More Discoveries Around Town

This city is overrun with so many underutilized yet incredible resources.

Yesterday, our homeschool group met at Anita Gorman Discovery Center. It’s about a mile from our home, and I’ve driven by it multiple times, yet, we’d never been. And what a shame-we had no idea what we’ve been missing! When I see that the Facebook page only has 73 likes, I’m pretty sure that many of you don’t know what you’ve been missing either.

20130905-134809.jpgWalking trails, outdoor classrooms and sitting areas, gardens (including a butterfly garden), plus, an indoor area we have yet to explore. They also offer lots of classes, school & homeschool activities, story times, and workshops, like making a rain barrel, bird & bat houses, and so much more. And guess what? It’s all FREE. photo(18)It was a happy surprise to find this treasure. We can’t wait to go back, and explore more places like this around Kansas City. They are here, just waiting to be found.

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Exploring

I have heard a lot about The Local Pig, and as the granddaughter, great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter of butchers, I went on a mission to check it out today. As I typed it into my Google Maps app, I realized it was in a part of town I was wholly unfamiliar with, but undeterred, I set out with the boys. Google Maps didn’t disappoint and lead me right to the door of my destination. One that seemed to be smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Dirt roads, train tracks, a cereal mill, a smattering of homes and old buildings, a honkey-tonk, and The Local Pig are about the only things here in the East Bottoms. Noel said it creeped him out because these buildings “all look like they were built around 2006 and must be really old”. When I told him he was probably off by about 100 years, he said that he was EVEN MORE creeped out. I assured him that we were fine, and, “Hey, doesn’t that look like an old fire station?”

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And, “Don’t you wonder what this used to be?”

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And, “Hey! There’s a train! Awesome!”

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We got what we came for at the butcher shop and went around the corner to their food truck, Pigwich.

From the picnic tables at The Local Pig & Pigwich. Beautiful cliffs.

From the picnic tables at The Local Pig & Pigwich. Beautiful cliffs.

We had an unbelievable cheeseburger & sat outside, watching a train go by, and taking in the scenery. I was happy to have stumbled on this interesting little area. One of the best things about living in a big city, particularly for me, is realizing how much more is out there, outside of our usual stomping grounds. There is more to be discovered. We’ve only scratched the surface.

What’s your favorite neighborhood? Where are your favorite places to explore in Kansas City?

Posted in E$, I am the Walrus, Idiots Guide to Parenting, In My Life, Lennon, Love Is All You Need, Noel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How’s THAT Going?

photoSometimes, when I run into people we went to school with (or, anyone for that matter), they will ask me about homeschooling. It is usually in the form of “How’s THAT going?!?”, like instead of teaching our kids at home, we decided to build Frankenstein’s monster and they are afraid…(It’s ALIVE!). I answer them honestly.

“It’s going great. The kids are happy with the change, and so are we.”

After the shock wears off, the person might say, “Well, you’re a better person than me. I could NEVER do it.”

Want the truth? I didn’t think we could do it either, which is why both of my children had been enrolled in school until April of this year, when my husband and I reached the conclusion that we’d had enough.

Enough crying and begging not to go to school.

Enough arbitrary rules, like how long or short someone’s hair could be. And, without even breaking that rule, enough commentary from the teacher about our child needing a haircut (she voiced this in front of other students, who then deemed it appropriate to also tell him he needed a haircut.)

Enough telling my very intelligent child that, while he did fine in school, he needed to be more organized.

Enough talking to administration with no changes.

Enough getting up early and telling everyone to hurry up.

Enough frustration, aggravation, and anger.

Just…ENOUGH.

Guess what? ANYONE can homeschool given the right attitude, support, and tools. Chances are, you just don’t want to AND THAT IS OKAY. What you do with your child’s education is entirely your business, as is our right to homeschool. It’s what’s working for us. It’s the change we needed. And we’re doing fine.

Yes, it gets challenging being together ALL the time. Yes, the adults get frustrated sometimes when there are groans when it’s time to start working. Yes, there are days when we don’t get in everything that we’d like to do. But that’s okay too. It’s a learning process for all of us. It’s tweaking what we thought would work and making it into something that does work. It’s getting to know your children and understanding them fully, in a way that wouldn’t work in a classroom-not because it’s not desired, but sheer numbers don’t allow for this. And no teacher, no matter how qualified or educated, knows our children as well as we do.

No, my kids haven’t turned into mutants that are unable to communicate with anyone outside of our household. They still have friends in droves. No, they’re not falling behind and not learning anything. No, they don’t need a certified teacher to guide them-only people that love them and want the best for them. No, we’re not worried that they’ll never go to college. No, we don’t let them do whatever they want all day long (but when they’ve completed their school day, they can play/draw/explore freely). No, the TV doesn’t babysit them (but we’re totally fine incorporating educational shows into our school day). And NO, we’re not worried about “socialization” (what the hell does that word even mean anyway?).

