The Marriage of Two Worlds

We settled ourselves in the evening on Friday after dinner, the kids in the living room playing “educational video games” their school had sent them home with along with emails full of emphatic pleas to “please, please, PLEASE have them reading at LEAST fifteen minutes a day!” (lest the test scores should suffer) along with all of the contents of their cubbies, lockers, and desks.  Greg cracked open a beer.

I had spent the day at the super market, stocking up on different items with the vague notion that we could perhaps avoid or might even be ordered to avoid the grocery store for three weeks, and poring over the New York Times coverage of the coronavirus.  Normally, I merely dapple in news but these days I’m like a news junkie.  Just one more article, I swear.  Then I’m done until tomorrow.  Or at least an hour.

People in the store were a little frantic.  Some wore face masks.  Some wore gloves.  All scrubbed their grocery carts with antibacterial wipes with ferocity.  Miles and Iris were with me and people eyed me accusingly, as if to wonder how I could expose my dear offspring to deadly pathogens.  Either that or they were peeved that I had unleashed all their germs into the populace.  “Stop licking the cart!” I whisper-yelled at Miles, fighting back a wave of mild panic at how many people had touched the cart before us.  If there is one thing I’ve learned so far from this crisis it’s that kids do NOT understand how to not pass germs around.

I saw two separate people eye my cart, see the coffee and run back to the coffee aisle to stock up.  I spent an extra hundred and fifty on my grocery bill than usual and needed an extra cart and assistance to get it out to my van.  I don’t even know what I’m doing, I thought to myself.  Still, as right before having a baby, I felt compelled to stock up and hunker down.  A primal urge, I guess, in times of great stress or strain.

After leaving the store, my chest began to feel tight and heavy, as though a virus had gotten a hold of me and was going for my lungs.  This is what being a hypochondriac looks like during a pandemic.

Greg started talking about John Muir.  I was looking up the latest infection rate.  He turned the lights out and started playing music.  I said, “Please put something upbeat on.”  Greg said, “Tomorrow, we’re going to the mountains.”  I barely heard him.

We woke up on Saturday and Greg again announced that we would be traversing into the mountains.  I attended to the usual household maintenance, not really paying attention.  He started quoting Muir, saying, “I went into the woods to find myself” (or something).  The kids started bickering.  I made the lunches.

As we piled into the car, the sky overhead was mottled steel, the air was bitter and sharp and a vague sense of doom still lingered in my belly.  “Where are we going, Greg?” I snapped finally allowing my incredulity to show.  Sometimes being married to someone means doing things that would never occur to you in a given situation and trusting that there is a method to the madness.  He remained calm and unflappable even as the kids squabbled in the back and the drive took longer than expected, over an hour.

Finally we arrived at our destination and as we got ourselves out and on the trail, a sudden sense of peace and security settled over us.  It’s always so quiet in the woods.  It’s always the same. The kids started running and playing, the cold fading away with sweaty exertion, the squabbling tension of the ride melting away into a memory.  My chest suddenly lightened.  I could breathe.

The air tasted raw like ripe mud.  The trees were bare and stark in the early spring light.  The ground was firm underfoot and felt like a reassurance.  It looked lifeless and desolate but truly the sense of renewal is palpable just under the surface of all of that brown and grey.  It was contagious and soon we could feel the resurgence of life within ourselves.

We easily spent the entire day outside wandering the trails drinking the cold fresh air into our lungs and just feeling so good and happy to be together.  It was just what was called for.  I looked at Greg, like I often do, with gratitude for all the things he has shown to me in my life.  I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for him.

In many ways Greg and I might be polar opposites but sometimes that’s the best thing.  Such can be a marriage.  Such can be a family.  An odd, tangled web of things and feelings and perspectives and experiences that can be at times frustrating but is overall something you can’t really feel anything but immeasurably grateful for.

