What is the Point of School

I can’t decide if I’m falling out of love with homeschooling or if I have spring fever— or if I just despise our education system (including my own teachings) altogether. 
I know I would do wonderfully on a deserted island with my family—with no system to report to with regards to what my kids are learning. I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again: Our kids are not learning what they need to be studying in school—even when we take them out of it, the material they must learn isn’t cutting it. I believe they are absorbing the monotony of adulthood, and it’s killing—not building, their brain cells. Simply put: School is boring and I’m loosing my footing as a home-based teacher.
so called mom
The reason I feel this way is because kids should be heavily immersed in things like: Money management, insurance policies, emergency preparedness, civic engagement, abusive relationships, fair wages, diet and fitness, finding your passion, inner peace. And at an early age. This is the stuff that determines survival—not Oregon history—which always seems to be mis-told no matter which edition your textbook is. Somebody needs to take a crack at writing an age appropriate account of what really happened so that we can quit brushing it under the carpet or denying it altogether.
Am I teaching Pascal these savvy survival-based things, even with our free-wheeling homeschool curriculum? Nope, Not as a part of anything guided. There aren’t enough hours in the day with all of this other nonsense clouding our time together. And, quite frankly, it pisses me off. Imagine preparing kids for real life! Imagine a system that raised kids to be good people!
Earlier today I was reading material about how Oregon was settled, shaking my head and cutting myself off, saying: Pascal, this is bullshit. Do you have any idea what these So-Called Colonists did to the Native Americans? Our only real lesson in that entire book can be learned in one grim, hopeless statement: People can be terrible, and greedy and what’s worse—things haven’t changed much.
so called mom
So now what? Well, with six weeks left in the school year, I’m not sure I have much choice but to ride it out. And, I’m not sure I can actually do anything but complain about it. If she was my only child, I would take on the system with her on my arm, but the fact of the matter is, I still have 6 other kids that need me—for homework help, projects, extra curriculars, doctors appointments, friend making and dinner. There isn’t enough time in the day to take on the world unfortunately. So we stumble through it.
But it doesn’t remove my disappointment from our American culture and it’s frequent missed opportunities for youth impact. Pascal shouldn’t have to wait for college to kick in for some of these life-shaping lessons. They should be happening now as an intelligent strategy to build better citizens, learners, parents, employees, etc etc. I can’t and shouldn’t have to teach that on my own. For now I’m stumped about what to do. Humanitarianism should be the core of her learning and I’m disappointed that it isn’t. Everything else is just a distraction to what’s really important: human awareness and participation. Not the perpetuation of indifference and selfishness. 
Rethinking it all,
So-Called Mom

Where are We Going to Live?

I think one thing we can all agree ranks fairly high on the stress-o-meter is the buying and selling of houses.  Both Pippin and I have sold homes before, and high stress has always been a given. Even when we were late getting out of the house during the winning bidder’s showing, they said to us as we exited, embarrassed: so sorry for the stress. 
So we decided this time we were going to try to do it differently: stress free.  I invite you along for the ride.
Last Friday we closed on the sale of the home we have shared for the past five years.  It was nothing special – really only one real bedroom and one bath. We essentially shape-shifted the rest, turning the living room into a shared bedroom for the two youngest girls, and coaxing a few more out of the large basement.  The market is booming in Portland, and we sold in the first weekend.  Now we have less than a month to get out.

True to form, we have no idea where we are moving.  I should be nervous as hell, cause I’m not that chill about the unknown,  but I’m not….yet.  Pippin and I had a conversation in advance and agreed that it could either be stressful or stress-free—that the road would be the same on the way out and the choice would be ours if we wanted it to be enjoyable. He makes a good point—but it’s not easy to just switch to that mindset.

To be honest, It takes great effort to push off the fear that keeps trying to creep its way in.  I am forcing myself into mind over matter mode, because if I don’t there will be a guaranteed meltdown by yours truly, which I just don’t have time for. In addition, and ssshhhh…we haven’t told the kids, but our vacation might need to be delayed.  Living stress free doesn’t come without compromise.  Anyhoo…I decided it’s time to start the search.

That’s step one.  But if we really are serious about purchasing the lot we’ve had our eyes on, we oughta start doing the research about home building in Portland.   At this rate, I’m concerned that we won’t even have time to build.  In any event, we need a Plan B.  I know enough that we aren’t rolling all our new cash into a house rental with no equity.

Of course I know that building a home is expensive, but I still have faith in our collective resourcefulness.  Portland is currently experiencing such a boom, there’s nothing remotely in our price range. I’m convinced we can build something far more space-efficient and have exactly what we want.
It’s a pleasant change telling my habitual free-ranging stress to take a seat. I’m going to join forces with Pippin’s unbridled enthusiasm for this up coming year. So this morning as Pippin fantasized about finally having a garage and a shop to work out of,  I decided to join in and imagine what it would feel like to have enough space for everyone, and everyone’s accumulated life-stuff.
How lovely to be able to imagine spreading out a little more. For now, at least, our world is wide open.
Deliberately Stress-Free,
So Called Mom

 

Me Time Part 2: Stay in Shape

The toughest thing about being a mom – or at least the thing that my friends and I complain most about – is staying in shape. There’s no time; it’s too hard to get to the gym or yoga studio – or I waste money because I never go; there’s no privacy. I’m here to argue that it’s so important for your sanity, that you need to make time. It’s not an option to do nothing. What follows is my simple fix.

I have four things I try to rotate on a regular basis (and I’m not suggesting you try all four, but just for options):  yoga, dance, strength training, and things for flexibility or stretching.

