It’s Friday! Oh…wait…

And…it’s Saturday morning that I’m finally making myself take a moment to sit down and at least do my Friday post. I’ve been feeling a bit like a teenager, hormonally pulled and exhaustedly lazy at the same time. I think I’m ready for a vacation. Luckily for me, that is exactly what’s coming up for us!

So, let’s get to this!

Thing I learned: I thought that I was over being affected by other people’s opinions of me, but then found myself trying to behave in ways someone else believed is the best way to behave instead of being myself and accepting that some people will not like it and those people are just not my people. Wow. That’s a damn long sentence! Self, you are you, and you need to be ok with the fact that you are not everyone’s cup of tea! That doesn’t mean they are bad people, just not YOUR people. Keep being you in all your crazy, talkative, open and honest ways, and the people that like that will be attracted to your orbit. It’s going to take time. Some of those bodies are way out in the galaxy!

Thing I’m reading: This is dumb but I’m kind of a book snob. I tend to reject books that everyone else is reading just because everyone else is reading them. Not cool, I know. What does it take to get me to read a popular book? A cute boy told me to. That’s what I was talking about earlier, teenage behavior. I’m about three hours into the first Game of Thrones book and I’m really liking it. It’s enjoyable, easy to read, so it goes fast, and it has a lot of feeling. I have hopes that it will prove a bit of depth as I read it, but it’s ok if it doesn’t. There’s nothing wrong with an exciting adventure that you don’t necessarily want to experience again!

Thing I heard: My oldest son came home from his vacation in Germany this week and we’ve been catching up. We spend a lot of time talking, that boy and I. He’s very intelligent and I love his take on the world around him. We homeschooled and we live rurally. We’ve been home-centered, I’d say. This past year, since just before his seventeenth birthday, he has been out in the world gathering experiences on his own in big ways. Funny thing; he’s always been one to jump into things with both feet. He goes from knowing nothing of it to moving comfortably in it, no matter what he tries. It’s been the same for him leaving the nest. It’s like talking to a worldly man, a young, optimistic, and proud man.

As we sat at the table, sharing a cup of coffee and a bit of toast and cheese (Euro Breakfast), he told me something profound. “Mom,” he says, “someone told me a few years ago that if I had gone to school, I probably would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s of some kind. I did not agree at all, but the more I talk to people and work with people, I’m starting to see that I really do think differently. It isn’t that other people are dumb or that they don’t know how to do things the ‘right way’, it’s that I just see things in a different way. And that’s ok. They do it their way. I do it mine. We can help each other.” I’m paraphrasing here, of course. It was a long conversation. All our conversations are long. We love to philosophize over breakfast. I just about cried. This was exactly why we wanted to homeschool the way we did. I wanted my kids to grow up naturally. I wanted them to grow up secure in who they were as individuals, doing things the way they felt was best for them specifically, within a family that loves them. The theory works. He is not sheltered and afraid of the world. He does not hide away. He does not go with the crowd unless he wants to. He’s a wonderful young man and ready to take on the world.

Thing I want to do: Do less. I need to take some time to make a list of essentials. We’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money.” Here’s the thing. We can waste money if we like because we can make more, but we can’t make more time. I only have so much time in each day. I cannot waste it on unessential things. We cannot do everything. We cannot be everything. It’s time to take stock again and pare down. This time it might be painful. I’ve done it before and thought I had it down to the bare minimum, but I don’t. Since we’re going on vacation, just the two of us, my husband and I, in a couple weeks, I think I’ll use some of that time on the road to do that work. Without the regular distractions, I can focus on what I want to accomplish. I’ll treat it as if we’re going on one of those fancy retreats! We’ll “go dark”! Yes!

And the photo of the week is…

20190606_182239.jpg

A baby bird! We saved him! My husband saw him flopping on the porch so I picked him up. He couldn’t even stand in my hand, so tired. He sat in my hand for a minute, I put some water in my hand to see if he’d drink it, he closed his eyes a bit, and suddenly looked more alert. He flapped and flew up to a creosote branch. I looked him up on the internet and found he was a Bushtit and most likely a fledgling from nearby with his mom waiting to feed him.

Have a good week everyone! Don’t worry! I’ll get this writer’s life more under control pretty soon!

Run For Your Lives! Teens!

56457722_10218584470033198_2593817718847176704_o

I can’t really say that I feel qualified to write with authority about young adults just yet, but I can write with confidence about my current observations and how we are coping with the transition from teen to adult in this house.

