Tuesday, July 31, 2012

life with one child / social introvert and homebody extrovert

Before Sylvia left to spend a week with her grandparents, we got together with some local friends to finish the rest of our leftover dye.

 We did some actual tie-dyeing, but just drawing on the fabric with the dye bottles was even more fun.  I love how this om symbol looks like graffiti.

But now Camille has gone from my in-laws to my parents for a week, and Sylvia is with the other set of grandparents, and it's just Ayla at home with us.  It's awfully quiet, and Ayla seems to need a lot more mama attention without the activity of  the sisters to keep her occupied.  So, we're living life at the pace of a two-year-old.  I forgot how different that was.

We walked the half-mile up the road to visit some of our closest neighbors.  Yep, cows.
Ayla adores these cows and giddily proclaimed, "I like 'em!" before turning to the cows and saying, "Hi, honeys!"
 After the walk, we (my husband mostly) picked over a gallon of these cherry-sized plums from our trees.
 They are quite tart.

 Ayla and I washed them up, added in a few yellow cherries (bigger than the plums actually) and I am still in the process of turning them into an Asian-style plum sauce.
 Pitting and peeling them seemed ludicrous, so I cooked them down whole with a fair bit of water and strained the whole lot through a colander to separate the pulp/juice from the pits/peels.
 It worked pretty well and the hens loved the left over bits in the compost pile.
Last night there was a gorgeously dramatic lightening storm in the distance.  Ayla and I sat out and watched it while listening to owls calling back and forth.  It was a lovely end to the day.  I attempted a few camera shots, but mostly just sat back to oooh and aaah with Ayla.

 Other than that, there has been a lot of  "play with me, Mama" going on.  I'm not sure life with just a toddler is actually any easier than life with a 2, 5, and 9 year old, but it is definitely a different pace.  I even have a little free time while she naps.  I've been reading Raising you Spirited Child:  A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent,  Energetic.  I haven't read a parenting book in years, but this one has some good respectful-to-the-child ideas for working things out with sensitive, spirited children.  A lot of it doesn't pertain as much to home-schooled kids, but it's worth a read, and has prompted me to think a lot about introversion/extroversion and how to balance out the needs of the different personalities in our family.

My husband and I fall pretty squarely into the introvert category.  Which isn't to say that we are shy or unsocial, but that we recharge our energy by being alone, in nature, or just within our immediate family.  For years I thought that Camille was an extrovert.  She made new friends easily and seemed to enjoy social situations, BUT she would often crash if we were around people for too long, or if she didn't get a chance to be alone (without sisters) afterwards.  Somehow, it took me a long while to discover this pattern and I thought she was just being moody.  Sylvia generally prefers to stay home rather than go out if given a choice, but get her out of the house and she chats up anyone and everyone and seems to actually gain energy from these types of interactions.  At two years old, I 'm guessing Ayla tends toward introversion as well.  She seems to enjoy social activity best from the role of an observer.

I am not fond of (or particularly skilled at) social chatter or large group conversations.  Even if I'm meeting someone for the first time, I would much prefer to chat about personally relevant topics even if we have very differing points of view than talk about the weather or a television show or somesuch.  Which means that I can be kind of awkward with small talk.  Sometimes I'm a bit too quiet if I have nothing important to say, or a bit too revealing if I do.  I can handle being around a lot of people for a good reason (like the Kicakapoo Country Fair), but I need a chance to recuperate afterwards.

I think understanding ourselves and our children can help us set up situations to be successful for everyone.  Giving me and Camille time to recharge after social situations can really improve family dynamics, and helping Sylvia find a way to get out and be social even if it isn't her first inclination can help her get her cup filled.

I think most families probably have a combination of introverts and extroverts and while it can be more difficult to negotiate social situations, recognizing each persons temperament can go a long ways towards seeing what they need to feel balanced in their lives.  I think homeschoolers in particular are probably aware of this, as we spend a lot of time with our children.  For example, if an extremely introverted homeschooling mom (or dad) had a primarily extroverted child, it could feel exhausting to find ways to keep up with them socially.  Maybe bringing a book along to parkdays to retreat a bit from the chattering moms would help.  Or finding drop-off classes that the kids enjoyed rather than playdates or mom-and-me type classes if the children are young.  Or just recognizing the need to cocoon a bit after social situations would help the parent feel calm and balanced rather than stressed and overloaded.

Also, if the child were the introvert and the parents were extroverted, finding ways that the child could retreat from social situations if they got overwhelmed would be very important.  Or finding ways for the parents to socialize without the child, maybe taking turns with one parent going out and the other staying home, rather than forcing the child into a situation that would put her off-balance.

I'm always evaluating and re-evaluating what works in our family (and what doesn't).  Finding ways to bring in and maintain (or regain) an atmosphere of joy, learning, exploration, peace, and creativity in a family of 5 individuals does take some work.

This post is getting long.  I just wanted to share some of my thoughts here, and I guess all of that extra time to think with only one child around is making me extra wordy :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kickapoo Country Fair 2012

Come stroll with us at the country fair put on by the good folks from Organic Valley and countless community volunteers.  It's our first year checking it out, so no expectations....but even the walk from the parking lot seems like bliss.  I think that's a good sign.

 *photo by a random passerby
First thing after we enter the fair, we wander toward the cooperative art tent.  Ooooh, that's the mosaic made by the folks from our homeschool co-op.  We chat with some of the kids that helped create this beautiful work entitled Stone Soup.  What an amazing job they did.
 Then it's our turn to help create cooperative art.  We have square 47 to fill in on a large chalk mural.

