Friday, August 22, 2014

Hosting a Camp out in September!

When most will be going back to school, I am so excited to be hosting an Undead/Unschooling week long camp out in September!  I have made some of the most wonderful connections with some of the most amazing woman and families through my journey with breast cancer combined with our unschooling lifestyle that I am beyond grateful for this chance to have invited them and host a camp out.

I have formed some extremely deep online connections for a year and a half now since I reached out at the beginning of my diagnosis. They were my life line while I not only fought for my life, but struggled with feelings of guilt and a desire to give up our unschooling lifestyle as well. It took me a little to renew my faith and energy in unschooling through a terminal illness, in the end I embraced it and so grateful we did not give up! These beautiful souls, pulled me along while I could not get out of bed, laughed with me, celebrated my small accomplishments with me, cried with me, cyber hugged me and were always there. This camp out will be our first meeting face to face and I am just excited beyond words at this opportunity.

I had decided, if I could not financially afford traveling, nor would my health allow me to commit to traveling to some of these fantastic unschooling events and conventions than I would host my own! It has been wonderful having everyone pull together to make this happen and they will all be coming to pitch their tents in my yard........and having just a grand old time... what a way to start a brand new year!

Tents, bonfires, good food, fantastic company, lots of laughter, a little wine perhaps, strong coffee, amazing teens, preteens and preschoolers! S,mores, hugs, tears, love and the most incredible, inspiring, fun loving, amazing woman I have met ( there are many more that could not come that we will think of but so happy for the ones that can make it!)

I never underestimate the power of online connections..........they are just as real as meeting someone in person given time to develop the relationships. I have been blessed over many years to have gone on to meet some in person and now I get to meet a whole group at once! This is going to ROCK!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer Potpourri

Summer has been beautiful and busy, mostly perfect weather and everything summer should be!  There has been friends over, summer bible camp ( daughter was invited by friend) , beach days, walks in park, walking dogs around town, taking apart boom boxes, and sewing plushies.  There has been drawing, movie nights, bike rides, playing in hose and sprinklers, building blanket forts, and visits with relatives. There has been BBQ's and walks down the road, battling an epic year of the killer mosquito's,  all nighters, sleeping almost a day .... at least until late afternoon and banana splits, ice cream sundaes and root beer floats!

There has been lawn mowing, cloud watching, youtube watching and days lazing around doing absolutely nothing! There has been reading, video games, editing, movie making, and planning a camp-out we are hosting! There has been dish-washing, jokes made, laughter and even some tempers flaring with a little yelling! There has been oncologist visits, CT scans and PET/CT Scans, dentist visits and dinner out to newly discovered restaurants!

It has been a really terrific summer, full of active days and other lazy days! AWESOMESAUCE!

How has your summer been going?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Turtle Lessons About Living and Learning

I am a firm believer that if one takes a moment each day to observe nature, many lessons can be observed and answers given to live a natural lifestyle deeply connected with the earth in which we live. Everything from trees and plants, weather patterns and seasons, to the animals and their behavior all can act as teachers and guides.

What can a turtle teach us about living and learning?

To start :  If slow and steady wins the race.......why then does public schools take the position of the hare and not the tortoise? Why are they is such a hurry to cram more and more information into younger and younger minds and then scream how it is a flawed and broken system that needs to be reformed?  Perhaps they should reconsider the message of the Tortoise and Hare!

Some things we can learn from our Turtle friends:

1.) Keep it slow and steady and you will see progression of learning and not as likely to have periods of burnout or a frustrated child overwhelmed by too fast a pace. Kids learn, well people in general really all learn in their own time, at their own pace and that is perfectly okay. Not over scheduling activities gives us plenty of time to take a laid back approach which allows us to take in more and observe more. By observing more we can rise to the challenge of taking cues from the observations on bringing in and seeking opportunities of things that would light a fire of passion to learning.

2.) How to Shield yourself from negative energies- the outside world can be highly critical of homeschoolers, even more so to unschoolers. Their words can be hard, cold and given without thought based in information, only fear of the unknown. While the outside world can be hard, we can be soft and kind, safely tucked into an environment of love, connection and safe boundaries where natural learning can flourish. We do not need to let the thoughts of others harden us to the core, but we can keep a thick skin on the outside so we go about our lives unaffected by others opinions.

3.) Sometimes life gets in the way, stuff happens, health fails, our world gets turned upside down. Don't give up, while it is extremely difficult to right yourself, and may take great effort, it is NOT impossible!

