What if the future is even better than the past?

There’s something bittersweet about watching my children have these fleeting moments that are echoes of my childhood. I spent virtually every summer on the water, in the water, listening and smelling and loving the water. My grandparents had a boat, and I loved to sit on the front of it while the boat sped along the waves (and looking back, my life was probably at risk! But how wonderful it was.).

We are in America now. My children are on their grandparents’ boat, on the water, in the water. It smells like sunshine and water weeds. They are joyfully piloting the boat, asking to swim in the centre of a lake bigger than they ever knew existed.

It makes me happy; it makes me sad. What sort of life would they have if we lived in America? Specifically, this bit of America with water and huge lakes everywhere, lakes so big they look like the ocean.

I think nostalgia overwhelms me when I get on a boat. I could sit here all day. But I’m wary of letting that nostalgia put this life on a pedestal. Maybe one day my children will be watching their children live the life my kids had when they were little. No regular boats, no jumping off pontoons.

But maybe my future grandchildren will splash along rivers, play deep in the dappled woods, feel the magic of dancing around a campfire as the sun sets. And my kids will look, and sigh, and feel nostalgic and wonder what if, even as my grandchildren create their own childhood memories.

And so the cycle goes.

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Untangling.

It’s so easy to get tangled up in this world, whatever your age. Wondering who you are and how you fit in, adapting to change, navigating relationships and friendships, exploring the world in the way that feels true to you.

Sometimes it’s important to find a little corner of peace, a place to untangle yourself. A spot where, whether for ten minutes or ten hours, you find a way to give yourself time and space. Doesn’t matter if you then distract yourself, burrow in, create something, whatever.

When you find that little oasis, take it for what it is. And when you are lucky enough to be with someone else when they find it, keep quiet and let them be. The most complex and confusing relationship any of us have, and the one that has the potential to yield a lot of growth and contentment, is the one we have with ourselves.

Unschooling in adults.

I know a man who exemplifies what unschooling looks like when you’re an adult. My friend’s husband is someone I think of when I think about how my life isn’t ‘unschooling my children’ – I’m not doing something to them, I’m providing space and facilitation for them to do it themselves. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how the framework and ideals of unschooling aren’t just great for kids, but for adults, too.

This guy I know? He sort of throws himself into trying things out and learning new ways to do stuff. He follows his interests and consequently is a very interesting person. I’ve not hung out with him loads, but I’m always impressed when I do. He doesn’t hesitate to grab any child’s hands to help them learn to roller skate. He brims over with enthusiasm and will talk to anyone of any age about mutual interests. He does what brings him joy, without seeming to care much what others think of him.

I hope these are some of the things I’m helping to instill in my children. The joy of following your curiosity, to not be afraid of being a beginner, the inner resources to know how to find outer support and knowledge.

I hope when they are my age they are excited about life and all the possibilities still open to them. I hope they are willing to try, even if they feel exposed and afraid and silly. I hope my children continue to have such a strong inner compass and the courage to follow where the needle leads, especially when the poles seem to switch places.

If only we all embodied these ideals, what a fascinating place the world will be. We all have our stories, and it’s great to try to enrich your own story….and to take the time to hear someone else’s.

Embracing the unknown is a tall task, but what better opportunity to learn what that feels like than right here and now? What have you wanted to try that you’ve put off? Who are the people you want around you when you do it? What can you do today to answer a question you’ve had, experience something you’ve always wanted to try, figure out a way to make a first step?

Mine was as simple as finding the right tool for the job. I spent £11 on a wireless keyboard and finding a lightweight, cheap way to write (using my phone as the computer) is filling up holes that were so big I thought I just had to learn to live with them.

In case you need to hear it: I believe in you.

Sometimes I feel like I know what life is, but I’m still not certain I’m right.

This time forty years ago, my mother would have been nearing her due date, a tiny me inside her and waiting to come out. This time ten years ago, my belly was stretched and full, my children both waiting to come out.

I came out late, they came out early, but all three of us had the same due date.

My great grandparents also waited, on a sea rather in it, as they sailed to a new life in America. Almost exactly one hundred years later, I stepped on a plane and spent eight hours wondering what my new life in England would look like.

It feels like there are a lot of connections in life, a lot of circles. A lot of meaning.

Sometimes I feel like I need to find more meaning, or I long to create more meaning; sometimes it feels like it’s been a long time since there’s been a Big Moment, or a Big Adventure, or a Big (hopefully positive) Change.

But really, life is a series of small moments. A few are ‘big,’ but most are ‘small.’

Life is a friend threading some string through a hagstone for me, so I can hang it from my neck as we watch our children climb up sandy dunes and jump down again.

Life is laughing as another friend educates a five year old about the band on her t shirt, blasting music and us singing together while the five year old looks on with a curious combination of polite bemusement and joy.

Life is trying to stay awake as I drive across the city late at night, listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton and rapping along with the lyrics I’ve memorised.

It’s staying up talking till 4:30 am with my wife for the first time in years. It’s how tired my body feels the next day, but how energised my heart feels.