Recently, something strange happens when I talk to people about my kids. When I talk about what they are doing, their new girlfriends, their jobs, etc., people get weird. I can’t put the right word on it. They act “worried” for me or them. They act as though we are all standing on a precipice and at any moment the wind could blow and knock one of us off. As if right now is the most dangerous part of our lives. Anything can happen! Our lives could be ruined with one poor choice. It takes all the fun out of relating all the cool things my kids are doing, how they are changing, and how I’M changing to my friends and family.

I say “kids” but what I’m talking about are my young adults, full grown people that live in my house more like roommates than children these days. They have jobs, cars, and girlfriends. They go to college, pay taxes, and go on adventures without us. My youngest is under 18 and races motocross, so we still take him in our truck, since he doesn’t have one, and sign documents he isn’t legally allowed to sign but other than that, they pretty much take care of themselves.

And I don’t mean they always do it well or completely on their own. They mess up, as we all do all our lives. That’s how we learn. I try to help where I can. I offer advice when they ask, and sometimes when they don’t. They also make choices I would not make and that make me nervous. I do my best to stay out of it but sometimes my mom heart feels compelled to jump in and ask what in the world they are thinking. My belief is that they will be better at living with their own families if they can live this way with us. It isn’t easy and sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

Some day I think maybe I should be more “strict” like people say and tell them how it is around here. If they want to do things their way they need to move out and not involve me. But that breaks my heart. I want them to be able to bounce ideas off their Dad and I and know that we aren’t going to make them do anything or ridicule their choices. They should know that they can take our advice or leave it and we’ll still be there to love them.

And I want them to know they will always have a stable base to fall back to if their plans go awry.  We may not be able to buy them new cars or pay for college, but we can offer them a place to stay and food to eat. That’s a lot though, if you think about it. It won’t be luxury but at least they won’t be homeless. That doesn’t mean they have free reign to run off and be reckless. I’ve always wanted them to feel free to give things a try, to not be afraid of failing. Trying something and failing is different than doing something really stupid and paying for it. Our lifestyle of radical unschooling was supposed to show them the difference and so far, it’s been working.

Honestly, I think most people see their children begin to be adults and think, “This is where my life went downhill.” That’s when they begin to try and stop them from making the “wrong choices” they themselves made. As if there is a certain age that people get to and begin making rational “good” decisions instead of learning by living through the age and getting to the other side.

I see my young adult children differently. I think, “This is where the fun began, the adventure!” I smile in anticipation of all the glories they are about to discover. And I’m proud that we’re able to support them as they grow and be a part of their lives, even if it is from the sidelines.

Just Hiking with the Guys

20190207_1429171.jpg

Life has become complicated lately. “Become.” I laugh as I write that, as if life is ever not complicated for anyone. Interesting though, that whatever you’re going through at whatever age or stage of life, you feel as if you are the first and only person to experience it…but then maybe you are. Only you can experience anything your way.

My sons are almost grown. One foot out the door, as they say. It’s a complicated feeling for me. I’ve spent the last 18 years being a Mom and not just any Mom, a hands-on (or, more precisely, hands-off) radically unschooling mom. I’ve attempted to be their supporter and experienced friend instead of an authoritarian and I feel like just when they’ve grown to the point of being great friends to have around, they are beginning to do what all young adults are born to do, drift away to find a place of their own.

It’s bitter sweet, both harsh and rewarding to see my life’s work come to fruition. And when my heart behaves itself, I can see how life will progress. They will establish themselves as free and independent adults, capable of handling life without a parent to support them, and then they’ll come back as strong equals. They’ll be better friends to me than they ever could be now.

It’ll be wonderful and I look forward to seeing the men they become. But transitions are complicated. It’s two steps forward and one step back. There are days when I’m amazed by them and days where I wonder where I went horribly wrong.

In the long run, I know where it will end up. Their Dad and I will be gone, and they will have families of their own to continue into the future. Life.

Battles

Something I’ve found very true over the last several years is that people really love their labels and will fight you to the death to keep them.

The biggest battles I’ve heard between good people are over who is a “real” Christian, homeschooler, vegan, etc., and who is not. There are millions of other labels out there. I’m sure you can think of a few that you put on yourself.

I was warned years ago, not to put labels on my children as we raised them without school. We learned to look at that individual child, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their preferences, their patterns, and love them. We supported them to get they wanted or needed, not because that’s how this label needs things, but because that’s how this particular child learns best at this moment in time.

This past month I’ve been looking at and discovering some new ways of living and relating. I instantly began to label myself and as I looked at that label and the myriad of different people that choose that label, I started to feel bad about myself because I didn’t seem to measure up. I wasn’t “real.”

And that’s when I saw it. Labels really do suck. They tie you down to a prescribed list of details that may or may not relate to you, that may not help you at all but hinder you because you can’t wrap your head around that part of the label.