 

A glimpse into the chaos

Yesterday I felt like a union negotiator.  The kids were mutinying, negotiating the terms of their school attendance.  “I want the whole day off!”  They were manning the picket lines.  I was able to talk Joel into just the morning off if I provided shakes when they got home from school that afternoon and I promised to take them to the zoo during their half day next week as long as the weather cooperated.  I texted Greg that the kids took the morning off.  I could tell by his lack of response that he did not approve.  This is someone whose perfect attendance in first school then work rivals that of the U.S. post office.  “Neither rain nor sleet…blah, blah, blah.”  Yet I can’t help but not care.  My heart is simply not really in sending them to school.  There is so much there I don’t like.  Not that I deny some of the positive benefits we’ve reaped since signing the kids up, but…I guess I’m just a rebel without a cause.  How they spent their morning off?  Tearing up the house and being wild and, believe it or not, going over Ruth’s spelling words. ( I have strange children).  They sort of see school as an interesting game, having been first homeschooled, which is not inaccurate.  I’m glad to be able to give them that little bit of objective perception about the school system.

Kids in Ruth’s class are dropping like flies from head lice cases.  I have a sneaking suspicion she’s trying to catch them on purpose to be able to stay home from school and watch gymnastics on YouTube to her heart’s content.  I can’t say I blame her, especially when I was a kid, before I realized how disgusting they are.  Now, as an adult?  I’m actually having nightmares about head lice, not in small part because I currently have about two and a half feet of hair growing from my head.  A lice’s paradise.

I recently did something I almost never do and bought Miles a new pair of shoes.  Thankfully, from my perspective, regretfully from his, he usually gets all of Joel’s old everything so I never actually do much shopping for Miles.  Unfortunately, we accidentally left his shoes in Battle Creek when we were there for Joel’s floor hockey tournament (I was thinking to myself that he’s probably too young to do so now but in the future will probably do things like this on purpose out of bitter resentment at having second hand stuff all his life).  We hemmed and hawed in the aisle of Meijer as Iris slept in the stroller, trying on every shoe we could find for 25 dollars and under.  I was pushing the neutral red ones but Miles of course wanted the garish super hero ones that lighted up.  So I relented and that was fine.  Until he put them on at home and realized how “babyish” they were.  This is one of the insidious and pervasive ways that school culture creeps into your life.

Miles being my third child, I already know that they go through a change right around the time leading up to the fifth birthday.  Their brain becomes more sophisticated and they seem to suddenly start looking for cues outside themselves for how they fit into the world.  For Ruth and Joel this was fine.  It caused them to don various annoying behaviors and habits but they were somewhat contained and held within our family unit.  Miles, however, is the first one to enter this brain phase while we are exposed to school and the mainstream culture and he has very little filter or buffer from these ideas.  He has recently started demonstrating a large and disturbing amount of sexism, showing disgust at the idea that his toy lizard or a main character in one of his books could be female.  “Boys are stronger than girls!” he yelled at me when I questioned him.  “But, Miles,” I reasoned calmly, “I’m a girl and I’m stronger than you.”  (Ok, this is beside the point and not mature, but sometimes my feminist outrage gets the better of me).  He was also playing “Zombie” the other day and actually came up to me and bit me.  Hard.  I can’t even begin to wrap my head around little kids, toddlers basically, playing “Zombie”.  That’s just about as unwholesome as you’d care to get.  I had to play the Oklahoma soundtrack on repeat to try to make a mends and heal his tiny brain.  And sing along loudly, of course.  Iris was staring at me like, “Oh snap.  This cannot be my real birth mother.”  Oh, but it is (Mwa-ha-ha, evil sounding laughter, etc.).  Ah thank goodness my sense of humor is still intact.

Flockey

Joel, the six year old, has recently started floor hockey.  For those that don’t know, floor hockey is basically hockey without the ice, otherwise known as street hockey, which my older brother played endlessly with the neighborhood boys amongst the parked cars on the block I grew up on.  All you need is a net (or an upturned recycling bin) some sticks and a ball.

