Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ginger is Alive but not well

The semester is finally over. It has not been my best semester. My brain felt a step behind every reading. And I was not as enthusiastic as I was the first year. Not sure why...actually the old passion I had as an undergrad is gone. I am not sure if that passion was really healthy anyway. My whole life revolved around school, fantasies of the intellectual life, etc. I was in love with being a student. There was a sense that the stuff we were working on was the most important stuff in the world. I definitely don't feel like that anymore.

I still love to learn but I feel vaguely uncomfortable about this lifestyle. It feels so hedonistic. I am going to graduate school because I love to learn. I love to read theory, etc. But deep down I know that teaching at Midwood was definitely doing better things for the world. And really the most important thing in my world are my children. All these things have combined to create a rather ambiguous fog in which I moved about this semester.

There were days when I really longed to be able to just be with my kids without worrying about the next paper or reading. And I got major house envy a few times. I started to really want my own home with a backyard...a minivan...hell, the whole suburban package. Of course I came to my senses quickly, and knew deep inside that I'd be bored with that lifestyle. But there is a part of me that longs to be able to want to like those things. It seems like life might be less complicated which is probably not true.

Sometimes, I think this all comes from hanging out mostly with moms who do stay at home. They do have their problems, and I acknowledge that but I often feel like the odd mom out. My life consists of two different worlds. One in which I am a homeschooling mom, and the other in which I am a graduate student. It's not easy to reconcile these two lives; in fact I am not sure if they are reconcilable.

Doing Nothing In NC

Time for my semester end update. For all those dying to know...No, Umberto is not reading. He can read a few of this Brand New Readers books but hasn't made much process on phonics. "Sounding out" words has become a tortuous event for all involved.

Me: Okay the b sound is baaa.
Umberto: Baaa?
Me: And then ahhhh sound.
Umberto: ahhh?
Me: The last sound is "daaa."
Umberto: daaaa?
Me" Let's put them all together.
Umberto: ?

He did pick out a couple of workbooks which he likes to do but it takes a lot of help from me. He has listened to me read a couple of chapter books which he wouldn't do last year at this time. We've read all the Spiderwick books, and Charlotte's Web. We're at the beginning of Clive Barker's "The Thief of Always" which is tough for him as it NO pictures at all. He also love his Star Wars Comics and wants to be able to read them on his own.

What keeps me from totally freaking out is his great love of knowledge. I mean, really this is what Horacio and I wanted to instill in our children. Umberto loves to go the library and get books out on a variety of subjects. He asks lots of questions, and is observant of what is happening around him. I see these things as a sign that yes indeed there is life in there! And while I do worry when I am with the "geniuses" of the homeschooling world, I try to remember that Umberto is his own person with his own timetable.

Household's current obsessions: Dinosaurs, Star Wars (still), lizards, doggies (there's nothing like watching Camille scratch her ear with her foot).

Umberto, the crafty one...

Here's a few pictures of Umberto's paintings over the fall:

This is the behive, he and I made after reading Gail Gibbon's book on bees.

Here's the spaceship collage. This one was a lot of fun.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It's My Birthday...and I'll Cry if I Want To...

Actually it was my birthday yesterday but I couldn't very well blog on my birthday. Jeez. Okay and I'm not actually crying.

Yes I am another year older. 34. It's a strange age. I don't feel old which I'm not but I'm not really young either. Right now my hair is some horrible red color highlighted with gray. Yup gray. I am now in the camp where I have to dye my hair. Oh yeah I could be totally hippie and let it gray but I just am not ready for that yet. I have fine lines around my eyes and my mouth but I'm not trying to stop smiling. I no longer try to be hip. I'm not as worried about my clothes. Hell, I leave the house with out make up all the time now. And I feel wiser, less stressed, less freaked about little things than I used to be. I don't care what people think when I pretend to be a t-Rex at the park with my kids. Those things don't matter.

But new things do matter. I'm a lot more political than I used to be. This strikes me as odd because this is supposed to happen when you're a teenager. But I realized that there is a difference between my political concerns now. When I was a teen I was very idealistic, and very harsh in my perception of what needed to happen. I was so liberal, and so dedicated to that view that I had a hard time seeing anything else. As I have gotten older I have realized that things are much more complicated than I used to think. I have to think about things before I'll join a protest or sign a petition. I am now more concerned with simple actions like recycling and teaching my children to respect the Earth and her creatures. I want to end war because I know it could just easily be my children being bombed as someone else's.

