Mommy Soup

How soup for 7 really works.

Homeschooling: It’s Really Not That Hard

I’m often met with crazy stares and “ohh”s and “ahh”s when I tell people that my kids are homeschooled.  Everyone seems to think that it’s really hard and insanely time consuming.  Given the way my friends bemoan the start of summer and celebrate the beginning of the next school year, I guess I can see why it seems so hard.  And lots of homeschool parents seem to enjoy the special status afforded those brave enough to do it.

But as a homeschool mom, I have a confession:  It’s really not all that hard.

True, I don’t do the typical curriculum homeschooling that others do, but my kids do have to sit down to do some stuff.  It’s just that we’ve found creative ways to do it.  Instead of doing endless pages of addition and subtraction work, we make it a little more fun.

Case in point:  This was a math class

Case in point: This was a math class

See that?  Totally fun!  Life was my favorite game growing up and we use it for math work.  I actually make them figure out how much money they owe the bank and how much the bank owes them.  At the end of the game, they have to work with me to add up how much everyone has.  It’s awesome!

At this point, I know that some of you conventional teachers are freaking out.  Don’t worry; they do have handwriting practice and reading.  It’s just that we’ve decided to make it a little more fun.  There are literally times where my 5 year old says to me, “Mommy, can I do more school work?”  And Dimitrios has taken on his mom’s habit of bringing a book everywhere we go.  They ask questions about everything and actually enjoy the process of learning.  Who am I to stop that?

Yes, there are some times where I just want them to stop asking me questions.  I mean, don’t we all have times like that?  But I’m also so proud that they even want the answers.  When I’m tired and don’t want to do anything, they’re self starters.  It may not be as rigorous a day, but they still learn stuff on those days.

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July’s Family Art Project : Ice Dyed Wrap

My family is big on art. We all like to paint and sculpt stuff because, well, it’s fun! There are a million little creative projects we do everyday, but we also try to do at least one all consuming full family project. Last month, it was to make our first Osnaburg Ice Dyed baby wrap. We had so much fun that my kids have requested that September’s project be making and dyeing doll wraps for everyone.

Before we made this, I had about 3 wraps each in sizes 4, 5, and 6.  I only had 2 7s, though, and really wanted another one (they leave enough fabric to wrap a toddler and turn what’s left into something pretty and shirt-like).  For those who don’t know, a size 7 is about 5.2 meters of fabric.  No, you’re not reading that wrong.  It’s literally huge.  But think about it; you’re attaching another person to your body with enough layers of support to keep them safely and comfortable on you.  Yes, I can do that with a much smaller piece of fabric (and do quite often), but sometimes it’s fun to have lots of designs happening with doing it.

Any who, giant piece of Osnaburg fabric.  Osnaburg fabric, for those who don’t know, is a strong woven cotton fabric.  It’s used in things like home furnishings because it’s pretty light but very strong.  You know that fancy table cloth you have that felt like cardboard when you first got it but feels super soft now that you’ve had it a year and washed it 20 times?  It’s a woven cotton fabric.  We took 8 yards of that and washed and dried it about 3 times just to get any crap off it and any shrinking it might do done.  Then we ironed the whole thing.  After it was all flat, I measured and cut the ends at an angle, making tails.

See?  Tail cut at an angle.

See? Tail cut at an angle.

That picture also shows the “glue resist” we did.  Basically, you use glue to create a design on the fabric.  Where the glue is, the dye won’t be.  Got it?  We did hearts on the tails, a tree in the middle, and crescent moons halfway between each of those.  We also did a little swirly pattern across the bottom.  Oh, but before we did all that, I cut and ripped across the full length of the fabric to make it the width (the short bit top to bottom) that I wanted it.  Most wraps are 28″ to 32″ wide.  I then hemmed the whole thing with a super strong cotton thread.  I used cotton instead of polyester because I wanted it to dye with the rest of the fabric.

Still following?  Good.  Next came the fun part.  After all that glue had dried, we did a quick soak in soda ash.  Before that could dry at all, we scrunched the fabric up and set it on a grate inside a plastic container.  We were going to do an ice dye, so we dumped a ton of ice on the wrap and then sprinkled dry dye on top.  The kids got to pick the colors and, after I put down the first layer, they even got to sprinkle it around.

There's  a wrap under there!

There’s a wrap under there!

All that was left was to leave it to soak through for 24 hours.  We picked up the whole container and moved it to our back deck.  Mind you, this is July.  We knew that the ice would probably melt off really quickly, especially since we put some plastic wrap over the top to keep the whole project secure.  We kept some extra ice to dump on top later.  It was really fun to watch the ice start to melt and the color start the leach through.  It starts to make a giant, rainbow-y puddle at the bottom of the bucket.  You can actually let the wrap sit in that while it’s dying, but ours was kinda suspended.

