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.

 

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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.

Once a year

It’s cliche but our mother made our home a haven.  Despite the strife that marks any family growing under the same roof in often opposite and conflicting directions, we could expect the same care each day, the same pillars of daily life.  The same toast and eggs for breakfast, the same nagging over our discarded laundry from the previous day, the same bustling and singing at the kitchen sink and downstairs as she sorted and hung clothes on the line.  Nothing changed.

Except once a year in early April when she seemed to sink inwards and withdraw from our safe and stable suburban life and push off as though to be tossed on a rough and secret dark sea that she carried within her.

At these times she would set the computer down in the living room where we were immersed in our usual involved sibling and toy dramas with stacks of videos and leave us to forage the fridge as she went out on the water damaged back deck and put on Motown music.   Her eyes, normally a heavy, earthy and grounded brown, would turn a deep gray that shocked us with their detached turmoil when we would come out and tentatively peek to make sure she was still there before running, giggling and shoving each other back to our comfortable, sun-soaked living room, to our familiar primarily-colored toys and whimsy games.

We gleaned the faint but ominous sense that our quiet and bright childhood existence, which seemed to us as solid and foundational  as bedrock, was indeed a fleeting and fragile thing and wondered at what waited for us in life to bring such changes to our own eyes and such storm-tossed stillness as overcame our mother as she stewed in reverie once a year.

But like those pioneers of history who left behind the known comforts of their homes to venture over the edge of the far horizon to see what might lie beyond it, we faced our futures, undaunted by the threat and promise of adversity and struggle, as all children do, believing that what will be gained will outweigh the strife that might shackle the heart and mind.

R, J, M

Homeshooling Now

Homeschooling, as everything else towards the end of a pregnancy, is taking on an extremely disjointed, crazed, bipolar-esque quality.  One day will be incredibly productive and leave me feeling on top of the world and the next will find the house a mess, the kids out of sorts, and myself siphoned off to ridiculously specific tasks such as scrubbing all of the floor tiles with a tooth brush.  This is the beginning of the mental fraying that marks the near end of gestation.  I try to keep my perspective and also to be kind to myself, reminding myself that things are just going to be crazy for a while (even more than the usual craziness, which already feels like the max limit most of the time) and to try and enjoy this phase of our lives, intense though it may be.

Yesterday was a more productive day.  The morning was marked by the usual whirlwind of cleaning and “catching up” from the day before, along with breakfast preparations that can sometimes take on outlandish specificity in everyone’s preferences and choice combinations (what is this?  Big Boy’s Sunday all you can eat buffet?!)

After that we finished up watching “Hello Dolly”, a cheesy musical from the 70’s starring Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau that is my absolute favorite musical and that I’ve been determined to show to the kids for some time now.  Until this year, though, we’ve never made it through the entire thing as my kids, especially Ruth, being of a sensitive nature, could not cope with the exuberant dancing and top-of-the-voice singing.  There is one scene that was especially troubling to the kids when Barnaby and Cornelius couldn’t afford to pay for their dinner at the “Harmonia Gardens” restaurant in New York and were trying to flee before they were caught and put in jail.  Ruth kept on asking, “How are they going to pay for their dinner?” in an extremely concerned and worried tone.  (Ah, my little sensitive intuit totally grounded in the literal.  How I recognize the struggles that you go through in this life as so close to my heart and poignant.  I wish I had better advice and guidance for you.)

Just the other evening I found myself sitting outside of gymnastics at the local YMCA waiting for the class to begin as Ruth explained to me, as though I didn’t already know this, as though we haven’t been through these situations a thousand times before, that she wanted to wait outside and observe the students and coach for a while before going in because she was worried that the coach would “make a big deal” about her skill level. Starting new things takes an incredible amount of bravery and gumption for her.  This is often the role I have in Ruth’s life: holding the space while she waffles back and forth and rages internally, sitting beside her as she struggles with emotions that are too large to be contained in her tiny frame of bone and skin.  It’s not easy and i often fail to be the parent I want to be but I do my best.