And it's funny because we are so unsettled in many ways at this point. We're both grad. Students. We don't own a house. We drive junky but good cars. We're still in that gypsy mentality. Yet we're also more settled in many ways then so many people I know who own houses and minivans. I see so much discontent, so many dreams left on the side of the road to stability. We have not compromised that which makes us whole people. I am so proud that we managed this. We may not have what others see as a complete and mature life but we do have a sense that what we're doing is right for us. I don't think Horacio or I will ever look back and say "Shit why didn't I do that?"

Sunday, August 06, 2006

So close

I have, as of Saturday, lost 38 lbs.

Whoa. I did this! I did it without starving. Without smoking! I love to exercise now. I go to sporting good stores and drool. What happened to the old Ginger?

And yes it comes to that doesn't it? This whole new identity thing. Saturday at our meeting, I was looking at the WW levels of change. At the core is identity. I kept thinking I was at that one, and that I would occasionally wander off but really it's much more complicated. I have been slowly building this identity since January and there's a long ways to go. I don't know if dwelling is the right word to use in terms of this identity.

This whole identity thing is definitely the most important and the most difficult part of WW. And it's not just because I'm used to thinking of myself as a fat girl. It has to do with the fact that most of my life has been spent and shaped by a certain weight. I created an identity for myself that was forged when I was a big girl. As I shed this weight, there is a part of me that feels like I shedding her as well. She has been slowly shed through other life changing events of course but there was a part of her still clinging on in the back closet of my head. Now as I lose the weight and I make lifestyle changes that ensure that this weight will stay lost, I find that she's putting up quite a fight. I'm not the same person, and I'm not ever going back to that person. So even while I'm so happy, I'm also scared. I don't know what life will be like with this new person that's me.

Maybe it's just me, and everyone who reads this will think I need some serious meds, but it seems that getting to identity in the levels of changes is more than just seeing ourselves as thin people. It involves a lot more work in figuring out what it means to be smaller, and what it means to have a healthy lifestyle. I'm not saying that we become drastically different people. I'm still a snarky bitch but I'm also a snarky bitch who loves to go to Dick's Sporting Goods and drool over exercise equipment.

Piper Blue

I have finally come to my youngest. It is the nature of the youngest to fall behind in photos and explanations. By the time, I reach three, I am tired. It is not that I lose the words but more that I lose the energy to go through another explanation. Another exploration of the characteristics that form a human being.

Piper Blue is my sweet lovie. She is the mellow anchor to our craziness. She kisses and loves on us as we bounce from chaos to crazy. But make no mistake that this child is not a pushover. She makes her stand against the older two without fear.

Piper wants so much to do everything that the other two do. She's determinded to not be left behind. And while she rushes toward age with her arms open, she gladly returns to my arms to become once again my baby.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Her Royal Highness Camille Marie

Camille is not your typical middle child. There is not a chance this child will be forgotten in the middle. She has only recently started to talk, and seeing the world through Camille eyes is quite amusing and amazing. Camille is smart. She does see things as others do. She has her own take on the ways things are and the way things will work. She's independent and distant (except with her daddy). When she was a baby people would admire her, and she would turn to them with this cold haughty stare. She makes people uncomfortable. Now that she's decided to be social, she scares the hell out of other kids. She gets two inches from their faces and talks Camillesque to them. And with babies, it's hilarious. She treats them the same ways she treats dogs. She gets so excited she shakes and then wiggles her hands in their faces.
Favorite Quote: I'm a bad guy.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Jedi Knight Umberto

Yup, my six year old is hopelessly into Star Wars. I guess not all that surprising considering his mom. Umberto is a Gemini. Horror of horrors really. And yes he acts like one. I know I have Gemini friends out there laughing at this twist of fate. He's also the most like his dad: handsome, passionate, sulky, and on the moody side. But he's has my love of people, and has tons of friends. As his mom I think he's dreadfully handsome, and there are number of ladies who think so as well. Horacio poisoned him musically by introducing him to Phish at a concert when Umberto was three. Now he can't deal with anything remotely heavy. He adores Bob Marley and Devendra Barnhart. Currently he loves bugs, and is terrified of fairies.

Meet Da Family

Many people who view this blog have websites (they're not as lazy as I), and on those websites they share their families. I, for one, love to see other people's families. I'm one of those people who don't moan when people haul out photo albums. Thus it's not a great surprise that I love to view these online photo albums. What's missing though is the stories.

The stories are those little explanations that come with each picture. I love hearing about how that picture of Little Sue Sue was taken after she drank a fifth of vodka and called some girl a slut. The stories compliment the pictures and tell more about not just the photo but about the person showing the photos.

