Monthly Archives: August 2013

2 Months of Crazy – A Big Fat F For This Stay-At-Home Mom

I’m just finishing up my second month staying at home with my 11-month old twin boys. I wrote a post about my very first day here.

Since that first day, things may or may not have gone a little bit downhill.

What’s been going on in the Buckman-Shaar household? Where do I start?

In the last 60 days, we’ve hosted a baby blessing for a close friend, planned and executed a Great Gatsby-themed fundraiser for almost 100 people, hosted a vegan potluck brunch for 50, hosted a fundraising event for our local Equality Florida folks (gotta do our part to help get gay marriage passed in Florida), and lord…I don’t even remember what other events. They were all fabulous, and I wanted to do them all.

During those 60 days, I also went to Chicago to a blogging conference for a week, and decided to throw myself into this blogging business.

We had three different sets of house guests in our home.

We bought an above-ground pool off of Craigslist and have been working our butts off making it nice and neat and lovely. What I thought would be a small job (how hard can it be to slap up a pool?) turned into an entire backyard excavation project.

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I could go on, but the purpose of this post is not to brag “Hey, I’ve so GOT this stay-at-home thing. I do 20 Pinterest projects every day, BAM.”

It’s actually the opposite. If this were a job, I think I can officially say that I failed my 2-month review of staying at home.

Why? I did not meet my goals and objectives. I left work to be able to spend time with the boys. To really enjoy this. To do it. I dreamed of play dates (I’ve had one) and trips to the library for book time (nope) and really nesting in my home. (this place is trashed.)

Instead, what happened is I filled my plate up to overflowing, because I could.  They were all things I loved, but it didn’t matter. I heard something wise at the BlogHer conference I went to in Chicago. The things you say “no” to are more important than the things you say “yes” to.  Saying no to things you don’t want to do is the easy part. Do you want to travel through Texas on a cramped sweaty-smelling Greyhound bus? No thank you.

But, saying no to things you are passionate about – that make you feel on fire – that is the hard part.

But we have to do it. Why?

Because if we don’t, we end up depleted, exhausted, cranky. And that doesn’t much make sense, does it?

So, my challenge for myself over the next 60 days is to chill the fuck out. I mean seriously. There are no awards to be won for staying busy. I have worked so hard to be able to be present in my life – filling my hours with things and beings that I love. I have got to turn things down – to say no more often. And I need to stop fancying myself an unpaid event planner. My new mantra is this “Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you should.”

Why? Because this is how the boys look when I fill my plate up too much:

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Because I want more moments like these right here:

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This post was in response to a writing prompt that asks you to talk about a current challenge you’re undergoing. You can read more on this topic from my lovely blogger friends here.

 

 

 

Back to School? 4 Reasons We Might Homeschool Instead

The boys are the ripe old age of 11 months, and I’m already thinking about school. Why? It’s back-to-school for Duval county today and my Facebook news feed is packed with kids starting kindergarten, or 3rd grade, or high school. It makes me nostalgic from when Ophelia and Dakota were in school. The excitement of seeing them running up the steps of their elementary school, with their new backpack, freshly cut hair, and smiles on their faces.

It also makes me think of my own schooling. I adored school, and abhorred summer. To me, school was a place where I could excel. I loved the discipline, my friends, the learning. Those first few weeks of school were always a tonic to me – fresh, clean and potent with possibility.

But my rosy school experience is not everyone’s. People choose to homeschool for a wide variety of reasons. The U.S. Department of Education very wisely decided it should know why, so conducted a study to see why homeschooling has become the biggest trend in education, with over 1.5 million children being educated outside of traditional school.

Home School - Why?

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES).

The graph above is interesting, but I think that 9% other has a lot going on in it. We are considering homeschooling, and for us, it’s about the following. I reserve the right to change my mind, but here’s why I’m considering it, at least while they’re young.

WhyHomeschool

1. We want to travel the country.

The thing about school is, you’re suddenly on the school’s schedule, instead of your own. Steph and I love to travel, and do so quite frequently. We have dreams of taking the boys to all the national parks, one by one. Of taking cross-country road trips to visit historical sites. We just found out that because August has Down syndrome, he – and up to 4 car passengers – all get a FREE LIFETIME PASS to all of our national parks. I’m pretty obsessed with our national park system, so we will be all over that one. And, I’d prefer to do that traveling in off-seasons, when most of the country is in school.