Finally making it to the end of the movie, I felt triumphant and happy and decided to take the kids to one of the local libraries for “art Thursdays”.  At this particular branch, every Thursday, they have an art project from 3-5 slated for kids to come after school and work side by side.  It’s actually a really good excuse to give me some serious zone out time to just sit and think or, as in yesterday’s case, to read.  The kids can partake in the project or just play in the children’s area while I sit on a nearby bench and then my mind is free to wander.  When you homeschool, you learn all these nice little tricks and tips that help you to keep your life somewhat balanced and harmonious and to give your mind and spirit little breaks here and there.

I really like this library because it has a comfy relaxed  feel that other libraries in the area seem to lack and because there is always a raucous group of kids that seem to all know each other that Ruth especially enjoys watching and taking notes on.  While she was busy absorbing their language and play habits, Joel and Miles went immediately to the Ipad they have with kids games on it.  Why they keep these in the children’s section of the library I’ll never understand.  Sigh.  Oh well.  After a little while they moved to the train table and then proceeded to play in an incredibly enthusiastic and loud way, chasing each others’ train cars around the table and making loud crashing noises.

At one point a couple other mothers came in and sat with their one or two littler kids as they played and I could see them looking at me out of the corner of my eye.  Or maybe I could just feel it.  Another sigh.  I’ve reached that part of the pregnancy that it’s really hard to go out in public during.  Everywhere I go, people are sizing up my situation, looking at my other three kids and my big belly and just thinking thoughts that I can almost hear (Ruth is not the only oversensitive intuit in the family).  The truth is, I am extremely proud of our family and very happy to have such a full life and home, but I kind of hate public attention and so would rather avoid people in general during late pregnancy.  These mothers saw me talking with Joel and Miles and my big belly and assumed I was on our third when suddenly Ruth came over and started calling me “mom” (the jig is up).  I saw eyebrows raise as they realized that I was indeed the mother of all these people and seemed to wonder if any more were about to crawl out of the woodwork.

“You don’t understand,” I said to Greg, “You go to work all day.  When you go places with the kids it’s usually only one or two of them.  You’re not out and about town during school hours with all three and a big belly.  People have strong reactions to us.”  Not that I can blame them.  I think I’ve often reacted in similar ways to large families before I was pregnant with our fourth.  I would often take count of kids in a family and feel pangs of jealousy and longing for my own large family and also marvel at how these mothers could do it all when I seemed to struggle so much with just one or two or three, depending on the timing of these encounters.  I wonder at the spectacle that my grandparents must have made with ten kids!  Times have changed a bit though, and especially in the suburbs, people are stopping at one or two mostly.

We went home and had leftovers for dinner and then after Greg came home, I took a walk, which is another way I keep myself at least reasonably sane.  The light is changing, the earth is coming back to life in our part of the globe, the robins were making their telltale spring sounds, winter is officially over.  After I got back, Ruth and I made a cake together and I was able to convince the kids to speed clean the house while the cake was baking.  They even went out for a short stint of bike-riding before bed.

It was a good day homeschooling, the kind that leaves me excited about the possibilities open to us as homeschoolers, and though I also feel a bit daunted at this stage in the pregnancy, adding birth and baby preparations to my already overbrimming life, I still love our life and try to appreciate our unique situation, taking the bad days in as much stride as I can and reveling in the good ones.

The Opening of the Chasm

“I feel it, Greg,” I said the other day with significance.  He took a moment to try and guess what I was referencing as my words were out of context, seemingly falling out of a clear blue sky.  He looked up as if checking for rain or a thunderhead.  “Huh?” he said, ever eloquent.  “I feel it.  I feel the chasm opening.”

How can a person describe this experience that a psychologist might name an altered state of consciousness, what a mystic might call a vision, this sensation that a person might feel only once in their lifetime right before they die if they are lucky?  The only other times a person would probably feel this are when overcoming an intense illness or injury or when entering the final stages of pregnancy.  I speak of the meshing of the past, present and future, the lifting of the veil between worlds, the opening of the third eye.

