Friday, May 31, 2013

Being Naughty

Beatrice and I saw a girl in a video doing gymnastics.

"Why is she doing gymnastics?" asked Bea.

"She likes doing it," said I. "A lot of people have something they really love doing. When they do it, they feel very happy. I love playing piano. When I play piano, I feel very happy. What do you like doing, Honey? What makes you feel happy?"

She was very quiet for a few beats, chin tucked into her chest as she thought. Then very seriously and gravely, she said,

"Being naughty."

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Going to Visit the Doctor

OK, so my kids don't go to the doctor. Sure if something is definitely, totally wrong they do. But not well checks. They are healthy. I read about childhood health and development and I practice homeopathic remedies as needed. And since we are not vaccinating, they don't really need to go in all the time.

But at first they did. I took Bea to her first few check ups, but around the two month mark, they wheeled in the vaccines on a little cart like it was a matter of course, no discussion. I hated the way I was pressured and talked down to and made to feel like an ignorant, neglectful, bad mother for not wanting that for my child. (Nothing against those parents who choose to vaccinate, but my research has led me down a different path than yours and that's ok.)

Anyway, we didn't go back after that.

With Ambrose, it was pretty much the same because the doctors around here who actually see Medicaid patients are not open to parents' decisions for their own children. They just get so rude! I wonder if they really care that deeply about us poor folks or if they miss out on a fat check for each patient that walks out without a shot? I don't want to make this a discussion about vaccines, but I must say there is something wrong with a for-profit pharmaceutical-medical system effecting our babies and I believe 100% that the current vaccine schedule is too much too soon, while acknowledging the possibility that vaccines have been a great help in fighting the likes of polio in previous generations as well as now in far-off places.

What am I leading up to here?

Bea is going to see a doctor. Her first well-check in almost 4 years. We have found a more open-minded doctor and I am interested in meeting him and I'm slightly curious about how Bea fits into percentiles. Also, maybe it would be nice to have a regular doctor to call? We have the 24 hour nurse hotline, but I never call them. For the kinds of emergencies we have, I call poison control. :P

Monday, May 27, 2013

MAM Greenville

Beatrice had a stomach bug on Saturday. She and James stayed home while Ambrose and I went to the March Against Monsanto in Downtown Greenville. We pretty much stayed with our friends, one of whom carried the best sign ever.

There was an amazing turn out. Probably over 300 people. That may not seem like much if you are from a bigger or more liberal place. But here in SC, it's huge and unexpected. The local organizers had planned a route for the expected under 100 people and an alternate route in case there with over 100. This is really a non-partisan issue. There were all kinds of viewpoints present united by a common issue. It was beautiful.  

Here is Amby at his first march:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Another Project Update

I got some really helpful feedback from a classmate and made the following changes. There are still a couple things I need to work on, but here's my progress.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

March Against Monsanto

/// So I'm re-blogging this post from James Wesley Nichols. I hope that all of you readers are participating in this march in your own city! ///

This Saturday there is a March Against Monsanto planned in the city of Greenville, SC.

It's part of an international movement that calls into question Monsanto's use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food products they sell all over the world, a movement to hold corporations accountable for their placement of short-term profits ahead of the long-term good of the people.

Greenville is a quintessential conservative community, with a power structure favoring religion and capitalism. To conduct any protest to the status quo here is to open ourselves to ridicule, retaliation, infiltration, subterfuge, arrest, violence. Our march will be small. But movements begin this way, and only solidarity and fearless dedication to fighting injustice will make it grow. If nothing more, marching through Greenville will build awareness about what Monsanto and other corporations are doing. And raising consciousness must be the first step in building movements.

There is some debate about whether or not using GMOs for food is safe. In my opinion, this is actually a secondary issue. A deeper concern is "who is deciding our fate?" When it comes to what we eat, we have some choice, but with the trend in market economies to consolidation, and the fact that buying non-corporate food is increasingly expensive and difficult, the answer is "an increasingly small number of rich people." When you think of Chef Boyardee, Hunts, Orville Redenbacher's, La Choy, Libby's, Van Camp's or Peter Pan peanut butter, you think of individual brands. But the fact remains that all are under the umbrella of ConAgra foods, one of Monsanto's prime competitors in the global food market, another conglomerate that cares less about public health than their own profits.