I’m like a freakin’ bloodhound when it comes to the interests of my kids, so eager have I been pretty much from the moment they were each born to sign them up for and then cheer them on at, any sport or club or hobby that they showed even the slightest enthusiasm about.  So, it didn’t take more than Joel’s eyebrows perking up when I read him the flyer that came home in his backpack from school this past fall about an opportunity to sign up for floor hockey at our local community center for me to make the phone call and get his name on the roster.  Well, ideally that’s what would have happened but apparently, there wasn’t a ton of interest in our suburb over a floor hockey class so it got cancelled.  But, the woman on the phone said, the man who was going to run it coaches floor hockey out of Lansing and here was his email address if I wanted to contact him.

Before I jumped down the rabbit hole, I checked in one more time with Joel.  Was he sure he wanted to play floor hockey?  Did he promise to go to at least the first practice and stay for the whole time?  Yes?  You sure?  You’re sure you’re sure?  Ok.  Let’s DO this then.

A little over two months later, and here we are.  A real flockey family.  Who would have guessed that we were signing on for once a week practices that last an hour and a half after school, once a week Saturday games, and also three regional tournaments, two that we would travel out of town for?  Yes, we have actually traveled for our six year old’s floor hockey team.  We are some serious millennial parents right here.

I have to say that it’s been really fun to see Joel dive in to a sport after showing little to no interest in anything extracurricular for a long time.  It’s also been really interesting to observe the culture of floor hockey sort of as an outsider.  We have met some really down-to-earth, involved parents.  It’s sort of an underground culture and most people don’t know that floor hockey has some intense followers.

What I like about floor hockey is that you don’t need to know how to skate to play it, so it’s accessible for kids that are pretty young.  I like that it’s also pretty financially accessible to most families.  The only major expenditures are a helmet (about 50 for a good, brand new one) and the fee for the class, though there is fundraising available to help to offset these (and of course the cost of travelling including gas, eating out and a hotel stay.  You can bet we didn’t mention to the hotel staff about there being six of us crammed into one room.  This will be an issue as the kids get older but right now, we managed.  Girls on one bed, boys on the other.  We definitely got our money’s worth at the continental breakfast).  The other thing I really like about it is that it’s co-ed the way most sports and activities are not for young American kids, even up through the high school and possibly even adult level.

This is one of the joys of parenting in my mind and can be like a balm to the harder things you slog your way through on a daily basis.  One of the best things about parenting is watching your kids blossom and move out into the world, taking you places and showing you things you never knew existed.  Such as flockey.  Or…whatever.

 

Nine month well child check

Some of you may be thinking I am about to say something sarcastic and launch into a full-fledged conspiracy theory-drenched rant (who, moi?)  Yet I am going to disappoint you.  These days I find myself taking a more critical and objective look at myself and viewing the world from a more moderate stance than ever before.  Is it growing older?  The perspective allotted by having four children, the oldest of which is approaching her ten year birth day in a few short months?  I like to think that my experiences raising my children have transformed me into a more thoughtful and wise person.

Iris, the youngest of my four children, has just recently turned nine months old and is the round, cherubic, curious and joyfully emerging little human bud that you would expect.  She is, to borrow a cliche but apt phrase from my mother-in-law, simply a joy. Now I see why some have so many children.  Or I at least understand something about the benefits of doing so.  Having a baby keeps you humble.  It keeps you grateful.  It keeps an innocent and pure joy in your family.

I could speculate mercilessly about Iris the way I did with Ruth.  Who I think she is, who I think she might grow to be, her developmental progress.  Or I can just say that she is simply my joy and then let her be.  This must be one of the benefits of being a younger sibling.  Your parents leave you alone the way they never can leave your older sibling(s) alone.  You are somewhat free to just be.