My rule of thumb is simplify!  I do most of my exercises in my bedroom. I wear as little as possible (so I can see my muscles at work), add some music and let it rip. It is me time with the aim of being disrupted as little as possible.  Of course, this rarely happens, but as we say in yoga, it helps me to stay “On the mat” – which means stay focused.  I used to stop what I was doing when they burst through the door, but I have learned to keep going and they either camp out on my bed and watch or even join in.

 

I use a blank wall for balance exercises and my dresser like a ballet barre, and the small space around my bed for everything else. Sometimes I focus on resistance training basics – you know, those exercises we all used to hate (and still do!)—I do as many sit-ups as my abs can handle, 10 pushups and about 120 leg lifts and lunges on each side. We have a pull up bar installed in our bedroom doorway, and I do 6 pull ups.  Of course, butt exercises are a must.

Always push yourself – easy to say; hard to do. But try to always increase the reps.  When you do pushups, start with ten and add one more every other day.   The same for plies and planks and any other exercise in your routine. Mix it up.  And most importantly, breathe. If you are holding a difficult pose, picture it as one of life’s challenges.  Picture the air intake enveloping the muscle group you’re working on and use it to breathe out as a stronger woman.

Remember to use your workout time as your time. Let your kids see you taking care of yourself, there is no need to hide behind a locked door or stow them in childcare at the gym all the time. My kids see me dance in the kitchen when I’m putting dishes away. I read vogue while sitting in pigeon pose. When you integrate simple activity like this into your daily routine, and stagger it throughout the day, you give your metabolism and mood a boost. And, you don’t let a lack of time (or money) be your only excuse to getting the strength and endurance you want to feel great.

At the very end of the day, unwind in a tub of epsom salts, stretch out and massage your sore muscles in the warm water. You’re worth it after all!

Your Simple Fitness Guru,

So Called Mom

Using Dinner to Stay in Your Kids Lives VLOG

Hi there!

Here’s a sweet mini-VLOG for today on what our busy blended family does to stay connected with one another.

If you have other tips and tricks to add, please share in the comments below, I’m always open to trying out your ideas.

Thanks and don’t forget to subscribe!

So Called Mom

The Benefits of a Good Fight

pippin kristen kissing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I love a good fight.

I love fighting with my husband, because it helps restore order. Like how I imagine the day after the apocalypse to be. Fighting makes us love each other more; it makes our family tighter. Whenever we experience an imbalance in our relationship, we let loose and drag it through the house, because displaying confrontation is important. You can be sure the dog, the chickens, the kids and maybe even the neighbors know when it happens because we aren’t shy about it. Fight.

Wait.

Did I say we fight in front of the kids?

You bet.

I know this might sound crazy, but hear me out. There are a few reasons why we fight in front of the kids:

  1. Having an audience keeps our fights fair. I tend to fight like a Queen, but having them watch reminds me that I don’t have a pedestal to scream from. Heads don’t need to roll—every time at least!
  2. Kids can learn conflict just like cooking and balancing a check book in Home Ec. They’re watching what it looks and sounds like to be heard. They are witnessing two people work through understanding each other. The kids are taking mental notes for their own future conflicts. To us, we’re modeling healthy ones.

While there are so many subjects to fight about, let me focus on just one of them:

Making plans.

pippin kristen driving The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomI am the type of person that needs to know what the plan is. I want to know the plan, and then I want to know plan B. I just think this is responsible parenting. My husband is not like this. He can board a plane at the last minute and arrive without anything lined up—no accommodations, no map, not even any luggage. We took a red eye to New York City in August like this. I was 8 months pregnant. I had swollen ankles and wanted a plan really, really bad. But our relationship was still new, and I pretended to be more adventurous than I really was.  We arrived with no hotel room, no toilet, and no idea how to get out of the airport.  I learned early in our relationship, that Pippin’s laid back nature, may work when it comes to building sand castles, but it crossed a line when it came to plans.
Plans of any sort.  We are currently selling our house.  We’ve outgrown it with seven kids, four of whom are teenagers.  Pippin has no problem selling our home, going on a (mostly unplanned) vacation and returning, without anything lined up to return TO.  Sounds crazy, no? Well this is about to become my future. Hawaii sounds nice, but what’s going to happen after  Hawaii?

“We will figure it out. We’ll survive!”

But I don’t like Survival Mode.

kristen sun bathing The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called Mom

I like Relaxation mode – whether it’s vacation, weekend plans, or even Sunday breakfast—life is stressful enough. When I’m forced to survive and play like I’m enjoying it, that’s when shit hits the fan. (And side note:  not one of the kids is on board with this type of whimsical lifestyle). So I fight.

A typical fight starts like this: I go nuclear with little warning.  Pippin might be surprised but is so non-confrontational, he will probably feign complete confusion. Then he may bring up some completely unrelated “transgression” that I did.  A common tactic to confuse and divert the prey!  So begins the circular arguing that, like most conflicts, has nothing to do with the subject.  It’s about power and who gets to win that round.  This goes on until we are finally speaking the same language – mine. And I’m usually crying (it’s exhausting being right). It’s OK, though. I like a good cry. Anyway, I truly believe fighting is the sound of our relationship evolving, and I think after ten years, we are getting better at it.

The Benefits of a Good Fight So Called MomONE upside is that I am learning things about myself.  Our 5 year old, Leopold, recently hushed me with, “Mommy, you are being really rude to Daddy.” As a So Called mom, I have learned to be wrong. That I don’t have all the answers and can still be loved and accepted by my family. It takes the perfection out of motherhood, and replaces it with being human.

With Love,

So Called Mom

Next Post: How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You