Welcome to Adulting Camp: Which Side Are You On?

“Like a Boss” vs. “Adulting is Hard”: Life in the Modern World

If you believe social media, which you’ll say you don’t but you and I both know that you spend at least three hours a day on there so who are you kidding, how could you not internalize it all?, you likely fall into one of two camps.

The first is Camp Type “A,” where campers frequently shout “Like a boss!!” while fist pumping; live life by bullet journals or tidily organized To Do lists; and probably stay up all night drinking caffeinated gin while sewing their kid’s school play costume with one hand, freelancing with the other and, if they’re really good, having an orgasm at the same time.

The second is Camp Adulting is Hard, and their motto is “Nope.” They’re uncomfortably honest about their failing relationship, the fact that they have literally never gotten their kid to school on time, how early in the day they open the wine bottle, and how disgusting their bathroom is. Continue reading

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Helping Kids Grieve

If you’ve never navigated your way through grief before, the first time can be very confusing and worrisome. Obviously, even if you’ve done it a thousand times, it can be quite horrible (though it doesn’t seem to be as difficult to navigate for some). I’ve seen friends go through it for the first time and aside from all the terrible parts of grief (you know, the crushing sadness, the exhaustion, the anger, the guilt or regret that sometimes accompany it), the process itself can really catch a person off-guard. It’s not always straight-forward and it certainly doesn’t fit into any convenient mould. Continue reading

Sometimes I Worry… But Then I Remember…

Sometimes I worry about unschooling (I know… all us unschoolers do!). I worry that because we don’t do any (or at least not much) formal instruction, and no worksheets, and no sit-down time where I walk Neko through equations and participles and such things, that she might fall behind her peers. When she shows an interest in learning to read or write, or figuring out math, we follow that interest. We have a Reading Eggs subscription that she uses a couple of times a week, and there are tons of workbooks and math games and reading primers available within the house. We read together every day, and even loosely follow the Jolly Phonics program. The opportunities are there.

Of course, I know that at six and a half, I have no reason to worry. I have plenty of unschooling friends with older kids, who describe to me on a regular basis how things have gone in their house – one kid picked up reading easily at age four, the other didn’t find that it really “clicked” until about eight. No matter the age they’re describing, it’s always the same story – they didn’t push any of the academics, they let it happen on their child(ren)’s own timeline, and provided materials to meet the child’s interest as well as a stimulating environment, then one day the child took interest and BOOM!, in about two weeks they were reading proficiently.

I’ve also seen plenty of evidence that basic math is better off learned naturally rather than through rote learning.

So, the logical part of my brain knows we’re fine. I have complete faith in what we’re doing.

And yet, I have more friends that are sending their kids to school. Friends from the States whose children learned to read in preschool at age four. Whose five year olds can recite the 5o states (I can’t even do that! Not all of them!). Who post on Facebook wondering if anyone else’s child is having trouble with their grade one homework of reading one chapter per night. Neko’s not even reading Hop on Pop yet!

I think about our impending homeschool facilitator visit, and what I’m going to tell her. Our board is very unschooling-friendly. It’s why I chose them (for those of you in Calgary, we are with Home Learning Connections). Our facilitator is hands-off, unless I need her – then she is available. We’re left to do our own thing, which is what I want. The last time she came, I told her about our regular activities, and our philosophy on Neko learning reading and math when she’s ready, and our facilitator was very supportive. So it’s not that there is any worry of her actually saying, “But you’re finished Grade One and your child can’t read! FAIL!” Still, I have nagging doubts in my mind that question our path.

Then I remember… I look back at all the things we’ve done this year.

Sledding.

Countless playdates.

Cat yodeling.

Tickle fights.

Blanket forts.

Days spent at my parents’ ranch.

Meetings to plan our little off-grid house.

Runs for fun (complete with setting up Neko’s own Daily Mile page).

Lots of neat crafts.

The girls working on their Sharpie tie dye shirts.

Sleep-in days.

Sliding, fully clothed, down a handmade mudslide along the river bank. And on and on. And I realize that given our schedule, we wouldn’t have been able to do half of these things if we had been sitting at home doing worksheets.

I understand that some homeschoolers (lots of them, probably) have time to do both. I’m not saying that just because you’re doing worksheets, you’re not having fun. (I also understand that there are plenty of kids out there who enjoy worksheets and the like and do them by choice.)