Corporations are, by law, required to place the profits of their shareholders above all other considerations. Real issues that affect entire populations (environmental degradation, working conditions and so on and so forth) are "externalities" or secondary considerations. If GMOs (and growth hormones and antibiotics and preservatives and pesticides and high fructose corn syrup) serve to sicken millions of people and contribute to an overall decline in health, it doesn't matter from the corporate perspective.

So let's make our voices heard. Let's march against Monsanto (and every other corporation we depend on that places their cash flows ahead of our interests) and hold them accountable for their greed. 

Coo-Coo Bananas

So I heard that in Venezuela stay-at-home moms are supposed to get a salary now or something. Like you can put a price tag on this. I mean, this is like the most demanding, frustrating, hair-pulling-out-est job of my experience! I love my kids, but they drive me totally crazy and being without a car makes me feel hemmed in.

At least there are some sweet photo-ops.

Yesterday we went out for groceries and had a cooperation disconnect as I'll call it. It happened in the cereal isle. When will I learn not to even go down that road with my kids? The compromise was Ramen with lunch. Not bad, right? Not terrible?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Project Update

So I've cleaned up my lettering and added some color. You can see what it might look like on a t-shirt or as a bumper sticker. But I think the best application is as a poster, which will be available in our "at cost" info shop when the band plays shows.

What do you think? Want one?

Monday, May 20, 2013


I'm totally obsessed (this is not in any way true, I just like it is all) with this etsy shop! The clothes are amazing and I've always wanted to dress like an extra in a Hayao Miyazaki film. I would wear almost anything in this shop, but only stuff in more or less gray scale. Better yet, I shall make myself some new baggy, frumpy clothes. And in fact, I made myself one of these skirts the other day when I found the shop. So there.

Am I crazy or is this awesome?

Also, as a minor note, today is my birthday. :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hand Lettering

I'm taking a Skillshare class on hand lettering and I'm two lessons in. It's really great stuff and I'm totally inspired. Well, today I got our scanner working so I can show you what I'm doing.

My project is a poster/t-shirt design to raise awareness and create dialogue about the School of the Americas, a combat training school for Latin American soldiers located at Fort Benning, GA. Please read more about this "School of Assassins" here.

This is my design so far. Got a long way to go, but I am happy with my progress. Feedback?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gardening With Kids

We are first timers here so our garden is tiny and barely legit, but it's already a wonderful experience! Look at Beatrice go! 

We have red bell pepper, jalapenos, tomatoes (including cherry!) and watermelon. I think we are going to add some squash. Hopefully, it will all grow and feed us and next year we'll have three times as much! We have one bed now, but plan on a total of four. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cooperation Bootcamp Part III :: A Few Tactics

1. What do we do when we don't get our way? Say "OK" and walk away!

Bea's main behavioral issue is responding with anger when she doesn't get her way. She is four years old, so her mouth never, ever stops. I get about 5,000 question hurdled at me every hour. At least. And a lot of those are outrageous requests. She wants to take the orange juice in the bath, for example. Or take the sofa cushions in the backyard to make a boat in the garden. Stuff like that. And she gets really mad, like screaming and turning red mad when I say no. 

So this tactic included a little incentive the first few days. We don't have to use the incentive very much now, but I always keep some goldfish on hand just in case. When I say no, she says "ok" and she walks away. I made up the sing-songy rhyme above and made a game of it. By the second day, she got the idea. (The great thing about 4 year olds is that they really do have something else to walk away to at any given moment.)

2. Control yourself and try again.

The kids have this terrible way of screaming what they want instead of asking politely. They'll scream it over and over waiting to get whatever it is they want. Do all kids go through this? Where do they get it? Not from their parents.

Anyway, I don't respond to screamed or yelled demands. I respond to polite, reasonable requests. So when they do the yelling thing, I quietly say, "Control yourself and try again." And they do.

3. The next tactic is turning around a negative situation by using humour. This is my number one, go-to tactic. I think my main talent in this life is making children laugh. Mine especially. I can make them go from crying in anger and frustration to tears of excited joy in seconds. I love it! This only works if it is done respectfully. I don't want my kids to feel mocked when they are down! After all, I'm on their team!

*helpful hint if you try this at home: know where they keep their tickles.* 

4. Listen.

9 times out of 10 when my kids are fighting or tantrum-ing, it is because of a misunderstanding or miscommunication. The easiest way to solve it is to get down there at eye level and get them to talk through it, be an active listener, repeat it back. Then I explain to them or show them how to solve the issue. 