With that in mind, I'm going to introduce my lovely nuclear, suburban family one by one. I thought I'd use this post as a brief introduce to the Stickney-Castillo brood. And yes we really do have a brood...

Horacio and I meet six years ago at a party. I drank 6 shots of vodka and kicked a door shut in his face when he tried to be my knight. Yes I often point out to him that it was a good warning to run for the hills. Alas he didn't, and we ended up married with children. Scary. I'm one of those people who probably shouldn't have bred but hell they're here now, and if anything they're cute.

So the nuclear part of our family: Umberto, 6, Camille 3, and Piper Blue 14 months. They're nutsy little fairies but we love them and shelter them. Sometimes we even feed them.

Thanks for sharing your families, hope you enjoy mine.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Bitch is Back

After a umm...issue...I deleted the last blog. But never fear Green Tea Ginger is back, and yes oh yes she's badder than ever before.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A is for Apple

I finally got off my lazy butt and started working with Umberto on his letter sounds. He's not really thrilled but we managed to have a good time. I drew a huge A on a piece of poster paper, and we looked in magazines for pictures of things that began with A. We drew a few things, and we put up a picture of my brother Adam. I'm sure he'll be thrilled when I tell him. What was really neat though is that after I wrote the word for each picture Umberto insisted that he copy the words himself. It's the first indication he's shown towards writing.

Umberto's always been one of those kids who make dramatic leaps. We always despaired as the milestone timelines came up, and he didn't do anything he was supposed to. He rolled at six months, walked at 16 months, talked at three and a half, etc. Reading is turning out to be the same. One day he hated books, refused to learn his letters, and now he's determined to read and to write. No pushing from us either...In fact he's had to push US to get going. It's amazing.

Of course the girls were not to be left out of the fun. Camille used the stickers her grandpa had sent for her birthday...

Look Ma, using my hands.

And Piper...Well Piper discovered that paint does not taste as good as it looks...

And finally, it great to see the empowered Umberto again. I missed that energy and that total confidence that infused him. School really sucked that out of him. It was heartbreaking to listen to him call himself stupid. He didn't have any faith in his ability to learn. Now he's confident of his own smarts. Once again I see the boy who has total faith in himself.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Reading Hell

Umberto decided he wants to learn to read. Finally. We're not sure what brought this on but one day it was all about reading books. Of course this was until we got down to the serious work of actually learning to read.

Learning to read is just hell, and it's hammered home an important aspect of learning for us. Those steps that lead us to the pleasure are not always pleasurable. My biggest hang up with unschooling is this idea that life is always interesting and...I don't That's not really the right word but it's the best I can come up with right now. Reality is that life is often repetitive and tedious. And the intermediate places between not being able to do something and being able to do something is especially tedious. The pleasure of mastery of comes after the long hard road of learning to master.

So we begin the reading process. What sound does A make? And so on... We're working on making this learning fun. Games, letter books, and other various schemes fill our lives right now. Umberto is game, and though slightly resistant to the whole process is able to see the long term goal. He wants to read comic books so he's trying hard to get through the bog of phonics and sight words.

What he's really learning though is presserverance. In life even the things we love and want to do are often tedious. I do not love being a mother, a wife, a graduate student everyday but I push through because the shining moments of pleasure are worth the dull depths of numbing apathy. And really there is a wonderful feeling of working hard to achieve mastery in anything. There is a bittersweet pleasure in looking back over the road one took to reach their goal. Umberto knows this. In the car last night as we go over his letter sounds, he turned it into a game on his own where he taught Horacio and I. He asked us what sounds went with words and then made up silly questions about the words. He knows that the road is tough but that we can laugh as we move along. He's working hard to get those comic books.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Unexpected Learning

Wednesdays are the days I fully dedicate to the kids. It's a long day for us as Horacio works from nine until nine. I always plan a simple outing to break up the day. It is nothing fancy--a trip to the library, a few hours at the park. Forcing myself out with all three of them is building my confidence to go out more. I think we all look forward to it. Umberto and I spend the morning hour over breakfast deciding where to go. We're both learning to compromise to make the other happy.

Last Wednesday, we decided to go downtown, and then to the grocery store. Downtown Matthews has a caboose surrounded by a raised porch. You can look inside the caboose, and then sit outside for a snack. The best part though is that the train tracks run right beside the porch so if you time it right, you can watch the train from the porch. As we were getting into the car last Wednesday we could hear the train. Umberto looked at me at all sad "Mom we missed the train." I felt bad because we were getting a late start because of me and my computer. I told him that at least we'd get to play on the caboose and that I was sorry.