I dropped the label in my mind. I stopped following and attempting to join groups that called themselves by that label and suddenly I felt so much better.

I’m not a “real” anything but the “real” Michelle.

Learn What You Love

Learn what you love, study what interests you! That’s what I’ve always said. Radically unschooling our children has taught us that it works.

I found this quote in a newsletter from Gretchen Rubin this morning.

“I only study the things I like; I apply my mind only to matters that interest me. They’ll be useful—or useless—to me or to others in due course, I’ll be given—or not given—the opportunity of benefiting from what I’ve learned. In any case, I’ll have enjoyed the inestimable advantage of doing things I like doing and following my own inclinations.”

Nicolas de Chamfort

I’ve personally always found it easier and more beneficial to study things I like or find a use for. Just because there is a list somewhere that says we should know about X, Y, and Z, doesn’t mean they are necessarily my cup of tea or going be needed in my life. I take them as suggestions and move on to what I believe I need.

I’ve raised my sons the same way and so far, it has served them well. We’ve come to learn that the best way to know yourself, your limits, your own personal best way of living, is to follow your instincts, be aware of what you are doing, feeling, and of the results. That starts with not following someone else’s rules unless they make sense to you.

Window Into Our World

I’ll be re-sharing some of my favorite posts from my old blog from time to time. This one is from a couple of years ago, but I felt it really captured my feelings still.

I have to record the most awesome motocross weekend ever, from the Mom’s point of view anyway!

This series the boys have upped the ante so to speak and moved to the “expert” track. This alone was a feat of strength. They’ve been riding motocross for about a year now and weren’t really winning all that much on the “amateur” track but they figured, why waste time mastering the smaller track when they could be losing and gaining experience on the same track the pro’s use. The reaction from their friends was enough to spur them on. They were all excited and amazed that they would even try it. So there we were lined up for our first moto on the big track. That’s when I got nervous. What if they shouldn’t be there? What if they embarrassed themselves? What if they crashed? The gate dropped and those “novice” riders came roaring down the track with my boys in the back. My stomach dropped. We were way out of our league. The second gate dropped and the next race started and they began to catch up to my boys. Watching Jake ride was inspiring though. He looked like he was having the time of his life. Every jump was loose and every turn and slide was controlled. He wasn’t THAT far behind. But Tom looked like he was in fear of his very life. Stiff and rigid as he made every turn and each jump he just rolled it. He never made the last lap before they ended the race. I had to hold back tears the whole time.

There is some back story here. Three weeks ago we had a friend come and give them some tips and they rode the main track at another place. They were flying and very happy, ready for the “big time”. One week later, we went for another practice, this time on the main track we were going to race at next. They didn’t do so well here. I think they were intimidated by the fast riders on a Wednesday morning and lost faith in themselves. During the last round, Tom crashed, not a bad one by motocross standards but a good one for him. It was over a jump and he left the bike and came flying down the jump without it, landing on his back, rolling hard. He strained his back and fractured his wrist. We decided to baby that wrist to give it time to heal before the next race. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea because he didn’t ride those two weeks, he only did some strength training. We knew going there this weekend that he wouldn’t do well in the race for several reasons. The combination of the new track and level, and the fact that he was still healing from his injury and hadn’t ridden in awhile was pretty much cutting out all hopes of racing well. Jake on the other hand was ready. He’d been practicing and working out and was mentally ready for this race. And he did amazingly well. I’ve never seen him more confident. I feel bad that the focus leaned toward Tom and his problems when Jake had put in just as much work. But as always, the squeaky wheel, right? We kept praising Jake as much as we could without making Tom feel too bad. It felt strange because for the last year, it has been the other way around!

Back to this weekend’s race. Friday evening Tom comes down with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. He felt pretty crappy on Saturday morning as we finished loading up and headed for the track. What else can go wrong?

Saturday was a decent day of practice. The weather was perfect. The track wasn’t too crowded. But Tom wasn’t feeling it. In hindsight, you could feel his tension building but I thought it was just his cold keeping him low key. We registered for the next day’s race after practice and were encouraged by the TWMX staff about moving to the big track. Our usual after Race Day Eve rituals commenced.

Sunday morning we woke up to rain, as was expected. We waited for them to cancel the race, but they didn’t. It wasn’t a heavy rain so the track wasn’t flooded, just muddy, and it was supposed to start letting up at 8am just as practice was starting. By the time the races started it was looking nice. We got the schedule…the last race of the day! And the waiting began.

Both the boys took turns riding over to the track and watching, seeing where they were in the line of races. Tom always takes so much longer to come back because he stops and talks to people. The combination of his friendly and outgoing nature and his cool vintage pit bike leads him to conversations with people all along the track and pits. It’s fun to watch him. He introduces his brother and drags him along to talk with people sometimes, but Jake is much more comfortable at his camp or riding. The high point of his socializing is to joke and tell the rider next to him at the gate to slow down a bit and not make him look so bad! His sense of humor catches you off guard because he’s usually so quiet.

