California coast, up the entire coast of Oregon, along the Lewis and Clark route, and to visit friends, family and cheesy tourist traps in Seattle and Portland.
We didn't have a lot of time or a huge budget, but with some crazy planning skills and flexibility, we had an amazing 9 day adventure with pouring rain, washed out roads, cheese and ice cream galore and sites that were both historical and hysterical. We slept in tents, in yurts and on couches, and ate out of an ice chest. We saw people we rarely get to, laughed until our bellies ached, got a break from our troubles, continued working toward a big dream, and all around had a wonderful time.
Then, we got home and I posted the pictures on Facebook. Oops.
But, that's what most people do when they have happy things to share, right? Thankfully, most people were happy to see us smiling and having fun, but there were a few (there always are) who felt we should not be enjoying ourselves quite so much. At least not publicly under the circumstances. (.........)
Fall brings with it so many things that I love, like the changing of leaves, the chance to wear boots and to eat cool weather comfort food. It also brings along things I really have absolutely no idea what to do with. Like schedules and football.
Sports in general are something I just never have gotten into as a player or a fan. Sure, I tried to play on the school basketball team in 6th grade, but I was on the “B” team, which everyone knew meant that we sucked but the adults wanted to make us feel better by letting us play anyway. They gave us our own team of other non-talented players, but everyone knew it was a pity team. After that, I realized that athleticism was not one of my God given talents.
Watching sports has always been baffling to me as well, and while I’ve had friends who would argue over their favorite teams, I never could bring myself to care about watching grown men throw balls around.
When pregnant with my first child, I remember a seasoned mom telling me that children were born their own independent persons with preferences and personalities that might make no sense whatsoever to us. At the time, I joked that it would be hysterical if my kid turned out to be a jock. I think Mother Nature likes little jokes like that.
It wasn’t that child, but eventually the Universe did give me a little athlete in my Boy Child. When it became obvious that the kid loved to throw balls and play sports, despite my non sporty nature, I signed him up for some low key, non competitive sports, hoping someone else could guide him since I was "B team" material. We started with baseball.
I really wanted him to play just for fun, enjoy the game and all of that, so I thought it was a good thing that some of the leagues didn’t even keep score.
Of course, just like when I was a child, the kids know what’s up. They wanted to win and they kept score on their own. They were often wrong about the score, generally thinking they did much better than they actually did, but at least they had good self esteem, right?
I was all ready to write a completely different post today, but after having such an absolutely fantastic time last week, I have to write about that instead. What did I do, you ask? I took my Girl Child to her first Real Big concert.
She’s 15 and been to lots of live music venues, but I’m talking one that costs a chunk of dough and has a biggish name act.
Now, I loooooooove music. But, I have a bit of a bipolar relationship with it in regards to my chillens.
You see, one of the troubles with being a Mother Who Thinks is that you tend to have Kids Who Think, and while this is certainly good in the grand scheme of things, sometimes, it’s a bit uncomfortable.
My Girl Child in particular has always been one to question the meaning of things, from the time she could speak. Things like stories, and street signs, and phrases, and since I like to rock out in the car and around the house and pretty much anywhere, she would often question the meaning of song lyrics.
Needless to say, it could be a tad bit awkward explaining to a wide eyed little face of innocence what exactly was the meaning of the words her mother was shaking her bootie to. And this child didn’t usually just take a basic answer and let me change the subject~ no...she wanted to know the real deal. Then, she would stare at you with what looked a lot like condemnation while absorbing it all.
Truth be told, I rarely thought about the meaning of music until this child came along. And when I did think about it….well, much of it wasn’t something I really felt like sharing with my little ones.
When songs are violent, or all about random and meaningless sex, or degrading women or just plain negative, in all honesty…. analyzing the meaning with a child kinda spoils the fun of at times.
So, a good deal of my favorite music went on hold, at least when the young and innocent ears were around, just to save me from the explanations.
Having formerly spent most of my spending money (prior to having kids) on CDs and concert tickets, this was an strange twist of fate for me. But, motherhood had so many of those that I just rolled with it.
Today, my kids are bigger and they no longer ask what lyrics mean. It’s more likely that I’m the one questioning their lyrics these days, but I still know they’re taking it all in..
So, how to actually enjoy music with your young peeps?
Tip #1: Find some positive music that you can enjoy together. None of you should feel like crying, shrinking, or jabbing knitting needles in your ears during the shared musical experience.
Here’s where the awesome part of the above mentioned concert comes in. On a whim, we got tickets with friends to see Michael Franti. The whole thing was awesome actually, but this guy is not just an amazing performer.
Michael has an equally amazing and super positive attitude, and this was huge! He came out to dance in the audience, with little kids and old people, he told sweet stories about his mom, his family, his love, and visiting war torn countries like Iraq to play for both citizens on the street and soldiers on bases. And he rocked the freaking house.