Today happened to be the date of Iris’s nine month well child appointment.  I know this because they called to remind me yesterday, otherwise I would have forgotten (such is my life these days with four kids and with the break neck pace of school constantly pulling me forward like a strong current, my feet practically swept from beneath me.  More on this later).  After dropping the kids off at school, Miles, my lately constant side kick, and I took Iris in to see our family doctor.  Though I have heard people swear by the expertise of pediatricians, the broad knowledge of a family doctor and her expectations that a well-cared for and well-loved child will usually be just fine, is just what I need these days.  Gone are my desperate yearnings for approval and validation in taking my kids to the doctor in my younger years.  Gone is my studious note-taking of weights and measurements to report back to friends and family members with post-appointment.  Nowadays, “she looks healthy” suits us just fine.

The doctor asked me if I had any concerns.  I said no.  She asked if I’d like to do some vaccines.  I said sure.  Iris had a good time crumpling the paper of the office table as I held her naked chunkiness and talked over her head to our doctor more about Ruth and Joel than Iris.  The struggles of school.  The problem with curriculum over the kids’ heads, with hyper-testing.  The western culture of aggression and assertion at the cost of kindness and even fairness.  Iris looked at the doctor and started babbling.  The two of us, having older kids, her a 13 and 10 year old, me a 9 and 6 year old, just enjoying the simple joy of a baby.  Before all the other stuff hits the fan.  Before the real struggles kick in.  “She looks healthy,” the doctor said.  “I know,” I said.  That was that.

Iris cried a moment, raw and bitter tears of hurt, when she got her vaccines but quickly quieted against my shoulder when I picked her up.  Aware of how fleeting her baby stage is, how quickly this magical time is dissipating, I held her tightly in my arms, her tiny but robust self, her hot wet tears staining my shirt, her cries vibrating through me.

Survival Mode

You know it’s survival mode when you cling to the tiny breaks in your day, such as that steaming cup of coffee in the morning when it’s just you and the baby and the house is still relatively quiet and at peace, before the movement and noise begin, when you learn to accept the faint nagging feeling of utter overwhelm as just as normal as the feeling of the floor under your feet.  It’s almost comforting.  These are the familiar realities of the first few days, weeks and months after a baby is born.  You can learn how to get by, sometimes how to enjoy your life and even thrive a little under any circumstances.  Humans are amazing in their adaptability.  We can be like Bonsai trees in that way.

The weeds in the sidewalk cracks are taking on the character and form of shrubs with secondary growth, real wood and bark.  There is a nagging pain in my back from holding the baby and rocking vigorously on the back room chair through countless evenings, trying to calm her immature nervous system as she alternatively tenses her little limbs, her tiny trunk becoming rigid and convulsing in upset, and then relaxes her tiny form snoring and squeaking into my shoulder.  I will do anything to calm her and keep that terrible baby cry that tears my nerves at bay.  Each day is a race to keep control, to stay ahead of the housework, the laundry, dishes, my own temper, to adapt to her changing stages, her changing proportions of wakefulness and sleeping.  It’s also a race to find enjoyment and meaning in my life.  I eek out little moments and efforts of joy.  I make sun tea, bask in the late morning heat as I hang the laundry, stretch and meditate as often as I can, read books to the kids that I also enjoy, invest in preparing quality food and constantly look for humor.  That is our anchor: our sense of humor.  It’s what keeps the sanity around here.

Iris’s birth was on my mind for so long.  Since the moment I saw that light but determinedly solid second line on the pregnancy test I took eleven months ago.  I worried and fretted and stewed and mulled it over until I was blue in the face.  Ironic, then, that of everything: the pregnancy, birth, and newborn period, her birth was the easiest most straight forward and uncomplicated part.  Not to mention short.  It was over before I knew it, lasting only about five hours from the first irregular contractions until she was in my arms, wet, screaming and present.  Looking at it now, it’s barely a blip in the entire scheme of my journey as a new mother of four.

One thing I will say about Iris is that she is like a yin yang: an equal mixture of dark and light as manifested in her physical body by her dark almost black hair and her incredibly fair complexion.  Her dark hair was one thing about her that both Greg and I could intuit before she was born and it was my first impression of her: that shockingly dark head of thick hair in an otherwise whitewashed room.  She has already stretched me in uncomfortable ways and forced me to deeply question things that I felt so comfortable believing just a little while ago.

