valancystirling: (Default)
New Year celebration

Valentine's Day or some reason to do heart craft projects
Anniversary/Groundhog Day
Plan garden, go through seed catalogs

Celebrate spring

maple festival
Plant seeds

Prepare garden
Planting Day
Memorial Day, ice cream, barbecue

strawberry festival
celebrate solstice

Fourth of July w/fireworks and barbecue


Apple picking
harvest dinners
End of summer barbecue

Halloween or some equivalent
Costume party
Apple picking
trip to pumpkin farm
Hay rides

Birthdays--Topie and Jake
harvest dinners

Cookie Baking Week
Adopt a Family
Go choose a tree at a tree farm
celebrate solstice, days getting longer
valancystirling: (Default)
I am blog stupid, apparently. And design stupid, graphics stupid, everything stupid. This wasn't always the case. I guess I just lack the focus and free time I used to have. Need to rework my new blog and make it look better. Not thrilled with how it looks.

Anyway. Dinner is ready. Topaz mashed the potatoes, and the meatloaf is done. Now we're just waiting for Jake, who isn't even leaving work for an hour and a half. I'll get us all fed, then he can eat later. Right now they're watching a movie, which is stupid, because it's pretty much dinnertime.

Seeing Ali's post got me thinking. I did NOT come from a tradition-oriented family. And really, I wasn't even exposed to most of the traditions other people follow, so realizing now all the possibilities is a little overwhelming. I feel like starting anything this late in the game would make me a poser at best.

Why am I so hung up on this bizarre idea of authenticity? I am what I am, and should not make excuses or apologies all over the place, but I do. I feel like if I'd had access to the right books, or the right people with other ideas, I would be a completely different person. But really, to a large extent, I feel like as a person I didn't even start till I moved to Boston. And Jake was responsible for a lot of my education. Not that he went into any one thing at great length, but the sheer number of new ideas he presented has been staggering. I suppose I'm not giving myself any credit. I did try so very hard to branch out growing up. I did do a huge, huge amount of independent reading and thinking, and it is actually true that I did come by a lot of things that I still consider very valuable. LM Montgomery, the Little House books, all the wonderful literature I added to my Christian homeschool curriculum. I guess I'm still a bit angry at my parents for neglecting my education so severely. It literally was a case of ordering school materials and books, throwing them at us, and being done with us. I remember once writing a report about light bulbs, and there was no one to make sure I did it, or check any of my references, or even read the damned thing. But I did it all, following all the specifications of the assignment, and decided to give myself an A on it. Later I realized there should be no guilt about giving myself good grades, because in public school I got A's on everything, and then when I went back, I got A's in my advanced classes. The required reading in that curriculum were things I had never heard of, obscure inspirational-type Christian stories. I read them, and I did the work associated with them, but I was sure I was going to screw myself if I didn't flood myself with other reading, so I took it upon myself to go to the library constantly and read tons of literature, Shakespeare, everything Bronte, tons of Austen, just tons of stuff. I read a lot of herbal books, and botany and survival books. Read cookbooks and books on old skills like making soap. I didn't have the materials or parental interest enough to do much of that stuff, but I had a wonderful wild environment to explore, and I made the most of it. I learned all the native plants, even their Latin names. I kept journals, studied everything, made gardens, grew food and herbs. And looking back, I see my dad involved a lot more than my mom. In fact, I don't remember my mom at all. My dad was the one who would take me to the garden or hardware store when I wanted to do a project. My mom did allow me to do some of my own shopping when I went through m vegetarian phase. I cooked veg meals for everyone but they were generally rejected.

It was just not that big a leap for me when my mom left and I became the lady of the house. I did everything anyway. But then I convinced my dad to get me a car because we were so far from everything, and I had to get myself and my sister to school and back, and do the grocery shopping, and all the errands my mom normally did. In the midst of the insane step-parents, but that's just not even part of this.

I have no idea why I'd think so seriously about all this now, but I feel like it's been stewing in the back of my mind for a couple days and Ali's post just brought it to the forefront. So weird how that works.

I guess I'll do what I generally do now, and try really hard not to think about it in terms of myself and what I might have lost, but in terms of how I can use this to do better for my own kids. I want to make the tools and resources, and MYSELF, available to them every step of the way so they can pursue their independent interests. I want to be sure not to project my own desires on them, but to just be there and observe, help when needed, and let their ideas run their course. In hindsight, that seems SO incredibly important. Just being there, being supportive, providing the basics of what they need to let their minds roam free. I don't want them to have all the regrets I have.

And the homeschooling part worries me, but I am so focused on it (or some parts of my mind are, anyway) that I feel a little confident it won't be a problem. For us, it was parents who didn't seem to want to be bothered, or like my mom truly believed she couldn't do it, so she didn't try. We lived far from everything, in the midst of a very tight-knit community which we seemed to blatantly reject (I had very little to do with this) and which resented the hell out of us for it. So we were isolated, shunned, and had no idea what to do. I was very fortunate to have been so self-motivated and determined to succeed. My sister was not so fortunate. I tried to help her with her school work, but she was never interested and didn't take it seriously. In the end, I knew that going back to school was the only way to save myself, and I think it was. Conversely, when my sister followed me a year later, she immersed herself in the wrong crowd and it led her to the life she has now. So amazing how the same action, the same environment, produced such completely opposite outcomes. I feel like I took my life into my own hands and made it work out well enough, and I feel such a sense of loss and tragedy over my sister's outcome.

