Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

After 5 days of snow, rain, ice, ice, more ice, and grey skies the sun rose for us this Christmas Day.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  The kids are all still nursing fevers and cough, but I sneaked out for a few minutes of breath taking beauty (and fresh air).    Despite their illness it has been a low key, sweet kind of holiday with no one too sick to play a bit and eat too much sugar.  
We are of the fortunate few who lost power for only a day, while many of our relatives and neighbors are without power going on 4 days now.  It has been a hard, cold holiday for many in our area.  We feel fortunate to be enjoying the beauty of the ice from a warm home, with all of the conveniences of electricity.  Hope you are keeping warm where ever you are.  

   Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Solstice!

Here's to a very merry holiday, may the light find you where ever you're celebrating.  Happy Solstice!

Friday, December 20, 2013


Those snowflakes on the window did the trick, and last week we went from 4 inches to 20 or so in a few short days.  We've been sledding and X-country skiing, appreciating this fluffy snow before it ices up or melts away.  For a week it was cold, cold, here, negative numbers well after sun up for a day or two.  Now that we're back to double digits 30 degrees feels downright comfortable.  But when its cloudy like today I really feel the low light.  Like an all day dusk we just can't seem to shake.  Only two more days, then we're on the up.  Those Pageans really knew what they were doing celebrating with light and festivals to tide through these dark days--and those Christians really knew what they were doing when they claimed this time for their most special of days.  I'm feeling grateful to all the faiths for the lights, song, and celebration that gets us through this month.   Mostly though, we grateful for snowsuits, mittens, boots, skis, snowshoes, sleds and snow, plus healthy bodies to carry us through and across it.  

Today we're cleaning and baking and setting up a bonfire, in preparation for far too many people to squeeze into our space come evening.  It is sure to be a crowded, chaotic mix of fun, good food, drink and joy. 
Merry Merry!  


Friday, December 13, 2013

New Years Resolution (a little early)

Wylie has been investigating the idea of public school ( I wrote a little about it a few weeks ago.)  While no decisions have been made yet, it's led me to do a lot of thinking (and some panicking, if we're being honest).  But also, a lot of questioning.  The quiet, in my head, late night, self-doubt questioning that tends to happen when a large part of how you've defined your life is suddenly suspect to change.  Over the past five years of homeschooling I've been (mostly) confident that our relaxed, mainly child-led homeschooling is what's best for our kids and our family.  I've stood by my gut feeling to not force reading before they are ready, to allow lots of time for imaginative play, creative self expression, and to allow the kids a large say in the scheduling and follow through of their responsibilities.  I still feel like those choices were good ones-- most of the time.

But damn, there's nothing like a school official evaluating your child to make you doubt all the teaching and guidance you've done over the past 6 years (10 if you're counting from birth).  Even when those officials are kind and understanding, and seem to respect homeschooling choices.  I feel this huge judgement being thrust on me, and suddenly feel fully responsible for what my child knows (and doesn't).  Do teachers feel that same sense of responsibility for thier students' knowledge and performance?  I'm sure to some degree, but I'll bet its different.  I find myself being (quietly) critical of what he hasn't worked on enough, blaming him (never aloud) for not focussing on it, and myself for not pushing him harder to work on his weeker skills.  I've been feeling like a failure for not pushing enough, not being structured enough, and feeling disappointed in my kid for his weaknesses instread of celebrating his strengths.  
And it sucks, because the reality is, that's the whole reason why we chose not to send our kids to school.  So they could revel in the skills they do have, learn what they need to at thier own pace, and keep the passion for learning and discovery they had as toddlers.  So they can grow up to be curious, life long lovers of learning (oh the alliteration!) who are happy about themselves and with the choices they make.  
I'm kinda done with the whole self-doubt bit.  So here's what I'm choosing to think about instead:

We can want all kinds of things for our kids.  And, we can plan what we will give them (materially and figuratively) and envision what they will make of it.  But the reality is that they are each who they are, and will become what the will.  If that is not what we envisioned we can force them.  We can shame them into trying harder to be who we want.  We may even make them what we want, but surely at a cost.
Or, we can choose to celebrate who they are, right now.  Maybe they are not strong readers.  Maybe they are not people who enjoy crafting.  Maybe they are not athletic, mathematical, musical, funny, compassionate, good writers, lovers of animals,  _____ (fill in the blank), maybe not.  But surely they are original.  Surely they are each the sweet babes we held in our arms, carried on our backs, fed and clothed and bathed.  Surely they are the same souls that stared into our eyes unblinking as we cradled them in their first moments with us.

Our choices and opportunities in our society seem nearly limitless, it can be overwhelming.  But if we treat ourselves kindly by limitting choices (as we did for our toddlers) we can make it easier on ourselves.  Because in the end there are really only two choices.  We can choose to be happy, or not.  And if we are happy with them, then it seems more likely they will be happy with themselves.  And isn't that really what we all want for our children in the end.  Despite all of our hopes for success, a fulfilling career, healthy relationships, etc.  Isn't what we are really trying to say is, "I hope you are truly happy in your life". ?  I think so.  And shouldn't it start right now?  After all, childhood is just as much a part of their lives as adulthood.

So, my New Year's resolution for this year, is to choose to be happy.  To be thrilled with who each of my children is in his/her entirety.  It will not make them who I want.  It will not make each day easier (maybe a little?) But surely it will grow happier people. Which is really what the world needs.

The View From Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Its never boring...

