Walking side by side

Lately we have been doing a lot of walking. It was my idea to try and calm the stress I feel around driving and parking in this overpopulated place I live to just walk to the grocery store instead. Cause there are three of them in my neighborhood with the farthest one being only 1.5 km away. So I buy smaller amounts of food and go the store more often. And when I arrive by foot I am in much better mood.

Serendipitously, my teenaged son has a new zest for being out in the world. So the majority of the time he asks “can I come with you?” My answer is always YES! There were times in our journey together that taking my children to the grocery store was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Mostly because they didn’t want to be there, it wasn’t fun for any of us. But now is different, now we get to talk about what we want to eat for dinner and how to make it. My son is checking out the price of things and noticing the cost of eating. Which is certainly not something that I had any idea about at his age. And is another reason I am a huge supporter of living in the world with our children so they can notice these sorts of things. It feels like an important piece in preparing them for living in the world without me.

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Mostly though, we have these moments while we are walking side by side enjoying each others company that are priceless. Sometimes we talk about the sorts of things that have been building up and are easier to share about where there is an abundance of fresh air and natural energy. Other times I have my phone turned up with music pouring out and we literally dance in the streets, like we are the only two people in the world. And then there are the times that we just walk side by side in silence. Sharing the comfort that comes from knowing the space between you well enough that it doesn’t need to be filled up with anything.

I can see the end of this, our time living together full time in the same house. Or more clearly, I can see the ending of him needing me by his side full time. So I take all of this and I breath it into the very fiber of my experience. Because tomorrow he could wake up and decide once again that the grocery store isn’t a fun place to be. Or that doing something with a friend is much more rewarding then walking to the store with me. So I drink in every drop of it for the moments to savor  when the nest is empty and I can walk as long and as far as I want on my own.

What might you take an extra moment today to notice? What moments can you slow down to in this busy world of ours? I’d love to hear about it.

Noticing

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Lately I have been noticing the things that stay the same in my children. It is true that at this stage in their growing up everything appears to be moving at lightening speed and the changes on their bodies are evident everyday. I am certain that my oldest son is an inch taller every morning that he comes out of his room. And that my youngest is gearing up to do the very same thing. It can be easy for me to get all caught up in what is changing and long for the days when they were little boys. To see the ending coming faster than I want it to. But when I can take in that extra deep breath and pay good attention to what is actually going on around me I come to see all the places that we are marching along just as we always have.

The beach is my most favorite place to visit for the simple fact that is slows me right now. As well, the beach has been a constant in our lives and is a super great place to see how little truly has changed. When the boys were little we lived moments from the beach and always went there. Especially when the world was topsy turvy and there was energy to be released. We went when it was warm, we went when it was cold, we went in the rain and windstorms were a most favorite. So heading to the beach on an overcast drizzly day also brought a familiarity with it.

My youngest standing in the photo above has always been called to by the ocean. For as long as he has stepped to the shores edge the waves have called to him. He calls back and 99 percent of the time ends up with some portion on the ocean on his clothing. He never changes into shorts, or swim gear as he assures me he will not be getting wet. I smile with the knowledge that he will. And that he prefers the challenge of driving home without his wet clothing on and that having a change of clothing available for him isn’t a necessity. But feeling the ocean on his body is.

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Here my oldest, pants rolled up knows what it feels like to be wet. The first time he went to the ocean and was able to walk, he stepped straight into the water. And then immediately needed the wet things removed from his body. He has learned some caution around water, ways to enjoy and stay dry but not with the sort of pause that ever gets in the way of letting the pure joy of outdoor ocean air sweep him up into the magic.

And then this happens. The recreating of photos they took years ago at the same spot. Their bodies bigger, their enthusiasm for jumping just the same. I see all of them, all the ages, the stages, the preferences in the stillness of being fully present right here.

