Like Catan   Leave a comment

Homeschooling my kids is like a game of Catan.

It came to me this morning because we were ready to start school fifteen minutes early.  What happened? I asked myself.  Normally I am running late and we never start when we mean to.  What did I do differently this time?

I wasn’t sure and I’m still not able to come up with a specific technique that made this bizarrity occur.

What I do know is that when I play Catan, I never feel that I am getting ahead building settlements and cities fast enough.  I’m always plotting how to block someone else’s road, so I can get the Longest Road card.  I look ahead as far as I can, listing what resources I need to do the next three things on my wish list.

A few turns later, when I calculate other people’s victory points, and mine, we are usually neck and neck and running about 7 or 8.  I keep strategizing.  It really gets moving.  My strategy is working and I am seeing results.

Then, just when I have enough cities to rake in the resources–somebody wins.  And the game is over.

 

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Posted February 15, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor

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Just Faking It   Leave a comment

So yesterday was a homeschool day for our family.

Yesterday, that meant that I wrote the day’s work for each student up on the wipe-off board.  I read with both kids, which is a highlight and a fun time of day for me.  I often help with questions or math or whatever gets done in the morning.

Yesterday, we had an art teacher come to the house for an intro session with my high school senior so they could get to know each other and make a plan for what the weekly lessons will look like.

While they were talking my 8th grader and I went upstairs to get some work done.

That afternoon, he and I did a baking experiment together and rapidly found out why leavening is such a tasty thing.  Baking soda by itself is not appetizing, but the cupcakes that didn’t have it weren’t anything I would want to eat.

The senior helped me make fish tacos for dinner, as I’ve decided these two aren’t leaving the house without a modicum of kitchen experience.

The 8th grader learned how to do goulash the night before.

I think that covers it.

So, that sounds like a pretty good solid homeschool day, right?

I did pat myself on the back for it and wanted to brag about it on Facebook.  However, the rest of the story is that yesterday was probably the single most awesome day in my homeschooling career.  I’m coming up on eighteen years of experience, and I can assure you that most days have looked nothing like this.

I have been intending to teach the kids to cook by having them sous chef with me for literally years.

Usually I don’t do experiments.  I assign pages to read in a science book.

Usually we don’t have an art teacher coming to the house!  That is an exciting new development that just worked out this year.

I do read to them every day.  But I’m here to tell you it doesn’t usually look this wonderful.  It’s not pretty.  It’s just doing the next thing each day.

Ask me about the day the then preschooler threw something at me and knocked over the celery stalk/red food coloring experiment which then got all over people’s papers.  Ask me about how I never used to even get up on time so school started whenever I got my crap together.  Ask me about all the mornings I lit a candle in the den to just lighten the place up in January and February because I was so depressed I did not want to do anything.

Or better yet, ask them.  Yes.

Somehow they survived.  They are people rapidly approaching functional adulthood, in spite of me, not because of me.

 

 

 

Posted February 11, 2018 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, humor, motherhood, parenting

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We Are the Children of Tama   Leave a comment

At least I certainly am.  For years, I have quoted lines from books and movies where they seemed relevant, and for some reason, my children do the same.  Lots of laughs and more than that–it has become a unique language for our family.

So I always loved the Star Trek: Next Generation episode about the children of Tama.  They were a race encountered by the crew of the Enterprise that communicated entirely with literary allusions.  The crew was clueless in these interactions until after the leader of the Tama kidnapped Captain Picard so that they could experience the challenge of facing a foe together, thus building a relationship so they could understand each other.

At our house, you might hear allusions like this.  See if you can identify the movies.

Someone drops and breaks something or can’t finish a chore.  I say I will clean up the mess or cover the work: “I’m a compassionate insect.”

Some satisfying conclusion to a mess we were in: “Yes, Rico.  Ka-boom!”

Nobody knows what to do in an unfamiliar situation: “I have no memory of this place.”

Discussion of how I will respond if the kids take this or that action: “And then we have the screaming problem again…”

When departing from dear friends: “Have fun storming the castle!–It would take a miracle.”