4. Safe places.

Bea and Am each have places they hide on our house (and yard when we're outside) when they need a quick escape. I like to encourage this. If they didn't run off and cool down, I'd have to put them in "time out" or a "naughty chair" as Supernanny says. I prefer a self-imposed get-away to a safe place. They'll rejoin the group when they are ready to participate. Of course, if I can tell there are issues we need to discuss, I go to them. But I do not disrespect the sanctity of their safe place. I talk to them from a reasonable distance. (If this feels too new-agey or politically correct, don't use it. But it works for us. So.)

5. Picking Battles.

This means that I have to really examine myself and see if what I am expecting or requiring is necessary. Sometimes, I have to just be real with myself and check my expectations at the door baby gate. I read a helpful blog post about dividing your activities between stuff you can reasonably do when the kids are up and stuff you have to save for naps. When I actually do this, things go a lot smoother.

6. Hugging.

Sometimes when the kids lose it, I lose it too. Nothing can push me over the edge like the incessant screams of my own children. And when I feel my blood rising, it is so much better to just stop whatever we are doing and cuddle on the couch until we all cool down. It works really, really well.

When not to use this: If the child does not want to be touched, I respect that.


These are the main things I use. But I also use a lot of the stuff on this list. It's better to link you to it than be redundant. I recommend bookmarking that. 

So there is another parent in our house and he has his own set of useful tactics. I'll try to get him to do a post here. 

If you have more tips to recommend, PLEASE SHARE! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jane Austen

When we were teenagers, my friend Kara and I used to plan a tea party. A Jane Austen tea party. A tea party that never actually happened. But we planned it anyway. We planned which characters we would be, what we'd eat, how we would talk, what our frocks would look like. All of it.

Mostly it never happened because we there were only the two of us and we had a lot more reading to do, but also because we didn't have the dresses.

If we'd had this dress, the tea party may actually have happened.

This dress is tattered and charming in equal parts. I love it. And it fits Emma so perfectly! She could almost be, well, Emma.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sister Date

My baby sister (14) came over today. Mama watched the kids for a couple hours this morning so we could take some pictures for my etsy shop. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Emma who was still practically a baby when I went off to college. We didn't exactly grow up together. There are 6 siblings between us in age.

Emma is beautiful and a natural in front of the camera. And she is exactly my size except not the same height. I pretty much source clothes for my shop that I can model myself, so this works nicely. It takes forever if I take pictures of myself because camera remotes never last more than a few uses apparently and the only camera shop around closed down. This sister date will give my shop a much needed inventory boost!

We had a lot of fun and afterwards had a good lunch.

How about that family resemblance, right?!

Saturday, May 11, 2013


I love this month! I'm just now finally realizing that I'm in it. It takes so long to get used to normal life, life beyond school. Wonder what it will be like when I really am done with school for good? 

So far, my summer break (about a week and half into it, I am) has been completely taken up with childrearing. Some evenings of dressing up and being silly/sake have happened too. And I may or may not have watched all the Avengers movies. Ok, I did. 

For some reason, I cannot seem to just stop and take a rest for even a minute. Believe it or not, I am taking online classes from Skillshare on top of all else. I'm in Illustrative Hand Lettering right now and next up is Hand Drawn Label Design. (By the way, those links provide a discount. So you get half off either of those and I get half off the next class I take.) Pretty excited about the stuff I'm learning. No reason to let one's brain get lazy just because it's nice outside. Learning is a constant.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cooperation Bootcamp Part II :: Biblical Non-Violent Parenting

"Train up a child in the way he should go: 
and when he is old he will not depart from it." 
Proverb 22:6

I think about this verse a lot. And when I do, I think about what kind of adults I hope my children will be someday. I want them to be independent (so they don't rely on any crutch– including me!), self-disciplined (so they are able to accomplish anything they set their minds to), cooperative (so they function well with others and know how to communicate effectively and compassionately) and non-violent (so they practice the humility and grace of Christ in all their relationships).

When I think of these values, the daily struggles look a little different. Obedience and submission aren't as important as they may seem in the moment (say, in the grocery store or when my mama pops by and the kids become hellions).

In fact, raising them to be submissive and obedient could very well undermine my higher purpose! If I want them to be independent and cooperative, it would be silly to train them to accept authority unquestioningly (for the record, I haven't found this to lead to robot adults, just to rebellious teens and later pathless adults). If I want them to be self-disciplined, I need them to learn self-control rather than how to suppress emotion.

