February 2, 2011
“Are you a Christian?” There, I’ve been asked. It’s not really a casual question, is it? It’s not like, “Do you like chocolate, yes or no?” or “Do you want to go to the park today?” or “Aren’t you that girl from my French class?” It’s a loaded question, a “Does my bottom look big in this?” question. It’s a personal question, a “What color underwear are you wearing?” question.
It’s asking for a definition. Are you in the club or out of the club? I’ve lived long enough to know the ramifications of answering such a question.
I also know that answering “I believe that religion is a personal matter” might lead to inaccurate speculation, assumptions and judgments.
Answering this question is also an exercise in diplomacy and courage, as my main market for Arithmetic Village is American Home schoolers whom happen to be predominately Christian.
Let me begin by answering the question in terms of my business, since that was the context of the question:
Arithmetic Village is a simple math program created for all children of all religions and all cultural backgrounds so they may be gently introduced to math concepts. The characters represent their respective math functions. The Village is also intentionally positive. There are only kind words and respectful interactions. It has been suggested that I create conflict or more of a story in each books but many wonderful children’s books lack conflict or plots ..ie Goodnight Moon. The values represented in these books are not religiously based athough many reigions share similar vaues of love and kindness. If you find similarities with your religion or philosophical viewpoints, that is a bonus, I want to include everyone.
I hold transparency in higher regard than privacy, and because of this, I will attempt to answer THE question…
October 12, 2010
This person here, makes my life far easier than I care to admit. She is amazingly conscientious and helpful. She offers to take bags, and open doors. She is fiercely independent and rarely needs help, but always offers it. When she was very little, I used to tell her to relax. I would remind her that she had a responsible mother. That she could actually BE four years old. I had it covered.
I don’t think she ever believed me. She’s always wanted to be bigger than she was at that moment. She embraces what is ahead. When her half birthday rolls around, she seizes the opportunity to introduce herself as almost the next age. So, now she is “almost 16″. ”How old are you?” “Almost 16.” “So you are 15.” “NO, almost 16.” she’ll say with a smile.
I had a birthday last week. An old friend from high school sent me a note on Facebook and reminded me about a John Cougar Melencamp song that use to make me cry, Jack and Diane…”Hold on to 16 as long as you can, change will come around soon and make us women and men.”. Oh how I feared getting older. Oh how I feared what might await me.
I cried on my 17th birthday. I thought I was old. I thought everything would be downhill from 16. I then cried on my 18th for the same reason. 19 too. Somewhere along the line, I came around. On my 40th birthday (five years ago), the tears I cried watching the sun come up on a beach that morning were of pure gratitude and anticipation. And such a surprise! No one sings about sweet 45. No movies are made about how great it is to age. I think it’s a shame, I am far happier at 45 than 15,25 or 35.
I was thinking about this, about why our society idolizes youth, and middle age is drudgery, and all I could think of is this… that people aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing. They might have jobs they don’t like or stopped being creative. They have bought into the idea of doing “what they are supposed to do” verses “what makes their heart sing”.
So, what do I tell my daughters? Be your best self at any age. And the older you are, the more power you have over your own circumstances! It is you who co-creates your reality, that you alone are charge of how you feel and react in a given moment. And it is wonderful! I might tell this to my 12-year-old and my 4-year-old, but the truth is I don’t need to tell this almost 16-year-old, she was born far more fearless than I.
September 19, 2010
My girlfriend just turned 49 yesterday. That got my friends and I talking about seven-year cycles. Most people give Rudolf Steiner full credit for this theory, but I believe developmental theorists Erickson and Piaget also had similar theories and when there are universal truths, eventually most people come to the same conclusions. I sent her this article to explain her next cycle. Reading it brought insights into my own my life, my teenagers’ life, and even my parents’ journeys.