  *photo by Sylvia

 I think we did a very fine job.  Shall we wander some more?  We watch bees and flowers on stilts perform a dance.  Shall we stop and chat with one of the folks from Echo Valley Farm?  We also run into plenty of folks that we know from the homeschool co-op, and from Aldo Leopold Nature Center, and even some old neighbors from when our oldest children were just wee little ones.  Even if they are widespread, it feels like community here.
 Hungry?  Time for lunch.  So many appetizing (and healthy!) things to chose from.  Ayla and I share a vegetarian plate of marinated olives and garlic, heirloom tomato salad with feta, and soba noodles with veggies, peanut sauce, black sesame seeds, and roasted almonds (for only $5, I might add).

 Sylvia goes for an organic hamburger, also with heirloom tomatoes.  Yum.  There's live fiddle, banjo, and guitar music in the eating tent for our listening pleasure

Back to wandering.  Hoops?  Of course.

And our first (of many) visits to the Honeycomb kids activity tent.  Sylvia will go back several times throughout the day to squeeze these synthetic udders.  According to a dairy farmer they have a very realistic feel to them and I am surprised by how much effort it takes to squeeze out the liquid.

 And do you want to make bee's wings to wear?  Paint them up. We'll come back for them after they dry.

 While we're crafting, shall we make willow crowns, too?  Yes!  We'll also enjoy the free hemp granola bars, string cheese, and Envirokidz crispy rice bars.  How nice!  We brought a jar along to fill and re-fill with fresh cool water.  Gotta stay hydrated.
 Oh, and roll our own beeswax candles?  Mmm-hm.

 Let's stop and watch the jugglers a bit.
 Let's stroll through this shady tunnel.  And back.  Again.  Again.
  Running a little low on energy?  Organic maple cotton candy ought to give a quick boost :)
 Let's go splash in the misty water spray tent.  See that puddle in the back?  It might be a good place to roll around.  Just ask Sylvia.  We should come back here, oh about half-a-dozen more times today to cool off.  That'll do.
  Back to the hula hoops,
 or maybe just watch sister hoop while we sit in the shade and chat up more families from the homeschool co-op.

The 64 square cooperative chalk mural is complete! 
Isn't is beautiful?  Let's walk all the way around it and view it from every angle.

 Round about this time we pick up the bee's wings, Ayla falls asleep in the carrier, and we watch the beginning of a play titled Farmscape.  We stare lengthily at a bee hive display and Sylvia asks questions about the queen back at the main hive.  We discover the Organic Valley pantry tent with free samples of chocolate milk, creamy iced coffee, and full sized tomato pesto grilled cheese sandwiches.  No pictures.  Too busy enjoying.  Sylvia spends about 30 more minutes flitting between those fascinating udders to squeeze and the sunflowers to 'pollinate' them, of course, since she is a bee-princess-nature-fairy-country-girl.

The sun.  It's hot.  And little legs are tired.  The live music on the main stage and the fire dancers and all of the other glorious booths and demonstrations and foods and entertainment will be enjoyed by others, but seven hours have gone by and we're ready to get back home before dark.  Did we have fun?  Yes, yes, and YES.  I hope you did, too.

our unschooling journey

Thursday, July 26, 2012

a quiet week

Camille is spending a week with her grandparents.  She loves to do this every year and is doing back-to-back weeks this year with each set of grands.  So far she has been calling every night and keeping me updated.  She's been snorkeling in the lake and fishing and kayaking.  She also brought her bow-and-arrow along and I'm sure she's been getting plenty of time to practice with it.  Next week Sylvia will go to my in-laws and Camille will be with my parents and it will just be Ayla and us.  Weird.  

I really miss my girls when they are gone, but I appreciate that they get a chance to spend one-on-one time with their grandparents, and that they get a little break from each other.  Things have seemed a bit quiet around here though.
 Our seven-week-old chicks have joined the laying hens and the 'teenagers' outdoors. We carried them out to the coop for the first night so they would get the idea that it is home.
 After beginning their lives indoors in the brooder, they didn't know what to make of the chicken coop and the access to the free-ranging world outside.  At first they didn't want to leave the coop and then they didn't want to go back in, even at night.

Even with the need to establish pecking order, everyone seemed to get along well, except the two poor featherheads.  They were being pecked mercilessly by the other young chicks and had to go back in the brooder-turned-chicken-infirmary until their poor scalps heal and the feathers right in the center of their heads regrow.

Besides chicken-wrangling we've been staying busy crafting, visiting, gardening, and cooking this week.

We had lots of dye left over from Camille's birthday party and have been tie-dyeing anything with a stain on it.

 We made some local friends (mamas, papas, and kiddos alike) and enjoyed a dinner and mud-fest at their house.  We invited them over for tomorrow to do some tie-dyeing.  We still have plenty of dye left, but are running out of stained clothing :)

 Sylvia enjoys helping me cook and is quite careful wielding a sharp kitchen knife.  She's also handy when I have an 18 lb. box of rainier cherries to pit :)
  Plum-cherry cobbler with fresh honey-sweetened whipped cream.  Yum.

 Sylvia, Ayla, and I harvested some early potatoes out of the garden which prompted us to create an all home-grown lunch.

 We sauteed whatever we could harvest from the garden and served it with a side of freshly-laid eggs cooked to each person's preference.  Add in some home-brewed kombucha, and our entire meal, except sunflower oil and sea salt, was produced right here on our land!
Some weeks tend toward busy, loud, on-the-go fun.  Some weeks are more simple.  I don't generally have a strong preference for one over the other, but this quiet week has been restorative and I'm grateful for it.