But for us, given my work schedule (one full day and two half days each week, plus stints of working from home worked into each day), and us having two extra kids in the house another day and a half each week (when I would prefer to not attempt to make Neko sit down and focus on worksheets, though I suppose I could if I needed to), I really prefer to use our time, while she’s six years old, to slide down mudslides, tromp through the woods, watch old Lindsay Lohan Disney movies while eating pizza, watch silly YouTube videos, go on playdates, do cool crafts and play at the playground.

Don’t let my face scare you. That’s just the gears going, trying to reconcile “Parent Trap” Lindsay Lohan with the current train wreck we see in the tabloids. The pizza (Coco Brooks) is delicious.

I picture myself when she is 10, or 12, or 20. This usually happens when I’m thinking back on Neko at age two or three and reminiscing about how cute and funny she was. She was also a total pain in the you-know-what and I am enjoying six so much more, but she was admittedly hilarious, and we had a lot of fun. I think a lot about how glad I am that we spent as much time together as we did, because we’ll never get to live that age together again. I’m thankful that I nursed her as long as I did; I’m thankful I didn’t need to go back to work full-time (well, really, I worked a TON of hours each week developing the store, but at least it was flexible and I still got to spend lots of time with her); I’m thankful that we went on dates and did silly things together.

I reflect on my favourite memories…

Taking a week to go camping on Summer Solstice when the rest of the kids were still in kindergarten

Having pancakes for supper in fancy dresses at a local pancake house when Justan was away for weeks and we just needed a break

Visiting a photo booth together; going for tons of playdates at our friends’ farm right outside the city; checking out new playgrounds with friends. And I realize that these will be some of Neko’s favourite memories, too.

That’s when I tell myself: It doesn’t matter that she can’t write a sentence yet, or count by twos. Like learning to walk, or talk, these are skills that will come. In the next year or two, most likely. If they don’t, then we’ll look at focusing a little more. But for the rest of our lives, we’ll have these memories to look back on. And then I feel really good about what we’re doing.

Saturday: You Are Here for a Reason

This post is the eighth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Saturday is a day of Dharma. The message today is, “You are here for a reason.”

This day is really neat. It’s the day we look at our own unique talents and find ways that we can use them to make the world a better place. Neko and I had a conversation about her talents and why she might be here – we agree that one of her gifts is a love for animals.

In the future, there are so many fun things we could do on Saturdays. One thing that I would really like to do is to volunteer on that day.

Here are my ideas:

a) list your unique talents – it’s fun to sit down with your child and talk about your unique talents. They might point out a talent of yours that you wouldn’t have identified, and vice versa. How could these talents or gifts benefit others?

b) volunteer your time or efforts – this is especially great if you’re using your talents, but if one of your talents is being personable, or attention to detail, or something else that is applicable in a variety of situations, that leaves you with tons of options for volunteering opportunities!

c) think of ways you changed the world today – this is a nice “lying in bed at the end of the day conversation. Can you think of someone to whom you made a difference today?

d) learn about a famous person who had a purpose in life – read a short biography of someone who had real purpose in their life – Louis Pasteur? Martin Luther King? Mother Teresa?

e) spend time doing something you feel you have a talent for – by practicing what we love, we can enter a state of flow. This is similar to meditation, and is good for the body and soul.

f) tell your child ways they have improved your life today

g) tell your child the story of when they were conceived/born/adopted/came into your life – a big part of your child’s life story and purpose is where they came from and how. Reminisce about these memories with your child.

Movie ideas: Surf’s Up, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Happy Feet, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, The Muppets

Book ideas: Oliver Button is a Sissy (Tomie dePaola), Augustine (Melanie Watt), Class Clown (Robert Munsch), The Happiness Tree (Andrea Alban Gosline), One (Katheryn Otoshi)

Friday: Enjoy the Journey

This post is the seventh in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Friday is a day of Detachment. The message for today is, “Enjoy the journey.”

The idea for today is to stop worrying about controlling the outcome of everything. Ideally we will teach our kids to throw themselves into things with enthusiasm despite the fact that we never know what the outcome will be. While I feel like this will take a long time for Neko to understand, I also think this is extremely important for children to learn. Right away, I can see the situations where this would be a valuable lesson – board games, for instance.

We had a nice day on Friday, and I felt like it was fitting for the “Detachment” idea. Mairead and Finn were supposed to come over in the afternoon, but the whole family was sick, so they stayed home. Justan had to work nearby, which meant Neko and I were left alone, but with the car. This hasn’t happened in a long time! Mairead and Finn don’t fit in our car (well… they do. But there is not enough room for three carseats.), and usually when Justan is working, he has the car. I thought it was funny that we had an unexpected turn of events today!