The point is that having long term goals is central to my parenting.

So the most obvious, logical way I can teach my kids to be the kind of adults the world needs is to be that kind of adult myself!  Children learn by watching, listening, imitating.

But that's not enough. Parenting small children means that all day, every day you face a gazillion fights.  I was raised to believe that Christian parents spank, period. It is not violent, it is how we show our children that we love them. And if you don't do it, you are permissive, neglectful and aren't stepping up to the plate. (If any of my friends are curious about spanking in this context, I recommend this article from Focus on the Family.)

There is this idea that as a parent you have to choose one of two extremes: beat* your child into submission or let your child walk all over you.

But extreme assumptions are rarely accurate. To have a peaceful home and cooperative kids, I have to discipline, but I don't have to punish. Discipline is about cooperation and aims to teach the child how to behave. Punishment is about compliance and simply seeks to stop the wrong behavior.

The definition of punishment is to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc. as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault; to handle severely or roughly. When I think of all the faults and transgressions of my life, I am overwhelmed by the mercy of Christ. I have not been subjected to pain, loss, etc, or handled roughly for my wrongdoing. Instead, I've been shown love and grace and have been gently guided toward a safer path. I believe that this is why, when I have spanked my children, I have felt deep in my gut that it was wrong. I was not following the example of the Prince of Peace; I was hitting my own children.** Even if the offense was really bad, even if the desired behavior was worth requiring, it's not the way I should do it. (The emphasis is added because I speak for myself based on my beliefs and experience, not for other parents. I am no expert.)

I've gone back and forth on spanking. I've thought about it from every angle. As a child, I was spanked and I don't feel scarred. It is a highly effective way to get the desired behavior out of a young child for the short term and establish authority over him or her. It was done in a very controlled way in our home, with an explanation /discussion beforehand and a hug afterwords. In choosing to use different methods with my children, I am not pointing a finger at my folks. Parenting is an experiment and they did their best out of love for all of us.

But I am going to take a different path.

This doesn't mean that I have to let my kids walk all over me. It just means that I have to put lots and lots of thought and time and love into coming up with solutions for the constant situations that come up.

Also, I have to just accept that until my children learn self control, we will not be able to go to quiet restaurants or do other such activities that require preschoolers to act like adults.

There are a lot of great discipline options, but this post is long enough. I'll save that for next time.


*Spanking (by those who practice it) is not considered beating because it is done out of love and never out of anger. "But if it is done right, there are bruises." -someone in whose care I found myself as a child. 

**If you read the article linked above, you will learn that mothers are especially soft-hearted when it comes to inflicting pain on their children. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Reporting from the frontline, this was our third and most trying day. The kids were quarrelsome and I was stir-crazy. Kids are not made for indoor living, nor I for domestication or putting away laundry. We ended up playing chase, hide and seek, etc. for the better part of the morning, although we successfully made it through all the school-ish activities outlined yesterday.

I've never wanted to be a homeschool mom. The idea doesn't appeal to me. I think of bad denim dresses and long, frustrating days. It's not exactly the kind of adult life I imagined for myself. So, I'm not one. I just happen to have kids who need to learn some basics and I may as well be useful.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cooperation Bootcamp Part I :: Introduction

Well, I'm doing something important this week. It is Cooperation Bootcamp. Beatrice has some behavioral issues and there are kinks to be worked out with Ambrose too. Things I've put off for months because I was just too busy with school to be the kind of primary caretaker these kids needed. So we are making up for it with an intensive week to get on track for summer.

What is Cooperation Bootcamp?

It is a week-long program that features a fun, well-planned daily schedule with plenty of opportunities for conflict resolution. The more conflicts we encounter, the more opportunities we have to resolve our issues. My hope is that this week provides enough conflicts and resolutions for us to get a feel for what's going to work longer term.

Beatrice and Ambrose must cooperate with me and trust me. I must be patient with them and practice self-control. My goal is not just to have a peaceful home, but also to have a loving, affectionate home providing a safe, stable environment conducive to learning and long-term honest communication.

Parenting is an experiment. This is my first go-round, but I've been an observer and assistant in a variety of labs. I've seen stuff work and I've seen stuff appear to work only to back-fire later. Or in some cases, not exactly back-fire, but just lead to strained relationships and bitterness for years at a time.