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Sometimes because we are spending most of our days side by side I can loose sight of what is really going on. I can see the teenaged brother frustrated with the pre-teens desire to turn inward more often then outward. I can see the pre-teens sadness as not being where he can find his way into connection with is role model. But the wide angle shots always look more like this.

Two brothers, skilled in conversing with one another, even when they are on different sides of an opinion.

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Taking on projects that to others may seem impossible but through their eyes, side by side, they can do it. And really anything the world wants to through their way.  (pictured here they are using sand in water to build me a bridge to cross over to where they are and they believe it is fully possible).

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Always ready and willing to help each other. To grab on, hold tight and lift the other out of harms ways.

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I take this day, this simple trip to the beach and hold it tight, for the lessons. The lessons that at the heart of who we are as a family, we are always the same. We are connected, we are supportive, we are unconditionally loving one another in order to lift each person up to grab hold of every dream they choose to chase.  My hope, is to keep noticing, cause I know time is only going to keep moving faster and faster, and I want to anchor to the constants. To embrace the chaos because that anchor is holding our hearts to the intention we laid out way back when we began this journey together. I will notice it all, because I have on good authority from those who have gone before me, that these noticing’s will meld in to the sort of memories that will buoy my spirit when these amazing young men launch out into the wider world.

Teenagers are awesome

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We live in a world that really is rough on our teenagers. Parents fear this time in life. Use  a slew of negative words to describe their teenagers, that I’d rather not support by even using. I wanna add more voices to the teenagers are awesome chorus that I think we all ought to be singing.

I have a teenager. Have since May. And before that I was lucky to have a number of teenagers in my life. I gotta tell you they are awesome human beings. I mean I like all the ages and stages for different reasons but teenagers are really rocking my world right now.

I’m gonna tell you why, teenagers are in what, from an outside observer, appears to be a pretty magical place. Transforming parts of themselves toward independence, some might say adulthood, while still having access to the freedoms of childhood. In a real tactile way. The sounds, movements, feelings and imagining that happen in childhood are still fresh enough in their minds that they can pull it up and engage in the parts of themselves that could play with wild abandon for hours. Take that and put it into some of the areas or passions that are calling at their hearts. I look on with some serious jealousy. Think about if for a second, we can pull up tons of research on the benefits of play for children. How it  truly is the best way for them to learn. Then you bump into child who has been given a childhood built on the sort of play that opens the world of magic up to them and now their interests are maturing. But they still have the ability to throw themselves on to an idea, a topic an interest with total full loose your self immersion. That shits powerful.

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Now let’s debunk some of this other stuff that people like to stay about teenagers. That they are moody. Take a breath people, we are all moody. We all react to what is going on in the world both outside of ourselves and inside of ourselves. Are we really going to expect that a less experienced person have a better handle on this then we ourselves do. How about instead we all agree right here right now that being a human being in this world is a big hard job. And that when the world feels overwhelming for those around us,  we  drop our guard lean in for a hug and fill the other person (who every they may be) up with an extra dose of compassion.

Oh and then there is the defiance that some folks want to complain about. Teenagers are transitioning into an more adult space. Figuring out who they want to be, what they want to believe in and how they may challenge some of the ideas that are out in the world. And guess what, they trust us, their parents, enough try their new ideas out on us. We are supposed to be that safe space for them. The ones to take the heat and keep on loving them. To be the sounding board that helps them learn how to deliver a message so the recipient truly can hear what they are trying to say. So let’s celebrate these little victories, that our child is one wanting to be independent of us and two trusts us enough to try out these new ideas all over us. Let’s flip it around and see what’s really going on and drop our own need to be right or hold all the power. Let’s be their ally.

