Category Archives: Adventures in Domesticity

Why I Don’t Care if My Children Go to College

I grew up in a generation that was told college was the answer. College was the key to personal and financial success.

It was even used by my high school teachers as a carrot and stick:

Take this class so you can get into college!

If you don’t learn to do this, you’ll never get into college!

So I took the right classes. I passed the AP tests. I went to college. It was great. I have no regrets.

HOWEVER.

When I really think about what success actually means, and what I want most for my children, college doesn’t make the list.

Here’s what I want for the progeny:

  1. Strong personal integrity
  2. An ability to repent and change when necessary*
  3. An ability to forgive and heal when necessary*
  4. A happy family and home life
  5. Employment that enables them to provide for self and family, keeps them perpetually learning and growing, and affords them freedom to maintain integrity to what they believe is right.
  6. A desire and ability to be constantly learning and growing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

That’s pretty much it. And all of that is just as attainable for an electrician or plumber as it is for a physicist or biochemist. In fact, I would submit that these goals are more tenable in technical vocations than they are in certain advanced fields of study-where “being intelligent” is often equated with having the *correct* opinion. Academic consensus does not always equal objective truth, and when one’s life is steeped in academia, this can be a slippery concept to hold on to.

But I digress.

The goals of homeschooling are the above mentioned goals with one more:

Prepare the children academically so that they are capable of rising to the challenge of whatever they wish to do.

If they become physicists or doctors or firefighters or stay at home parents, I will be equally pleased.

My only goal is to hand them the tools and habits necessary to build whatever they want. And if that whatever includes no formal schooling beyond a technical certificate, that’s fine with me.

True achievement has very little to do with degrees, and everything to do with what we build personally.

I would sooner see my sons become uncelebrated blue collar worker- faithful husbands with happy marriages than Stephen Hawkings with broken ones.

I would sooner see my daughters be barefoot, stay at home mothers with their daughters trusting them than Alice Walkers with estranged and abandoned progeny.

And if my children become great, both in the eyes of the world, and in the arms of their families, wonderful. If they are only great by the work they do in their families, equally wonderful.

There is one real goal here.

There you have it. There are those who think that my hopes for the progeny set the bar too low, but they are mistaken.

These hopes sit on top of the highest bar there is.

 

*Quite Possibly the Most Important Thing Ever.

A Few of My Favorite Things: Temple Quilt

Shortly after Husband and I got engaged, Mother in Law called me up to ask what color I wanted our temple quilt to be.

“What’s a temple quilt?” I so eloquently replied.

Come to find out, a temple quilt is an incredibly gorgeous, thick quilt featuring the Portland temple, where we were married, surrounded by flowers, our names, and anniversary.

A temple quilt hand quilted by family and friends.

My mother was awed when she saw it, and proudly told me she got to work on the temple in the middle. Sometimes I look at the temple in the middle and imagine her hands embroidering it.

At one point, I sat on the floor of my future in-law’s house and learned to bind the edges of the quilt while watching Teahouse of the August Moon with my beloved future sister-in-law.

Our temple quilt covers our bed and every morning, as we spread it out, it reminds me of one of the best decisions I ever made.

To the remarkable hands that made it, most especially our beloved mothers’, thank you.

Happy Sabbath

A few Sabbaths back*, Jane the Austen and Mr. the Rogers were sick, so I stayed home from Church with them and Lucy the Maude. Husband the Man took  Clive the Staples and Katherine the Great to Church, where they were (reportedly, miraculously) well behaved in the pew while he gave a talk.

Lucy the Maude, the invalids, and I curled up on my bed and watched Sound of Music, whilst I had a theological texting conversation with a friend. Because Sunday!

Later, Mr. the Rogers wanted to build an elevated block city with me while Jane the Austen took an epsom salt bath. Lucy the Maude and I joined him on the floor for urban development (a city for dinosaurs and the occasional horse) and Jane the Austen eventually also joined us, snuggled in a blanket,. Pajamas, and bathrobe, reading Harry Potter.

When the three churchgoers got home, I left to go visiting teaching. I should know better than to leave husband alone with the kitchen, because when I came back, I found he’d been playing with the food (and the children):

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Reason 443 of Why I am Married to Husband the Man

He took the adorable deviled eggs home teaching to feed those he serves.

Ladies and gentlemen, home teaching is hot.

So is husband the man.

I love the sabbath.

Happy, happy sabbath.

 

* I binge write this blog on weekends, so you never actually get our family’s adventures in real time.

A Few of My Favorite Things: The Fancypants University Chalkboard

When we first arrived at Fancypants University, Jane the Austen was nearly eight. Eight, in our faith, means if a child is willing and prepared, she may enter into the covenant of baptism, which dear Jane the Austen joyfully did.