So back to the original point. We had no traditions. We baked cookies at Christmas and took them to the neighbors. We picked pecans in the fall. Barbecue and ice cream and watermelon and fireworks on the 4th of July. Beyond that...can't think of any day standing out at all. So I'm bringing very little to my family's table in terms of tradition. And I always craved it so much, and made pathetic attempts to create rituals and rhythms in our family's life. My grandparents exposed me to far more of the world than my parents did. I pored over their set of encyclopedias, and when I was younger, the set of children's encyclopedias. Nothing ever stuck, as it was either dismissed as not Christian enough, or just pointless. We never identified with any ethnicity either, so that made everything seem a bit absurd. And the same is true now. I feel like, maybe if I try to get some traditions started in our family, it will be normal to our kids because they'll grow up with it. It shouldn't matter if I feel like a fake. And why should I anyway? I am what I am, etc etc. People change religions as adults, and it works out. They change cultures, and it works out. Why shouldn't I be free to adopt elements from other cultures or belief systems and make them work for us? Maybe it really is my time to find something to identify with. I have never felt part of anything. Maybe I really need to. Maybe I want my family to be part of something greater. No, we're not any particular thing, but certainly there are things out there we appreciate and would like to share.

I suppose it's time to get serious about deciding what those things are. Jake is a hard sell on anything to do with "making a fuss" and would probably let Christmas go by unnoticed if I didn't make such a big deal of it. So we'll see. But it's really time.
valancystirling: (Default)
Got some weeding done in the front flower bed while Topie slept in the car with the windows down. Philip roamed around the yard, and every five seconds or so got too close to the street, I had to stop, get him back over, repeat repeat repeat. Loads of fun. But at least I got a bit of work done. I'm going to dump a ton of mulch on top of it all right before the open house on Sunday and it will look decent enough. I'm hoping my lupines and some roses will be blooming by then. Some are getting close... Also I'll be going to the Ithaca Farmers Market on Saturday (I hope) so I should be bringing home some pretty flowers then anyway. The way I'm hoping it will go is this: Up early on Saturday, farmers market, clean up all clutter, clean bathrooms and kitchen, vacuum upstairs, and then go to Ithaca. Get plants and lots of fresh produce. Herb plants! Relax in Ithaca, go for a hike or something, enjoy the day. Come home, rest up for Sunday. The Open House is at noon, so I'll get up early and do a final once-over, vacuum, mop, wipe down counters, get all dishes put away and dish rack put away. No point in doing any of this now because I'd just have to do it all over again anyway.

So. With a plan, I feel calm enough. I feel at this point several things. First, I like my house. I actually like living in it now. It figures. Second, I honestly don't want to deal with moving any time soon and don't even hope for it anymore. We'd be going to an apartment someplace, indefinitely, and paying to store stuff we'll probably miss for who knows how long. Then Jake will continue looking for greener pastures, which so far have not presented themselves, and we wait. Possibly for years, in an apartment, who knows. So yes, it's going to suck. I'm all for stalling. Since we haven't had a showing in what, two weeks or more, it hasn't been all that stressful, except for still having to go dig for things that are already packed. There are some convenience issues, like all my kitchen towels now live in the basement, and it's a pain in the ass because I use 234203958 million a day and always run out at the worst time and have to go get more. Minor inconveniences. Topie's Learning Tower has been down there for a while. But really, not THAT bad. Just annoying sometimes. So right now we're coasting. I'm enjoying the house more since it's less cluttered, more open, and more comfortable in some ways. So life is not entirely terrible, even though I expected it would be at this point. I don't know what to expect, so that uncertainty and anxiety are still there, but it's not really that bad. I'm trying to mellow out and remember I have zero control over things for now, and need to relax while it's calm.

I've been reading the blogs Ashley showed me, and I'm feeling like such a loser mother/person. All these things I could be doing, but I'm so disorganized lately that I haven't done proper activities with the kids in a while. Topie still does art projects, mostly of her own doing because she has total access to her art cabinet and forages at will. But mostly, I feel like I'm looking in ten different directions and by the time I think I know what I want to do, the day is over and I forget and then start all over the next day. But I've been spinning a lot, and last night I finished my first pound of wool, from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. So that was a bit of a triumphant moment, thinking I'm well on my way. I'm honestly shocked at how much I'm loving spinning. I really never saw that coming. I assumed I'd get bored, or the kids wouldn't even let me do it at all. But I've been stealing time, and it's worked out okay enough. I do feel guilty about spending a lot of time doing something and leaving the kids to play by themselves, but for the most part they've been happy to play by themselves, so I think that is great. Independent play is important, and I'm always close by to sort out skirmishes and supervise. So I suppose when I look at it that way I shouldn't feel guilty at all. In fact, all the Waldorfy books I read talk about the teacher sitting there doing handwork while the kids play, and just being available, and a calm presence. So yeah, that's me, kind of getting something right according to a waldorf book. What's also been great about spinning is that so far it hasn't gone to my head. As in, I've kept it a very sensory process, without thinking much about it at all. I don't care about the yarn that results from my time, I just enjoy the whole experience. I have a stack of books about spinning, which make my head...spin...but so far they don't interest me much. Eventually, I'm sure, but for now it's nice to have something that isn't about quality or finished product or any kind of pressure at all. My mind can wander.