That’s about all I have time for as the day grows older and demands my attention and care.

 

Insomnia

Don’t mind this ridiculously early post.  I just can’t sleep.  Nerves about the birth, I guess.  Don’t worry, though, after the baby is born, I should be back to sleeping well in about another four years (just a little parent humor for you there).  Seriously, though, there’s something magical that seems to happen around four years old.  I think it must have something to do with the gradual (and often painful) transition of phasing out naps during the day where, after spending years of fitful night sleeping, the kids seem to reach some sort of sleep plateau and are suddenly sleeping like rocks through the night and even sleep late into the morning sometimes.  It’s great! (too bad we are adding another baby right as Miles was about to reach that glorious milestone.  That’s called “shooting yourself in the foot”).

That and these damn exuberant robins singing through the walls of my poorly-insulated 1950s house!  What is their damn problem?!  Just kidding, I love the sound of robins in the morning.  It’s really hard to sleep through when you hear those first piercing chirps  before the sun is even up, though, isn’t it?  Couldn’t they at least wait until the ass crack of dawn before starting in?  Guess not.

I had a midwife appointment yesterday and she said the baby is in a good position for birth, which I already knew because her head is causing shooting electrical nerve pain whenever I move and also some serious hemorrhoids.  My belly has gone through a growth spurt since my last appointment less than a week ago, which is a good thing but is always kinda freaky as you near the end of the pregnancy and start to have thoughts about an actual baby emerging from your vagina.

Ruth has a girlscout field trip to the humane society today that I am somewhat dreading as I keep having visions of myself giving birth on the dirty concrete floor in front of an entire troop of nine-year-olds.  This will probably not happen.  Still.  If I had a choice, I wouldn’t really go anywhere these days.  I feel like I want to stay close to home base, my nest, and hunker down.  The end of a pregnancy is always an incredibly vulnerable, open and intensely introspective time for me and the last thing I usually want to do is be out in society like a normal person, making merry.  Some people may not be like that but I’ve learned to go with it and just let it be what it is.

I also have a women’s birth group meetup scheduled for this evening that I have mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, I am like a recluse (see above) and want to shut myself into a dark, tight cocoon of introspection.  On the other hand, I have a really intense desire to connect with other women over birth.  So, I’ll see how it goes.

The other way that I am preparing for the birth, besides entertaining all manner of outlandish and tabloid-worthy fantasies, becoming a raging insomniac and shutting out the rest of humanity (all really valid and useful coping strategies) is to reread my favorite fiction novel of all time.  In other words, add “escapism” to my list.  Yup, I’m well-prepared for this life transition right here (note: sarcasm).  Seriously, though, I really do have a lot of empathy and understanding for myself right now.  And I do think that whatever a person has to do to work through really trying times is legitimate, short of drug and alcohol abuse, I guess, and compulsive over-spending.  Though those things are probably ok and understandable in moderation in times of great stress (not for pregnant people, though, except for the overspending, which doesn’t cause any damage to a developing fetus as far as I know, besides a decrease in their future college savings fund).

Ah!  My life! (This is where babies come from.)  I’ll have to add in this part while giving my kids one of many “sex talks” in the near and distant future that I plan to have with them on a regular basis.

On the topic of that, I do have an unrelated rant about a video I saw at our local library about girls going through puberty.  Ruth is almost nine, and, though some people might think this is a bit late to have any kind of introductory talk with her, she’s homeschooled and is honestly quite ignorant in many of the ways of the world.  She’s no dummy and there’s no reason to shelter kids from the idea of human sexuality, it’s a very normal and healthy part of who we are, after all.  The only thing I have a problem with is the way its portrayed in the media and the wider culture we live in (dare I use the term “rape culture”?)