This holiday season so far has been busy for sure, but not overwhelming.  We've seen a concert, and a play, a holiday movie night, and a grown up party.  But mostly its the little advent activities that we're doing as a family each day that are helping to keep it simple and sweet.  The other night Juniper said, Its never boring waiting for Christmas, because there's always so many fun things to be doing".  I'll take that as a sign that we're on the right track, and  hope that as the years progress the days before Christmas become the real treasure instead of a wait.  
A few of the treasures so far:
* woods walk to gather pine cones
* decorate the seasonal table 
* Christmas for the birds
* gathering greens
* wreath making
* decorating the porch


Friday, December 6, 2013

The View From Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Well, its begun.  This hectic, festive season of crafting and giving, baking and eating, and generally making merry.  Our family is not particularly religious, and we celebrate the Winter Solstice as well as Christmas as a time for giving, for bringing light into the darkest days of winter, and for creating joy for those we love.  Advent is an extension of that, and it allows us as parents to place more emphasis on giving and celebrating together as a family, than on shopping.  

That said, our annual advent activities haven't always gone off as imagined (I'm not sure we've had a lantern walk yet without tears) and it seems like throughout the month activities get swapped from day to day, or forgotten altogether in the busyness of our days.  I'm sure those things will still happen, but this year I've worked a bit harder to ensure that the activities are fun and not a challenge to our schedule.  First, I removed the activities that no one seemed excited about (I'm still committed to the Lantern walk).  And, I planned well--even consulting Rob's and my calendars before placing the activities for each day (this is huge for me). Finally, I kept a master list of what went where, so that I could consult it weekly to see if any supplies might be needed so I could, for example, buy stuff to make gingerbread houses before the morning comes that we're supposed to make them (imagine!)  I also gave myself a break, and decided to give candy on a couple of our busiest days.  

Merry making, lights, sugar, concerts, parties, bring it on.  We're ready to celebrate.  These dark days sure could use some light.  

  Pre-advent late night planning:  calendar, Gordon Bach, hot buttered run, chocolate chip cookies.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Kale is Four!

Oh four.   You are not my favorite age.  Three was boisterous and proud and helpful.  Two was silly and sweet.  We are only three days into it, but if the last month is any indication then things aren't looking good for the weeks to come.  Fears, night waking, tantrums, hitting.  At two and three you clearly verbalized any discomfort or problems.  You were rational and if not reasonable, easily distracted.  Four is emotional and complicated.  You cry easily and sulk often.  You don't want to go anywhere, and your feelings are easily hurt.  Lucky for you we have been through four before.  Twice.  We know that your sweet, sunny personality will shine through in time.  We try to be patient through the tears, and hold you when you are sad.  We try to understand why you are screaming about sleeves being stuck in your jacket, when a month ago you would have calmly asked us to pull them down.  But, we know this too shall pass. We know you are still Bittle, our noodle head.  The same sweet boy you were five Novembers ago when you were born into the candle-lit night of our living room.  Tonight you are wearing the same ladybug jammies your sister wore the night I birthed you.  Tonight, you held my cheeks and kissed me goodnight and said, "I love to feel your face, its all warm and soft".  Such a sweet gentle soul you have always been and continue to be.  It was very hard for you to share your special day with Thanksgiving this year, and hard for me to not be able to make it just your special day as well.  But know that no matter the day, we are always thankful for you.  Happy Birthday Kale Robin.  We love you.   

                      Birth Night






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Days

This morning we awoke to the first snow of the season.  It was met with the expected first snow glee--requiring an underwear dance on the deck (a little tradition I began in college) and a snow-suited foray into the semi-dark morning.  The mitten situation shed a bit of reality on the season to come (has there ever been a 4 year old who enjoys mittens?) but I was doing my best to persevere with my joy.   As I get older I have been appreciating more and more the differences of each season, and very much so the subtle beauty of the starkness of early winter.  The simple act of fetching wood from the porch inspires a photograph.   
November is raw, but real.  She's hiding nothing.  

The snow quietly settling on the frozen grass and the wood stove sparking to life was calling me to stay home for a quiet day.  But, today is Tuesday.  Which means homeschool coop--a raucous, wonderful crowd of nearly 100! homeschoolers (including parents and babies) packed into our rental space for the better part of the day, which we divide into 3 sessions with several classes each session.  It is amazing, sometimes exhilarating, and always exhausting.  My quiet day didn't happen.  Of course the kids had a great time rolling in the snow down Belfast Common, snow ball fighting, and eating snow with their friends (never mind all of the crafting, physics, ecology, research, and space studies going on).  The playdate extended into the afternoon, as friends joined us at home, and sleds were pulled from the barn rafters and hauled around the dark yard by headlamp.  

Its all good, and seems to be the way of November.  Crammed between Halloween and Thanksgiving, the time of year when all things non-holiday get scheduled, and pre-holiday preparations are already in the works.  Early last week Rob and I didn't see each other at all for more than 10 minutes (discounting sleep) over a stretch of 3 days.  As a family we've been soaking up bits of quiet time whenever the opportunity arises:  late morning solo art projects before swim, quick games of cards after lunch,  late afternoon tree sitting just for quiet (she even took her nature journal up there--love that!) projects on the brain that beg to be squeezed in between errands and lessons (Juniper's honey drops--a recipe she made herself and gifted to her piano teacher); sand play indoors, and yes, a bit of school work as well.  Lately our schedule has been loose, but good, with many late afternoon impromptu reading sessions or math work, and early morning risers who get right to work on their own, self created reading, writing and film projects.  Despite my attempts at direction we seem to be dispersing at low tide, heading about our personal explorations.  Its all busy and sweet and good.