It’s walking up a river in flimsy sandals with friends, as the sky darkens faster than expected and we laugh about crazy river monsters and howling monkeys watching from the trees. It’s a text from my mother reminding me that it was my grandmother’s birthday this week, even as I think about how her death impacts me still.

Life is remembering and creating and trying and being unable to move. It’s pain and obsessing and loving and messy. It’s figuring out how to honour and express your own truth while still trying to be kind and thoughtful.

It’s a lot of big figurings out, but it’s also small noticings. The way I feel when my kid is finding things rough. The way her hands look as she holds a trophy that is so much more than just a bit of gold plating, the way his words tumble out faster and faster as he tells me the plot of the latest book he wants to write. It’s observing how hard I thought it would be to stay calm when we’re running late, but how surprised I feel when I just let it go.

Life is my fingers on this keyboard. The yellow string I’ve tied around my wrist to remind me. The choice to drink Dr Pepper Zero this late at night even when I know caffeine screws me up and I might have to wake up early to go to a circus (of flipping and soaring humans, not animals).

It’s the texts I’ve just gotten from a friend we saw today, saying her children are vomiting like small explosive volcanos. It’s me, trying to not stress about an upcoming transatlantic flight with my children who may consequently be vomiting 38,000 miles above Earth, whilst hoping my friend doesn’t have a hellish, puke covered evening of no sleep.

Life is being the immigrant granddaughter of immigrant ancestors. Criss-crossing the globe, or running the palms of my hands over my belly, as my mother did before me.

It’s all the experience. It’s all growth, even when it’s so boring and I’m so exhausted I almost fall asleep as soon as I sit still. I’m learning what it means to really be human, and slowly understanding that it’s as simple as noticing, breathing, participating, and being.

I’ll probably forget this tomorrow. I’ll be rushed and I’ll be hot, we’ll be stressed and I’ll wonder why I can’t just have a few hours alone in a dark room watching Netflix. Then maybe I’ll get a few hours tomorrow night, and I’ll beat myself up for ‘wasting’ it doing ‘nothing.’

That’s hard. But sometimes, it’s hard being a human. I’m still learning. I’m still here.

Mega minecraft maze…ostensibly built for the children…

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Just made the kids something fun to find tomorrow! Not sure I will keep the rules section as is, but for now I’m pleased. Lots of little nooks and crannies to discover – a house, several gardens, mini art gallery, swimming pool, cheddar cheese area, snowman corridor, lookout platform, survival station, chicken farm, etc.

The plan is to add new stuff to our Adventure World map until we have a whole world of awesome – can’t wait to see what the kids build!

Have I mentioned I LOVE minecraft?

Stone circles, the zoo, family’s houses, softplay germpits, and…the woods?!

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As I wrote my post on Monday, bemoaning the endlessly grey, rainy English weather, the rain miraculously stopped and some weak sun filtered through the clouds.

I tell you, it was action stations. I jumped up from my chair and was like, ‘Let’s go out! Who wants to go out??!?! LET’S DO THIS!’ An hourly weather forecast promised a few rain free hours, so we jumped into the car and went to the zoo.

Let me say this: the hourly weather forecast is a liar. A dirty little liar. Oh, it was bright enough (read, not dark gray) to leave the raincoats in the car and wander far enough into the zoo to not be able to easily return to the car. We sat down in the outdoor eating area, sheltered by a large canopy, and the heavens opened. When it calmed to a drizzle, we carried on.

The height of awesome was running for the meercat house as some sixth sense let me know shit was about to get real. We made it just as a total monsoon hit. It was hot in the meercat house, and being crammed in with the other six people who were braving the zoo made it hotter. The kids asked to go outside.

We did. The roof extends and forms a sort of porch like shelter – which was fine until gale force winds slammed a wall of rain into our shocked faces. We ran back to those meercats like hellhounds were at our heels.

But you know what? We stayed pretty dry. We had an AWESOME time – the zoo was practically empty and we spent ages looking at various animals. It sort of bolstered my going-out-in-the-rain confidence….which is saying something, considering a group of people planning to go spend the day in the woods Friday suggested they stage an intervention for me, since we have yet to make a woods meet up because it is always raining. Always.

Monday was so great that even though I messed up our Tuesday plans, we ended up spending the day at Suzy’s mum’s house. Lots of running around, drawing, building with blocks. Wednesday we met two other families at a local soft play, and the kids had a great time discovering various hidey-holes and running around together.

Today I woke up wedged halfway between wanting to go on an epic adventure versus wanting to remain unshowered and in slippers. I’m trying to find some cooler places in a slightly wider radius, and discovered a mine/caving system that we loosely planned to go to (a continuation of the Minecraft obsession), but we ended up going to a stone circle that, while very near to us, we’d never been to.

I’m in the process of making a list of 100 things to do in 2014, and visiting a new stone circle made it pretty high on the list. So off we went!!

It was fabulous. Lots of mud, tonnes of standing stones, and bizarrely friendly cows that kept approaching us. We were the only people there, and all you could see was rolling hills, a church tower, the occasional house secreted away in the hills. It was amazing. Afterwards we ate lunch in the boot of the car (it’s big, folks) and the kids ran around sans coats.