I’m digressing and this is actually an incredibly serious topic for another day when what I wanted to say right now is actually somewhat lighthearted.  This video piqued my interest so I took it off the shelf and flipped it over to peruse the content on the back.  “Ok,” I thought, “What are they telling young girls about puberty?”  I’m sure that you can imagine my total outrage to be greeted by a picture of a young girl wearing a towel in a bathroom in the process of shaving her legs (!!!)  I snapped that thing right back where I took it from.  I should have known.

That’s right girls! Your bodies are about to go through some really disgusting changes.  So here’s how you hide them or get rid of them all together.  Time for the self-hatred to begin!  Oh wait!  It’s already started from the day you were born!  But now the really intense woman-hating programming can commence, now that you’ve left behind the somewhat safe and innocent though still detestable stage of being a female child and you’ve now entered into the territory of becoming an actual young woman.

It has taken me decades to undo even a fraction of the self-hatred that was poured down my throat as a young female in our society.  How dumb would I have to be to unthinkingly turn around and start the cycle over again with my own kids??!  Hell no, I will not be poisoning my daughter (or sons) with the idea that female bodies are not beautiful unless drastically altered and kept within the tight constraints of current beauty trends.  Hell no, I will not allow my kids to adopt the ubiquitous and toxic idea that everything feminine is less than what is masculine (though this is a very confusing topic to thresh out of our thought processes and can be really hard to see and understand when we encounter it.)  Just the other day, the kids were watching a Thomas the Tank Engine movie, which you’d think would be sort of a safe haven of sexism.  Nope.  One of the plots of the stories was about how James, a male engine, got painted pink and how embarrassed he was to be such a “silly” (note: feminine) color and how everyone laughed at and made fun of him.  (See: “female-hating programming from birth”, above)

I don’t need your damn puberty DVD.  I think I can navigate the waters of female sexuality and identity much better on my own, thanks, seeing as how I am a sexually mature human female with a questioning, not-hypnotized mind and I have been through and can see the portrayal of females and males in our society and the importance of recognizing clear and hidden sexism when I encounter it and can hopefully give those tools to my kids.  Keep your damn DVD!  I should have hidden it down a crack in the shelving where it wouldn’t be unearthed for a few decades when it would be brought out and laughed at as a relic of the blatant sexism of the past after we’ve (hopefully) moved forward as a society.

(Ok, that ended up not being that lighthearted after all.  Shrug.)

 

Life in the slow lane

That’s life these days while waiting for a baby.  It looks like staying close to home, listening intently to my body and just….waiting.  Regardless of the fact that in retrospect, I often have many weeks from the time I start this process until the babies are usually born, you never know, I guess.  People have babies everywhere but I guess if I had a choice, I probably wouldn’t choose to have mine in a public place like the zoo or supermarket.  With how fast Miles came, I am on the alert for anything that even smells of labor.

I am on the last couple of things I wanted to complete before the baby arrives, including weaving a large God’s eye yesterday during the afternoon as Ruth practiced her bracelet-making for Girl scouts (yes, I have eaten my words and Ruth is an official vest-wearing, cookie-selling girl scout now.  All I can say for myself is that it just simply fell into our lap through acquaintance and has worked out really well so we’re going with it.  Sometimes ideals take a backseat to reality, and I’m realizing that is just a part of homeschooling).  I am cleaning the house like a madman on cocaine, working up a nice sheen of sweat on my face and sacrificing my spinal health to scrub the far reaches of my home.  This is what nesting can look like for some.

As far as homeschooling, it has once more begun to incorporate a large dose of what I like to think of as “unstructured free play” now that the weather has broken.  That’s a really sophisticated and legitimate-sounding way of saying I throw my kids out in the yard where they can’t muss my beautiful pristine home and ignore them.  Just kidding, I don’t totally ignore them.  I turn off the thermostat and keep the door open so I can hear them yelling to each other as they dig in dirt, jump off the deck onto Ruth’s gymnastics mats and search for bugs, running barefoot and wild.

