Friday, July 25, 2014

July's Joyful Moments (Part IV)

Treat children with respect and kindness. Interact with them mindfully. Help them learn how to make thoughtful choices rather than impose arbitrary rules. These are some of the basics of my parenting philosophy, largely come to through reading and practicing the ideas found in radical unschooling discussions. It sounds fairly basic, if quite a bit out of the mainstream, but it's not easy. It takes a lot of self-awareness to move beyond snap reactions and power plays as a parent to free-spirited children, and of course, I don't always stay in a state of mindfulness, so I make mistakes and apologize and try to make better choices. Isn't that what we want our kids to learn how to do, too?

 Sometimes, it takes more work to engage and talk about and find meaning in the choices that they make than it does to say, "because I said so." How they learn to make meaningful choices in the younger years can set them up for a lifetime of thoughtfulness and the ability to learn from so-called mistakes. It also develops a relationship of mutual trust between the parents and children. If they can come to you in the younger years with issues and struggles and be met without shame and judgement, they will be infinitely more likely to come to you in the older years when their issues and struggles will be larger and scarier and have more potential lasting impact. 

With that being said, here's the final bit of blog catch-up pictures, up to Camille's 11th birthday!
garden goodness


tree huggers 



skatepark (again)

lazy summer snacking

running on a dirt road

 The only thing Camille wanted for her 11th birthday was day-old ducklings and goslings. Well, we had to get them earlier in the season and they're starting to get big now. Happy birthday to my animal-lovin', nature-hikin', thoughtful, strong-spirited daughter!!!

Here's Camille's duckies in action:

Ayla's wheelbarrow 'garden'

Camille didn't want an actual birthday party this year, but on the weekend before her birthday some friends came to visit overnight and the next day we all went to the annual summer bash at our other friends' cranberry farm. It was a weekend of celebration all around!

enjoying music, marshmallows and friends around our fire pit

a pair of swans at the cranberry bogs

floating a little raft made from sticks, bindweed, and a grape leaf

swimmin' hole

'sleeping' in the hammock

big sisters and little sisters

evening time music jam

On Camille's actual birthday, she opted for a relatively quiet day at home. As we always do on birthdays, she could have chosen any food all day from the grocery store, garden, or a restaurant. She choose oatmeal with organic heavy cream and fruit for breakfast, a garden salad with black beans, roasted sunflower seeds and Caesar dressing for lunch, homemade popsicles (made with yogurt, frozen fruit, and juice concentrate), sea salt and pepper kettle chips, and barbecue ribs and Amish-raised chicken on the grill for dinner, and a vanilla frosted gluten-free cake. 

Had she chosen nothing but Oreo cookies and Pizza Hut buffet, I would have enthusiastically supported her birthday choices, but when children are raised with a huge degree of food freedom and options, they tend to find a healthy relationship with food choices and body awareness. No food coercion or shaming going on here. She declared it the best birthday ever (as I think she has every year).

 eleven candles

Inspired by this week's nature scavenger hunt, Ayla and Sylvia painted rainbows and gave them to Camille for her birthday. 

Sylvia used Queen Anne's lace flowers for a paintbrush. 

Wow! It took four full blog posts just to catch up on the last few weeks. I do so enjoy chronicling and sharing our happy moments (when I'm not too busy to do so), but just in the interest of balance, you know my life is as messy as anyone's, right? Just in different ways, perhaps?

So, yes, our July has been busy, beautiful, and joyful. Yes, my living room is often a disaster. Yes, my garden is always weedy. Yes, my laundry pile is often enormous. Yes, a family of five living on one income is a squeeze. Yes, we watch TV and eat junk food sometimes. Yes, we have been mosquito-bitten, wasp-stung, sun-kissed, bare-footed, sister-squabbled, exhausted, awe-filled, over-heated, and pond-drenched. It's not all joyful moments. It's a full, loud, dirty life sometimes. Isn't that what summer is for?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July's Joyful Moments (Part III)

Last week, Camille went to Nature Nuts day camp at Kickapoo Valley Reserve. She spent 5 1/2 hours each day hiking, making a nature journal, learning how to make fire with a bow drill, making cordage from wood nettles, identifying edible plants, making primitive traps, canoeing, playing team games, tracking animals, building a shelter, and splashing in the river. To say that she loved it would be an understatement! Here are a few photos off of her camera:
 working the bow drill

 cooking wild rice with milkweed and nettle leaves

 cracking hickory and black walnuts with stones

making cordage from wood nettle fiber

On some of the days that Camille was at camp, Sylvia, Ayla, and I explored the reserve on our own. We had a cold snap and had to bundle up in woolen hoodies (in July)!


 false sunflower and bee balm

swamp milkweed

at the pond

 at her own pace

(the juicy stems are fantastic for rubbing on nettle or poison ivy rashes)

covered footbridge

Sylvia took a pic of me carrying Ayla when her legs were tired.

 li'l toads


We brought our picnic lunch to the skatepark after several hours of hiking.

At the end of Tuesday's camp, Sylvia took pics of her sister playing field games.

After 5 1/2 hours of hiking, picnicking, and skating, they still had energy to hike (for 3 hours!) at Wildcat Mountain State Park. This is apparently our summer of go-go-go! 
at one of the observation points

tiger lily and chickweed

fungus along the Hemlock Nature Trail

at the top of  Mount Pisgah after a serious climb UP

perfect place for a breather

I am so thankful for these long summer days with these amazing beings, and very grateful to my husband for supporting our nature-lovin', peaceful parenting, unschooling lifestyle. Without him, our lives wouldn't be as sweet, secure, or sparkly!