I turned to my Pinterest boards for fun ideas, and Neko and I chose a few. We then made a list of the supplies we needed, and visited the thrift shop, the dollar store and the craft store.

We chose….

I can’t find the original poster of this one, but it’s made the social network rounds and has been anecdotally proven to be a hit!

This charming idea from the Color Me Katie blog really captured our attention. We both love rocks! How simple and cute!

I will do a separate post with the results of these. We had a lot of fun. I have quite a few ideas for things to do on future Fridays. I think this will be one of the days we have the most fun! Here are my ideas:

a) do unpredictable experiments – I don’t have any specific ideas yet. This is a little tricky, because usually experiments suggested for kids have a set outcome. But maybe something weather dependent, or maybe testing out different styles of paper airplanes? Lots of wiggle room here, though, as many experiments are unpredictable to kids. I’ll be keeping this in mind and I’ll see what I come up with. As always, I would love suggestions!

b) talk about our own lives, and what might happen – I personally find comfort in thinking of all the most likely outcomes and being okay with any of them. I’d love to pass this on to Neko.

c) play a board game – win or lose, it’s about having fun. Hey… kind of like life!

d) enter a contest – Neko is always seeing contests (usually drawing contests) on kids’ morning TV. I’m sure there are better contests for learning this lesson – like entering for a door prize at an event we attend – as it has more of an impact if you can see the contest results.

e) burn or release the intentions from yesterday – if you wrote intentions on paper yesterday, how about cooking over the fire (or lighting a fire in the fireplace) tonight and burning those intentions to release them. Don’t be attached to the outcome!

f) play with a tone matrix – yes, it’s true, you could figure out what each combination will sound like. But the fun is on choosing random spots and checking out the result. Try this tone matrix  or this one that “pulsates” and looks and sounds a bit like raindrops.

Neko really enjoyed trying both. They kept her amused for quite some time!

Embarrassingly, I have not been able to come with any story ideas yet. Not for lack of trying! I’m sure Helen Lester must have one about not being a sore loser.

Movie ideas: Homeward Bound, Up!

Thursday: Every Time You Wish or Want, You Plant a Seed

This post is the sixth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Thursday is the day of Intention of Desire. The message for today is, “Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.”

I like this idea, because it’s one that I believe in strongly. I believe that the Universe (context: I’m a pantheist) wants to give each of us what we want, and we help it to do so by creating intentions. I also believe that our intentions send out certain vibrations and thus attract like vibrations, in turn bringing us just what we put out. At least, that’s an overly simplified explanation. Neko and I talked about this today, including how you should be careful what you wish for, as sometimes you might wish for something that isn’t actually in your best interest, but then you might get it. Her first thought when I asked what she would really like her life to be like? She said she either wants to go to Narnia, or have the Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan come here. I wasn’t sure what to say to that, especially since Sunday’s lesson is that “anything is possible” (really struggling with that one from a child’s perspective). Is it really possible for the characters from our favourite books to come visit us? Help me out here, Deepak.

I have tons of neat ideas for upcoming Thursdays, as this theme lends itself easily to all sorts of crafts, activities and conversations, but for today, we did a little visualization exercise before bed. I visualized sitting inside our strawbale house and feeling very peaceful, while Neko visualized seeing the boy she has a crush on, and also attending another Jellybean Dance. She loves visualizing so this went over well.

A part of my strawbale house visualization – the view from our homesite at Solstice.

Onto those neat ideas. Some things I’d like to do on Thursdays:

a) make a vision board – using pictures cut out from magazines, printed off the computer, or drawn, create a collage of just how you would like your life to be. This can encompass your whole life, or a certain area, such as fitness, work, home, or family. Don’t limit yourself by attempting to be reasonable – dream big. You never know what might manifest in your life!

b) write a story in which the thing you want to happen, is happening – this is something I often do for myself. When I do it on my own, I write what my life would like if my wish came true, only I write about it in the present tense. “I am so happy right now in our strawbale house. It’s so peaceful here…” I think this same idea would adapt well to kids!

c) practice visualization – have your child choose something they really want. Are they missing someone? Is there an activity they would like to try? A trip they’d like to take? Talk them through a visualization in which they experience what they’re wishing for, in their head. Visualization is a powerful tool, and one that will help them later in life. Among other things, using visualization before an athletic event to picture yourself doing well has been proven to improve performance!

d) set goals with lists of how to achieve them – setting actual goals, and listing ideas of just what needs to be done to reach those goals, is a practical way of making your dreams coming true. Goal setting is another valuable habit for kids to learn.

e) blow bubbles – put an intention into each bubble, then watch it float away. Another part of today’s message is that once we release our intention, we must have faith that if it’s in our best interest, it will happen. We can’t continue to obsess over whether it will happen, or we could get in the way. Practice setting intentions, releasing them, then watching the bubbles pop and release those intentions themselves!

f) write your wishes on paper – we’ll do something further with these papers tomorrow.

g) make prayer flags – we did this for Winter Solstice this year. As the flags blow in the wind, they release the wishes. Once the flags are worn out, you can burn them to fully release the intentions they contain. For more information, see my post on Winter Solstice 2011.