4.) Home can literally be where ever we go, which works splendidly for gypsy souls, travelers and world schoolers. Home does not have to be bricks and sticks and permanency. Home is not a building, it is what lives inside the building that makes it a home. Where family goes, home goes. Taking our home with us does not mean keeping yourself chained within a small world, but by being able to take it with you, you can become part of a much bigger world.

5.) Develop ideas, and even though they may stay buried for awhile, allow them to hatch naturally. Fully explore your ideas, nurture them, grow them, give them light and let them expand and develop by going with the flow, naturally without rushing it.

6.) That it is okay to retreat  inside to the safety and coziness of your home, you do not always have to be out and about, visible and on the go.

7.) That some of us may seem a little cold and hard on the outside but is just our defense after dealing with too many who don't "get" it. Give it a little time to get to know us, many of us are really quite soft, loving and generous on the inside.

8.) Stay grounded and connected within our daily environment, take a moment to breath in all the goodness in the morning. Take a few minutes to meditate or yoga, breathing exercises and find your calm for the day trying to hold on to that for the duration of the day.

9.) That it is okay to be a teenage, a mutant or a ninja as one friend so humorously puts it! I will not expand on that, I will leave it to your vivid imagination for the deeper meaning!

10.)  As their are varieties of turtles, same is the number of homeschooling methods, find which one works for you. Each species of turtle has very different needs and habitats and you will find this goes for homeschool methods as well.

11.) Know it is okay to take a little longer to get somewhere but take time to always be in the present, taking in everything about your surrounds and what is going on within it. Plan accordingly so you can take your time without having to rush.

12.) Know your goals ( goes for life in general!) and do not let all the little distractions move you off course. Keep heading in the direction of your goals and you will get there!

As you can see, our friends the turtles have a lot to teach us, can you think of  lesson from turtle that is not mentioned here? Leave a comment and let us know!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

We are officially an all Teen Household Now!

We are officially a teen household now, since May and I got to tell you...... I AM LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT! Teens rock and it is such a joy to get to spend my days with such funny, outspoken, humorous, sarcastic, happy teens! I am making fantastic strides towards a healthier me and to where things are getting pretty much back to normal. This excites me as it means my energy is returning and I will be able to participate more and get more actively involved again with planning activities and such. 

Having 2 teenagers changes the game and is quite different than attending to younger kids but to me, this is where the real fun begins. They are coming into themselves more and more and emerging into their very beings of who they are as individuals which is so cool to witness. They are also finding common ground again to enjoy each others company. For years having a boy and girl with vastly different interests, they did not do too much together but now can come together for mutual interests and the laughter that fills the house from these sessions is absolutely joyful to listen to.

I am getting excited for this year and am already getting my creative thoughts going on how to make it a wonderful year. Cancer kind of sucked ass last year for getting to do much and now that I am really feeling pretty great, my mind is spinning with all sorts of ideas. 

My son will be a challenge as he seems to have hit a phase of losing interest but not adding to his already small selection of interests. He after all is 16 and perhaps this is a phase where he is teetering from boy to manhood as I have known this to happen to other boys his age. He has retained a few of his interests but I hope we can work together to start expanding them and igniting that passion for learning and living again this year. As he calls it, he is in a FUNK. 

My daughter is forming so many interests it is very hard to keep up with and yet with an extensive list of things she likes to do, she complains a lot of being bored! It really seems impossible when you see everything she is interested in doing but I think this has to do with creative types. But some boredom is actually a good thing, for that is where creativity blooms and grows from. 

The flow in our house is good and natural , really organic and I could not feel more blessed if I tried. Teens is truly a beautiful thing. While hormones do happen and voices do get raised from time to time, we really do not have the teen rebellion that occurs in many mainstream households. It is easy, and open communication, mutual respect and truly enjoying being around each other. 

Looking forward to an exciting new chapter in our lives...........

Monday, February 17, 2014

Creative Sprees

Cutie Cube Plushy

Latest Magna Drawing


Cooking Pot Sewing Project

Coffee Mug ( tan piece sewn in top for "coffee" you can not see in this photo)

This winter has been LONG and COLD! Becoming bored from being cooped up inside can turn into a creative boom, a frenzy of activities that stem from internal motivation.

I have really enjoyed this frantic spurt from my daughter this winter! 

She has been working on her YouTube channel at Little Kitty treating it very much like a home business. She works really hard at getting videos made, editing them, uploading them and responding to comments. She also works hard at trying to increase her subscribers, so if you have kids that love Webkinz be sure to have them subscribe to her channel!