Tip # 2: Bring along the right friends. That way, no one cares if you shake your groove thing.
I danced alongside a small gaggle of teenagers, including my Girl Child, all of whom were having so much fun, they didn’t even notice my funky mom dance moves enough to be embarrassed. Now, if we had brought along friends who were more worried about looking cool than having fun, or who didn’t already think I was a cool mom, then it would have been a totally different experience. Luckily, everyone in our little group was awesome and easily swayed to come to the Fun Side.
Tip # 3: You might have to loosen up a bit and let go.
Let me tell you, two and a half hours of solid dancing is a workout and I was a sweaty beast by the end of it. But so was everyone else there, including Michael, which my Girl Child found out as he danced near us and she gave him a pat on the back, only to come away with a really wet palm.
Now, we are a family of mild to moderate germaphobes, so this could have been a really unpleasant thing for her. But, her face only registered the shock momentarily, and then resigned back to joyful exuberance and dancing like a crazy mini me. Yay for letting go!
The idea of letting go applies to me too. Not all the music we share these days has as positive of messages as Michael Franti’s stuff does. As a Parental Unit, I’m not always 100% comfortable with these messages, but I do have to trust in my kids, that they will use their brains and discernment in regards to what they hear and how they act.
Plus, we talk a lot, so like it or not, they hear my 2 cents on lyrics. It’s been really reassuring to hear their take on things too, and to know that they aren’t just soaking things in, they’re thinking too.
Tip # 4: Enjoy Yourself~ Music + Kids is FUN, I promise!
No matter what a bad rap the teen years get, I'm really enjoying all the new things I can experience with my bigger kids. I'm feeling pretty lucky that there are positive people like Michael Franti making music to enjoy with them, and especially that they generally think I'm cool enough to come along with them (having their friends think so helps too.)
I'm really not at all surprised, but taking teenagers to a concert was whole heck of a lotta fun. If you have access yourself to kids and live music, I'd highly recommend it. I'm pretty sure this night will be one we all remember and we talked about the stories, the music, and the positive theme long after it was over.
(Disclaimer: While my dancing urges lasted for days, the lack of embarrassment was limited to the time during the live music venue. Apparently, and according to my Girl Child, it's OK to dance at a concert, but not while walking down the street.)
Now I'm looking for a show to take my Boy Child to, and I can see that concerts are going to need to be added back into my budget. In the mean time, I'll be listening to the Sound of Sunshine and dancing in my head...
I'd love to hear about your musical adventures with kids and teens in the comments below, and if you liked this post, please 'like' it over on Facebook and share with your friends.
It’s only the middle of September, and despite the fact that (according to the calendar) it’s technically still summer, most of the kids near me have already been back in school for almost a month.
My own kids are no longer immune to the busyness of fall, although we're still blessed with a lot more flexibility in our scheduling than most. In my opinion, it’s one of the biggest advantages being a homeschooling family~ freedom.
The early mornings of rushing around, the late evenings of finishing up externally driven work after a long day that was directed by outside forces, those do happen for us sometimes, but I’m really, really thankful that they are the minority. Most days, we have time to enjoy being together and alone, to work, play, create, build and learn as a family and as individuals.
Since both of my kids are involved in charter school programs in different capacities, as well as sports, music and dance, we no longer get to completely choose when we ‘begin school’ for the year in the way that we did when they were younger.
And since I am working so much, I don’t have the same number of hours available either, but even so, I still know a gift when I receive one, and the time I have had, and still have with homeschooling my kids is definitely a gift.
We get a lot of questions about homeschooling, what methods and curriculums we use, and what a day looks like in our lives. The short answer is that every day is different, and that most are really fun because we tend to follow our passions. Learning goes beyond our home or any curriculum or class~ it’s happening all the time and everywhere we go. The world is our classroom.
We don’t follow any single method or curriculum, but pick and choose from the abundant resources that are available in this wonderful world we live in, take what suits us, and leave the rest. Most people would be amazed at how much can be learned and retained when a person is operating on curiosity and interest.
And it works. My kids are thriving and happy, and so am I. I’m learning too, all the time, right alongside them, as well as on my own. And I love it, which is not the feeling that comes to mind when I look back at the coerced hours of instruction and compliance that went beyond my full childhood days at school and into my nights via homework. While many people imagine that replicating that process at home is what homeschooling looks like, I can tell you that it doesn’t have to look like that at all~ it certainly doesn’t for us.
We are well aware that learning can and should be fun. So should life for that matter!
The full explanation of what we do and why is longer than I can address in one post on a sunny afternoon when I need to get out and enjoy the day with my family, but I’ll surely write more on it later. For now, I’ll just share some pictures of what our school looks like.
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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