Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Busy..doing stuff

So my to do list for the week looks like this:

-grade 70 article reviews
-grade 70 tests
-type up notes for article
-read book for class I'm sitting in on
-call Lego store to get email address for class on Wednesday
-take care of clean clothes
-diaper laundry
-make lactation bars
-make dinners for week
-homeschool beasties including but not limited to making an ocean floor map complete with animals, paint clay brain, and finish Book I of History of US. Maybe do math.
-go to Lego store which is really far away with screaming baby
-go to McDowell park with one of my best mom pals
-go apple picking on Saturday
-design the blog I'm going to write with my mom

And at some point, I really need to add "Do graduate school applications." I used to feel really over-whelmed when I looked at my to do lists. Now I've accepted that the world will not end if I don't finish everything on the list. Sometimes the right choice is to lay with R and nurse her. I love lying down to nurse the baby beastie. It's one of those quiet, still moments that I think everyone should have one way or another. Once we're done though it's back to high speed.

The major thing on my mind is trying to come up with a plan for Toronto. After my great awakening, I decided to actively seek out scholars who were doing the things I'm interested in and I remembered that wonderful post-advisor had recommended a book on homebirths and religion. Well fast forward to me reading said book and being like "Whoa I need to work this woman." So I emailed post haste, and received a response. Of course Toronto wants a fully developed project. Yikes! I've been making myself mad going through about a hundred ideas for a project. I'm going to list them and look for insight from my wonderful readers.

1. Looking at working class/poor woman and birth. Is it religious for them as it was for the woman whom I am reading about. How does class effect how women see birth and religion?
2. Midwives who see their profession as a religious vocation.
3. (This is my favorite: Looking at attachment parenting in terms of those who are religiously conservative with an eye to how they use on line boards like Mothering. How do they use religion to formulate their ideas about parenting? How do they reconcile being among people who believe very differently than they do about everything but parenting? This of course could lead to some awesome ideas about the internet as religious space.
4. Quiverfuly families.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ginger Does Life

After a crippling intellectual breakdown, life got on with itself. I have way too little time for these existential angst moments. I went hiking. I cared for the littlest beastie. I did something vaguely resembling school with the older beasties (we made clay brains!). I taught my classes. I cooked food. I went to Virgina to see my brother. And I came to the realization that really I'm not much suited for anything but the bloody academy. I hit a fence, folks, and I decided to tear it down.

I meet with some friends to discuss grad. school thinking it would help me to make a decision. It did not do this. Instead we seemed to talk ourselves in circles. H and I talked on the way home but I was still just not sure where to go. I had done a tarot reading (yes I do that) earlier that day and the cards, feeding off of me, captured the situation perfectly, including my indecision. It was apparent that no one or nothing was going to just make a decision for me.

When I got home, I needed to do some fast reading for a class (I am sitting in on a class with the best post-advisor ever. He lets me bring R (who sleeps the whole time). This guy seriously needs to be at a place that does Ph. D so I can have him for an advisor again). I'm reading this article. Typical, rather dry, sociological stuff. It's all about working class kids who go to college. And how they have to let go of their past to move on...and the next thing I know I'M CRYING. H and I talked this stuff out for about two hours. I realized I was tired of fighting. Of not fitting in. I can't play the game as well as those who were raised in this class. My speech betrays me. My past comes knocking when I don't want it to...I am always in the middle in this world. Not quite of the academy and no longer part of the poor. I am in between. Betwixt. I am scared. I am afraid that not knowing the game plan will lead to failure.

Upon waking the next morning, I'm pissed. Filled with a righteous anger. I am going to rip that fence out of the ground. The academy needs people like me. It needs those who come from the poor. It needs woman. Mothers. Baby bearers. Students need to see me wearing my baby to class before her daddy picks her up. It's that simple. Plus I am good at this (ignore the poor writing of my blog, I really can write). And with that fighting thought, I realize I can combine my passion for birth and mothering with my passion for the academy. There is lots of room in religion for the topic of mothering, birthing and children. I'm now piecing together a new project that has me really excited.