Husband the Man’s parents came to witness said event, and as we were walking through the auspicious grounds of Fancypants University afterwards, we came upon a very large dumpster that was being filled with the innards of one of Fancypants University’s historic edifices.

Peeking over the top of said dumpster was a perfectly lovely chalkboard.

“What a terrible waste!” says the Father In Law. “That chalkboard is perfectly lovely!”*

“Why yes, it is,” I reply.

“Surely you could use something like that in your homeschool endeavors?”

“Why yes, I could.”

And that is how it transpired that Father in Law dumpster dived for us and retrieved a perfectly lovely chalkboard for our homeschooling endeavors. We use it every day. And often, it reminds me of Fancypants University, Father in Law, and beloved Jane the Austen’s baptism.

Mathematical calculations on the above photo are courtesy of Mister the Rogers.

The End.

*Forgive the artistic liberties, Father in Law. I couldn’t remember your words verbatim.

A Day in the Life (or, the power of lists)

Over the course of our marriage, we’ve passed through several seasons of calm and chaos. The last six months of 2016 were insane, between moving twice, having a baby, and husband preparing for his qualifying exams, gallivanting off to physics conferences as part of his program, and breaking both his arms. Yes, his arms. BOTH of them.

Since the new year, however, things have settled down and we’ve been able to resume some old routines that make life so, so much smoother. You’d think that running your life on a list (and lists of lists) on your phone would be constraining, but the structure (particularly following a season of chaos) is actually enormously freeing. Things get done. Checking off checkboxes fires endorphins. Books and blogs get written. And adventures continue apace with less running late and fewer crises of household.

This is approximately how our little family of seven has been puttering through 2017:

 

6:45: Wake up to hungry baby. Nurse baby. Read scriptures (or, if not on a social media fast, check Facebook and feel vaguely guilty about it.)

7:05: Put sleeping baby back down and go downstairs to start list. I have this magical list of 15 things I need to do each morning before breakfast and school. It appears on my phone at 6 am, and when those are done, my house is mysteriously cleaner, and my brain is ready for children’s school and life in general. There are a lot of enormously basic things on the list like “brush teeth” and “say prayers” and “read scriptures.” You’d think after a decade or two of doing those things, they’d happen without thought. Not so. Doubly not so when a child wakes up vomiting, a basement is flooded, or, you know, I get horribly distracted by an internet thread that I should not have been reading prior to scriptures. Ergo, I have a list to remind me what I still need to do after managing some unexpected crisis (or non-crisis).

8:00-Finish list. The kids are waking up, and need kisses and good mornings and reminders about room tidying, clothes wearing, prayer saying. Kitchen duty child is reminded to put away last night’s dishes. Jane the Austen does Katherine the Great’s hair. Because she’s awesome like that.

8:10-Breakfast. Oatmeal and grapefruit, the standard fare.

8:30-School Starts. Kitchen duty child spends first twenty minutes or so of school doing dishes. Some children are much faster dish doers than others. I have a list of 21 things that need to happen during school. If I don’t have and use it, I will wake up at 11:30 pm thinking, “Jane the Austen did not diagram a single sentence today. Clive the staples did no spelling exercises. I am neglecting their education.” I don’t know about you, but diagramming sentences is not what I want to be thinking about at 11:30 pm.

Noon-ish-School finishes. Here’s when I start my (shorter) list of 8 things I need to do in the afternoon. We’re so very lucky at this point in life that husband can come home for lunch nearly every day. This is when lots of the “what did you learn at school today?” conversation happens. It’s very gratifying to hear what they have remembered, internalized, or found notable about what we covered in the last few hours.

The most treasured and precious item on the noon list, besides our family lunch, is WRITE. The children have 1-2 glorious hours in the afternoon wherein they play, have friends over, run around like insane little heathens, nap, etc. I write amidst the chaos. And we’re all the happier for it.

Late Afternoon-pretty much every weekday afternoon is taken up with afterschool extracurriculars, running errands, helping out immigrant and refugee friends, or all of the above, in the case of Jane the Austen, who helps out in an afterschool program for her refugee and immigrant peers.

Evening-We come stumbling home from our adventures, exhausted, with me reminding the kids a million times to help bring in library books and groceries, because I am carrying in the smallest child or two, who almost always fall asleep on the way home. Generally speaking, they also need reminding to go close the door of the van. Otherwise, our wonderfully conscientious neighbor will come remind us. Enthusiastically.

6 pm-Husband comes home again, and we have dinner. I set about my short (6-item) evening list, which I rarely complete. Post dinner, kitchen duty child and husband or I do the dishes, we read scriptures and pray as a family, husband takes the kids upstairs for bedtime stories, and I do yoga. And write. And prepare to do it again the next day.