And talking back is not something they are doing to us. It’s an attempt at a conversation in which one asserts an opinion that may be contrary to what we were hoping to hear. It’s an attempt to learn some skills that may not have been used before. It’s a chance to connect and say things like, “it’s hard to hear what you have to share when your tone is confrontational,” or something along those lines. I know for me, when my boys are out in the world I want them to be able to stand up for themselves and be heard by the person on the other side of the message. That’s not a skill I have right at my own finger tips. It takes a whole lot of trial and error. I have thrown negativity at people, perhaps damaged relationships in an attempt to have my voice heard. I want my boys to have safe places over and over and over again to try asserting themselves, be accepted, receive feedback so that in the wider world outside of my home, they will feel confident standing up for themselves.

One last piece, that for me, extends to any negative stuff that flies to the surface as I engage with my emerging adults, it’s almost 100 percent of the time, my issue and not theirs. So, it takes me wearing my big girl panties all the time, walking away and finding the root cause of the surges of big emotions that make me want to send my child in the opposite direction of what my parenting intentions truly are. Yes, it’s true, even in this magical age of teenagers, I still have a lot of work to do to continue to show up for them and remain connected. But come on, it’s really truly worth it. To know that when they launch from this here nest, I will have done what I needed to remain in connected relationship with them. So they can fly with confidence and return to the nest when the world gets too wobbly. That’s the winning lottery ticket folks.

Wrapping around time

Lately I have been noticing just how the passing of time can often wrap around itself. My thirteen year old, who is nearing six feet tall slipped out of bed one morning and as I walked by his bedroom door I saw this image.

IMG_1894It’s just one shot but it captures so much of his timeline. The places where he is growing up and the constant companion that stills find his way into the mix. In this shot, I see the bear made with grandma that has stayed constant companion since that shitty night someone stole all our bikes out of the garage. The guy we turned around to get on more than one road trip when he was almost left behind. Though he holds down the fort when we leave these days, he still find his way into cuddle from time to time. And a laptop that was needed, desperately when youtube videos where required to be edited and shared with a wider audience. The toque (beanie for my american friends) that is a necessary piece of a strong sense of fashion. The phone that connects him to all the people who live too far away. And there pushed off to the side is the blanket that I have tried to get out of the house more than once. But he knows it was there on the bed the day he was born into the world and insists even with it’s holes and missing fabric it covers him best at night.

I think it’s easy to see my children loosing things are they grow up through these different stages and phases of life. Because it is true that there are many toys and habits that are dropped as new information is learned along the way. But lately what I’ve been falling in love with is finding the constant places that continue to show up year after year and connect together all the essential pieces of who my children are. It’s holding on there that makes the passing of time something I can make peace with.

Where are the edges that touch who your children have always been? Can you find that tender place today? I’d love to hear about it or see an image.

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We are the magic

The weather here is giving our souls a little bit of what they have been craving. Days in a row where clouds cover the sky,  some precipitation and a great deal of leaves falling to the ground. When the boys were much younger we spent a lot of time outside in the rainy wet leaves of our backyard. Which extended to a beautiful estuary and our own secret forest place called slug alley. Where we could always be certain no one else would be there. In fact we were always so startled when another nature enthusiast stumbled upon our secret playing space.  It can be easy for me to long for what was and to see what is around us as not enough. But the magic truly does live inside of each of us and in general has little to do with where we are living.

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It started with me wanting to do a photo shoot. There were so many leaves swirling around I was certain there had to be some amazing shots out there. The moment was right and both boys thought it would be a good idea. Before I knew it we were taking this show on the road. There were leaves being tossed and my growing up boys, one much taller than I, were jumping in puddles just the same way they did when they were all suited up in their rain gear.

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Watching the two of them together in this what I would normally call not so natural space I saw what I have been missing, the true magic of all those puddles jumped in, leaves thrown and natural space explored was living inside of each of us. It was our willingness to step outside and connect with one another.  We were what made slug alley come alive and we could do just the same on cement streets lined with house after house.  We are what makes the memories sweet not the space around us.