We are homeschoolers. I’m becoming more and more bold in that declaration. It’s not a bad/weird/wrong thing to do. We’re proud of the education that we’re able to give our kids. We all want what is best for our families. Our kids are not a science experiment. They are little people with feelings, opinions, and emotions. We are very lucky to be able to give our kids the opportunity to have this kind of education. I’m so glad that we listened to them and our intuition. Our children’s education is important enough to us, that’s it’s lead us down this path, and we’re all better for it.

Posted in E$, family, Homeschool, I am the Walrus, Idiots Guide to Parenting, In My Life, Lennon, life, Love Is All You Need, Noel, parenting observations, thoughts, With a Little Help from My Friends | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

The LTYM Hangover

I’ve been thinking and pondering about what to write about our experience on Saturday. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, it was something that is very difficult to put into words.

Going over my notes.

Going over my notes.

Photography by Karen Ledford

I stood before 300 people and told them stories about my little guys when they were young. Funny tales that I can look back on now & laugh, although those first years with two kids were some of the most difficult I’ve experienced. I don’t really have sad stories in me. I prefer to make people laugh, and I’m lucky that life has handed me more funny than sad. Never was I more reminded of this throughout this experience.

My mom is kind, funny, considerate…and she has always been a presence in my life. She and my dad have always supported me. They have always thought the best of me and wanted the best for me. Both of my parents have believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. They’ve stood by me through it all. They love my husband as if he were their own son. They adore my children and want to spend time with them as much as they can.

Like me, my mom was incredibly lucky to come from a loving, supportive family. I hope with my whole self that what has been passed down through her lineage has been passed on to me. I owe everything I am to my mom, and I’m thankful for her every day.

Thank you Ann for the ability to share this experience with others around the country, and with my hometown. Thank you to Erin, for asking me to be your partner in this labor of love. Above all, thank you to our lovely cast-our new friends-for telling your stories to us, for believing in Listen To Your Mother, and for making Saturday a memorable and wonderful evening.

photo(24)Photography by Karen Ledford

Without further ado, I give you my piece, “Building Character”:

As a kid, I loved Calvin & Hobbes. When Calvin would be knee deep in a project that his dad wrangled him into or get into a sticky predicament, and he’d start to complain, Calvin’s dad would remind him that he was “building character.” We brought our oldest son home from the hospital a little over 7 years ago & we’ve been building our little characters ever since.

My husband and I marveled at everything our precious baby did. He could not have been more perfect. When Noel, our oldest, was barely 1, we found out we were expecting again. I surprised my husband, Elliott, with a positive pregnancy test on Father’s Day. ¬†We remember it fondly when that holiday rolls around, and he reminds me that I should never surprise him like that again.

While we were still blissfully unaware of how two kids would turn our world on its ear, I mean, grow & fill our hearts with abundance, Noel learned to walk. One day, we were outside in our backyard, grinning to ourselves as Noel toddled around sniffing flowers and picking dandelions. He toddled toward us, treasures in hand, a giant toothy grin on his face. We smiled right back at our sweet boy, as he brought us…something that wasn’t a fistful of dandelions. This had…a tail. As he drew closer, we could see that it was a rat that a stray cat had deposited in our yard.

I screamed DROP IT! As my husband grabbed the nearest stick he could find to bat the DEAD RODENT out of his hand. Noel immediately burst into tears. The more we yelled and freaked out, the more upset noel got and the tighter his grip became. We eventually got the special gift from his hand and I ran him to the bath while I said over & over DON’T TOUCH ME! very calmly.

Just when you think you have it figured out, the universe will take the opportunity to point it’s finger at you and laugh. Especially if you’ve been smug. New parents: don’t brag about how great your first baby is. While Noel was a dream, Lennon was…I don’t want to call him a nightmare, exactly, but he was a challenging infant. He never slept, except in fitful catnaps, day & night, and he had reflux, so he cried a LOT.

One day we’d gotten him to sleep in a bouncer, and sat back in our living room to let him sleep ( you see, he sensed when I wasn’t around and would wake instantly if I wasn’t close by enough). Our plan was to let Noel play quietly while we snoozed on the couch for a few minutes. All was peaceful, for approximately 30 seconds. I heard Noel pitted-pattering around the room and peeked through my sleep deprived eyelids to see him standing over Lennon with two pan lids in his hands. In slow motion, I reached out to stop him, but it was too late. CRASH! Went the makeshift cymbals! Lennon began shrieking, and has slept with one eye open from that day on.

Another lesson I learned is that although your oldest may like babies, doesn’t mean that he will instantly fall in love with your new baby. I recall several times, when I’d try snapping photos of my two babies together. I’d place the baby gently on the toddler’s lap, and while I’m preparing to get a quick picture of this tranquil moment, Noel would stand up, dumping the baby on the floor. Noel- you have to tell me if you’re done holding Lennon! Okay, let’s try you putting your arm around him instead. No! That’s too tight! How about putting your hand on his leg?

Meanwhile, the baby is teetering over from his already precarious position, and the toddler is running off to play with a dust bunny he’s spied under his bed. The serene pictures I’d envisioned instead involve a tipped over baby, crying, a blur of green striped PJs, and, of course, the dust bunny.

