31 August 2006

Thinking Tomato Thoughts

It seems that summer in my area of the world was about ten minutes long this year. The tomatoes are just now ripening. It's the end of freaking August, and the vast majority of them are still deepest, not-even-fryable green. These are what June fruits should look like, not nearly September. We're members of a CSA, and every newsletter for weeks has been about how lousy the tomatoes are this year. I do not trust the weather. Everyone's full of their normal conversation about our typical Indian Summer, but honestly, our seasons haven't been normal for a while, so why does everyone expect normal still? We had 40 straight days of rain, followed by an unstable spring, followed by a week of 100-degree+ days, followed immediately by fall. What's normal in that? So I'm preparing the garden for the worst, prepping the beds for their plantings of winter veggies like cauliflowers, cabbages, and leeks, and assuming that the tomatoes will mostly be a loss this year. I'm really sad about the tomatoes. We did them all-volunteer this year. We took all the little volunteers from last year's Tomato Jungle, selected 14 likely ones, and planted them in the bed, all formal with cages and stakes and regular watering and whatnot. I was really stoked that we seem to have some serious genetic diversity happening, and that some of the heirloom tomatoes we'd eaten and then tossed the remainders into the compost seemed to be some of the hardiest volunteers. It makes me unaccountably happy, that the few upstart heirlooms are the strongest. The idea that untampered-with prevails? That's just really cool. And it's one thing to argue about it, but wholly another to see it played out in the drama of the back garden beds. The fight for nutrients, for water, for sunshine, for bed space, is fierce, and it cheers me unbelievably to think of these odd little scrappers making it to the top. I just hope that everyone else is right and I am wrong and we get to enjoy some of them. Think tomato thoughts for us.

29 August 2006


Last Thursday, we went, as we always do, to the Farmer's Market. In addition to doing our weekly veggie shopping, we usually spend time at the bounce house and the climbing wall. Rowan digs them both. This week there was a new guy running the bounce house. Trying to talk up the kids. Rowan was wearing a shirt we bought him, that has a cartoon picture of a crab, and the word "crabby" under it. It's a joke for his birthsign. The guy asked Rowan "are you crabby today?" Rowan looked at him and said, "I'm not crabby.... I'm lobstey!" The guy didn't get it. I had to explain it to him. My four-year old had just made a joke that took into account english grammar rules, biology, and social status, and a grown adult had to have it explained. Ha! Amazing, the depth of understanding a child can pick up just by listening.

22 August 2006

Unschooling Birth

As all my nearest and dearest know, birth has been an obsessive topic of research of mine for ... well, since the people I paid to handle my first pregnancy and birth let me down, landing me with a cesarean (I refuse to capitalize it) for iatrogenic difficulties resulting from caregiver (ha!) impatience. They had the degrees, the training, the background, that I did not have. I trusted them, they let me down, and I have this scar on my belly to show for it. That was four years ago. In the meantime, I researched birth. Obsessively. Learning about what happened to me was my path out of the PPD/PTSD darkness the whole experience landed me in. I read. I studied. I performed more biostatistical analyses on other people's research than I did in four solid years of graduate studies. I learned, I learned, I learned. At this stage of things, I can sling obstetrical lingo like a pro. In fact, better than some pros. I know an astonishing amount about the natural state of a pregnant body, about the variations on normal, about birth as it's meant to happen, without the mediarchy meddling in it. My command of the relevant research is nearly encyclopedic. My knowledge of the trade journals, the insurance regulations, the governmental statutes, is exhaustive. I know, because to me, fighting for the plain old normal birth of my second child, every single data point mattered. And the final exam? My glorious homebirth VBAC. We, all of us, my family, we passed. So here we are. Rowan's four now. And I'm beginning to look into schooling. It isn't pretty. I could go on some about the state of public, private, institutionalized, education in this country. But suffice it to say, it's not for us. We're looking at unschooling; the radical idea that children are learning machines, if you don't strangle the delight out of it for them. That if you give them building blocks for wings, they will assemble them (in their own unique ways), and they will soar. Terrifying, beautiful thought, that. I feel like I've bonded with Daedalus, somehow. As usual, when you're going offroad with something parenting, you ask yourself whether or not it "works". I suppose by "works", what you mean, generally, is, "will this form of education result in a child who is centered, intelligent, well-rounded, and able to attain the goals they set for themselves?" As usual, I've been fretting. Will it? Will this be the right thing to have done? The shelves of birth-related books and research are gradually being supplanted with the shelves of education-related books and research. I'm on the yahoogroups. I'm reading the bulletin boards. I'm joining the associations. I'm reading, dear lordy, everything I can get my hands on. I'm learning the terminology that the initiated use to describe the inner workings of the child mind. I am becoming conversant in the theoretical modalities of educational theories. And as another friend grilled me about some aspect or other of pregnancy, and I tossed off an answer as casually as could be, it hit me. I do not have a degree. I am not a medical graduate. But I am unschooled, in birth. And if can work for me, like this, then am I not, by modeling this compulsive researching behavior, proving both to my kids and to the Doubting Thomases of my culture, that it does most thoroughly work this way? Yes, I am. So forward we all go. Because it does, it does, it does work this way. UPDATE: This post has been nominated!!!

