Memory Makers

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When it gets hot we always head for the ocean. My most favorite part of our trips to the beach has got to be how all the ages and stages fall away and my boys simple exist. It’s hard to put the magic into words but it’s like seeing them stripped down of everything but their true essence. It may be that it’s a place where I let down all my defenses as well  and we can just be side by side appreciating what’s in front of us. Whatever the reason, I love it there, at the beach where time simply disappears.

This time it was hot and we had the intention of jumping in the ocean. The thing is with us once our minds are set on getting into the ocean it takes a lot to change directions. We have on more than one occasion driven the forty minutes to the ocean to simply jump in, turn around and drive all the way back into the city. Once we get called out by the ocean we have to go in. Today when we got there and it wasn’t as warm as it had been inland. So we were going to need a little time to warm up.

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Play unfolds naturally outdoors for both of my boys. Whatever is happening in their minds spills out on the objects around them and before I know it I am seeing their inner world spilled out across the sand. This time driftwood has washed ashore the most perfect swords and another beach lover and built that perfect fort.

The other thing about the beach and it’s magic timelessness for us, is the conversations. I was privy to hearing the ins and outs of the game they are both completely loving right now. I wasn’t in the conversation, I was on the sidelines witnessing to brothers in complete connection. They were sharing opinions, debating ideas and designing strategies for future implementation. The outside world falling apart as their minds met and wound around one another. As a mom, this sibling relationship that they have tugged at year after year unfolding with such mutual respect and adoration sends more than one tear down my cheek. Being home together learning side by side for all these years has had it’s challenges for the boys, I also believe whole heartedly it’s been the place where their relationship has strengthened

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We did get warm enough and decide the three of us, to forge out into the frigid ocean water. The waves were calmer at some point and we discussed the best ways to get past the stronger waves. Growing up on the shores of the ocean we have a healthy respect for who has the power when we enter her world. We use the line “never turn your back on the ocean, ” to keep each other safe. Always listening to our own instincts and respecting when someone reaches the place in the water that feels far enough. We got several waves on our boards, each ducked under the waves and decided to head in when a few waves crashed a little harder around us than felt comfortable. Trusting the boys to know their own boundaries when it comes to their own safety is a cornerstone of building this trusting relationship we are building.

Back on share the boys dried off, changed, cause for as long as I can remember these guys don’t love being in anything wet for longer then necessary.  And then they fell onto the towels to share again. Now it was the world of YouTube and the hilarity that it brings into their lives. Side by side on the shore of the ocean laughing over and over again at moments they have both found on line. Giving me the chance to wander the shores with my camera, in hopes of using my own passion to capture a moment or two.

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These are the days when I step back and truly appreciate the gift that this life has given me, the chance to be home full-time with my children. Their childhoods are already passing at warp speed and will inevitably end before I am ready for them to. So, I count it my greatest blessing that I have as many days as I want to build up their childhood on timeless ocean jumping memories. I truly believe this is what will launch all of us into the world beyond childhood tightly wound in our relationship looking backwards with fondness.

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A Day In the Life

Because we live life a little differently then those around us, I know some folks wonder what we get up to day to day. I also know for people thinking about letting go of a world with school, it’s one of the first pieces of information they are looking for. What does it all look like? 

I wish I could throw down a simple template that would make the transition easier for all the courageous families who make the bold choice to walk away from the school system and hang out at home together. Sadly, that does not exist. What does exist is the promise of moments throughout the day where it feels like everyone is in some state of flow. Even if that is only the 2 minutes before all hell breaks loose, it’s there if we can open our eyes and catch it.

So, what does a day in the life look like for us? I’m hoping to shine some light on that each Monday with a little snapshot. 

Right now, we are a one car family so my days start with driving in rush hour traffic here in the silicon valley to deposit my husband at work, if we want the car. Which is almost everyday right now. It’s worth laughing out loud at that fact that a year ago, when we had two fully functioning cars, there were days on end when nobody would agree to leave the house. Now, folks want the option each and everyday, even if they don’t exercise it. And as you can probably piece together dropping off at work during rush hour has a pick up happening at the end of the day, with more traffic,  right when folks are ready for dinner!