Traveling to all these places is going to take a while!

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Image credit: Maps of World: http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/national-parks/

 

2. We want to “learn in context” as much as possible.

When I went to school, a lot of my learning occurred in the context of a book. Let’s take history, for example. When we were learning about the paleolithic period of human history, we read about what that meant in chapter 7, and then took a quiz to see what we remembered. The problem is, I remember none of that now. I actually just had to Google it to see if paleolithic dealt with the history of the earth’s development, or of human development. I’d rather our learning be experiential and “real-life.” To learn about geothermal pools in Yellowstone, and about the erosion that caused the Great Canyon to occur. To learn about geometry because we want to build a new playset in our backyard, and need to pay attention to angles.

3. We want the boys to grow up with a healthy sense of self-directed learning.

My caveat is that I know a lot of schools aren’t like what I’m about to describe, but many are. Teachers have to teach to a standardized curriculum and a test of basic skills. In Florida, it’s called the FCAT. When I was in school it was the CTBS. My older kids have been out of the public school setting for a while, but I know there’s a huge debate going on and that a lot of teachers are incredibly unhappy, because they can’t focus on learning what their students find interesting – they have to teach to the test. To me, that’s bullshit. I realize there has to be some accountability and standardization, but we have created a system where not only has a child’s self-directed learning been abnegated, but the teachers’ have, too. It makes me cringe.

4. I have a son with special needs.

August has Down syndrome. His twin brother Liam does not. Most classrooms are still not integrated with children who have special needs and more typically-developing children. I would like for both of them to learn in a mixed environment, where each can help the other.

homeschoolingresources

Home-schooling philosophies – like much in life – run the gamut from radical unschooling (where there is no curriculum, and a child has 100% autonomy in deciding what he/she wants to learn) to a “school-at-home” approach, complete with a desk, workbooks, quizzes and tests.

Where do you even start? Here are a few quick resources:

1. A super quick explanation of the main forms of homeschooling.

2. Something that goes a little more in-depth on the homeschool philosophies. Lots of links here.

3. A really, REALLY  good article on why the hell someone would consider homeschooling in the first place.

4. National organization of homeschoolers, which publishes research.

Our philosophy?

Honestly, I don’t know yet which path we’ll go down. It’s really not a decision to be made lightly, and thankfully,  we’ve got time to do some solid research and soul-searching. My guess is that we’ll err on the side of unschooling, but with  direction, and accountability.  I’m also pretty intrigued by Waldorf.

Some homeschoolers can be a touch militant, and are staunchly anti-school. That’s not me. I think that different settings work best for different children. And, I think there’s more than one way to get an education.

Who knows – we might make a different decision when the boys are older. But for now, I’m dreaming of owning our own schedules, of the boys growing up with a sense of personal responsibility for their education, and of traveling the country to learn about things “in real life” as much as possible.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling?

White Chica In Spanish Harlem

I’ve just become part of a small group of rock-star women who are writing their way to internet fame…one post at a time. One of the things we’re doing is a weekly link-up, where group members each write about the same topic.  You’ll find links to my blogger friends’ posts at the bottom of this post.

This week, our topic is “The Scariest Thing I Ever Did”.

Here’s my story. It’s actually been one I’ve been wanting to tell for a long time, because I think there’s a message in it for my 40-year old self.

When I was 17, I got knocked up with my daughter Ophelia. That’s not the scary part. When you’re 17, nothing much is scary. It’s just like “WHATEVER, I CAN TOTALLY BE A MOM, I’M SO MATURE.” So, I went on with the business of being a senior in high school, going to graduations, and being sick as a dog in the bathroom next to Mr. Lipp’s Physics class. (Turns out you shouldn’t swig anti-nausea medication, because it actually makes you more nauseous.)

No…the baby wasn’t the scary part. The scariest part is what I decided to do next. At the ripe old age of 18, full of wisdom and spunk, I took my daughter and moved from my home in Jacksonville to New York City to go get the best education I could find. My son Dakota was spared some of what follows, because he wasn’t born until I was all grown up at age 20.

I’d been accepted into Barnard College – the sister college of Columbia University – and having a baby didn’t seem like a good enough excuse to let go of my dreams of going to an Ivy League college.