I think it's really important to look at the big picture and long term objectives more than the convenience of the here and now. Yes, it is important to me that my children behave in public and cooperate when I need them to. But it's not as important as my long term relationship with them. Yes, I want them to come when I call and sit and stay and listen to me and respond appropriately and all of that. But it is more important that I lead by example. I'll go into that a bit more in my upcoming post about tactics.

For now, I will give a brief overview of how it's going so far. Our morning schedule looks like this:

dress and make beds
chores for me and playtime for them
morning snack
activity time

I know it looks like snacks and lunch are almost back to back, but activity time packs a punch. We sing songs and say our Bible verse. Then we have a Bible story. (Right now we are focusing on the concept of The Good Shepherd, Ps. 23*) That's a lot of sitting, so we do exercises next. (We can call it exercising even if it is free movement dancing, right?) Next we do our letter sound flash cards and read some stories. The children have a little wooden table in the living room where they get to practice writing letters. Amby is not good at this at all, but he can scribble really well. Then we learn about shapes and numbers using construction paper, scissors and glue. 

This may read like a quintessential homeschool preschool. But it's not as simple as that. We have fun, but we also have conflict. And that's kinda the point. It's really good for me to have this big chunk of time every day where the children have my full attention. No chores, no distractions, lots of coffee in me. We don't answer the phone. We just learn together and get redirected. A lot. (And not just the kids. I have to check in with myself to stay on track and keep my focus!)

Then naps happen. That's when I get a break. I don't do chores. I do my own thing.

After naps, we still have a couple hours before James gets home, so there's time to cuddle on the couch before we start on dinner. Yeah, we start dinner really early so the kids can help. It's slow going, but builds cooperation and hopefully teaches them a bit of the domestic arts.

The rest is pretty standard: dinner, baths, stories, brush teeth, bed by 7:30 or 8. 

Ok, so I have a lot more to say about what's going on around here. I am working on my post on Tactics and another on Biblical Non-Violent Parenting. Shoot me an email through the contact form above if you'd like to pipe in on either of those topics. 

*This led to an interesting conversation today. Bea said she can't be one of Jesus' lambs because she is not white. The lambs are all white in Tomie dePaola's illustrations. I told her that sheep can be brown, beige, black, white, or any color just like people. God made us that way and Jesus loves us just the way we are. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rain Break

The weekend was completely gross. It never stopped raining and –if the weather report is to be trusted– we still won't have a sunny day until next Monday! Can I just say something right now? It is hard to be an inside-Mama. It is hard to be cooped up with rambunctious preschoolers for any amount of time, but for an entire weekend? Wow.

It is ridiculous to even think about going out anywhere with kids in the rain. So we stayed here. We made tents and messes and fought and cuddled and read and watched movies and we didn't eat pancakes because I forgot to get butter at the store.

If it is going to be like this all week, I'll probably have My Father's Dragon memorized, my kids will know math (we've been playing number games with black beans), there will be an eternal Thomas ban in our household and I will need a major vacation.

Also, if we're cooped up all week, I will hopefully finish my first Summer class and dive into the next one!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Next Door

I love my neighborhood. It is quiet and shady. There are some families with young kids (like us!), but it is mostly older folks, retirees. One family has a pool and they let neighbors swim in it. The lady across the street works in her yard a lot.

I love our house because it is old and full of hardwood floors and charm and big, open rooms. Likewise, the yard is open and flat. Perfect for gardening.

But there's another thing I love about where I live: the house next door. Well, I haven't been in it, so I can't say I love that part, but if it's anything like ours I would.

It's the yard that has me captivated. It is magical. All green and lush and full of soft grass, moss, vines and flowers. I went out there like a creeper and took pictures of it. Mostly over our fence.

It is all enclosed by bushes and trees so that it's like a secret garden.
There are bushes and flowers growing wildly along the front.
Roots like what one might find in the Shire.
Azaleas and moss and clover along the side that touches our driveway. 
There is a nice deck on the back of the house.

Magical, right? That hydrangea bush in the first picture inspired one of my pop songs, "I'm So Jealous of Your Bush." It is amazingly full in summer. Huge blue blossoms.

Anyway, I don't know how this is possible, but the house is vacant. No one has lived there for years! The lights are on and it is climate controlled to preserve it during the disuse.

But now it's for sale.

I hope that someone lovely moves in someday. I hope it is someone who appreciates the grounds!

Home and Garden

If you thought that last post was boring, get a load of this. Here are some images of my house. It is clean. You may also see the view out my kitchen window below.