I know I probably sound crazy.  Except to those who know, those who have experienced it and have recognized what I’m describing.  What is this feeling like?  What is it that makes me say this?  Simply put: my feet are starting to leave the floor.  I feel less attached to my physical reality and my mind is traveling to strange places.  Every spare moment I seem to have is filled with sensory memories from my past, so vivid that they’re  real.  I’m looking less with my eyes and more with my sight, the part of me that sees more than objects before me, but their deeper significance.  Time is taking on a less concrete quality: minutes, hours and days are losing their meaning and all I feel is a steady movement forward towards my time of birthing.  I feel myself mentally and physically building my protective nest around this event, starting to shut out the noises of the world, to go inside, to nestle down within myself.

Why do I write about this?  Because I think the deep spiritual significance of birth to a woman is all but lost in translation in modern day medicine/obstetrics (I hate that paternalistic word).  No one talks about the holiness and transcendence of bringing forth life, of our bodies and minds as the perfect instruments of evolution to carry and bear the next generation.

“Feminism is about courage and strength and celebration of feminine power.” -Ina May Gaskin, CPM (certified professional midwife)

More Roadschooling Chronicles

It’s our annual tradition to travel somewhere for Greg’s birthday.  Number one: to celebrate Greg’s birthday because it can be hard to reach a festive mood in the middle of winter and number two: just as an excuse to do something fun.  We’ve run the gamut of everything from hotels to camping to trips to other states.  Ok, that only happened once and it was for a training program for Greg’s job that we tagged along on (that’s actually the trip that got us started on this tradition as that was when we realized it was so nice to change up the scenery at this time of year and seemed to make the rest of the winter fly by).  This year, though it’s always temping to book a hotel with a heated pool, we decided to get back to our roots and plan the kind of trip that our hearts are really in.

Winter camping is a different breed of cat than summer camping.  It’s sort of like the solitary and eccentric uncle of summer camping, the one that doesn’t talk much and shuns family gaiety.  Make no mistake, there is much beauty and peace to be found on a winter camping trip but it’s of a different variety than the bug, bird, plant and people explosiveness of trips during the warmer months.  It’s often this quiet contemplative appreciation of the season that is the core value of winter camping.

No, we didn’t do tent camping.  That’s a little extreme, even for us, especially with three kids along.  We rented a rustic cabin with heat and, if I’m honest, a refrigerator, coffee maker and even a microwave which we, of course, didn’t use.  The coffee maker was invaluable though, as the rest of our cooking had to be done outside on our two burner propane stove.  It was nice to be able to brew a pot of coffee without stepping out of the warmth of the cabin (save for using the port-a-potty, which, as a seven month pregnant woman, I did a minimum of 20 times each day).

We unpacked, being careful not to slip on the frozen walkway, which was coated with ice.  Actually, the entire ground was covered with a layer of ice-topped snow, making it impossible to traverse any of the trails but which also transformed the hill the cabin was perched on into a human toboggan run for the kids.  We sat looking at each other for a minute realizing there was nothing to do.  The kids got cranky and rebelled for a moment and then quickly decided to put on their outdoor gear (which they almost never do at home by themselves) and headed outside.  And they didn’t come back in.  For hours.

It was great!  I  told Greg as he came in to refill his coffee cup, that it was the most time the kids have spent outside all winter!  I’m sure the neighbors wonder about this: how you can homeschool all winter and never be outside playing in the snow!  One of the key perks of homeschooling in the winter, am I right?  A long story short, our kids have issues with winter clothes not feeling right and that is often enough to make them balk at the idea of going outside, even if, once there, they have a good time.

This was different, though, and, as is often the case with travel, you are unlocked a bit from your identity at home and a little more free to step outside of your usual activities and persona.  This was so true for the kids.  They stayed outside sliding down the hill and climbing back up, walking with Greg out onto the frozen lake below for hours.  They found a muskrat home and coyote tracks and worked up a sweat and all came back with dripping noses and blazing cheeks.

That night, with all the stars shining through the open windows of the cabin, we heard a pack of coyotes calling nearby.  Their yipping commotion sounded otherworldly and incredibly wild in the cold bleakness of night.

The two days passed with the kids and Greg mostly outside exploring, me inside reading and no one and nothing around.  Just bare gray trees, an endless gray sky and the cold and ice.  It was a markedly introspective trip and always nice to live so simply for a while.  It’s just the kind of vacation we want the kids to remember from their childhood.