As a mama so committed to protecting my boys childhood’s I can get overwhelmed by seeing the places where I question the decisions we’ve made along the way. And miss out on seeing what really matters in this journey. Which is constantly showing up with love. Agreeing over and over again that no matter what is surrounding us, physically, emotionally, I will be standing there placing the highest priority on our connection, partnering repeatedly with the human beings I have been blessed to call my children.

Why we live in Community

 

It is true that one of the biggest questions we get as a family who lives without school, is what about socialization? For the people who ask me that question I wonder if they have given any thought to the sort of socialization that happens within the walls of a school. First off, people are divided into groups based on their age alone. They are then required to spend 6-8 hours in close proximity, performing tasks they have no control over, for five days a week, for the vast majority of year. I know there is time in our history as a human race when this model was setting folks up for the sort of life that would see them working in a factory for years on end. But we don’t live in that time any longer and I am hard pressed to find a reason as to why my children need to have the sort of skill set that comes from having to survive under these conditions. I think what people are asking is how will your children learn to get along with others, function in the world, maintain friendships and in general be a contributing member to society. And the simple answer to that is because a life without school affords them to do those very things right from the get go.

A more detailed breakdown of that looks like this. Because we are living a life without school we have had a freedom to travel on a schedule that doesn’t have to conform to anything other than our needs. As well, we have sought out relationships with others based on mutual interests and in the majority of the cases because they too are living a life with out school. This means that my boys have friendships spread out across two countries, varied in age, mixed in gender and based on mutual interests or the sort of connection that comes when you find those kindred spirits in the world.  Which is evidence that my children are quite versed at making and maintaining friendships. In fact, they are super skilled at maintaining friendships because they have to go out of their way to do so. They do not have everyday in person access to their friends. They often have to sit in a car and drive for hours on end to show up for their friends. They have to go long periods of time without seeing their friends. And still they choose to remain connected to one another, to support one another and to show up for one another.

Recently, a friend of ours, was looking for a seat mate at an upcoming play. We are way to far to actually show up. However, my oldest son, who has always had a strong connection with this friend couldn’t help but respond. In a way that showed he cares. So here’s a look at this two sharing a laugh across the distance.

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Another of the strong reasons we live in community is because we get the chance to truly enter into other people’s lives and see how they live. When I was growing up I really thought that everyone lived the same way as I did. I remember having my mind blown in college as I met and visited friends and saw there was a different way of running a household. It sounds silly, as I write it out but it was a truth that I remember blowing my mind when I first moved out of the house as a young adult. When we travel we quite often stay with our friends. Or at least jump right into the middle of their lives, spending countless hours in each others space and getting a real sense of how others live. My boys can tell you which states have the best water and who has the coolest system for filtering it. They know that their friends houses have different smells (in a GOOD way) and can be heard say “hey this smells like Noah’s house.” They have the chance to see that coupled adults have different ways of sharing household tasks and the list goes on and on. Basically, they are coming away from all of this with a sense that being in the world doesn’t look the same for each person but in fact is tailored to meet the needs of the individuals sharing the space. We with out fail come home from each road trip with something to add to our own home based on what we learned from our friends.

I touched on this a bit above however to expand, we live in community so we all have the chance to make friendships with people of all ages. It gives me great peace of mind to know there are other adults in the world who have a genuine interest in my children’s well being. And I don’t mean in the way that happens a lot in the mainstream world where adults will report back to me if my child misbehaves. I mean that my child has other confidants in the world who have taken the time to know their hears and as a result want to support them in the world. Even if it mean keeping a few things to themselves because my child has turned to them instead of me for some advice, as much as I want to be everything for my children the truth of the matter is no one person can be everything for another. So instead I build that village around my children for the chance for them to find all that they need.  Plus I get so have some of my favorite relationships with the young people that my children are befriending. Which adds countless gifts to my own life.