She also has been watching a variety of YouTube channels which is where she learned to sew the Cutie Cube Plushies that are shown in the photos above, my favorite is the coffee cup! She also made a few that she gave away as gifts before I could take pictures of them. I see an etsy shop coming up in her near future! Better start buying a lot more felt fabric and sewing supplies for her! This is incredible to me because I don't sew and I am not really crafty! She finds inspiration all the time from a variety of sources and it is really amazing to me to watch her start to flourish in her creativity.

Of course drawing is still going on too, 2 photos above show her latest that she would let me photograph, some of her recent drawings she wanted to remain private, so that is all good, I respect her need for privacy. I remember at her age, I use to write a lot of stories and poetry and some of it was very private, not for others to read.

She has been going around giggling at just how busy she is and is going to be AND she is excited about that which of course excites me! 

She also was able to send out and receive quite a few Valentine cards this year and a few pen pals will be coming out of that which is good because she loves to write letters as well as make new friends. She continues to write her older sister in Monster High characters and even in their own coded language. 

February has been a good month!

How has yours been going?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Picky Eater and Food Freedom: Part 2

In my last post The Picky Eater and Food Freedom: Part 1, we talked about the harms of using food with punishments, threatening or forced and coerced. In this post, I promised to offer a few tips that could make households with picky eaters a more enjoyable time, since food is meant to be enjoyed! Also by honoring each persons food freedom, it helps celebrate and trust that our bodies know what they need. While my tips may not work in every family, I am simply sharing what has worked in my own home, not only with my own picky eater but with other picky eaters that have visited too.

Remember a whole lot goes into what makes food seem appetizing from color, to smell to texture to visual appeal!

So here are the tips with no further ado!

1.) Kids do not generally like complicated meals, especially young kids! They want child friendly meals like mac and cheese, bananas, pizza, cheese burgers and fries, so first tip is keep it simple and child friendly.

2.) Even if you are on a tight budget always try to buy one thing new that you and your family have never tried before. By trying new foods, you may just find more and more your child likes. For example I learned my picky eater happens to like okra, Lima beans, clam chowder and frog legs! Also a new food you have no idea what it is can lead to all sorts of fun learning, where did it come from, how is it usually cooked?

3.) Along with trying the new food theme, calmly but firmly request that they try the new food ( any time something new is offered on their plate)  Assure them that if they don't like it they don't have to eat it but they need to at least try it. Let them try it on their terms such as touching their tongue to it, a tiny bite, however they feel comfortable trying it, do not demand they have to have a certain size bite, chew it and swallow it. The simple request is to just try it, stay calm and do not give any sign of reactions. If they try it and eat it great, if they try it and say they don't like it, fine just calmly say "Well you tried it and that is all we ask, you never know if you like something or not unless you try it!" and then drop it.  They may resist trying in the beginning, but once they gain trust that you will not make them eat it, it will become natural for them to try the new foods to decide if they like them or not.

4.) Make a list of what your family members like, if they are like mine, my 2 guys like many of the same things while I will eat anything and my picky eater daughter has a completely different taste from any other member with the exception of Pizza and Country Fried Chicken.  At the same time I cook many different things that I have never made before but I try to offer meals rotating who may like it. So I will cook my new meal, a meal the whole family likes, a meal the guys like, a dinner my daughter will eat. In this manner I know I am at least cooking twice a week a meal the picky eater will eat for sure. Plan your menu accordingly to include each members personal tastes.

5.) The Buffet Style Meals- this is one of my favorite solutions to the picky eater dilemma! While we do not go out often, when we do we always made sure we went to buffet style restaurants.  I knew then my picky eater could choose her own foods and we would not be wasting money on a meal ordered and then tossed because it was not what she thought.   I also apply the Buffet style dinner at home when ever possible, you may want to include it in your menu a few times a week. A buffet style meal 3 times a week plus individual likes taken into consideration well that almost gets you through a whole week of meals that a picky eater will eat!  Instead of mixing a salad together, put everything into individual bowls for a salad bar, you may even include soup for a soup and salad bar  but you can include things like bowls of shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, craisins, shredded lettuce, tomato wedges, sliced mushrooms, Diced apples and perhaps croutons. Let them then, fix their own plates, picking what foods they actually want to eat or try.

The Buffet style dinner can include all sorts of meals like taco night ( again have all food prepared and served in individual bowls)  build your own sandwiches ( variety of lunch meats, cheeses, tomato slices and fresh fruits offered for on the side)  Fajitas ( steak, chicken or pork cooked and then individual bowls of lettuce, cheese, sauteed onions , sauteed green peppers, sauteed mixed veggies, sauteed mushrooms whatever and have tortilla shells to put it all in!)

