Monday, March 26, 2012

In the Beginning (again)

Popular legend in my family portrays me as the catalyst that "saved" my family. According to the story, my four year old self "convicted" my family with the direness of their sins and lead them to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. This was a lot of responsibility to place on the shoulders of a preschooler but in our world even the young were chosen to serve God.

My religious world was not a world into which I was born. My very earliest memories do not have any religious overtones. But those memories are only fragments from fading photos. Blue night gowns. Fisher Price circus trains. A cat. My religious memories are sharper more there and present when I think back on my life. They are the moments that informed many years of my life and even now shape who I am.

Like most mothers in our small town, my mom used vacation Bible school as a break from our crazy summer energy. I suspect also that while we did not attend church regularly, she still wanted us to have some kind of foundation in Christianity. For a week, a white school bully with "Trinity Methodist Church" in purple on the side made its way down my street picking up children from the various apartment houses. We'd climb in our white tank tops, cut off shorts, and dirty knees, hot and resentful of losing any of our precious summer time. Soon we'd be deposited on the side walk outside the gray stone church with it's stately belfry and tastefully stained glass windows. We were a pretty ragged looking bunch as most of us were the town's poor. While we made up the majority of families in our dying industry town, we  were still the lowest of the low.The other kids, the ones who parents worked at the paper mill were away at summer camp. We dutifully filled the seats in basement rooms giving earnest volunteers meaning in the hot July summer.

For five days we were soft served Jesus in coloring sheets, sweet crafts and a snack. At the end of the day, we were lead up to the chapel where we learned to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves All the Children." The elderly pastor would tell us a more or less boring story about this Jesus guy. We would go home with a cheap plastic prize and have our craft hung on the fridge with Scotch tape. We would then run outside to the freedom of no adults and hot summer sun until it was dark, and we were forced inside by the resounding of echos of our mother's voices.

In my memory, there is the musky smell of the church's old basement followed by the stuffy heat of the sanctuary. The warm sun sent rays of colors across our bare legs. Jesus was a pleasant person in the old pastor's wavering voice. I cam to associate Jesus with the warm feelings generated by VBS. He was higher than all of us but he wasn't like the mean kids with better clothes. Instead Christ was benign like the women who served us apple juice and AP brand sandwich cookies. Everyone was kind and gentle here even if they did talk to us like we were slow. People didn't yell here. They weren't sad. Everyone spoke in carefully modulated tones that blended with flowery perfume to create an affable if sleepy atmosphere. There was a complacent peace to the whole affair that was a bit appealing to a child from a rather explosive home life. None of the passion from my family, no boisterous energy that my family generated had a place in this sober world.

And this feeling was what propelled me to go up to the front on the last day when the old past asked if we wanted "Jesus to be our special friend." I was not quite sure what that mean but to me Jesus was this limp calm, this placid ennui that I associated with these sweet old ladies and the old man up front. Jesus was like a kind rich man who would give out candy and cheap plastic toys. He seemed like the kind of guy one wanted to have as a friend. Now years later I wonder how that Jesus managed to propel me into making my family realized their own destruction. How did this Christ become the angry Christ that threw sinners into the lake of fire? How did this peaceful setting lead to the passionate cry of tongues and the riotous chaotic energy of dancing in the spirit? How did this benign God lead to a grandmother prophetess?

Out There

As I uploaded pictures to Facebook, I reflected momentarily on how we look like we're always doing something. Picture after picture of roams in the woods, chilling in cafes, walking downtown, doing things with our friends. If you were to base our life on these pictures, I thought, you would think that we are always out. And then I realized we really are out there...a lot.

When we were choosing a house in Athens, we did look at a couple of places that were bigger with slightly higher rents. But in the end, we decided on a lower rent, a smaller house and a great walkable neighborhood. It was a good choice. Our house is not so small that we drive each other insane. We all have space if we need it. But we are not ever far from each other. Not that matters because our life is not just in here; it is out there. We live in Athens, GA. We live in its parks, its cafes, its library, its bookstores, its streets.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cats and well more Cats...

