Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shell Shocked

So much has happened there is no way to begin to cover it here.  So I think I will just start in the middle.

A close friend has moved away.  Well, not really moved away, but her daughter has changed gyms and the majority of our relationship was based on gymnastics comradery.  Through a series of very dramatic and traumatic events (which could fill several posts) their family decided it was best for them to leave our gym.  I support their decision.  I think in the long run it might be better for their daughter and their whole family.  It was a good decision for them, but... I will miss them.

You see when we started on this crazy journey there were eight families.  At that time, we were virtual strangers who joined the army.  During that first year, as we finished basic training and entered the war zone that is competition season, we bonded in the way that combat bonds soldiers together.  At the end of that first year eight families turned into six and then five.  The loss was especially painful for Bear since her closest friends left one by one.  It took her a year to recover; I sometimes wonder if, like the loss of one's first love,  she will ever be fully healed.  Another year came and went.  During which the five became thirteen.  New bonds were formed.  In some cases these new bonds were more stable because they were based on more concrete things,  but as in all things, the closeness to those who witnessed the beginning with us was something special.

It was special enough to convince us to embark on an even crazier mission last summer.  With no guarantee of anything we ventured out away from the sure thing of the gym we had known from the beginning, to be vagabonds.  Our coach was opening a gym, but it wouldn't be ready for quite a while.  The only comfort we had was the companionship of our comrades.  At the time, even though it was scary, the choice was a no brainer.  Our loyalty was never to the gym Bear practiced at, but to the people who she practiced with.  Her teammates and her coaches were what made the fierce sport of gymnastics bearable.  And so the past year has gone.  We have been nomads for nine months, moving from place to place without a place to truly call home.  It has been at times frightening, maddening and exhausting, but we have tried to see it as an adventure.  Still, the stress of being unsettled took its toll on everyone.  Stress fractures began forming and recently one crack turned into a chasm. The result of this was one family, one of our best friends, deciding to abandon the nomadic lifestyle for the security of a place to hang their hat.

Like I said, I understand and support that decision.  However, it is hard to believe that another of our original members is gone. The original eight wide eyed little girls who began this sport just three years ago is down to three. Each time one slipped out she left a hole in my own little girl.  Bear still says, from time to time, "It seems like Hannah, Abby, and everyone should still be on our team." And I know how she feels.  I never expected gymnastics to become the part of our life that it has, but like I said at times it feels like a war zone and my fellow soldiers are the only thing keeping me alive.  And so now I feel the need to mourn a fallen comrade.

A few nights ago we got to see what will ultimately be our home.  I have no doubt it will be an amazing place - everything we dreamed from the beginning.  But as I stood there looking at it surrounded by a myriad of new enlistees I became sad thinking of all the people we lost on the journey.  The joy and excitement was tainted by the heartache of our most recent loss.  As I looked around at the new faces I could not help but think, "And then there were three."

Three families who share the same creation story.  Three gymnasts who have been together since they learned to hang from the bar.  Three... out of eight... Those are crappy odds.  especially when you consider that it's only been three years.  We have lost nearly 2 per year.  It begs the question... who is next?

Of course, there are many new faces.  We left the last gym with ten girls.  We picked up a few here and there, but over the past month our size has nearly doubled.  These are not new recruits either.  It's almost like we are combining with another platoon.  These new families aren't fresh faced, but bear their own battle wounds.  I'm sure some day we will share our war stories, but for now we just have to learn to view each other without distrust.  We need to see the newbies as fellow soldiers and remember that we are all on the same side. 