And, so I went. I moved there with baby daddy and found a sweet little duplex for $1224 monthly on Columbus and 107th. Holy mother, I was so naive. I thought it would be safe because it was within walking distance of the college. I was wrong – at the time it was one of the most drug-infested neighborhood in the NYC metro area.

I’ll never forget stepping outside my building with Ophelia in a stroller to a gang of men running past me with guns. One of them stopped and grabbed my arm. “Do you want you and the baby to live?” he asked me. “Yes”, I announced, smartly. “Well then turn around and go back in the building.” Which I did. With a quickness.

I broke my lease soon after, tired of seeing people shooting up in windows of the building next to ours. I was naive to the intricacies of poverty and addiction, and couldn’t comprehend how people would choose to fuck up their lives like that and shoot up. It terrified me.

We left that hell-hole and moved up to Spanish Harlem, to 151 and Broadway, where I felt much safer.  I became known as the “white chica”. I got heckled A LOT, but it was harmless. “Hey sister!” guys would smirk at me.  One in particular thought I was cute and yelled “You have a fat ass! Can I take you home?”

I kind of think he meant “phat” as in awesome, because I was poor and scrawny, and had no padding, but whatever.

After 107 and Columbus, Spanish Harlem was like a pleasant, gated community. I lived 6 blocks away from the subway station, which meant that I only had 6 blocks to walk before I got to the safety of my apartment complex, where we had a 20-year-old Russian as our guard. I kid you not.

Our rent was something like $995. I cobbled together enough to pay living expenses through student loans, Western Unions from my mother, and welfare.

We were so exquisitely poor. And not the kind of poor that’s like “Oh, we were all happy, so we didn’t even know we were poor.”

Bullshit.

While I was busy learning about music theory, 19th century women’s literature, and physics in the big halls of Columbia, my daughter and I were busy being broke-ass poor in our little hovel of an apartment.

So poor, I would run out of diapers and have to put Ophelia in the bathtub.

So poor, I would borrow money from my friend, Saint Liz, so that I wouldn’t have to walk in the snow with Ophelia from 151st to 107th street to her babysitters because I didn’t have $1.25 for a subway token.

So poor, I left my daughter with a complete stranger  while I went to school. Minerva – who would feed her “mucho Farrina” and smile and nod at me, because we had a huge language barrier. Turns out Minerva was a gem, thank God.

So poor, that I put my daughter’s sleep area (certainly didn’t have money for a crib) in the little closet. I can close my eyes and see it now. A blanket folded up on the floor , in the nook of the closet. A kind man came to exterminate one day, and saw Ophelia’s nook. “Does your baby sleep there?” he asked me. “Yes.” “Well, you shouldn’t put your baby in the closet. They’ll call DCF on you.”

I – who can’t remember huge chunks of my life – remember that interaction in excruciating detail.

One day, I was walking in the cemetery in Harlem and honest to God saw a $20 bill lying on the freaking ground like a holy grail. I caught my breath. And quickly raced over with my crappy-ass baby stroller and snatched it up so fast you would have missed it if you blinked. I bought cans of formula (they were $2.50 a piece back then for the concentrated kind), and a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. Because when you’re 18 and are poor and come into money, you decide that Coca Cola is what will cure your ails.

I was naive, young, and poor – so out of my league, I didn’t even know there was a league. I know I had  angels watching over me – the entire lot. Gabriel’s Gang.

Why did I do it, when I could have (should have?) just gone to school here in Jacksonville?  One day, Ophelia and Dakota’s father described a scene to me, that I didn’t remember.  We were living in Brooklyn at the time, and it was snowing and he looked out of our 2nd floor window to see me pushing the double-stroller with all my might through the snow so that I could make my way to Barnard for yet another class on something that had absolutely no relevance to me at the time.

That day, many years later, he asked me a simple question “Why did you keep pushing that stroller in the snow? Why didn’t you just turn around and come back inside?

The simple answer is that I was so young and driven that I didn’t even know that turning around was an option.

When I was 19, I just did the scary things without second thought. Like there was no other choice. Because my life was in front of me and I needed to do the scary things in order to create the life I wanted – even if it meant being broke-ass poor. Even if  it meant wandering around in a huge city, with my one friend Liz, and my army of angels to help.

Now, at 40, I think long and hard about the scary things I do, because I’m more mature and realize that my actions affect others- like my children, who if given a choice, would prefer not to live in poverty. But, I wouldn’t change any of my choices from when I was young. It’s a part of the fabric of each of us – me, Ophelia, Dakota. It was our journey.