Imagine our delight when we got downtown to get stuck in traffic. I know that traffic isn't always a good sign but that day we were overjoyed. We turned down a side road and got to the caboose to see the train stopped. As we got out of the car, we saw that a boxcar had become uncoupled from the train. The train was split in two. Umberto was out of the car and on the fence in about five seconds. After a few minutes it became apparent that the train wasn't moving for awhile. We went to the caboose hoping to get a view on the engine, and to eat our snacks.

On the porch, we could see the engine if we leaned over the railing. Umberto watched for awhile but there was no action. He played for awhile at the caboose, and then sat with me to eat his apples and fig newtons.

"What happened to the train Mom?"
"I think it became uncoupled like on Thomas."
"What are they going to do? Will it stay there forever?"
"I don't think it will stay forever. What do you think they'll do?"
"I don't know."
"Well what happens on Thomas?"
"They have to couple the cars together again."
"Yeah, and how do you think they'll do that?"

Before Umberto could answer, there was a loud clank as the train started to move. The engine pulled its half of the train away, leaving the uncoupled car and cars behind it on the track. Umberto was pretty excited and we speculated that they would probably bring a tow train back to get the cars.

But that didn't happen. Instead the train came back with a man riding on the ladder that lead to the top of the box car. He waved to us, and Umberto almost bounced over the railing in excitement. He couldn't believe someone was riding on the car like that. We followed the train over to where the box cars were separated. Umberto watched as the man knocked a bad part of the links, and then instructed the engineer by walkietalkie to back the train up until the links clanged together loudly. He then connected the hoses between the cars, and hammered a huge iron nail into the links. When he was done, he radioed the engineer to send air through the hoses to the boxcar that had come unlinked. Then he began the long walk back to engine. After about ten minutes the train started up again taking the lost cars with it. We counted the cars as they slowly built up speed and sped by.

What occurred to me as Umberto chatted about what he had seen is that if he had been in school he would have missed this learning experience. Learning happens not just in everyday living but in those wonderful unexpected moments that pop in everyday life. Due to an accident he learned about how trains are coupled together, and what happens when they become uncoupled. He learned about problem solving and proposing hypothesis. And we all learned that being late is sometimes the best thing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Who's Got the Time?

An interesting thing happened when we decided to unschool Umberto. We had a week before we (the adults) returned to school, and during that week we forgot about time. We stopped going to bed at nine, and getting up at seven. Lunch was not served at twelve. These things did not cease to happen. Rather they flowed into our lives in what really seemed like a more natural extension of our needs. We went to bed when we were tired. We got up when we were rested. We ate when we were hungry. We never looked at the clock. We stopped making plans to be at places at certain times. We gave vague promises: "We'll be there around 11."

For some this may seem not all that radical. For me it was a huge revelation. I am one of those people who show a half hour early to my appointments. I hate being late for anything. You won't catch me being fashionably late to the party. No way. As a mother of three, it fustrated me when it took forever to get out the door. There was lots of shouting, pushing, and sighs of irriation as I put on many pairs of little socks, shoes, and coats. Going places was miserable for all of us.

And routines! Oy. They were a chain around our necks. Horacio and I are not good at enforcing routines. We'd spend a week dealing with the crying and screaming of bedtime, and then the next week we'd just give up. I think we enforced routines more out of a sense of "this is what we're supposed to do" than because we wanted to. Good parents make their kids go to bed at eight right? Good parents provide stability through routine. I'm not sure where this idea came from but it is ingrained in both Horacio and mine's heads.

So for a week we just let it go. We lived like we had nothing else to do but live. And peace descended. Seriously. With nothing to fight over, we were all happier. I stopped shouting as did umpired. Horacio showed a lot more patience. We played more. The kids did sleep when they were tired, and in fact, seemed to be a lot more willing to sleep. They even ate better. It was simply amazing at how much stress we relieved by just forgetting about the clock. And indeed we did fall into a kind of routine.

Unfortunately the real world intruded a week later. Now that we're back in school, it's much harder to maintain this sort of life. The kids stay up a lot later than normal because they want to see Horacio and me (our classes get out late), and they wake up too early to see Horacio off. I feel the need to organize again as I organize my own work around their lives. I love school but I find myself fantazing about a world where there are not schedules. Where we just do what we need to do without having to worry about time.

But still a lesson arose from this time: trust the children. I realized during that blissful week that our kids really do know what they need. I have faith that Umberto will learn as he lives. He knows what he needs, and I have to trust him.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

You ain't got a thing, if you ain't got that swing...

Swinging is the bomb.

Who can resist an empty swing on a crisp day?

The joy of the first swing through the air...