Because my children have deep and connected friendships they also choose regularly to contribute to the well being of their friends. To drive for miles and miles to see them perform on stage, to pick up the Skype call after a heated moment to work through the conflict, to listen when they are frustrated and to walk away when space is needed. Since we are living outside of school there is space for time to pass between relationships when stages and interests don’t align so that the friendships can stay in tact for a time when coming back to one another makes sense.  From this my boys have also developed a keen sense of what they are looking for in relationships. Which is the sort of socialization I would want for them. They are not going to stick around if someone is being abusive. They are not going to be talked down to. They are not going to agree to be in a relationship that is not respectful of both parties. They know this now at the age of 11 and 13, me 43, still struggling to work this out sometimes.

So it is true that my children are not receiving an education in socialization as set up by a system built to turn out factory workers. They are getting right in to the nitty gritty of living in the uncertain world of endless opportunities alongside the folks they have gathered to witness and support them to the best of their ability. Which is why we choose to live in community.

 

Roadtrip reflection

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We just spent two weeks on the road in our RV which measures 24.5 feet in length. It does not have any of those fancy pop out sides either. To say it was a small space for four people to exist in for that amount of time is an understatement. But we did it with what I would consider a great deal of success.

We travel more than the average family. Mostly, to see the folks we left behind when we made the big move years ago to California. This time however we were setting out to see two states we had never seen before and experience brand new sight for all of us. One of my most favorite parts of road tripping is what we stand to learn about ourselves along the way. Untethered from our comforts outside of routines there is much to be discovered. And once again the boys showed up with a giant mirror for me to look into to move me ever closer to the mother I strive to be.

It can be easy to expect our children to be grateful for experiences that are created for them. To think that they should be thankful that we are providing this road trip for them. But let’s take a quick reality check. Sure the boys were involved in the deciding of what they would like to see and do along the way. But they were not the ones who booked three weeks off from work in order to take the family on an RV trip. So, it is good for me to remember that when things get not so fun not everyone signed up 100 percent for this crazy adventure. That holding on to “this wasn’t my idea” can give the illusion of control when things get challenging.  And when things go sideways and this “trip feels like the worst idea” slips out, it isn’t a sign of disrespect for all the wonderful things that are also unfolding. Or that when someone has not had personal space for days and yells about the lack of internet creating “the worst night ever,”  they aren’t also elated at having stood in front of the grand canyon for a hilarious family photo.

It can be easy for me to jump on any negativity when we are traveling as if it is the thing that my child is feeling the most because they are expressing that over the happy grateful thoughts that I would much rather hear. But the truth of the matter is, how many of us walk around asking for help when we are feeling at our best. When our needs are all met and the world around us is a safe beautiful place. It’s when the world gets all wobbly and confusing that folks reach out to others to lift them up a little. For my children that comes in short phrases and emotional outbursts that release the tension in their own bodies and alert me to the fact that they might need a little extra love.

I will admit to being somewhat shitty at responding right away with the right words of encouragement. Or being able to even hear what is really being asked for and launching in to lecture mommy mode. This trip reminded me though that I do have the ability to flip things around when my child is lashing out. Whether it is in words or actions I can turn it around by seeing what their behavior is altering me to instead of reacting from a knee jerk place to the words being tossed about. Because the truth of the matter is my children are grateful for the life they have. They enjoy what is provided for them. And they are human beings who have ups and downs in their emotional worlds just like I do, maybe even more so being that they are constantly transitioning from one stage of growing up to another. and have less experience with managing the big feelings that come when one is existing outside of their comfort zone.

So as we settle back in to what feels like a mansion, I hope this one lesson from the road will carry me through many more “I am bored. This place sucks. Can we move already,” to meet my child each time with a compassionate heart and an extra serving of love. Cause that’s what’s bound to make this world a more peaceful place for us all.

Mastery of learning

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My oldest son is a musician. He has been since the day he was 11 months old and his uncle put his first guitar in his hands. For years it was called a “dingtar”. When he was three his piano teacher said to him “we are going to play jingle bells” and so he played it for her. From ear, never being taught before. It would have been easy in that moment to force my agenda on him. You are a musical genius. More lessons, more practice. Instead I sat back and took his lead. We never went to another piano lesson.