And all the while, I'm doing life.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Identity Crisis

I saw a bumper sticker on a car at the birth center that read "Who are all these children and why are they calling me Mom?" Welcome to my world. Everywhere I go, I hear "Wow you've got your hands full don't you?" And I've started to answer "Happily so yes!" The other day I got a nice surprise when a Walmart greeter said "Good for you" to H and I upon hearing that R was our fourth. It's nice to not always here criticism. Frankly, however, I am just as surprised as anyone that I have so many beasties.

As those of you faithfully follow my blog know, I struggle with this woman who bears children. I consider myself a feminist yet I can not deny that my happiest days are days spent surrounded by my little beastlings. I ADORE being a mom (note I do not say  housekeeper because I so do not ADORE housekeeping). Yet I feel as if I betrayed that fiery young feminist from so long ago. I'm raising fierce girls, I tell her. My son is sensitive and allowed to cry! But is it enough...?

With the birth of my fourth child, I am at a crossroads. I have completed my masters. I am proud of that accomplishment. Very proud. It was a long road and I feel that I created a piece of scholarship that is really mine (with the help of many great minds of could argue that nothing is truly one's own). Perhaps, I ponder, this earns me feminist points. The thesis is about women, their lives, and their struggles.  After all, I completed it as a mom to three. I worked outside of the home. Equally shared responsibility with my partner (who is a man..and oh what a man!). But lately I have even begun to wonder if this is what that young feminist envisioned.

When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to help. I wanted to do something magnificent that would make life easier for people. As I grew into that feminist young woman, I wanted that something to have an effect on the lives of women. Of course, I had to reconcile that desire with the reality that the academy doesn't seem to effect the multitude very much. And eventually I just has to accept that my desire for an academic life was selfish. I was good at it and I enjoyed it.

But I am a mother. An unashamed mother. I feel like the academy would like me to be ashamed. Would like to me meekly roll over and let childless women do what I'm doing. I felt like my pregnancy was seen as a big failure by so many of those I had just proved myself to. And now as I look at a PhD program, I know I will likely have to keep my family quiet. Secret. But I am not ashamed, and I wonder how much of myself I would compromise if I never spoke of my family to those I study under and with. It feels like it would be a betrayal of some fundamental part of myself. And you know what? My feminist young self would have hated that. It would have disgusted her.

I keep going back to the midwife idea. I would be helping women. I would be advocating for birth and women's choice in birth (something I believe in quite passionately). I don't think my many children would be seen as a liability. But there are as many doubts as there are things that make me excited. Am I too old to embark on a totally different career? Would I actually like delivering babies or is just the idea that appeals to me? Would I be bored without that academic life that I really do find stimulating?

My identity is shifting again, and at 38 I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Friday, September 03, 2010


Before bed this evening, my girls sat on the chair together. Camille was reading Piper a book. She looked up at me and said "I just love to read to Piper." And Piper added "I love it when Camille reads to me." They were the picture of sibling bliss. Never mind that earlier today they were tearing at each other. Pushing and pulling hair. Sobbing of course. This was only a minor skirmish in the daily battles. There had been name calling, stealing of each other's toys, whispered threats.

 The girls bicker all the time. There are constant battles involving name calling and sometimes even resort to physical violence. Throughout the day, they tear at me to be the moderator in their battles which seem so petty to me but are momentous to them. Again and again I hear "Just ignore them." "Let them work it out themselves." I read books about siblings rivalry. I try to be careful with my words so that they do not feel labeled. And yet they battle on...asking me to be a witness to what I see as petty disagreements.

But for the girls, these are passionate war fares. Camille storms about with tears and flying hair. She sweeps through the room in an agony of angst over her sister's cruel words. Piper sobs big tears that drop onto my am  because Camille has broken hear. They languish on the couch begging to me listen to their complaints. I tell them "Work it out!" But they don't. They look at me with accusing eyes. I am supposed to be the witness.

Maybe it's not the most researched or recommended way to deal with sibling wars but I have begun to listen. I don't say scripted words. Sometimes I just hold tiny bodies on my laps while the story pours onto me. I am often surprised by the intensity of their pain. And when they are done with this outpouring, I am equally surprised by how quickly they fall in love with each other again. They only want my ear, they only want to record this bloody history somewhere. They do not want me to punish the other girl, or to even take sides. I am the witness.

Then they turn from me and towards each other.