I realize it's been a while since I've updated about our homeschooling life. We're still having lots of fun outside of the house. I don't think our home school life would be complete without lots of walks, creeks, and small adventures.
 The girls are getting ever more adventuresome and lately it's been walking across logs. These logs it should be noted are usually crossing streams or lakes (Camille fell into a pond a few months ago). H was a little nervous about this one as it was pretty high up so he joined them to offer help.

 Beastie Boy is an awesome big brother. I always think there will be a special bond between these two as he was there for right from the beginning.

The Fam being fab. We make quite a gang whenever we go out:)

Athens has lots of wonderful places to play. We go downtown quite a bit. Last week the beasties had a lesson in civil protest when we brought them to an Anti-Walmart rally.
 They want to build a Walmart in the downtown area which is so absurd. The downtown area is just to small for that kind of structure, and in addition,Walmart just sucks.

Here are the girl beasties just chillin' while we listen to speakers.

 We've done projects. Here the beasties are making cookie Roman columns aka Story of the World. I've been using her curriculum off and on since Fall, and kind of decided to go with it in January. We're supplementing with tons of other books of course. And we are so not regular or steady with it. Shocking I know.

 There have been dance parties.
And field trips...chocolate making fun here.

For the most part we're still rather laid back. As always I have grand plans on Sunday that kind of fall apart by Tuesday. We're doing a lot outside the home now. The girls are doing Girl Scout's and a craft club. Camille wants to take knitting lessons this summer. Umberto is going to start guitar lessons soon. We have a regular set of friends we go hang out with during various days of the weeks. And while I am reassured that my beasties do well on their own I do feel like we need to push certain areas now that Umberto is getting older (12 in June!!!!). He's expressed wanting to go to college so I kind of laid out what would have to happen for him to get accepted. Since that conversation he's gone willing to his work when asked. Camille is another story, and I struggle to find a balance between pushing her and letting her do her own thing.

They are creative and resourceful which I deep down believe is really key to living a full life. Even their computer play of late has been role playing Warrior cats on Roblox with various other users. Camille has been using tutorials to make Manga Warrior cats, she even taught Umberto to draw them.

Piper knows all the stories because of Umberto and Camille retelling them to her. Now they're busy thinking about creating a Warriors role playing game like Dungeon and Dragons. This kind of thinking keeps me from despairing too much over my big FAIL with a strict curriculum.

And finally...R is one sassy baby. She's fit right into our lives...hard to believe she wasn't always with us.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Life Without Facebook

I deactivated my Facebook account for the rest of Lent. After a series of events that left me feeling angry, pissy, and insecure, I decided that not only did I need a break, but that I needed some space. The things that were making me so upset were mostly likely stemming from my own questioning of where I am in my life.

We are also shaped by those around us, that is something I believe with great conviction. I do not buy that we chisel ourselves from out of some kind of biological rock. I am not convinced that we have a special "inner self" that is our true self which will lead us to great heights of authenticity. Rather I suspect that authenticity is really a piecing together of all that is around us. We become what we are exposed too...we add what makes senses to us or speaks to us. Sometimes these things come from the most noble places, and other times, not so much.

And it has seemed to me that too often Facebook falls into the not so much category. With Facebook there is a barrage of voices.Too many all at once. I have friends on Facebook that come from so many pieces of my life: school, work, the past, parenting, home schooling, music, etc. And while before it was easy to contain these people in their respective roles in my life, on Facebook, they are everywhere. I see their feeds, their posts. I know their opinions of everything from potty training to religion to politics to their views on spanking. It has become over-whelming. I find myself second guessing so many decisions with which I used to feel comfortable.No I don't think questioning is necessarily bad but these are decisions I have already spent months questioning. I am not the most secure person, and at times, I struggle with the missteps I make as I navigate the world. Those missteps lead me to new places. They expose the cracks in everything as Leonard Cohen sings. But when on Facebook, it is not the cracks that bombard me. It is the cement we all too often stuff into those cracks.