It has been easy for me to get lost in the drama of whoa is me while we navigate this new one car existence. Thankfully,  I don’t like to stay there long. So I’ve taken to looking for the things in this new part of our day that are truly gifts. Number one: I have time alone in the car with my husband every morning to have a conversation, uninterrupted, that will last for at least ten minutes. There were years before now where that seemed like a nearly impossible task.

Number Two: Once he’s been deposited at work, I can listen, for close to 20 uninterrupted minutes, anything of my choosing. I have years worth of podcasts stored up waiting to be listened to.

Number Three: right now this is my saving grace. My children are old enough to be left home alone. When we first moved here six years ago we were also a single car family. For over a year and my boys were only 5 and 7.  I had to pack all three of us up in the car twice a day if we wanted to have the car. I tell you that was the tipping point many a day, on deciding if an activity was worth it. I am grateful I can leave folks happily engaged in whatever is calling at their hearts to head out the door.

The fourth is a not an everyday thing but when it happens it’s the kinda magic I have been putting the time in for all these years. One of the boys answers, “Yes!” to my call for companions to join me in picking up dad. It hasn’t happened yet that is is both of them at the same time. So, I find myself in the car for a little one on one time with one of my most favorite people. Sometimes we get to chat about things that are troubling someone’s mind. Other times we get to car dance all the way to the office. These are the moments I store up in the special heart pocket I am building for the times when life feel less then magical.

This little snapshot is showing  how I am taking what can feel like a tedious, do I really have to job, turning it on it’s head and pulling out the magic moments that are mine for the enjoying. I wonder if there is something in your day to day with your children today that you can turn on it’s head and uncover a bit of  awesome.

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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.

It’s true

It’s true all those things the veteran mom’s tell you when you are bleary eyed and exhausted with a new born in your arms, about time traveling faster than the speed of light. And moments like this one being what you will look back on fondly in the quicker than you can imagine approaching future. I have stood firm in my commitment not to pass those adages along to new moms. Because I remember feeling so not validated or heard in those moments of overwhelm. Now however with a teenager stretching his wings so wide I want to call out to all new mothers to drink in every last second of wailing babies and nagging toddlers cause it truly does disappear before your very eyes. I won’t though cause truly all us mom’s at each age and stage just wanna be heard where we are.

Why do I bring this up now? Cause it’s been meaning a few thing lately. I might be crying a little more often as I witness these humans launching themselves into the world. And I might be searching the world for the sort of time machine that allows me to jet back and relive each one of those sweet and sour moments over again and again and again.

But truly what it has me doing is recommitting to say YES all the time. Slowing down commitments outside of my family. And drinking in all the ups and downs and sideways of our life together right now because I have it on good authority that this here moment is going to vanish just as quickly as the others and I’d be a fool to let it pass unnoticed.

Ode to my second born

I am not even sure how it happened that we could be days away from your eleventh birthday. It seems like just the other day that you shot out into the world like a cannonball, as the story goes and completed our family of four. I have so much to say and still wonder if the words will ever capture just how much you are in the world.

You my second born have taught me much about love. The first time I argued with you about how I was certain I loved you more you set me straight, “mom all the love you give me I take it and make it bigger, that’s Kinny love.” You remind me of this when I slip up and think I could possibly love you more then that magnifying heart of love you were gifted with. It’s a reminder, to me, that we all arrive with the ability to make the love we receive bigger if we can just remember to keep our hearts open.

I see your determination to learn in the way that works with a brain designed only for you. That day in the park, when you looked to the seat on my bike and saw the world DEMO explaining to me that it was “the first letter of dad, the last letter of the and the first two letters of mom.” You did not know the names of the letters yet there you were reading, right in front of me. A testament to the fact that each one of us learns in our own way and the best thing I can do is walk alongside you as your partner in wonderment.