Vacation Bible School

There is a story in my family that has become legend as stories are apt to do in families. In this story, I convert my whole family to Christianity. It's an impossible story because my family always leaned toward Christianity. But it's a good story that has roots. Those kind of stories are only pulled up with a great amount of soil.

In this story, I go to "Vacation Bible School." These kind of programs run every summer with churches vying to lure the unchurched to church through their children. They usually run for a week and involve summer themes like "Fun With the Son!" Note the clever pun with "son." I went to many as did most of the neighbors. They provide a chance for our parents to get a break from us. They were fun. Lots of crafts with a few obligatory services that were made bearable with puppets and songs.

I dimly remember the VBS that started it all. It was held at a Baptist Church on Madison Ave. It was a gray stone building that looked properly like a church. A white school bus picked us up each morning at nine. We began the day with a prayer in the sanctuary and then were taken downstairs, divvied by age, into various rooms. In these rooms, we learned Bible verses and made crafts that had something vaguely to do with the Bible verses. The end of the day was spent back in the sanctuary. It was here that the legend began.

During the last afternoon of VBS, the sermon was a call to salvation. The church was not radical. It was an old fashion kind of Baptist church that was losing its members to death. In it's own gentle way, salvation was a given. There was no hell fire and brimstone in the old pastor. But I was four. And at four I tended to follow what the other kids were doing. So when the pastor invited us to give our hearts to Jesus, and I watched the older kids obediently trot down (this was old school to them), I decided that maybe I should give my heart to Jesus. I doubt if I even knew what it meant but the older kids were doing it and they got a fair amount of attention for doing it. Thus did i give my hear to Jesus. And I got a little white pocket Bible for doing so...

That's what I remember. The little gray church on the corner with its grand stained glass window. A white school bus bring us to the church where staunch middle age Baptist ladies taught us to do crafts with white paper plates and glitter. And that little white Bible that I thought was so pretty.

What my family remembers is a little four year old coming home with the fire of God inside her. This little girl delivers a sermon powerful in its innocence about the perils of hell. She implores them with tears in her eyes to accept Jesus into their hearts. And of course they are all convicted. Thus the little girl brought her family to God.

Eventually they will use this story like a weapon.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

And so we begin...

Even though I consider our learning to be an all year around kind of thing, we are not immune to the aisles of school supplies that fill every department store in the US come August. Kitten folders, shark notebooks, new pencils, pens with green ink, sharp, unbroken crayons! How can we resist the allure of these wonderful creation tools? I certainly can't and neither can the beasties. So we purchased shiny new things to start of our "school year" alongside the school kids.

Time is a funny thing. It's not just that buying school supplies is a "tradition" we have fallen into without thought. Rather it's that H and I have centered our lives around school. We just recently got done being students and are now teachers. We plan on being students again, and hope to spend the rest of lives as professors. Our lives for a very long time center around a school year not a year as many see it. For me, the year doesn't really begin in January but rather August. The feeling of a new start totally doesn't hit me in January. Nope it comes with the first day of classes. To me that is the real start of a  year. New students. New syllabus. Another chance to perfect the class. I suspect that our children are infected by this spirit as well.

Plus I have ironed out a plan with which H and I feel comfortable. Neither of us want do school at home but we're not entire comfortable for unschooling for various reasons that I won't even start on here (although maybe some day I'll feel up a good debate on it). We do feel strongly that children should have a big say in their education and their education should be centered around their interest while encouraging them to explore also beyond their comfort zone. Basically what I did is sit with each kid and come up with a list of things they and I felt they should/want to learn this year. We also came up with various ways they could go about that learning. Each week I make a chart with the subjects listed, and a loose guideline of what they need to do. They then go about doing the list when and how they choose. I'll update with how it goes.

I also cleaned up our supply area to make it more accessible to the beasties.
I am totally loving my Ikea shelves. The ability to use different size bins rocks. The big white bin for example has a bunch of puppets. And our poor underused easel. I only have it up because if I put it away someone has a fit.
This is where I store all our "creation material." Here you will find paints, glitter, magazines, bits of yarn and other fun creation stuff.
My lovely model, Camille, is posing by her bin. Each of the beasties has their own bin where they store their binders, special books, etc.

The tall shelf in the corner is a mixed lot of books.

I love how it looks but am not sure how long I can maintain the neatness and organization.