Today, I try to capture the ignorance of being 19 and mix it with the wisdom of being 40 to constantly push myself to do what I’m afraid of.

Is She Your Mother? Explaining my Same-Sex Relationship to a Child

Well…it’s been happening more and more often, now that we have children. Other children, seeing us with our twin boys, ask the inevitable. “Who’s babies are they?”, or “Which one is yours?” Children who don’t know us look at us quizzically – back and forth, trying to make sense of it all.

Tonight, we had family visiting us from Texas. Our sweet 7 year old niece K was quietly watching Steph and I, and she looked utterly confused when I called out several times to my “honey”. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more.

“Is she your mom?”, K asked me, while she floated in the pool.  I quickly gloated (I’m so blessed to look so youthful) and then said “Nope.”

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Oh my! I look so youthful, it’s almost embarrassing.

 

“Should I say more?”, I thought. But I distracted myself with keeping the boys upright in the pool.

I didn’t need to wait long before the next question came.

“Do y’all live here together?”

“Oh yes”, I said. And made funny faces at the boys.

More swimming and silence. I continued to gloat about my youthful charm.

“What is she, then?”, K asked me.

I had to tell her then. “She’s my partner.”

With no pause, she asked “What kind of partner?”

“My life partner.”

“Oh.” She nodded, like she understood.

But the thing is, she didn’t understand. She was truly trying to make sense out of everything, and I was not being helpful in the least. In fact, I was being rather obstructionist.

It really bugs me that I didn’t have the hutzpah to tell her what Steph and I are to each other. To take this experience and turn it into a teaching moment and explain to K about how two women can love each other, or two men, and that there are all different types of families, and that they are all beautiful. That God, or spirit, or whatever you believe in, doesn’t make mistakes. To show her that we are just like other families. To help plant the seed of tolerance, so that it spreads.

K is a very sweet girl, but ignorance breeds hostility, and if we can show others that we’re normal, loving, parents that are no different than their own parents, then that’s probably about the most important thing we can do.

But, I didn’t say or do any of these things. Instead, I continued to float in the pool, acting like I had no elephant to address in the room.  Why did I sit there floating, like a spineless idiot?

Honestly, I’m shy about all of this. I feel like it’s not my place to explain it – that it’s their parent’s place. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries. I say that, and yet I have the gut instinct that I need to get over myself. That parents would probably prefer if I explained it in my own words. And, honestly, I really irritate myself when I am quiet about it – like there’s something wrong.

I’ve never once in my life felt like there was anything wrong with being in love with a woman, so I’m not sure where my hesitation comes from.

Thoughts?  Should I get over myself and matter of factly explain things to a 7 year old? Or should I leave that to her parents?

Liebster Award – Wherein my spunky lil blog strives to get noticed

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

 My tee-niny lil blog was nominated for the Liebster award by my friend – I mean independent judge – Spring. Spring blogs over at Tilyou Triplets. Thanks Spring! It took me a month to respond, but better late than never!
The Liebster Award is a way for  bloggers to help a sistah out and give other  bloggers an extra boost in exposure.
Here are the rules: 
– Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.
– Post 11 facts about yourself, answering the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions  for your nominees.
– Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
– Display the Liebster Award logo.
– No tag backs meaning you can’t just re nominate the person who nominated you.

The questions asked of me are below:

1. What was your reaction when you found out you were expecting multiples? We had just had two miscarriages, so being pregnant with two seemed very meaningful to us. We always say that those little souls wanted to be born together, as twins.
2. What was your spouse’s reaction? Yes! Buy one get one free!
3. How did you tell your family/friends?
It was a huge shock to everyone, because my first two children are grown. So I went around telling people “I have some news to share. I’m pregnant.” Usually the response was something like “OH MY!” and then I’d say “With Twins” and people’s eyes would get big and they’d say “OH MY!”. My favorite response was one of my colleagues. Apparently he had some PTSD and his gut response was to tell me “They’re not mine!”.
4. What is your favorite activity to do at home with the kids?
We love to hang out in our mac daddy play room and…well, play. With toys. In the play room.
5. Where is your favorite place to go as a family?
We are an on-the-go family! You can find us at restaurants, out shopping, taking a walk, at the beach, at the park, etc. No one favorite place, yet.
6. What is your easy, go to meal for the kids?
Umm, jarred organic baby food. 🙂
7. What do you do for yourself for fun?
I used to read, crochet and generally engage in fun, quiet tasks. These days I read celebrity magazines for fun, because my attention span is
8. What is your dream family vacation?
Road trip in an RV Camper across the country to all the National Parks! Imma do it one day with my little family. Hopper gets a lifetime “Access Pass” to the National Parks because of his disability. It entitles him – and 4 adults- to free admission to all national parks for life!
9. DIY or store bought?
In my idealistic world, DIY. In my real world, store-bought.
10. Are you a routine/schedule follower or fly by the seat of your pants type?
I don’t like to keep a routine. I like to have a world of possibilities.
11. Where is one place you would NEVER take your multiples?
The circus. We’ll never do that, because of animal exploitation. I feel very passionately about that. I can barely take them to the zoo! I do, but I feel a ton of guilt over it.
Here are the blogs I’m nominating:
That’s all I’ve got for now. I realize that’s not 11, but the verdict is out. I need to start reading more blogs! If you have a new blog that you’d like nominated, and you’re clever and spunky, let me know!
Questions to answer:
1. If you could go on any kind of vacation with your kids, what would it be?
2. Regular school, homeschooling, or unschooling?
3. What is an average day like with your children?
4. How involved is your spouse/partner?
5. What is your favorite place you’ve ever lived?
6. What type of friend are you?
7. What do you look for in a friend?
8. Are you done having children?
9. Gourmet cook? Short order cook? Take-out?
10. What’s your dream date?
11. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

There’s nothing that makes you feel younger or more on fire than when you’re trying to decide what to be when you grow up. Or, if you’re already grown up, what you want to do next. It’s just pure magic.  I’ve been having a blast these days trying to decide what my next career will be – trying things on for size, without being wed to one single idea.

In my world, I love to deconstruct and reconstruct. I’ll never get tired of re-inventing myself – my only regret is that there are only so many times that I can do that throughout my life. When I was younger, re-inventing myself meant selling everything I had and taking my kids and moving across the country. I’d get tired in one place, or irritated with what I’d built, and to solve the situation, I’d move. Moving was my panacea. Now, I’m older and wiser. Running is not an option. Reinventing myself these days means a refinement, not a reconstruction.  To take parts of myself that aren’t working, or – more often – have just run the course, and re-imagining them.

I left a ten-year career one month ago. I did so for two reasons. First, I did it because Steph and I worked so hard to have these boys, and damned if I’m going to miss all the good stuff.

The second reason I left my career is because I wanted to do something new. I was terrified of time marching on, and finding that I was 50 – unhappy and unfulfilled. I wanted that fresh feeling you have when you’re 17, and browsing all of the college catalogs, looking at the majors, and trying to decide where you will go, and what you will be. Everything is up for grabs – nothing is out of reach.

When I went to Barnard back in the early nineties, we didn’t sign up for classes online. That was FAR too modern. We used what was called the “Pencil Book”. It was called that because you would circle all the classes you were interested in – classes like Major American Authors II, or Theorizing Women’s Activism, or <insert what makes you swoon here>.

I would spend HOURS AND HOURS devouring the pencil book. Broke and lonely in New York City, I would circle and re-circle classes that I wanted to take – subjects I wanted to explore, and possibly become an expert in. I dreamed of a huge life, filled with adventure, deep thoughts and meaning.

It’s weird to think that I’m already 40 now. That the choices I’ve made have kept some doors open, and closed others, forever. I have to be honest and say that I rather liked being 17 and having all the doors open!

But….the beauty of being older is that you’ve determined which doors don’t serve you. The ones that do matter start shining brighter and brighter. Your job is to discern. To figure out which are most important to you. To decide which doors – if left unopened at the end of your life – you will regret. Everything else is just fluff.FairyTaleQuote

Over the upcoming months, then, I’ll have to stay focused on what’s most important. To understand that when considering all the things I can be when I grow up, the “no’s” that I give are even more important than the “yesses”, especially at my age. If I don’t say no liberally, my plate will be full to overflowing, but with the wrong things.

Who knows what I’ll be when I grow up – I’m not sure anymore that there’s one *right* answer. But, as I try things on for size over the upcoming months, I’ll pretend that it’s my Barnard Pencil Book, and see which things make me feel most alive.