We came home to no wind and actual sunshine (!), and they were immediately barefoot in the front garden, looking for ants to watch and feed, playing with cars, finding the only remaining daisy. No coats, no sweatshirts, no problem.

So while I started the week upset about our lack of snow and the constant rain, I’m approaching the end thankful for living somewhere with very mild winters.

You’ll be reading this Friday morning, though I’ve written it Thursday night. Friends have threatened to pull up outside our house and honk horns until we emerge to join them for a trip to the forest….so hopefully while you read this, we’ll be staying dry (please god) and exploring a bit of the woods we’ve never seen before.

I hope your weeks have been incredible. We have a new tradition of evening dance parties and I tell you, this whole dancing to various songs of my youth in the evenings and going out in the day despite the weather….it makes for a good time.

 

How they are developing…

S and M are different people with different focuses.

S is into a lot of ‘academic’ stuff. Today, for instance, she spent hours playing maths apps and has mastered symmetry, furthered her understanding of fractions, and continued working towards consistently knowing the difference between right and left. She’s been able to do oral maths problems (that she creates, and that people around her do) since age two, and these are gradually gaining in complexity and her speed in solving them.

She has been desperate to learn to read and started begging me to teach her about six months ago. I’ve gone along with her, but also tried to emphasise all the stuff she’s doing already is helping her learn. She started with a fascination for road signs and recognising a handful of basic words. She somehow learned every letter of the alphabet, and three days ago discovered that each letter makes a sound. At dinner yesterday she pointed to most letters on her alphabet placemat and made the correct sound.

She’s done all this herself – obviously I’ve strewed interesting things in her path and explored them with her when she wanted, we read books of all shapes and sizes together, etc – but there have been no school like sessions of memorising sight words or formally doing phonics.

S also delights in medical things – skeletons both human and animal, organs, the senses. She has said she wants to be a vet and adores animals; she has a knack of making them like her very quickly. She’s very musical and into horns; she makes up tuneful songs all day long and narrates what we are doing through them. S loves doing ‘shows’, both with her as the key performer, and making shows with her toys for us to watch. She also insists on being called Baby Kitten about 98% of the time, and acts accordingly. She spends a lot of time upside down, trying to fully master headstands, and taught herself the perfect forward roll at age one. She loves her Bunny above all other things (and recently has discovered a love for soft toy animals), and Bunny now wears pyjamas just like S (think of pyjamas as her uniform). S knows her mind and is not afraid to be very clear in expressing her opinion…sometimes quite fiercely.

I often think of M as a creative engineer or film director. He likes making things, and delights in watching YouTube videos relating to Angry Birds and Minecraft, then replicating things he’s seen in physical form in our house. This often takes the form of directing us to do his bidding. He adores YouTube in general, and calls a kid on there who does product reviews his friend.

As a toddler, he saw a bike rack on a car for the first time. He came home, found some sticks, and put them on the roof of his Little Tykes cozy coupe. Ditto windshield wipers. This has not changed; his basic, shining belief that we can make whatever we wish. The recent project has been making Minecraft guys and worlds from Lego, though he also makes fantastical creations from pipe cleaners…and…well, anything he can get his hands on.

He is a collector and wants all of whatever it is he is interested in. His current joy lies in Angry Birds Star Wars telepods and mystery packs. Often he is satisfied if we make whatever it is – a superhero house of out cardboard boxes, a Frank combine from Cars out of yogurt containers and toilet paper rolls, an Angry Birds Death Star out of tinfoil. He is a visionary thinker, and his confidence in relation to his creativity astounds me.

We have collaborated on making a CD of Minecraft song parodies, and he has learned all the words. He begged us to let him get chilli pepper seeds when he loved the chilli pepper on Plants vs Zombies (and we ended up with a HUGE crop that none of us really ate!). He has two stuffed dogs and one stuffed cat he really likes, though only as good friends. He loves babies and will often zero in on the baby or toddler left alone at soft play, remaining by their side as protector and guardian until their parent returns. He is tender hearted, loving, and the first to rush over and ‘blow’ on someone’s body if they get hurt. He doesn’t like the cinema, and in fact often doesn’t want to watch new DVDs at home as he gets too upset when characters are in peril. Yet he stages grand battles between piggies and birds, creepers and Steve. He is now deeply into road signs and often hangs around when S and I are discussing reading related things. M is very, very outgoing and will happily to speak to anyone of any age. He delights in roughousing and recently made two friends who do, also. He loves Christmas decorations with a grand passion. He dances frantically and while laughing.

Both love playing together and independently. Likewise, they love their friends (including the grown up ones, and children of all ages), but also love just hanging out at home, too. Each can play for hours in created worlds using small figures. S often ropes me into hide and seek, while M wants me to sit with him and play Minecraft.

I’m interested in who they are, what they enjoy, how they learn. I wonder what their adult lives hold in store. Whatever the case, I hope the things they are learning now always hold true – it is worthwhile to discover your passion and pursue it, it is okay to try something different or stop doing something you no longer enjoy, the world is full of possibility and adventure.

Fingers crossed.