A Perfect Post

19 August 2006

Learning Experiences

There's been a lot going on with me lately, thus the paucity of blog entries. I could bore you all with my journey, or I could cut to the chase. Friends, I have finally figured out that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that I must sleep in some of them. Go on, I can hear you laughing from here. I think my problem is that I find nearly everything fascinating. And so when cool amazing things cross my path, I tend to jump on them. Revel in them. Celebrate them. And bond with them. And I forget that with all that ebullience, you still gotta sleep and eat and do the laundry. I've taken the day off to refocus, having plummeted rather harshly from a bout of the aforementioned ebullience. I overextended, and am now taking it deservedly on the nose. Learning Experience (tm), with a side of Humble Pie. Jason and I had a fabulous talk last night, as I was conducting an inventory of my wounds. He's a master at taking the most egregious of my self-pitying, and turning it into solid gold. I think I probably learned more about Seeing Myself in an hour last night that I've learned in quite some time. Some of it wasn't terribly flattering, but all of it was honest, and delivered through a lens of trust; the sugar coating on the pill. So I've now swallowed it down, and am digesting. And like any morning after a storm, the whole world looks cleaner and crisper and brighter. I'm still obligated to deal with the mess that I created, but I'm finding that I can face it with a degree of optimism, and even some humor. And you know, sometimes, that's absolutely the best that you can hope for.

13 August 2006


Last week, I was in my Basic Cruising sailing course. Days 1 and 2 were superlative. Days 3 through 5? Sucked. I was angry, frustrated, close to tears most days. Not because the sailing was hard (although there was a small craft advisory going on, so yes, the sailing was hard), but because yet again, I am smacking my head into a wall. Hello wall. Nice to see you. Again. Damnit. See, here's the deal. I am a very small woman. And I have this propensity for engaging in sports dominated by large men. Large clueless men. Day 3 of class involved, amongst other transitional disasters, me giving a basic illustration about the laws of physics, center of gravity, mass and inertia of a 3000 pound boat, and the force of 10 knots of breeze at the dock. The instructor wanted me to hold our J24 to the dock by holding onto the shrouds. Which put my center of gravity directly over said boat, trying to still hold the boat to the dock against the wind. Needless to say, I failed. The instructor seemed to think it was a failing of mine. At least, his yelling indicated this. Unfortunately, even he had to bow to the laws of physics, once I calmed down enough to illustrate them. I could go on with stories. Suffice it to say, the instructor failed me. And now, I have to go back and do reviews until I'm passable. Considering every instructor has different nuances about what they want done, I may be there a while. Friday, I was a raging hysterical lunatic. I don't take failure well. I called the Bear on Saturday morning, and gave him the outline of my horrible week on the boat. He laughed. And said "Gee, we've never seen you here before, have we?" And there it is. Way back in college, when I was taking scuba classes preparatory to becoming an instructor, I was under the command of, well, a large sexist pig who felt that threatening my life (three separate times) was a perfectly valid teaching tool. Cue Chumbawamba. =) I got knocked down, I got back up again. Over and over and over. It was some of the harshest few months of my life. But what ended up happening was that one by one, I won every other person in the chain of command over, and they eventually stomped on him hard enough that he saw, really finally saw, what he was doing, and stopped it. Lesson learned, for him and for me. His lesson? Stop being such a misogynist prick. My lesson? My strength is legion, and my cause is righteous. Sounds a bit grandiose, maybe, but it's how I feel. Women had been flunking out of that scuba program for years, and until me, none of them had been willing to take on the whole thing and fight. Women after me, they passed. It was a great feeling. So on the drive back to sailing school on Saturday, I did what I should have probably done, oh, around Thursday. "OK, you Deity folks, what's my lesson? What am I supposed to be learning from this?" And immediately, everything eased. I actually smiled on my drive, instead of spending the whole 20 minutes choking back tears as I had been doing for the last three or four days (did I mention, I don't handle failure well?). The first person I saw at the school asked me flat out, "What happened?" And I could have kissed him. His implication, in tone and incredulity, was that it wasn't that I am a crap sailor, it was that circumstances precluded completion. The next three people I ran into asked nearly the same question in nearly the same way. And by the time I'd told the full story of my week, I'd managed to turn it into a fine comedic routine, complete with pantomime and gesticulation. I had two people literally lying down laughing. The instructor for my review was astonished at some of the things I told him, and was going to take it up with the instructor who'd flunked me. The instructor I'd had for the first few days was flabbergasted as well. Change is happening. I can feel the shift. And it's gonna be good. In the meantime, the school has a deal where if you don't pass, you get 90 days of free instructor time to make it up. So I get nearly three months of free sailing out of this. You just can't beat that... provided you go into it with the right attitude. "Tubthumping" is Shouting to Change The World (then having a drink to celebrate). It's stumbling home from your local bar, when the world is ready to be PUT RIGHT... I get knocked down, I get back up again. Ain't never gonna keep me down.