So there we were, the first moto in the books and it didn’t look good at all for Tom. Jake was happily sipping his cool sports drink and eating a hot dog while Tom was silently freaking out. It’s hard when your kids are going through something like this. I wanted so much to help but really didn’t know how. Talking about it, going over what happened, seemed to be making it worse. I felt like talking it out would be helpful (for me) but then I thought maybe just putting it behind him would be better, look to the next one. He was going on about the mud and not feeling well. Maybe he had the suspension set wrong. What was he doing wrong? But we could tell it was fear. He didn’t see it. He wasn’t jumping and speeding because he was afraid of crashing again. He needed to put THAT behind him. What do you do? I went to congratulate Jake on his performance and then looked at Facebook to occupy myself and give him space.

We had about an hour before the next moto, so Jake went to see how things were going at the track and I suggested to Tom that he meditate, clear his mind of anxiety. He agreed and settled into deep breathing. And then we headed back for the next round.

We got there a bit early this time so we had about a half an hour to stand around and watch. Jake was chomping at the bit to get out there. He just loves being out on the track! He said that the running and climbing as cross training is really working because the moto’s aren’t wiping him out anymore. He could have done that for hours. And it was so awesome to see him so proud of the work he put into it. Tom needed more time alone. I held his bike while he stood at that fence and watched the other races take off. A Dad of a friend of his came up and talked to him for a bit and I watched him relax. He needs to know people think he can do this. That little bit of fame pushes him on. That man was a gift from God.

When we got to the gate, he swept, packed down the dirt, got ready. He said he was going to just ride to finish and not fall, focus on not falling. His breathing was short. He already looked stiff. In a moment of inspiration I told him to not focus on that. No, is what I said. Remember the breathing, roll your shoulders back, open up the chest, shake out your arms, legs, and head. Focus on your confidence. You CAN do this. You have landed this a thousand times. You’re all alone, look out ahead, and have fun. He shook his head yes and the starter took his place. I ran off to the side with Dan. I highly doubted it would help. He was pretty scared. The gate dropped and both the boys were out there in the middle of the pack. Jake was a bit behind. They rounded corners and made the jumps just like that first practice. It was amazing. I couldn’t help but yell out, “That’s my boy! That’s what they LOVE!” You could see it in their riding. You could feel it as they passed by. My heart soared with them.

Now…before you go thinking that they had magically went faster and moved up in the ranks of riders, they were still in last place. They did significantly faster laps, but so did everyone else. The track was more dried out and most usually do better on their second moto. It was the attitude that was different. They were matched in their joy and excitement of making the laps. Now they just have to work on speed. That will come with practice.

After the race, they always get back to camp first. They are on bikes and we’re walking. But as we walked up, the attitude at camp was WAY better than the last time. Jake was already packing up bikes and tools. He used to have to take a good long rest before he even started to move after a race. Tom was all thumbs up, running over to us. He was almost crying. He hugged me and told me it worked and I’m the best mom for helping him. And then I almost cried! Dan was so proud of us. It was a pretty awesome moment. We all talked about how great it was and loaded up, got dressed, put away all that muddy gear, and headed for home!

I’m amazed at my children. They are brave, confident, brilliant, and talented. As much as I dislike motocross, I cannot imagine life without their craziness. Since this is the race weekend from my perspective, I’ll tell you what I learned most, the admiration of two boys that push themselves to the limit of their abilities by sheer will power. I don’t like this sport. I’d love it if they decided that it was enough now and move on to something cheaper and safer. But I see it through their eyes and I’m just as excited as they are. I’m seeing where they could go and what they can do with the skills they are learning. I’m making plans in my mind about races across the country, two brothers and a box truck! I’m seeing factory teams, personal tracks, and watching them on TV and in sports magazines. But I’ll be happy seeing them play at it all their lives, find work that keeps them fed, and wives that support their crazy dreams. I can see them getting bikes for their kids and doing it all over again. Deep sighs for this momma.

Right now, the day after, I’m in awe. I’m relieved that we are home safe, no one came home injured. I’m happy we left the track on a high note for both my babies. I’m thankful that my amazing husband supports this craziness even though I’m sure he’d rather be doing a thousand other things with his time and money. I’m looking forward and planning the next practice day. And I’m terrified of the next race in two weeks. It will never stop scaring the crap out of me every time they head out there, but how can I let my fear get in the way of their joy? I think I’ll make cookies in their honor and just bask in their glory today.