Saturday, July 16, 2011

Midnight Snacks and More Important Things

I had poured my cooking cocktail, peeled my first onion and grabbed my knife when I got an invite from my friend-ish type person to dinner. (Instead of friend-ish type person, I'd like to say beautiful blonde with haunting vulnerabilities whom I completely love and she feeds me and nothing brings nearer to loving anyone than when they feed me, but instead I'll go with friend-ish type person because I really haven't known her that long). I abandoned that onion, and the boys and I headed to her place.

However, there is really no food in the fridge, and The Man is on the way home now. The Man has indicated that he is hungry so gaily, I have headed into the kitchen to make him some grub. It's two in the morning, two thirty actually. I've only made taco meat for super nachos so it's really nothing compared to the midnight ode to the pig tapas that he made me on Wednesday or the scallops, mussels and white wine sauce that he made me last Wednesday at midnight.

I love our life sometimes. I'm listening to every version of Friend of the Devil that I can find on youtube while I let meat simmer and wait for The Man. Not having a day job and being married to a chef lends itself to a schedule that feels kinda like being a rock star. A very very poor rock star with no instruments who never goes on tour....  but now my favorite waiter has arrived with my husband so I'll finish this post in a bit.

It's morning now, afternoon rather. Last night, we had a beer, listened to our music and Meetsauce, the waiter, regaled us with his tales. The guy is an incredible story teller, humorous, poignant, well delivered. I love his stories and admire his narrative technique a lot. I excused myself at about 4AM and fell asleep to the sounds of Meetsauce and The Man talking. Falling asleep to voices is always comforting.

Comforting. When so many things can feel discomfiting or annoying. However, the thing is when you really think about all of the petty questions that I let discomfit me or that any of us let trouble our minds, they're really actually very small issues. Should I put the kids in school or not. Is my house clean enough. Will a day job answering phones kill my soul. Are my kids going to break something running around the grocery store. How am I going to pay that traffic ticket that I got yesterday. These are all small things that we let encumber ourselves when we lose track of the big picture.

But back to midnight snacks. We took a cab home from the fourth of July party that we were at, put the kiddos to bed, and then headed to the backyard. The Man lit a fire in the pit and grilled up some steaks and blue cheese sauce for a truly excellent midnight snack.

But while we were munching and chatting about the guests that had been at the party. Maybe even while we were talking about one guest in particular and whether or not she was wearing mismatched socks. She was being destroyed. Raped. Assaulted. Her apartment set on fire. And then, later, while we were sleeping, she managed to stumble out of the smoke, jump out her window, get found and get taken to the hospital. And while I was running out of gas and worrying about what to cook for dinner guests or anything else that we do in an average week, she sat in a coma. And that's it. That's what we have to remember, that most of the shit that we let weigh lay ourselves is nothing. The sun rises, it sets, and that woman might never be okay again.

One minute, she and I are smoking an American Spirit together and the next minute, she's in a nightmare. The world is tragic sometimes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

School? What the Heck to Do?

Usually when I write here, I've been kicking ideas around for a while, but I haven't been on this issue so if it sounds disorientated, you'll know why.

Urgh, school? I suppose that we have to decide whether or not our kids are going to school.

I have always been opposed to the idea, but thanks to the midlife crisis, I have realized two things: 1) I need some space. 2) I need a little financial autonomy. It seems like the reasonable way to get either of these things is to put the kids in school and get a job. However, doing that does not mitigate any of the issues that I have with school. (And it's not like anyone is just handing out jobs).

I think school is relatively pointless and the only interest I have in it is using it as free daycare. I don't think most people learn much there. I think it's socially damaging to a lot of people. I think it's a waste of time. I think it's oppressive to boys in particular. I think it would disrupt our family life.

This laundry list of complaints really does nothing to describe my real issues with the thing. I could talk for hours about the subject.  I've read a huge range of homeschooling books from the one by the crazy Christian who thinks that you should buy art books and black out the naughty bits to teach your kids about classic art to the free-wheeling unschooling tracts, but the one that I admired the most was Family Matters by David Gutterson. He doesn't take a side on the school at home versus the unschooling debate, and he explains that through human history, people have learned both on their own and been tutored on topics. Although he feels that education is important, one of his primary objectives in keeping his children at home is strengthening the family bond, and that is what actually seems the most important to me too.

I love how the boys play together and help each other out. Sure, they could do that if they went to school, but then it would have to just be school. If they, for instance, took school and soccer, they would be gone from early morning til seven at night two days a week. That leaves no time for dinner or helping each other out or whatever it is that boy 2 does when he gathers together a strobe light, a few burnt out bulbs, some rubber gloves, an old plank, and various hardware.

It seems like we've just warmed up to summer. Yesterday, we biked to the river, and they frolicked on the flooded banks. In the middle of our blueberry and fried chicken snack, we found the crown jewel of the day, a dead baby muskrat. That led to a decapitation on the dining room table and quite a bit of internet research. Today, we went swimming and hiking and swimming. Last year, we spent most of the summer in the natural areas. We would walk and bike miles and spend up to eight hours on a single day's Odyssey. When the neighborhood kids went to school was when summer seemed the ripest: The cicadas sang the loudest, the fireflies were dense, and the heat was oppressive. School starts in about four weeks, and I don't know if I can in good conscious send my kids to sit inside all day when the cicadas are making that much noise.

All I can do now is think about it. And I can also try very very hard not to corner my husband into a position. (I'm prone to doing that).

Ideally, I would get a night/evening job so that I would accomplish the two things noted above. It would have to pay well enough to hire a babysitter because The Man works at night too. If the stars aligned and that happened, they wouldn't have to go to school, and it would all be relatively perfect.        