Even the pickiest of eater will usually eat quite well for buffet style dinners, if you offer a variety of veggies, fruits, cheeses, boiled eggs and meats, all separate and them having full control of the foods they want to include on their plate. A Buffet served meal also works for all 3 meals of the day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Picky Eater and Food Freedom Part: 1

For many, the thought of giving children food freedom, is one of the hardest things to let go of next to perhaps the video game and electronic devices. Sometimes it is just so drilled into our heads that a child must eat what is put before them, without other choices given simply because that is how we were raised as children.

Fears range from "I will create a picky eater or make my picky eater even pickier " to " We are on a very tight food budget, we can not afford to give choices or let them eat what they want, when they want!" to " Oh gosh, my child would eat only junk food if they were allowed!" "A child must eat what I cook and that is it, it would be wasteful to do otherwise or This is NOT a restaurant!"

Peaceful parenting and radical unschooling is about building connections with a child in a healthy balanced way. It is respecting the child enough, to treat them as a human being and realize everyone is an individual with different likes and tastes. It is about trusting the human body knows what it needs ( the reason behind cravings, such as consuming large amounts of orange juice in the winter months or when having a common cold.)

Threatening a child that if they do not eat what is put before them, they will not get anything else the rest of the day, or no dessert, or have to go to bed early does a number of harmful things. For one, it upsets the child and when one is tense and upset their body can not digest food properly. It also can do the very thing a parent is trying to avoid and actually deepen food aversions and create a life long dislike for certain foods!

Think about it, do you like everything you eat? When do you eat, by a clock or when your body tells you are hungry?

Many things go into why we like what we do, and sometimes in children this is magnified. There are many reasons why they may be picky or not want to eat what you cook for them.  They may not like the smell, sometimes it is texture and some can be very sensitive to textures! They may not like the color as certain colors can be unappetizing! They simply may not be hungry when the parent says it is time to eat! They may not like their food touching other types of food on their plate.

As far as money being a concern, is it more frugal to make a plate for a child who does not want to eat what you created and will sit there until it is cold and thrown out anyway, or crying the whole time they are eating it ( I don't know about you but I can not eat when I am crying!) or would it be cheaper to actually let them make a peanut butter sandwich or mac and cheese or any other number of .50 cent alternatives that they WILL eat?  I found for my family it was far cheaper to let our picky eater have the cheap alternatives.

Food is meant to be nourishing and enjoyable, when a power struggle takes place, this is lost and the chance to make good connections , happy connections with our children is also lost. Here is another thing to consider, most families in the USA are eating a S.A.D diet (Standard American Diet) and this is really quite an unhealthy diet. Essentially then, your food choices that are being forced or coerced for your child to eat, is no healthier than perhaps what the child wants to eat! If they are not hungry, by pushing them to eat, you are perhaps encouraging over eating that can lead to the obesity problems that is such a huge problem in the United States.

By allowing the child choices of what to eat and when to eat, he is being allowed to listen to his own body which knows best. The parent can not tell if the child is hungry or not, but the child sure knows! By allowing them to choose the foods they like, you are acknowledging they are individuals.

Dinner does not have to be full of power struggles, fights, yelling and crying, it just doesn't , why would one choose to make meal time miserable for their child? There is no reason to guilt, shame or threaten a child simply cause they don't want what you cooked. This came from an era where you ate everything on your plate because it was the Great Depression! Now I almost gaurantee is is stemming more from a "I cooked it, you eat it" mentality and if the child does not want it, the cook and perhaps the spouse too, take it all too personally and there fore use their size from a place of resentment to bully a child into eating.

Many perents are not aware this is essentially what they are doing, they are simply using the tools that was taught to them. It is time to question where and why we use the tools of our parents. Sometimes this means changing the tools we know, learning new methods, perhaps better methods.

Making your children happy, is not spoiling them! It is building connections, learning to understand them and celebrate them for who they are, not what we want them to be. It is helping your child listen to their own bodies and trusting that the human body knows what it needs and when it is hungry.

While I am addressing the issue here of the harms of forcing children to eat, my next post will offer tips on ways to make meal time enjoyable and dealing with the picky eater.

In the meantime, don't just take my word for it, here is some further reading for you!

What Forced Eating Looks Like 20 Years Later

Forced Eating Leads to Eating Disorders

Pushing kids to eat may cause Obesity later

Mealtime Atmosphere and Eating Behavior