I should also mention a dramatic shift in our homeschooling that has taken place as of late is workbook work.  As I said about ideals earlier…sometimes you have to do what you feel you have to do.  The real reason is that I think that possibly sending Ruth into the fourth grade next year might be a good choice for us and her for various reasons and I wanted to get her up to speed and at least familiar with what school is about (If I had done nothing, I would have sent in a student that had never laid eyes on a worksheet before and didn’t know the first thing about the structure of learning in an institution.  I already anticipate Ruth having a really hard time adapting to the structure and atmosphere of school and thought better than to add a total ignorance of school material to the mix.  I don’t really know what will happen in the fall but my goal is to get her “up to speed” where she can at least walk in the door, knowing what your average third grade student knows so the option feels more open to us.

This has been really interesting for many reasons.  Partly because it allows me, as I suppose is one of the purposes of school, to compare my kids using a really standardized measure.  Where, before, I had a rough idea of the differences in personalities and learning styles of my kids, sitting down to a table to do workbook work with them has really made their disparities abundantly clear.  It’s shocking that they actually all originate from the same gene pool.

Ruth usually instantly rebels as soon as I even mention workbooks, and then takes a long time going through an adjustment period where she rages and resists everything around her.  This can get ugly and unless I have a huge amount of patience (a beer would help if only I wasn’t bearing a tiny fetus at the moment) sometimes escalates to outrageous proportions.  This is the scenario I think most people picture when they think of their worst nightmare in regards to homeschooling.  Once she actually gets started, doing the work with Ruth is like wading through a quagmire of discontent and frustration.  She is often annoyed that she doesn’t already understand everything in the book before she even starts.  She likes instant gratification and needs almost constant attention.  She’s very bright but she struggles with her emotions getting in the way.

Joel is more eager and cooperative when it comes to completing work.  I told Greg that he is every teachers dream student.  He’s quiet, bright, and eager to experiment with the concepts.  He is not as prone to frustration or perfectionism but is more content to see what happens and to try things in a relaxed fashion.  He doesn’t seem to struggle emotionally as much as Ruth, though as a first sibling, the other two tend to follow her example even if that would not be their natural tendency.  That’s one reason we are thinking that school could serve a function in our family, at least for a short amount of time even if we ultimately end up homeschooling more than schooling in the end.

Then there is little Miles who has always seemed to have his head somewhat in the clouds.  He actually reminds me a lot of myself in that he seems to live more in the fantasy world in his head than actually in the realm of our physical reality.  They are all different in many ways, but I usually think of Ruth and Joel as being pretty similar in that they are both Tauruses and very grounded and down to earth.  Miles is a Cancer and seems to be slightly ethereal.  He brings a lot of interesting variation to our lives.  It’s very ironic and shameful that I cried when I found out I was pregnant with him.  I often find myself turning to Greg and saying, “What would we do without Miles?!”  We would be so much more serious if it weren’t for his light-heartedness.

He is so ridiculously patient as it often takes many minutes for me to move around the table and get to him to explain a page for him to begin, but he is very patient, often sitting and singing contentedly to himself and perusing his book quietly.  Then, when I finally do make it over to him, he often becomes really interested in something in the book that has little to nothing to do with what he is actually supposed to be doing in it.  It’s always unpredictable where his thoughts are going to wander.

How to give each of them the best version of homeschooling is a constant mystery that I feel I am piecing together bit by bit, blindfolded, in a darkened room after being spun around in circles.  It can be very draining and demanding and requires much more patience than I could muster in an entire lifetime in one sitting, but it also comes with deep, rich rewards.  Not just that I get to really know who my kids are on many different levels and also watch them progress step by step through their lives, I am also getting to know myself in many ways (which is also not always pretty, but in general, very stretching and revealing).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and chip away at the calcification in my toilet and sweep under my couch for the fifth time in a week.  This baby could arrive any day, you know, and clearly it’s really important that the back of the refrigerator not be dusty when that happens.