And so forth.  There are plenty of other times when there’s less of an obvious context, where a phrase just fits the moment we’re in, or somehow reminds us of a past incident.  We get the context, however.  There are many lines we love that sum things up more perfectly than any analysis any one of us could give.  So, I just assumed other families quote movies, because like, why wouldn’t you?  It’s fun.  It’s succinct.  It gets a laugh.  It communicates.

It was only within the last couple of years that my reading about behaviors typical of people with autism led me to understand that this could be called echolalia.

Echolalia is defined as repeating speech or lines that have been heard.  If you look at the definition in some places, it appears the average person would see no context for the line that was repeated.  Based on our personal experience with our movie quotes, though, I really doubt that’s true.  Probably there is a context every time to the person on the spectrum; it’s just that the neurotypical can’t see it.

When we quote movies to each other, there is a context.  We are communicating.  It works beautifully.

I found out today that we aren’t the only ones.

In this New York Times essay, Ron Suskind relates how his son on the autism spectrum connected with an animated character from a movie, when he couldn’t communicate with anyone else.  Granted, in his situation his son had no other way to communicate for many years.  But for both families, utilizing other stories built connections in ways typical conversation was unable to do.

There’s communication going on here–if you can speak the language.

Posted February 7, 2018 by swanatbagend in autism

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Now   Leave a comment

Your days with your small children are difficult.  They are long, and challenging.

But trust me when I say–this really will end.

Your child will grow up.

Depending on his circumstance, the point at which he becomes an adult–moving out of your house and not coming back, will vary.  In some situations, your child will not leave home, whether through disability or disease.  Even there, the future with your child will be different, whether he is living his life somewhere else or if he is still with you.  He’ll be different.  You will be different.

Believe it or not, this is not a post about how you must adore every moment you spend rocking/singing/nursing/carrying your baby to sleep.  It’s not a post about how you must seize the day.  It’s not that you must schedule your time so that none of it is wasted.   It’s not a post about how you must parent well precisely because your time as a parent is fleeting.  You have already been told that, and felt guilty about your inability to fully extract all the joy from every minute.

I just want you to know that the moment you have now does not guarantee anything about the future.

What I want to tell you is, whether the moment is horrendous, tedious, messy, awful, or wonderful, accept that it is now.  Live in that now moment, however good or bad it is.  You don’t have to plan for the future in every moment.  You don’t have to do it perfectly or even do it well.  You don’t have to even like it.

Just be in it.

 

Posted January 27, 2018 by swanatbagend in parenting

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No Greater Love   Leave a comment

I have a tendency to take things literally and so I think this has colored my understanding of the text in John 16 where Jesus says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  If you read on from that point, where Jesus says he’s calling his disciples friends, it’s easy to infer that he’s referring to what he’s about to do.  And Jesus does literally give his life for his friends, which includes his 12 disciples, but us as well.  So until last week, I didn’t get any further with that verse than thinking 1) Jesus is stating what he’s about to do for us and 2) he’s saying that a willingness to even die for someone else if needed is the test that you really love.

There is so much more to it than that.

So forgive me for stating the obvious (if this was already obvious to you), but this time when I read those verses I saw something else.

It isn’t laid down all at once. It’s laid down each moment of each day.
If you lay down your life, that does not necessarily mean that you die doing it.
Maybe you don’t die.
Maybe you are already laying down your life.
Maybe you are laying down what you want, your ideas and plans, even the idea that it is your life to begin with.
Perhaps you are in a difficult work situation or relationship situation, that requires dedication. It goes on and is not temporary. It’s not what you signed up for, but it the reality you currently face. In moving forward through the challenges of it, you are laying down your life.

As you get older, perhaps you feel it more, this laying down. As you go forward, it’s unrolling like a layer of asphalt or perhaps a lovely red carpet. There will be an end to it, not seen by you, but you know it’s closer. Maybe that’s why you feel the laying down.
Also you can’t take it up again; you can’t get it back. It’s irretrievable.
When you give it away, it’s given, it’s gone. But that is as it should be, because after all, you are laying it down.