When I was a new mom, I was aware of the first cycle of 7 and felt a shift with both of them neared their seventh birthdays. Before seven, they felt like an extra limb, or a permanent fixture on my hip. If they hurt their finger, I swear I felt it. But after seven, they became fully formed kids. I saw them as separate from myself. (Or they made that their declaration).
One of my teens has made it successfully past 14 and the other is nearing it. This passage explains a lot of what is happening at our home ¨At the age of fourteen comes the second series of defiances. Once again a total change of the system occurs. It is a creation of a private space and the physical preparation for adulthood.¨ I am happy that the house where we just moved to has plenty of space for them both. They are spending time alone and I’ve intuited that this is necessary for their journey. (Although I really want them always hanging out talking with me, they are finding their friends or their alone time, way more appealing. They are creating another level of separation.)
I was surprised to read about the shift around the 35th year. “The thirty-fifth year is the cutting of the emotional umbilical cord and true emotional adulthood arrives. Here one stands alone, able to withstand being influenced by the emotional attitudes of others.” I moved from the US to New Zealand when I was 36. (It took me a year to plan.)
I’m sure that everyone has their own pace and journey, and there are so many other factors that go into the lives we lead (like temperament) but I find this research helpful. I am particularly looking forward to 56 when many venture off into something new…a global sailing trip perhaps?
September 14, 2010
I have a friend, Donna.
She welcomes everyone as if they have come back from the dead every time she greets them.
And makes sure they have a seat.
And a refreshment.
She radiates so much joy I wonder how she keeps from bursting.
I have been cautious of her. Is she sane? Stable?
I have experienced her consistency. Her journey unwavering. She is committed to ¨being¨ the world she wants to see.
She offers her home to strangers.
She creates sanctuaries for mothers.
She raised her sister’s child for three years. (But that’s a book..)
She now runs a raw food cafe. On a ¨gift economy¨. Which means, you choose your food and pay with big love – or nothing. And she will love you regardless.
She is still in business.
Some say this is an unrealistic way of being. But yet, it is real. Who’s to say we can’t change the reality that stems from fear into one that stems from love?
September 10, 2010
As I’ve been be-bopping around the internet looking for great blogs for which to advertise, I am finding these amazing little communities. I know how isolating it can be to be at home with young children. Yes, you take them to the park, but you are still being driven by their needs, that’s the core of mothering.
We used to do this in a village, with children roaming from hut to hut, in a group with older children. When I was in Africa, the groups of Elephants were all females with children, the giraffes too. The Bulls dropped by occasionally and left again. I find this rings true to my life. I have a “herd” of women friends and we roam with our children. We met as a home school group, and with this shared focus, needed to work together closely for a year. They are now my posse. I need these relationships to maintain a healthy relationship with my “Bull”. Expecting him to meet all of my social emotional needs, is well, a hysterical thought and entirely unrealistic. He’s a Bull. That’s why I like him.
I know how lucky I am to have this herd. In this westernized world herds are harder to create and maintain. When I lived in the bay area, I created them through playgroups, but it took me time to find one that really jelled. That’s what is so great about the internet. Groups are easier to enter and leave. Since there are soo many of them, if you look around awhile you will eventually find one that reflects your values and lifestyle. You will find people you can relate to, and finding people to relate to while raising children is essential, ask and elephant.
August 23, 2010
James Micheal Samuel was born 53 years ago today. It’s difficult birthday to celebrate. See, James does not embrace traditional celebrations. He has forgotten his own birthday more than once. Mandatory gift giving days are not his thing. He does not care for cake, the waste paper, anything unnatural or created without sacred reverence in every step of the making process.
He’s had a busy life and shows no signs of slowing. As a young man he worked on farms, loved motorbikes, cycling, and kayaking. He still does. He built his own canoe at 19. His twenty-first birthday was spent on a river bend in Canada. (He thinks.)
He has called England, New Zealand, Canada, California, Fiji, Australia, Amsterdam and France home.