09 August 2006

Madonna of the Cockpit

Many of you have asked me where I was during the series of photos I posted yesterday. Mostly, I was on the other end of the camera, but I thought this picture sums up a sailing mama's life pretty well.

06 August 2006

First Sail...

...for Jason, as skipper... and for Rowan... and for Kestrel... and a fabulous day was had by all!

04 August 2006

No One Ever Promised

...or, smacked upside the head by my own assumptions, yet again. I don't think I've ever said it quite this way... but part of what set me up for my cesarean was my unshakeable belief that because my mother had a beautiful, ridiculously easy birth with me, my births would be easy too. Stupid of me, really, because I'm not built like my mother at all, I'm built like my grandmother, who by all accounts, had a horrendous birth with my mother (her only child). So I should have seen it coming. But you know, my mom, in her desire to be positive and encouraging and just downright fabulous about the whole thing, had it so talked up, it never occurred to me that it would be any other way, and so I never researched the what-ifs, because they were never going to happen to me. That's old news now. Fast forward to last Friday. Last Friday was Rowan's gymnastics lesson. He loves them. Loves the teacher. She loves him (tried to hijack him into coming to several of her other drama and singing classes immediately, "because he projects personality so well.") Hit me up again, in fact, to make sure I hadn't forgotten, and that I get him signed up for her September sessions. In the face of all that, 100% positive, glowing, encouraging... Rowan decided he didn't want to go. "No." says my son. It's a statement. Flat. Unemotional. Absolute. And impervious to parental pleas for compliance. I am utterly dumbfounded. You see... I was a very compliant child, most of the time. My mother raves (to this day) about how easy I was to get along with. And I never, ever saw this coming. That I would give birth to Captain Defiant. So there we are. It's time for class. And Rowan is not interested. Not in changing into playclothes from his comfy jammies, not in leaving the house, not in getting into the car, not in getting out of the car, not in getting to class. (Unschooling types are already laughing at me, because of course, I pushed him into doing all those things, and that's where I lost the moral highground.) We finally get to class, and the teacher is so happy to see him. He starts to smile, then looks at me, and physically curls up into a little fetal ball. I grab him, drag him out into the gym (away from where the class is), and sit him down for a talk. He's a hysterical little ball, totally freaking out. And I so much cannot understand, I lose it, and I yell. And in the middle of me saying things like "you wanted to go to school, so here it is, deal with it" and other paragons of sensitive parenting (cringe), Captain Defiant looks at me, and says "No, Mama. Just no. I don't want to, just no." Just no. I immediately feel like the biggest failure of a parent in the whole world. We both sit there, breathing at each other for a few more seconds, and I say "OK, let's go tell your teacher we're leaving, and we'll go to the library, or get lunch, or go for a walk or something." Can you see it coming? We get back to the area where class is, and Captain Defiant whips his shoes off, and leaps into the fray. He is, by God, in that class. Buddhism has nothing on parenting, where the lesson, over and over until I get it, apparently, is "unclench." It's Friday again, we'll see what happens. Either way, I'll handle it better. No one ever promised me a carbon copy of, well, me. And I think it's probably better that way.