The early years of motherhood were the Character Building years. Now that my boys are older, and I am wiser, have the beginnings of a wrinkled brow, and a lot of gray hair, I can safely say that I’ve got this. My children love each other and are each others preferred playmates, despite the occasional argument. They will let me take their picture together. They may make silly faces, but no one falls over. I also know that they’d only give me a dead rat as a gift if their grandfather put them up to it.

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Our Baby Is Almost Here!

It has been a CRAZY few months. Can you believe I’m not having a human baby? No, but I’ve been heavily involved in something that’s almost as exciting…

And it’s all about to come to a peak this weekend. If you don’t already know, my friend, Erin and I have been knee deep in Listen To Your Mother, which will be at Unity Temple on the Plaza THIS Saturday. Are you freaking joking? I’m in shock that this thing that we’ve put months of work into is about to happen. And you know what? I’m not terrified.

The group we’ve put together for our show is just…indescribably cool. It’s wonderful to watch people come together-no more than strangers, and leave a room two hours later friends. Sisters. Sharing in something that is nothing less than magical. I can’t believe that we did this. We brought these people together, and we’re about to wave our wands and bring it to life. If you can come to the show, I hope you will. I hope you fall in love with the stories. I hope you see the power of words. I hope you see and feel the common bond that we all share, as a community, as parents, as humans. It is truly something special.

315968_10201115465070881_150388003_nThis is Erin & I before our interview on The Midday Show!

*There are photos from our last read-through at Unity, but I had an awful headache and look sickly and dead. You don’t want to see those (of me, anyway).

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Compassion: Are you teaching it to your kids?

I had a really sad conversation with a friend today. It left me sick to my stomach and wondering, “What can I do? What can I say?” So, I’m taking to my blog to tell you about it.

My friend’s son has Down Syndrome. He’s been at the same school, where most of his peers accept him, embrace him, and treat him as an equal. These kids do not have disabilities. They’ve invited him to be on their basketball team and want to include him. One of his friends has decided that when he’s older, he’s opening a school for special needs kids, and wants my friend’s son to be employed there. Most of these kids have known him since Kindergarten, where he was welcomed into a mainstream classroom at an inclusive school. Wonderful, right?

Wonderful, until you consider those that haven’t known him for years, and are openly averse to his very presence. Wonderful, until you consider people giving him dirty looks, or ridiculing his parents because he may not always wash his hands, or eats sloppily (both of my kids eat like pigs, and have no disabilities). Wonderful, until you consider that when on a vacation, he wasn’t as agile as others in some tunnels in a museum display, and children and adults alike stepped on him and tried to kick him out of their way.

My kids have always known what Down Syndrome is-they have a cousin who has it also. When they were younger, they’d say things like, “Hannah doesn’t talk to me.” We would explain that Hannah has a hard time communicating like we do, because she has Down’s. We explained she might be hard to understand when she did talk. We also made sure that they knew that she was to be treated no differently because of these things. Perhaps seeing someone regularly that was different from them made it easier for us to give our kids these tools, perhaps not. Regardless, our kids have known for a long time that some people didn’t look like them. Or learn like them. Or talk like them. It didn’t matter though, those people were still people, to be loved, and treated with respect, just like they would treat anyone else.

So…why isn’t everyone teaching their children these lessons? Why should my friend have to watch her son looked at with disdain because he does things differently? Because he doesn’t learn things as easily? Because he may disrupt class once in a while, or forget to wash his hands? Why haven’t some children learned that some people are different, and that it’s okay? Where are their parents? Why have they not been taught these VERY important lessons?

Parents: don’t shield your children from people with special needs. Don’t be scared to have conversations about it. Don’t be frightened of what you don’t know. Educate yourself and your kids. We can’t and won’t wish people like my friend’s son away. Disabilities are no longer something that we leave others to deal with. We no longer send them to a home and hope that no one remembers that you’re the family with a special needs child. No. We, as compassionate people, teach one another about love and acceptance, and learn to embrace each other’s differences…because chances are, something is different about you too.

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The Heart of the Mother

A couple of years ago, my good friend, Steph, hosted Listen To Your Mother in her then-home town of Valpariso, Indiana. I was intrigued. What was this? I knew of Ann Imig (National Director of LTYM) through a small blogging get together that a lot of my Midwest friends had attended, but beyond that, I didn’t know much about this endeavor that has become a force in the blogging world and in 24 cities around the US.

Blogging is a weird and wonderful thing. Particularly in the “olden days”, blogging is a community, and some of these community members were, and still are, dear friends, although we have always been spread far and wide throughout the country. Listen To Your Mother, to me, brings this community together, in each city that is participating, and to the blogging community at large. It’s a night where we can hear one anther’s stories of motherhood, and share laughter, tears, and those “Me Too” moments.

Erin and I are new to the LTYM scene, but we are passionate about our community, our words, and those of our cast. Bringing this show to Kansas City is a labor of love. We are looking forward to sharing this night with you.

Want the skinny on our show (May 11, Unity Temple on the Plaza, 7 PM)? Find out all the details and how to buy tickets here. We hope to see you in the audience!

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