There were always guitars in the house. He spent seven months when he was four standing with a full sized electric guitar in front on the TV watching Green Day’s Bullet in a  Bible and being Mike Dirnt. I could see he changed his strumming based on the song. He was clearly learning the rhythm and maybe a chord or two by simply watching. Again, I could have jumped in and put him in lessons to learn these skills instead I took his lead, “no I’m good thanks.”

He sold his guitars at one point because having pokemon cards felt more important. And he saw a way to get those cards for things that in the season of his life he really wasn’t spending much time using. So we sold them. He was happy for many months with those cards that he got. Even though I wanted desperately to intervene to stop him.

I bought myself a Ukulele for my 40th birthday. I plucked away making little to no progress for well over a year. Then we had one of those visitors who brought his awesome guitar playing self into the middle of our living room. The boys fought over my Ukulele for the days following. So I ordered two inexpensive Ukulele’s so we could all learn together.

They arrived. We started plucking a bit together. But really what happened was that my oldest son disappeared into his room and emerged, what felt like instantly to my struggling musician self, playing full songs on the Ukulele. Which meant we then needed a junior guitar which he transferred the knowledge to seamlessly. Now less than a year later there are two electric guitars, four ukuleles, two acoustic guitars and a mandolin scattered throughout our home.

We spent a short amount of time in guitar lessons. Which were frustrating more than they were rewarding. So once again I sit back, take his lead and watch as a skilled musicians continues to blossom before me. Easily picking up music on the instruments he comes across. He has a confidence in his own learning ability that allows him to approach each new instrument like he already knows it’s insides. And with a little attention and time he finds a way to make it come alive with sweet music.

I can not put into words the wonder it is to hear my son make music. His own style. His own learning. But if I had to put a cherry on top of it all, it would be what he has taught me. I had struggled with the Ukulele and with in ten minutes he had me playing more than I had in the months before. Not only does he understand how to make music, how to learn new music, he also holds the ability to transfer that knowledge to another person. If that is not mastery of learning I don’t know what is. This is why, I stand back, each time and watch where the learning takes my children. Never forcing it to go where I think it should.

Let’s make this different

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Being in the world witnessing all the stages of a human being has got to be one of the most amazing gifts life on this planet could ever provide. And here I am gifted two amazing souls to stand side by side with full time. In our world this journey of parenting is so rarely celebrated as the gift that it is. You can search the internet and find more articles about the “challenges” of parenting that you can the celebration of it. There are more people discussing the “terrible two’s and horrible teenagers” than there are parents waxing poetic about the opportunity to hold space for a sad child or provide safe boundaries for an emerging adult. And most tragically you can find a whole lot of posts on social media of parents shaming and blaming their children for the simple act of being a human who makes mistakes in the world. Cause come on that is all this big ole human journey is about right? Trial and error.  Wouldn’t you rather be the cheerleader in the story of your child’s life than the villain?

So, let’s here today decide to throw about stories that celebrate the gift of being a parent. That speak of the challenges we encounter, while navigating the world with them, as they are, a chance to conquer some of our own issues in order to support our children.  Let’s share the unique beings  our children are with a sense of pride. Let’s talk about ways to support each other in being our children’s allies instead of their enemies. Let’s hold them up when they make mistakes instead of tearing them down. Let’s decide they are as human as you and I and deserve the very same level of respect we give our other loved ones. Let’s replace shame with quiet moments heart to heart uncovering one another’s strengths. Let’s decide love comes without conditions and give it away to each child until their buckets run over. Let’s, right now, here today, choose to honor, children as the precious resource prepping to sustain our future,
that they truly are.

Please Stay on Path

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The world would like it if our children would “please stay on path” the one designed by brick buildings and curriculums created without knowing the child. I’d rather witness my child reading a map written on the heart of their own desire.