It’s a good life.

 

Chilblains and E. E. Cummings

It’s a beautiful night.

The children are in bed asleep, the finest of husbands is doing laundry, and I am soaking the first chilblains of my life in an old sitz bath in the bathroom. Because around here, that’s how we roll.

One purpose of this blog is to review the many lovely books we read.  This particular one inspired Clive the Staples to sit at the living room window, staring out reflectively in between bouts of jotting down freeform poetry for approximately 20 minutes. If you knew Clive the Staples, you’d understand that this is extraordinary indeed.

Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess is beautifully written, tenderly illustrated, and sprinkled E. E.’s language and vivacity.

In our book, it gets five stars for whetting poetic appetites.

In the spirit of things, here is my favorite E. E. Cummings poem, one I memorized in college whilst engaged to my Beloved:

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Poetry is good for the soul.

Amen.

The Morning After the Election

Was a little traumatic.

It had been a long night.

Lucy the Maude was 11 days old, and we spent the night in various levels of semi conscious nursing. Drifting in an out of sleep, but never really resting, because there’s a baby attached to me. Lucy the Maude is very, very attached.

My alarm went off at 6 am. I had set it the day before the election so I could get to the polls before the lines, so I could be home on time to care for my brood of 5, plus my friend’s brood of 5*, on that adventurous election day. Election day had been preceded by good sleep and early morning.

The early morning post election…was less than welcome.

Husband got up to silence my alarm, and crawled back into bed with my phone. He’s not the lie-around-in-bed-with-a-phone type, but this is the morning after election.

So I asked him. “Who won?”

“Trump took it.”

And then I felt sick. And a little panicked. And then sick some more.

Those three words still make me cringe. I didn’t realize how badly I didn’t want him to win until he won. I hadn’t given enough serious consideration to the possibility.

All morning, sound clips and footage I’d seen of Trump kept running through my head. And my husband’s three words, “Trump took it.” And it’s possible I cried, but I’m not admitting to that. Or I’ll blame it on being 11 days postpartum.

I looked at my daughters–newborn, toddler, preadolescent–and it was hard.

I looked at my sons–grade schoolers–and it was hard.

I thought of my new american friends, recently arrived from Africa and the middle east–mostly muslim–and it was hard.

I thought of my years on the US-Mexico border in Texas and New Mexico, of all the people there–and it was hard.

At the end of the day, it was still hard.  But at the end of the day, I was no longer in a state of panic.

Because at at the end of the day, this is what I had:

  1. a text from my husband, expressing his love for me and referring me to 2 Kings 6:16.
  2. My five beautiful children, safe and sound and growing.
  3. Health insurance that made Mr. the Roger’s dermatology appointment possible
  4. A date with Mr. the Rogers for a post-dermatology donut
  5. A text conversation with some dear (Muslim, immigrant) friends. They were frank about their disappointment, but that was dwarfed by their gratitude to live in a democracy, by their patriotism, by their support of the parts of Trump they agreed with. Their pragmatism, optimism, and confidence was an example and a blessing to me.
  6. Speeches from Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump expressing graciousness towards one another and belief in the peaceful transition of power. That they were saying these things instead of inciting violence is so rare in the course of human events that I feel blessed to witness it.
  7. Trust in God’s love for me, you, that orange haired man, and the people he doesn’t understand***

Am I happy with the outcome of the election? No.

Do I worry about what sort of damage may be done? Yes…but..

He is one man.

He is (blessedly) not my husband. Or your husband, probably.

He is a child of God. And so are the people who voted for him. And they, like the hypothetical immigrant terrorists he fears, like me, like you, can all grow.

Contrary to every pop song ever, we can choose how we feel. It’s hard, it takes practice, but it’s possible.

I can choose to love instead of fear. I can choose to love** at all times, and in all things and in all places.

Because, unlike the outcome of this election, this is something I can control.

God bless those who voted, and those who did not. God bless the president, even if he must be the orange haired man, to make wise and good choices. God bless us to not freak out and hate our neighbors and countrymen over their various feelings about the orange-haired man, or because of their fears. God bless us to choose love over fear, to choose acting over being acted upon.

God bless America.

 

*Yes, at 10 days postpartum, we spent the day with 10 kids. It’s less daunting than it sounds. Friend’s kids are ridiculously well behaved children. Also, I had my mother in law and brother in law with me, helping with cooking and cleaning and kitchen window replacement. They’re remarkable humans. Also, I had salt and vinegar chips, and lunchmeat and a plethora of other delicious, easy things to eat, also courtesy of friend. Election day was a good day. It was the last day I could fantasize over having my favorite candidate elected against all odds.

 

**See also: Stand as a witness of God

***that’s a lot of people.