But just for today I need to observe a few moments of silent grief for those who did not make it this far...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I miss being young. There I said it. I know that isn't very PC of me. I know that embracing every age is the zen thing to do. Recognizing that the experience I have as an almost 40 year old is something I wish my 25 year old self had is the right thing to say. Except that I don't buy all of that. I got married very young. 22 years old seems like a lifetime ago, and a combination of luck and perseverance have led me to enjoy a gat marriage to a great guy. It's hard to believe that a person that young would be fortunate enough to have found and chosen the right person to spend tis or her life with, but I was that fortunate. Luckily, since we were so young we waited to have kids, and so although I have always wanted kids, I was able to experience my 20s without the responsibility of them. The freedom was something I totally took for granted. I am on vacation in Las Vegas right now, and as I sit here people watching I see 25 year olds everywhere. Some are here to party, and their carefree attitude is fun to watch, but the ones I am secretly jealous of are the ones here for some type of conference. I see them walking around with diligence and purpose. I am reminded of a conference I attended in my mid 20s. I was so eager and willing to accept the expertise of the speakers. Being on my own was new and exciting and a bit scary. I felt important and grown up. I remember enjoying the idea of actually being a grown up as opposed to feeling burdened by it. I miss that feeling... And so this vacation (an early 40th birthday present from my wonderful husband) has been spent trying to reconnect with that 25 year old in me. The one who is independent and adventurous. The one who doesn't spend at least an hour of every day with her calendar and schedule. The person who doesn't expect herself to already have all the answers. Have I found her? Well, yes for the time being she is with me, but the true test is if I can keep that spirit alive when I get back home. Back to the world where I don't feel like I am pretending to be grownup because there is no doubt that I am. Back to life where I feel the need to take care of not only my kids, but my parents and even some of my friends because that is the role I have chosen for myself. And that is the real point isn't it. My 25 year old self led me to choose that role. The girl who was so enthusiastic about being a grown up needs to remember that her responsibilities represent choices she has made and continues to make. That realization might just give her the feeling of freedom she has been missing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another Lengthy Update

So, it's been a LONG time since I blogged here.  Believe it or not I have started to blog many times in the past two months, but each time, for some reason, I never quite made it through to publishing it.  I was talking to a friend yesterday about Bear, and I mentioned how whenever she makes a mistake she can't just erase it and go on.  Rather she has to start the entire page over because she hates the eraser marks.  I think that is part of my problem on this blog.  When I begin and then re read what I have written, it is never good enough.  So I start again and again without ever actually producing anything.

Anyway, TONS has happened since I last blogged. 

First, all my complaints about the gym only got worse.  It was bought by some people who own several other gyms.  They made it clear through all their actions that they were in it as a business venture.  Of course it is a business, but part of the reason we were there is that it is a small gym with a family type feeling.  Bear's favorite coach has been trying to open a gym herself, and this was just the motivation she needed.  When the new owners got wind of it they fired her.  Of course this makes total sense, but they did it over the phone and did not let her come back to say good bye to the kids.  For me that was the final straw.  If we had any question about staying at that gym or leaving, their behavior made it an easy decision.  Pretty much the whole team felt the same, but of course there was some drama about when we would leave which I won't go into.  Bottom line is we are all out now, and the girls are practicing at a temporary gym with the favorite coach.  Her gym is slated to open July 2nd, but I would be shocked surprised if that actually happened.

Curly's dance season went pretty much as expected.  She enjoyed it, but I am not sure she is growing as a dancer.  It's not that she couldn't have learned things from the experience.  Even though her technique is superior to the other dancers, she could have learned a lot about stage presence from them, but she didn't really seem up to it this year.  Her interest in dance is changing, and I am not sure whether it is the result of her competitive company's lackadaisical attitude, or maybe it is just a natural progression.  She seems happy enough about it, and so I have made a conscious decision to relax about it too.  I have always insisted she take ballet, but for next year I am not making her take it.  That class cost more than her competitive dance, and frankly she doesn't need it to perform at the level they do.