He is English. Moved to New Zealand when he was one. He loves tea and crumpets, but he’s not interested in monarchies or cricket. He is an anarchist yoga master. He can walk on his hands, still. His voice is deep and clear. His accent is a unique blend and he loves to sing (ask my children they don’t much like it).
His careers have included: Carpentry (think intricate dressers and desks), computer programming, Paraglider instructor, documentary maker, game distributer, plumber, an electric bike distributor, cinema manager, web developer, social media consultant, actor (was a doctor in a Kellogg commercial once), and Facilitator – not in this order and I am sure this list is incomplete…
August 9, 2010
This shark is bright, beautiful and honest. She has super human powers of sound, smell and touch. She lives by routine and the simple process of growing up can sometimes cause too much disruption. She is self-aware and self-absorbed. She eats the same three meals for months on end. She doesn’t see the point in fiction. She doesn’t like surprises. Or change. You don’t know what might upset her. She keeps you guessing.
She is unbending in her need for understanding and predictability in a misunderstood and unpredictable world.
Sometimes she is engaged, sometimes she is stone. Or porcelain.
I have learned more about this world, love, honesty and myself from this being than any other I have met. She defies statics. Her path is unchartered.
This twelve-year-old daughter is my greatest teacher and my favorite challenge. And, she never ever bites.
August 2, 2010
Meet Zuva, she’s my newest addition. Her name means sunshine in Shona (Zimbabwe). She lives up to her name three-fold. She is reading Polly Plus which arrived this morning. Well, she is not really reading, she is four, but she is telling Polly Plus as she knows it very well. I’ve been working on this project her whole life. She thinks the book is hers and wont give it back – Iĺl need to order more.
July 30, 2010
Last night I attended teacher interviews at my oldest daughter’s school. It is an all girl Catholic school, funny really, if you knew me well. I thought the perfect school for her was a Waldorf school on an organic farm. What do I know? (A different post for another day.)
This daughter of mine is every teachers dream – bright, attentive, enthusiastic. I go to these meetings mainly to check in with the teachers and to tell them how much I appreciate their work and how grateful I am for their participation in my childs experience.
I think affirmation is an important part of life.
As I was waiting, I looked around at the walls. Everywhere I looked, there were inspiring stories from influential female scientists and poets and mathematicians. The walls were also decorated with beautiful affirmations. ¨Be yourself¨. ¨You can do it¨ etc.
It felt so wonderful to be in a place without DONTS. Don´t touch this, don´t do that. etc. Even the construction signs said ¨Please use the other path¨ – instead of ¨DO NOT use this one¨!
I found myself reflecting on our environments – are they positive? How do we word situations? Do we surround ourselves with beauty or conflict? How do we spend our days? I believe positive affirmations and experiences are the building blocks to a happy life.
Then I thought of my friend Rosie. Rosie is creating a new type of participatory art for children using affirmation. Her is her link. Itś evolving into a beautiful experience for children, I cant wait to finally use it with my daughters.
Meanwhile, I am grateful to have my eldest child surrounded by so much love and affirmation at home and school. (And thanks for reading- have a beautiful day!)
July 26, 2010
My week and thoughts this week have been ambushed. By some one really really short, but who is getting taller. Yes, I am teaching this week twice, and I have offered my services o in service training for teachers at the preschool and have offered to work on friday, and have some meetings scheduled. But all I can think about is felt fairies. And pink sprinkles. Zuva turns four on Tuesday. She will have a fairly party. It does not help that he birth is in the midwinter (in NZ) so her party must be indoors. It does not help her father makes a living discussing sustainability. (Plastic party bags are right out) I will try to sew felt fairy puppets. Domestic goddess I am not. I have cloth goodie bags, homemade play dough, healthy treats and a nice sturdy tea set for dishes and cups(only five girls will come) etc. The real party will be on Tuesday, on Wednesday sheĺl have a celebration at preschool and a family day at the aquarium on Saturday. One little child can ambush my attention so fully is fascinating.