Friday, July 8, 2011

All I Can Think of

The boys are in bed early. The man has gone out for the night so I am blissfully alone for what seems like the first time in ages. Music. Writing. It's a beautiful thing.

I closed a particular chapter of crazy in my life. It was hedonistic and amazing, and it made me feel like I was twenty-four which is what I had been craving, but I'm glad it's closed. I've felt more calm than usual lately.

But I'm thinking of the time that somebody said, "I want to go to the woods and build bird houses, but my wife isn't into that." And I said, "You've had fifty-three years to move to the woods. Don't blame your wife; You've only known her for two years." And then, of course, he killed himself.

That was sad. very sad.

Fifty-three. Sometimes that shit happens.

I named my third son's middle name after him.   

And I think it was really the shitty anti-depressants that killed him, but I can't help but think that my rancor over his dream to build bird houses didn't help.

Four years later, I still have the coat with the milk stains on it. The stains from the leaky jug of milk that I bought on the way home from his funeral. Maybe it's time to take that coat to the dry cleaner.

The stains of life get me sometimes. They're the reason that I hate washing my jeans.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Stand Here Ironing

Okay, I am not actually ironing nor do I even own an iron (I believe the man has one secreted away in a closet for special occasions). I do, however, think the nod to Tillie Olsen is appropriate when one is writing about the oldest child. 

If referencing what I am currently doing, a more accurate title would be "I sit here drinking coffee watching my first born in his morning routine of basking in a sun beam and playing with his morning wood". 

And that is why I always lose home school debates because I come out with something totally brilliant like, "I think school is too demanding and kids need more time for pre-pubescent masturbation in early morning sun light." 

And now, he flips to his stomach to feel the sun on his back. 

My son. He's the one who still doesn't read and barely knew the alphabet a few months ago although he's nearly eight. He's the one who primarily made me want to home school.

I fully recognize that the part of him who wants to troll the wine section at the liquor store because "I just love how organized it all is" would love school and its straight lines and cubicles. But I also know that other part of him, the part that has never lets him embrace a regular sleep schedule (sleeping one night seven hours, one night fifteen hours) and the part of him that is over-stimulated and needs a lot of time to wind down would hate the craziness of it, would hate that he had to rush to get dressed, rush to the bus and never or rarely ever bask in the morning sun. 

Apparently, I have the task of deciding between those two sides and what's best for him. 

Almost eight years ago, feeling relatively unready, I birthed him. Big and unable to latch, he wailed. And he wailed.  I waited for someone to claim him, to show me what to do, to take over, but no one came. And at that moment, I realized I had the arduous task of caring for him in this world. 

And am I going to fuck up sometimes or more likely a lot of the time? Of course I am. I believe, and Tillie may have implied, that raising the first born is an inevitable fuck-up on the journey to raising the rest of the lot.  

Seriously, though, Minger, he doesn't read? Shouldn't you be a little concerned? 

Even if you home school him, Minger, surely, you must have thought that he should read by now? He's almost eight for gosh sake's and as your mother said, kids now days are reading at five.

Alright, here's where I am regarding reading: We love to read. I read all the time. The man (I almost upgraded him to my husband but I like the tone of the man better) reads. Knowledge is no stranger in this house. 

Even my illiterate first born claims to have read Harry Potter 1 through 7 and claims that he is currently reading Little House on the Prairie, but he has conflated listening to books  on CD with actually reading them. (Incidentally, he's receptive reading abilities are top notch.)

However, I would contend that most of the early reading advocates conflate decoding with reading, and I would further assert that all the lowered scores in reading comprehension that we are now seeing on even a post collegiate level are directly tied with the fact that early reading as decoding penetrates a good portion of a reader's reading lifetime.

So, no, I don't think early reading is important. Being read to? Yes, extremely important. Knowing that books are awesome sources of knowledge and entertainment? Yes, important. Learning the alphabet when you're three? Pointless (unless you're ready for it which some kids are).

This kid, however, certainly was not. We have tried to read with a phonics approach, and he doesn’t get it at all. I may as well try to teach Sarah Palin how to not mix a metaphor. It's painful. 

If he's not ready and it's too frustrating, I'm simply not going to force the issue. He sees the advantages of reading, and I'm sure that someday he'll want to. 

The last time we tried, he hated it. It went horribly, and I decided that the best thing to do was to just back off. I told him that I would wait until he wanted to learn. He petulantly said that it would be at least two years.

However, we've been talking about going to school, and he realizes that he should learn to read a bit if he's going to go. So, he's interested. We found a linguistic based approach that doesn't rely on phonics, and he really likes it. When he read his first sentence, he beamed at me and hugged me three times which is rare for him.

So, he'll learn to read. I'm not too worried about that. What I'm more worried about is that he's the first born. He's the one that says, "Mama, I'll take Holdy and watch over him. C'mon, Holdy." He's the one who feels confident and ready enough to ride three miles to his Pokemon league by himself with a bottle of water and my phone number in his pocket. He's the one who notices everything. Tangible things. Emotional Things. He's the most empathetic one, but he also seems to have the largest penchant for cruelty.  

But when he's naked and stretched into a yoga-like pose with his arms on my shoulders while he stands in the kitchen and earnestly tells me his plan for something, I wonder one thing. I don't wonder whether he'll learn to read because he will, and I don't wonder whether or not he has a penchant for cruelty or anything else. 

But I look at him, and I wonder if I spend enough time loving him. I wonder if he knows or if he gets pushed to the side because he's usually so capable, and I usually have something else to do. 

And I think I should spend more time doing that. Loving him.

And that, more realistically, is what Tillie implied, and I ask myself if anyone can ever do justice to this difficult endeavor of raising the first born.