We finished our school year (sort of).  The girls both have a bit of math to finish, but I am not worried about it.  They also took some spring workshops at the co-op that many of our friends attended this past year.  They both enjoyed it.  So we have enrolled them for the fall, and they will spend every Monday morning in a classroom type environment.  Speaking of fall I am very excited about it.  I can't remember looking forward to a schedule with anything, but dread.  However, in the fall our schedule is actually beautiful.  The girls have co-op on Monday morning, lots of activities on Tuesday afternoon/evening, gymnastics on Thursday afternoon/evening, and activities on Saturday morning.  Fridays we will be participating several once a month groups which sound like a lot of fun, and that leaves Wednesdays for field trips.  Our weekends are free from 1:00 on Saturday.  Plus we can have dinner together 5 nights a week! 

I also have figured out what we will be doing for our school year.  The girls will continue with Teaching Textbooks for math.  Neither one of them LOVES is, but they don't hate it either, and that's the best I can do for now.  The only other "curriculum" I plan to use is a new program designed to prepare kids for problem based learning.  It is called Inquire, and I am excited about it.  All along I have wanted the girls to take more ownership in their learning, but the problem has been that they didn't always have the tools.  This program is designed to tech them those skills.  I know Curly will like it, and I am hopeful that Bear will too.

Ok so forgive any grammatical or logical errors in this post, but I am not going to reread.  If I do I knwo I won't ever get it published

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Threat

Whenever people find out that we homeschool inevitably the first thing they say is, "I could never do that.  My kids would never listen to me."  I always smile and say how lucky I am because my girls never give me much trouble.  I can't say that any more.  Curly and I have been butting heads about school for the past few months.  it is infuriating to me because I expect very little of her.

Every day she is expected to complete one lesson in Teaching Textbooks 6 for math.  She also needs to do one Math Rider Quest which works on multiplication facts and takes less than 5 minutes per lesson.  I expect her to keep up with her online literature class, but in truth I am not sure there is enough substance to count as a full language art curriculum.  The whole week's work takes her less than a couple hours plus reading time, and I let her count the reading time toward her 30 minutes per day reading requirement.  I also expect her to practice guitar 15-30 minutes every other day, and practice dance on days that she does not have an outside dance class.  So on a given day she spends no more than 2 1/2 hours on everything I require of her. 

The most recent battle began because I have been feeling like it is time to beef up her education a bit.  My philosophy has always been that education focuses on two different things.  There are skills and there is knowledge.  My goal so far has been to make sure she has the skills she needs to gain the knowledge when she gets older.  So I made sure that she was a good reader and writer because those are skills to be learned through practice, and she does daily math to gain skills in that area.  All content knowledge has been presented through field trips, movies, books, plays, etc.  I have never cared whether she knew specific dates or names.  We had great conversations about history repeating itself, stars dying, and discrimination.

But now I am feeling that she needs a little more to help prepare her for life, and/or high school.  Curly has expressed the desire to attend high school, and as such I need to make sure she is prepared for it.  I also, feel like she is looking for productive things to do with her time.  She has spent the better part of the past few months video chatting with a friend.  They spend time role playing and making movies, and while I do not discount that learning is going on I feel like she has more to offer the world.

So I started researching how to meet these goals.  I knew that I wasn't interested in dry "curriculum".  We loved Unit Studies, but there were so much work to put together and implement.  I knew I didn't have a lot of time for that.  I had heard of project based learning, but I was quite sure what it was.  Then I came across a list of writing contests on Pinterest.  There was the answer! Curly could do projects based on contests we found online.  I was so excited to share the idea with her...  until I actually talked to her.

In her defense, I didn't do a good job of setting it up.  I kind of started in the middle, and she immediately started groaning about how she already does enough school.  That ticked me off, and I yelled casually mentioned that the public school was just minutes down the road, and maybe she should go there to see what a full school day was like.  Not my proudest moment to be sure...

However, when we both calmed down we had a discussion about my concerns for her future.  I talked to her about the four ways we can plan her education going forward. 
1. I can plan it by myself
2. She can come up with a plan
3. We can work together on the plan
4. She can go to school

We both agree that collaborating on the plan is best.  Of course she and I do not collaborate well.  So this could be interesting.  Stay tuned or my future rantings about the process!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Weird like me...