Our Solstice prayer flags, hanging from the chicken coop.

h) plant a seed – that’s right. Plant an actual seed, and watch it grow. There are endless ways you could do this (maybe Thursday is a good day to plant the garden!) – here is one.

Book ideas: Charlotte’s Web

Movie ideas: Charlotte’s Web, Freaky Friday

Wednesday: Don’t Say No, Go With the Flow

This post is the fifth in a series of eight concerning Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents. For the original post and summary, click here.

Wednesday is the day of Least Effort. The message for today is, “Don’t say no—go with the flow.”

Neko and I going with the flow… sort of.

This was another day that, for this week, we didn’t do much for. That said, I don’t expect we’ll always have a big activity or lesson, but I hope more that we will keep each thought in mind as we go through the corresponding days. Some weeks, we will incorporate lessons or activities. I explained this idea to Neko in the morning before I went to work, and asked her to please try to go with the flow and think of creative solutions as she went about her day. I’m not sure whether she did as she spent the day with her dad, and then Nicole’s family!

On our drive home at the end of the day, Neko mentioned that she had spotted an eagle gliding over our neighbourhood that morning. Perfect! Eagles were one creature I immediately thought of when brainstorming themes for Wednesdays, because they go with the flow – instead of working hard to stay aloft, they glide and ride the air currents to get to where they need to go. I explained this to Neko and told her that when you see a large raptor in the sky, you can tell it’s an eagle if it is riding the wind instead of flapping its wings much. When we got home, we watched some videos on YouTube of eagles riding the wind. Neko asked a really good question: “But what if they want to go somewhere that the wind isn’t going?” I wasn’t entirely sure of the answer, and I told her as much, but also told her that I thought an eagle might try to find a higher or lower current going in the direction it wants to go.

While supper was cooking, we read The Gruffalo, because I think that the mouse in the story goes with the flow and thinks up really neat ways to solve problems and keep himself alive. Plus, we love The Gruffalo. We talked about these things and about how, if the mouse had freaked out or reacted in a different way, instead of keeping calm and thinking creatively, he might have been lunch for any of the threatening creatures along the way.

On future Wednesdays, I would like to…

a) find the game in work or a chore – we need to get Neko doing more chores around the house anyway, and I’d love to have regular chore time during the day (often things just feel too crazy and it slips by us – plus I tend to put cleaning and such things pretty low on the priority list). I’m all for finding the fun in chores! That’s a lifelong skill that won’t let you down.

b) float a boat down a stream – a toy boat, a paper boat, a boat we’ve made as a craft. This is always a fun activity anyway! We have lots of streams and rivers around us, so this is an easy one for us to access. And is there anything more fun in the spring when the snow melts? We can take the opportunity to talk about how the boat follows the current, what happens when it gets stuck, and whether different types of boats are better at “going with the flow.”

c) take responsibility for our actions – as you go about your day, try not to blame others for things that happen. Take responsibility for the things you say and do, and how those things affect others. Placing the blame on others wastes time and detracts from the opportunity to find a solution.

d) create something that feels fun to create, or do something active that doesn’t feel like work to you – when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work!

e) in the pool or lake, let the current move us around as we float, and see where it takes us – similar to the boat idea, only in this case, we’re the boat! You could be on an inflatable toy, or just floating on your back. Play safely, of course! Lifejackets are great.

f) have a wandering day – leave the house and just go where feels right. You could be walking or driving. See where you end up! I love the instructions in the following image (from tumblr) so I’ll leave it at that.

g) learn about how eagles float on air currents – we didn’t have a ton of luck on YouTube, but I’m sure with a bit more searching we could have found other websites with much more information. Books or DVDs from the library, or a visit to your local bird sanctuary would also be helpful!

Book ideas: The Gruffalo (Julia Donaldson), But No Elephants (Jerry Smath)

Movie ideas: Winnie the Pooh, Shrek