And your frustration at being called a girl, for many ages and stages. When I stopped to listen I heard it had nothing to do with any preference for either gender. But was pure outrage at a world that thought they could know something more about your gender than you did. A world that thinks with one single glance they can put a person into a category based solely on appearance.  This has been an important lesson to me. To meet people eye to eye with our shared humanity, free of the screens placed on my eyelids by a media crazy world that judges first and listens later.

Your brain wanting to pull apart each and everything you encounter to understand it from the inside out, challenges me. It challenges me because long ago I forgot it was okay to be curious and not to know things. To be the one holding less information. This is how we buttheads so fiercely now as you demand accuracy in my language and surpass me in knowledge. I hope you continue to pound head to head with any person who doubts what you know to be a truth. This sort of self knowing puts me in total awe of you so confidently in the world.

I could likely write a short novel of things that you have taught me both large and small. I will pause here though and bow the deepest bow of gratitude to you for the chance to be your mother, your partner, your loudest cheerleader, one of your closest allies and a dear friend. May this next year of your life be just as bold and adventurous as the last ten.

 

 

It’s about the love

My father was sixty years old when he changed churches. Shortly after this his new church was discussing whether or not they would perform same sex marriage ceremonies. My dad arrived with his argument in hand. “Marriage is a sacrament.”

“Not in this church Rick.”

About a week later, during Sunday service, the entire sermon was on why they would indeed welcome all marriage into the church. My dad came home and called me in tears (a rare thing for my pops) and said “It’s about love Shannon, how could I have ever been against anything that was about love.”

This is one of my favorite stories about my dad. People who know me have heard this story likely more than once. Because it gives me hope. That folks who are stuck in one place of their understanding can shift to seeing that all we are talking about is people loving each other. And honestly, looking around the world right now, it’s clear we need a whole LOT more love.

And that is why I write here. I write to inspire folks to love their children, even more, without conditions, or punishments or anything that doesn’t feel like love. Because I believe in the deepest places of who I am, that love matters most. That loving our children from a place of respect, raises allies for all the other human beings they will bump into in life.

That loving our children just as they are gives them the gift of an open heart that will be kind and accepting as they step out into the world away from us.  That it will build a large foundation of courage and belonging that will allow each and every child to be confident in the person they are, all the pieces of who they are. So they will know, long before they are sixty, that really it’s all about LOVE.

Love as an action

 

 

 

It’s almost 11:00 am here and I just got a peak of my sleeping ten year old. He opened one eye half way and caught me pulling the covers on to his body and gave me a sleepy smile. My heart melted. I am so in love my kids.

I know I spend a large portion of my time here talking about how much I love my children. But I am still swept away by the moments where they truly catch my breath. And waves of gratitude wash me over. I get to be their mom.

I love covering them up when they look cold. I adore seeing them stumble half asleep out into the waking world. I live for the moments when one of their hands slips into mine as we wander about the world together. I’m honored in the moments they open their hearts and tell me what the world is like to be in from their insides out. And I treasure the moments I can show up with something in hand that tumbles gratitude straight out of their hearts and into mine.

It can be easy in day to day life to loose sight of the honor it is to be a parent. I like to not everyone gets the chance to have a child and not every gets to see their precious children live to the adult years.  So go ahead and be fully in LOVE with your child. I mean the action of love not the feeling.

Here’s a few samples. Squeal with delight when they walk in the room, like you might when you see a lover for the first time after months apart. Pack a picnic and head out to lay under the stars for as long as they’ll stay. Grab their hand and skip a little just cause. Pull up a chair (and maybe a controller) and play that game they’ve been immersed in for all those hours. Sing their praises, when they are just in earshot, as you might when telling family members why you’ve fallen head over heals in love with a particular person. Take a few extra moments to linger at their doorway to catch the smile that starts in the corner of their eyes. Shower them with the sorts of gifts you might someone you were hoping to impress, with a heart stamp.

This childhood of their’s is gonna pass at warp speed. And I have it on high authority that when old age is knocking you back in to your seat, what’s going to hold you up are the memories of these right now moments with your children.