I started this post nearly three weeks ago, but I still don't really know how to get out what I want to say.  I saw a quote from Johnny Depp today, and it got me going.

"I think everybody’s weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it." ~~ Johnny Depp

I have a lot of friends and even more "close acquaintances.  When we went to a homeschool roller skate recently I was shocked at how many people I knew there.  When I pick up Bear from gymnastics I know all the people at he gym.  At Curly's dance competition I knew many more people than just her current group.  So how is it that someone who knows so many people and can carry on pleasant conversations in so many different circles can feel so out of touch sometimes.

I sometimes wonder if homeschooling made us weird or if we homeschool because we are weird.  I mean (although I know it isn't politically correct to mention) homeschoolers are by definition not normal.  Normal people send their kids off to school every day, but homeschoolers don't.  Normal kids spend their days in school while homeschooled kids spend their days doing "Goodness knows what."

Of course making homeschooling the scapegoat forgets the fact that for most of my life I  never really "fit in" perfectly.  In elementary school I would rather sit in the corner and read than try to conform.  By junior high I figured out how not to stick out like a sore thumb, but most of my friends were not like me.  High school was a dream.  Somehow I found lots of other misfits.  We were nerds, geeks, artists, etc.  When I hear the horror stories about high school I think of how fortunate I was.  College was fun, and I made some great friends there, and I found my soul-mate of course.  Still, with the exception of my husband, I am not sure I made any life-long friends.

Sometimes I think I operate in too many circles to keep up lasting friendships in any of them.  My homeschool friends don't "get" how intense and emotionally draining the girls competitions are.  I feel like during the season it is what I have to talk about most of the time, and I try not to because I am afraid of coming across like I belong on an episode of Dance Moms.  With my friends from Bear's gymnastics I feel like we will always be the weird family that homeschools.  As with all non-homeschoolers I feel the need to constantly put a good face forward.  So that I don't add to the stereotypes that homeschoolers get.

This is especially hard when Bear is at an age where she is terribly over sensitive.  At least once a week she comes home feeling like someone has wronged her in some way.  She has it the worst in terms of having friends.  She is seems to be struggling with how to fit in and still be her tomboy self.  She has the added burden that her gymnastics friends talk about school a lot, and she is much younger than all of them. I remember Curly going through the same kind of thing at basically the same age, and she came out mostly unscathed, but it is hard to watch your kid flounder...

So back to the quote...

"I think everybody’s weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it." ~~ Johnny Depp

This post has taken me weeks to write because although I totally agree with Johnny Depp that everybody's weird in their own way.  Some days I just need to know that some are weird like me...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


So January isn't quite over, and I have failed miserably on my one New Year's Resolution.  I could make excuses, and tell you that January hasn't been very kind.  I could whine about lots of things, but instead I will tuck my tail and apologize to the universe.  Life is too short to spend any of it feeling sorry for yourself.  My one goal for 2012 is to feel happiness and share it with others and I am doing a terrible job so far.   Here are the ways I suck...

More time with friends -- I have been a terrible friend this month.  I actually forgot that I was invited out to lunch yesterday.   I'm sure that made me look like a total bitch.  To those who I stood up, I truly am sorry.  I will talk to you in person too.  Please know that me missing out on it was a bigger punishment for me than it was for you.

More dates with my husband -- Well, dates are easier if you are in the same state, but even when we have been together I have been too whiny to be any kind of good company.  To my husband, I am sorry I haven't been better company.  I promise that we will have some quality time together very soon.

More fun time as a family -- Since I have spent a large portion of the past month moving from the couch to my bed and back again I am guessing my kids would say there hasn't been a lot of fun in our household. To my kids I am sorry, and I hope you'll give me a do over.  Giving you happy memories is the most important thing in my life.

