Thursday, January 25, 2007

I've been tagged on two different blogs!

Well, I've already lost this post once, so I'll try again...

Here's the dealio—the idea is to tell 6 weird things about oneself, then tag six people, creating a weirdo ponzi blogoscheme kind of thing.


1) I like to play with words like synonym and cinnamon, saying them alternately over and over again until they become jabberwocky nonsense.

2) I frequently dance with abandon in my kitchen, surrounded by three laughing children and two barking dogs.

3) I like to rock climb, but I'm afraid of heights

4) I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

5) I have a bizarre skin condition called "dermatagraphia," which means I can write on my skin and have it show up seconds later exorcist style—I definitely would have been burned at the stake in a previous life.

6) I still sometimes get scared at night after I get up to go to the bathroom, so I race back to the bed and dive in as quick as I can, worming my way as far under the covers as possible, just like I did when I was six.

I don't know if I know 6 bloggers who haven't already been tagged—I think our blog circle is becoming too inbred!

I'm tagging Julie, Amanda, Leanne, Jen, Manisha and Vicki

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Television Journey

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I'd post about my family's radical unschooling journey with television.

I, personally, am not a tv watcher, though I do enjoy a couple of shows, Survivor being one I will admit. I was tv-free for ten years before we made the decision, together with our children, to bring cable into our home back in 2003.

When Em was little, we did restrict her "screen time" to under an hour a day or one movie, though she was so engaged, she didn't think much of it. When Sam came along, and I had three wee ones, all still in diapers, my mother-in-law purchased us a small tv/vcr combo for the living room that I will admit was an absolute godsend! She also single-handedly furnished our entire video library because she clearly (and good-naturedly) felt that her grandchildren were being seriously deprived of television culture.

So, the kids had many videos to choose from, ranging from Dora to Blues Clues to Bear in the Big Blue House. As I began later that year exploring homeschooling in earnest and discovering the wonder of unschooling, which seemed to fit our attachment lifestyle so beautifully, I simply began saying "yes" when the kids would ask to watch something, which still wasn't very often. We moved pretty seamlessly from limited screen time to the kids' free access to their video collection without them ever really noticing the transition.

When we decided to get cable, in large part for high-speed internet access, we simply continued that trajectory—saying yes when asked and transitioning seamlessly once again into unlimited television access. While we enjoyed having television and it enriched our lives in so many ways, I still somewhat resented the $40 extra it cost each month, and we began to look into ways to cut that price tag back, including exploring Verizon DSL over cable, ultimately deciding that we weren't ready to eliminate cable from our lives. Shortly after that, we moved and have continued to enjoy cable for the past year and a half in our new home.

This year, however, in a personal effort to simplify and trim expenditures where ever possible, I broached the subject of exchanging cable for Netflix again. To my surprise, this time my youngest child was completely on board, literally campaigning for the extra $40 a month! Jim, too, was on board with it (my boys are so motivated by their wallets!). The girls, however, were not as sure, and they took a few weeks to consider the option.

We are now officially cable free (though we do receive basic channels, which include PBS and the SciFi channel—how cool!) and very satisfied Netflix customers. The girls finally decided that they'd be willing to give a cable-free/Netflix-enriched life a try. As with everything, we all agreed that none of this was set in stone, that we could revisit and rework whenever.

The thing is, we're loving having more free time and being able to watch such a variety of movies and shows. Part of what spurred the kids' willingness to try this was the fact that we'd missed the whole first season of Avatar because they never really watched Nickelodeon. So, we purchased the first season on dvd as it was released and fell in love with the show. When we switched to watching season 2 on tv, the kids were irritated by the commercials. Then, when it switched from the first two hour-long intro shows to the half-hour show, OMG! all hell broke loose! The kids were devastated and infuriated all at once that their favorite show had just ended after only 20 minutes!

Now, with Netflix, although we're a season behind television and not all shows are available, there are loads of series' available, and the kids are loving being able to watch the whole season. More than that, they love the anticipation of movies on our queue and getting mail—mail is a really big thing.

So far, everyone is thrilled with our decision, thrilled that we have nearly $40 extra each month and thrilled with the selection of available dvds. We may change our minds, and we do really miss Dirty Jobs and Myth Busters, so there are are some downsides as with anything in life. But, for now, we're enjoying our Netflix romance and broadening our interests and activities.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Typical Day

We had one of those magical days yesterday. A day where not a lot happens necessarily, but it all flows so joyfully and by the end of the day it feels so good to reflect on our time together.