No greater love.  You lay it down.

 

Posted December 28, 2017 by swanatbagend in servanthood

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More   Leave a comment

At many points throughout my life, I have wanted to do more.

Whether I was genuinely motivated by a wish of my own or an original idea, or just looking on at what other amazing people had accomplished, the emotional results were the same.  I read about a five year old who started her own non-profit to bring hot lunch to the other children in her school.  I observed the faithful and amazing way a woman I knew wisely and lovingly parented her children.  I admired local entrepreneurs who started their own brewery in an abandoned church.  I saw a doctor friend both parent her children and further her career.   I scratched my head in amazement at the knowledge and skill required to found and run a company like Google or Tesla.  I gathered from the vibe in my culture that I was supposed to have a paid career and that my at-home-ness was an odd aberration that better childcare options would make unnecessary.

At times, the observations I made about what other people were doing left me with the sense that there was something wrong with me, that the work I found joy in was too little of a contribution, that I should somehow be doing something more or something better.

Should.

Be doing more.

Be doing better.

Then I saw an ant.  It was doing what ants do best.  She was seeking food for her sisters.  She was removing obstacles from the doorway to her nest.  She was cleaning her antennae.  She was sprinting along the sidewalk.  She was crunchy, streamlined, tiny, formed of amazing minuscule parts, but perfect.  She was beautifully pursuing who she was made to be.

She wasn’t trying to pollinate flowers.  She wasn’t feeling disappointed because she couldn’t get her abdomen to light up every night.  She wasn’t attempting to migrate to Mexico.  She wasn’t sunk into despair because she could not stride rapidly past into the upper distance like those giants who shake the earth.

My conclusion is not that challenging aspirations should not be pursued because they are too difficult, or that there is an underclass of people who aren’t good enough to deserve meaningful work, or that a specific gender is responsible for all childcare and it’s immoral if they escape their homes.

Rather, there is no need to think we must do something better or something more or something else that someone outside us says we should be doing.  We can move forward following the leadings we’re given.  We can trust that who we are is enough.

 

 

 

Posted December 1, 2017 by swanatbagend in identity

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Hurry   Leave a comment

What’s the hurry?
I’m referring of course to the ever more noticeable early rush of Christmas decorations, music and advertising. I don’t know if it’s just more obvious this year because Thanksgiving was so early, or if it is truly even more ludicrous than usual.  I was subjected to “Feliz navidad” while shopping for the turkey. That’s just obnoxious.
There is no reason to Light Up Your Town on November the 5th, or start calling it “the holiday season” the minute the kids stop choking down all their Halloween candy.
It’s not the holiday season.  It’s November.  It’s being grateful for what you received, not looking forward to grabbing whatever you can get.
I know what you are thinking.
You’re thinking I’m a grumpy curmudgeon who can’t keep up with the times, who doesn’t like change and who doesn’t want to have fun.  If you think that, you’d be right–except for the bit about not having fun.  I really do love to have fun.  And I’m writing this because I think people are missing out.
Don’t miss the glories of November, the colors with the blue sky, and the rainy gloomy days when the leaves get torn down.  It’s orange, gold, red, russet and brown.  It’s harvest home.
Don’t miss the rest and the food of Thanksgiving, and the fun of being together with other people to give thanks.
Don’t miss Advent.  Don’t miss the anticipation of the feast of Christmas that is to come.  Don’t miss walking through the sorrow and darkness that is this life, knowing that the surprise that overturns it all is still to come.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sit, quietly, in your home, before the lit tree, and ponder the mystery and glory of this season, the Incarnation.
You don’t have to try to cram all the parties in before the 24th of December.
There is still time.  From December 25th to January 6th, you can lift your glasses highest, sing the loudest, and leave the Christmas tree up, and the lights on.  When the year is at its darkest, that’s when we need the lights the most.

Posted November 30, 2017 by swanatbagend in gratitude, holidays

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