More time to myself -- If you count laying in my bed then I have had more than my fair share of alone time this month.  However, it was not quality time either.  I apologize to myself for being such lousy company.  Even though I wasn't feeling well it is no excuse for laying around watching crappy TV for a month.

So there you have it.  My heartfelt apology to the world.  I will do better.
Even more important than the warmth and affection we receive, is the warmth and affection we give. It is by giving warmth and affection, by having a genuine sense of concern for others, in other words through compassion, that we gain the conditions for genuine happiness. More important than being loved, therefore, is to love. ~~ Dalai Lama

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Life's Soundtrack Part 1

So it's been quite a rough week.  After Bear's meet I got very sick.  It started with a headache that wouldn't quit and ended with a diagnosis of pneumonia.  Curly is sick too.  She has bronchitis, and so we are both taking tone of medicine.  Bear is unhappy because we are both too tired to play.  John was out of town until Thursday then left again on Saturday night.  Even our cat is sick so I need to take her to the vet tomorrow.  So staying true to my resolution to be happy has been difficult. 

I decided that a fun blog post will help, and what is more fun than music.  I have had a strange and varied past when it comes to music.  I thought a trip down memory lane could be fun.

My first favorite song was "My Sharona" by The Knack.  I remember sitting on my bed next to my old am clock radio that I got from my Grandpa when he got a new one.  I would wait and wait for them to play the song.  I was only 7 when it came out, but I remember it so well.

From then on I don't have many specific memories for a few years.  I listened to pop music, and whatever came on the radio.

When "Thriller" was released I fell in love with Michael Jackson.  Of course I loved that album, but I ended up buying all his records.  I had just gotten a record player, and spent lots of time listening to his Off the Wall album.  "Rock With You" was my favorite song.

Around that same time I, like every other tween girl, discovered Madonna.  Once again, while my friends loved "Like a Virgin" I went for a less likely favorite.  "Lucky Star"  It's so funny when you consider the artist she eventually grew into, but I LOVED it.

Very soon after I found a new love WHAM!  More specifically George Michael.  I wanted to marry him.  Now I realize that he is so unbelievably gay, but I was only 12, and we didn't talk about that sort of thing then.  It's hard to say which song was my favorite. I loved pretty much every song they released.  However I am going to go with "Last Christmas" mostly because all the covers I heard this Christmas made me smile.

I also discovered Prince around the same time.  Once again I loved everything about him and his music.  My favorite has to be "When Doves Cry"  It was so different than anything I ever heard before.  It was so sexy, and I was at "that age"  I still believe that Prince is one of the best songwriters of all time.

Don't think I forgot about George Michael though.  When his Faith album came out I listened to nothing else for weeks.  It felt so rebellious to sing along to a song with the lyrics "I want your sex."  I was 14.  My favorite song was probably the title track.  Of course it helped that the music video showed a lot of George Michael's butt!

Then I got a boyfriend, and he was not a traditional guy.  He was into the Cure and since I was an insecure teenage girl I was into the Cure too.  Actually,  they arrived in my life at the perfect moment of teenage angst.  I would lock myself in my room for hours and listen to the cassette he had made me on my walkman.  In retrospect I am not sure how I escaped slitting my wrists, but I did.  Now I look back fondly at the more upbeat songs like "The Love Cats"

For the rest of high school I stuck to mostly pop. My best friend was into metal, but I never really got it.  The closest thing I liked was Def Leopard.  "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was really pretty poppy, but I think it still counts.

I almost forgot t one of my best memories from high school.  I was a band geek, and whenever we took a bus trip we would spend it singing.  We sang lots of current pop songs (like the aforementioned Def Leopard song), but every trip we would end up singing "Lean on Me." I know it is cheesy, but it makes me so happy to remember it.

So that is only the first half of my life, but it is a good stopping point for now.  Looking up all these favorites did the job for me; hope it brings some happiness to you as well!