In the morning, we read a fair amount. Sam and Julia really love Jan Hunt's children's book, A Gift For Baby, so we read that about three times along with several other books. I did a ton of laundry and cleaned up the kitchen.

Em and I played a really great game of chess, and though she eventually lost, it was a long game. Sam and I played yesterday, and he beat me for the first time, so he was thrilled. At one point during Em's and my game, Sam wanted me to get my queen back—Em had taken it, as had Sam the day before. I don't take back my pieces unless we want to redo a series of moves, but the kids do take back their pieces and have do-overs. That's our current mode of play—we've played differently over the years. Sam had a hard time, but really got a hold of himself quickly. Even though this is the way I play with him as well, I think he was overly identifying with me while watching—it felt like he was playing Em and wasn't able to get back his queen.

Sam began playing his Spy Fox game on the computer and eventually the girls went in and played with him for quite a while. I paid bills.

When the girls came back out to the living room, they built some beautiful creations with the wooden tessellating shapes. Jules made several snowflake like creations while Em was "drawing" with them, making scenes with suns, flowers, trees, people, stars, etc.

We decided to go out into the pastures to check on the piggies who have recently been moved to their own pasture (part of that fence job Jim was working on last weekend). We sat out on the hill in the sunshine for a long time enjoying the warmth and our conversations together, reflecting on our move and how much we love having the animals, thinking about the future, looking forward to baby goaties in the spring.

As we were sitting quietly, I reached over and grabbed a blade of grass and began whistling on it. I know I've done it before, but it's been a while, and I figure the girls will get a kick out of it. They did, so we spent the next half hour at least with me showing them how to get the blade of grass between their thumbs like a reed, Jules getting it, then Em getting it, then the two of them doing it repeatedly to make the turkeys gobble in the next pasture, trying to change pitch, blow a tune—all the while, excitedly saying things like, "We love grass whistling. We need to do more grass whistling!"

At that point, Sam came running out to join us.... One of my great joys in this world is watching my children run through the pastures. It's one of those mental snapshot moments where I just try to burn that image in my brain because it's perfection here on earth.

Sam wanted to know how to grass whistle, but there were too many steps and he got really frustrated and ran off, top speed down the hill. By the time he got to the corner of the pasture, he felt more calm. So, we all hung out for a little while, then went back inside.

At this point it was late afternoon, and Jim soon got home, going outside to tweak the electric on the piggy fence before it got dark. We went out with him and saw the most amazing moon rise! OMG! The moon was huge and full and beautiful, and the sunset across the way was glorious. Em ran back inside to grab some paper so she could sketch the moon. *sigh* What a gift!

We went back in to make dinner—Greek pizza with some spinach we still have growing in our garden!—and Em put on her colonial girl shift I made her a couple years ago (making it just like a mama would have, with lots of room in the torso to grow into and several pin folds in the skirt to let down) and a vintage apron I'd picked up for her at a flea market. She asked for the swiffer duster and proceeded to dust the house. We've recently moved the tv from our living room down to our ever-progressing family room in the basement that we're finishing, so the credenza? (not really a tv stand) is empty and we'd put a few books on it. Em pulled a bunch of our favorite "ology" books down and stood them up to display. It looked quite nice.

After dinner, Sam and I were in the living room, and he went to grab a book for me to read and accidentally knocked three down in a domino effect. Cool! He knocked the rest that way, which made a rather loud bang when the fell down to the floor. I suggested he try it down on the floor to begin with. Sam spent the rest of the evening creating domino structures from books, getting more elaborate with each try.

After watching a few, Jim, Em and I went back outside for a full-moon walk and to double check on the piggies to make sure they hadn't gotten out and had found their range shelter. Yes, they were buried deep in the straw in the shelter, with only their ears sticking out. Cuties. Jim went back in, but Em and I decided to take walk. What a glorious, clear, crisp night! As we were walking back, Em spotted a spark near the hedgerow—she'd discovered where along the fence line the electric was shorting out! Hooray! That discovery will save Jim loads of time and frustration of figuring it out.

We came back in to watch Sam's final big book-domino cascade. Jim got some of it on video, though I haven't seen it yet. If it's clear, I'll probably You-tube it and post it on my blog. Sam, Em and I then snuggled up for a while on the couch to search for domino videos online. We saw some pretty cool ones, which will definitely make it into Connections' Virtual Visit at some point! Jim and Jules were snuggled watching a movie back in our room, and we decided to join them. When their movie was over, the kids climbed into their nests, and we put in Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky to fall asleep to, which we'd held back from returning to Netflix until we get the new round.

What a lovely day! I love our unschooling life!