I feel like I keep missing the boat on things. Like this past weekend. Jake is so totally not into holidays, and would be fine to let them all go with no observation whatsoever. Things like Memorial Day go completely unnoticed except as a free and usually unexpected day off from work. We used to always go to Montreal that weekend, but haven't in years. Anyway. So it crept on us, and we had no plans, and I didn't really care, until ON Monday I remembered the carousels all open that day, and I wanted to take the kids. So we did that, and at the park there were all these families having these big barbecues and picnics, and I felt totally stupid like I am never part of anything and since I am the mom of the family I'm supposed to be the one to make those things come together. So I felt like a failure. We went to the grocery store--this was fairly late in the day--and I got a bunch of stuff, and we went to Jake's mom's house and had a very late barbecue. I made homemade ice cream and Jake made hamburgers, and it was pretty low-key but nice to be outside. The kids ran around and we enjoyed the beautiful weather. So we just made it, and I felt like maybe I hadn't totally screwed up, but it reminded me that there are all kinds of minor events that could easily justify celebration or at least some sort of something, and that I should plan better. There are lots of ways to make life more interesting, and make days stand out from the everyday, but I rarely take those opportunities. And I want to. I want the kids to be able to look forward to family traditions. Life is too monotonous not to seize those special days, no matter who originally decided they should be special.

So I am going to look at the calendar and see what's coming up. First day of summer is worth notice. And then there's the food aspect of it all. Every week there's something new at the farmers market, and I want to be prepared and know what to do with it all. It's fun to bring home something weird and go through all my cookbooks looking for interesting recipes. But I already missed the asparagus and fiddlehead ferns, and only bought a small bunch of rhubarb that I still haven't used. I need to get with the program. Seasonal awareness is something I feel strongly about, and encouraging the kids and us to pay more attention to what's going on around us, but I get so wrapped up in my head that I often lose track of time and then wonder where the time went. Time to slow down and pay more attention!

Now to find a good recipe for dumplings--chicken and dumplings tonight, no idea why.

Also, spam me with your ideas and stuff you've been eating or doing with the kids very recently. Help me liven up life for me and the kids!!
valancystirling: (Default)
I'm on disk 5 of Doctor Who season 4. OMG WTF etc. There are two more episodes and they look pretty violent/scary, so I have to wait till the kids aren't around, but again, OMG WTF? This show is like a really exciting soap opera where dead people can come back and nothing is impossible. I must have said to Jake 20 times that in another life I would want to do nothing but go work on that show. I always wanted to be involved in making movies/TV shows (I know, how ironic that now we don't even have our TV hooked up), but there's just so much I would love to know how they come up with for this one.

ANYWAY. Thrilled to death about Obama's picks for, oh, everyone. Jake says he's going to laugh his ass off when the country sees they've (okay, let's be honest--we've) elected someone who's worse than Bush.

The above was written yesterday. Since then, Jake and I got up in the middle of the night to finish watching season 4 and laugh at the dumb that was the last two episodes. Seriously, people, NO SHARK JUMPING PLZ.

It's snowing. A LOT. Jake stayed home today, which means IT'S CHRISTMAS VACATION!!!

I was feeling a bit adventurous after all the doctor who, so I decided to go out and brave the snow to mail Christmas presents and pick up some oil and vanilla. Total for shipping came to $67 and did not include Taylor's because I am not 100% sure if I have her correct address. Next year I'll just go hand deliver stuff instead because shipping is insane. I really screwed up and should have only had things sent directly to everyone. Never again.

It's fun sliding around in the snow, when you've done it enough times to kind of know enough how to handle it.

I'm making more cookies today. We had no chocolate represented in any of our previous cookie baking, so today that is remedied. Brown sugar chocolate bars, mmm.

Last night we all bundled up and went to all the neighbors to drop off cookies. I felt like one of Those People, and I have no idea how to explain what I mean by that, but maybe you get it. WHATEVER.

Today we have to choose a calendar for the year. We've always made a thing of choosing every year, but this year Topie has opinions to consider, too. Fun.
valancystirling: (just mom)
While mixing my fourth batch of cookie dough this morning, after countless interruptions, I had the following thought.

Maybe when my kids are older, and they're asked what they remember most fondly about Christmas in their youth, I doubt very much that it will be the endless hours of mixing cookie dough. I would like to imagine that instead they will think of me mixing cookie dough, and abandoning it repeatedly to have pretend tea parties and give horse rides around the house.


valancystirling: (Default)

December 2010

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