This is what it looked like after 12 hours.

This is what it looked like after 12 hours.

Now, here is where things went a little off from our original plans.  When we dumped another layer of ice on top (just to help rinse through), we decided to leave the plastic wrap off.  There’s another school of dying who do something called a “rain dye.”  It’s very similar in set up to what you do with an ice dye, but you remove ice from the equation and dump the powder dye directly on your stuff and leave it outside through a rain storm that you think will last at least an hour.  About 3 hours after we’d added more ice (and it had mostly melted in the mid day heat of a Southern July), a storm started to roll in.  We could either bring the whole bucket in (heavy with dyed water) or leave it out through the storm.  The kids decided that it’d be cooler if we left it in the rain.  They were so right!

Actively being rained on.

Actively being rained on.

We had a great time watching as more color streaked down the inside of the bucket and splattered in the sides!  The kids made me promise that I’d rescue the wrap if lightening got closer, but the storm never got that intense.  It rained for about 2 hours and then the sun came out (I still don’t understand the weather here) and we went out to see how the wrap had handled it.  Honestly, we couldn’t tell in the bucket.  It looked like a great big pile of really cool colors.  Had the resists worked?  Was it dyed everywhere?  Was it a massive failure?  We had no idea!

This is either a ball of awesome or a pile of crap...

This is either a ball of awesome or a pile of crap…

Time to hose is off.  You gotta get any unabsorbed dye off with cold water before you start throwing this in the washing machine.  We rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.  Then we squeezed it all out as best we could.  When it comes to a wrap, you don’t really want to baby it.  You want to “beat it up” because that’s what makes the fabric soften.  Like I said before, this thing felt like cardboard when we bought it because the fabric is used for upholstery.  You know how your new couch feels stiff but eventually softens up?  Same exact thing.

Plus, this is just fun to do.

I know Theron is in a disposable.  Don’t judge; I didn’t want to get dye on a cloth diaper!

After all that, we laid it out to dry in the sun.  Gotta say, it was looking pretty cool.  Still super stuff and the glue resist wasn’t perfect, but the colors kept looking better as the day went by.  It was cool to get this bright shock of color out of the window all day.  The kids were already arguing over who was going to go up in it first.  Nothing like a 7 year old arguing with a 2 year old over who mommy is going to carry around.

Once we were sure all of the gunk was off the wrap, we started washing it.  We ran it through cold water in the washing machine 3 times and then switched to hot for 2 more cycles.  We actually did way more washing that I think we really needed to, but we wanted to make sure.  You’re basically just making sure that any excess dye is gone and then making sure it’s set in the fabric.  Our favorite place to break in rough wraps (and my favorite place in all of Virginia) is Piney River.  We go up there and splash around in the water, wash stuff in the mini rapids, and beat up wraps along the rocks.  That’s what we did with this wrap, too.  Don’t worry; by the time we took it to the river, there wasn’t anything left in it that shouldn’t be in nature.

Not "serious" rapids.

Not “serious” rapids.

Yes, we go in this river in our clothes.  A lot.  I’ve made some of my jeans super soft here and we often drive home with all the kids in completely different clothes than what they got there in.  Or wrapped in the many towels we’ve learned to keep in the car.

Obligatory "kids in the river" picture.

Obligatory “kids in the river” picture.

While we were working it in the river, the colors really started to brighten.  It’s kinda like the more we beat on it, the more the colors started to marble.

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We took it home and ran it through the dryer with our dryer balls one last time.  Then we ironed it again, just to make sure.  That’s when I decided that I loved it.  🙂

Like a nebula...

Like a nebula…

The colors were just so pretty after the heat had left it’s final mark on them.  Because it was way less expensive than any I’ve ever bought, this wrap is kinda my “beater” wrap, meaning I take it places where it might get the crap kicked out of it.  I’ve used it to visit the farmer’s market on a rainy day.  It got it’s biggest work out by being the wrap I took down to the beach on vacation.  The only way Theron would get in the ocean was if she was in this wrap.  Yes, I wore the wrap in water.  It got soaked, used as a beach blanket, covered in sand, and dried on a line in major wind.  And it thrived.

I don’t have many pictures of me actually using the wrap because we’re always doing stuff when I use it.  I’ve got selfies galore of all my other wraps, but this is my “doing stuff” wrap and I never seem to think to stop for a picture with it.  My kids call it the rainbow wrap.  🙂  Maybe you’ll spot it at work in some of my future posts…


Asking For Help

I’m probably the last person who should be writing about asking for help.  Ask any of my friends or family; they’ll tell you that getting me to ask for help is more difficult than giving a cat a bath.  And it’s not because I was raised thinking that there was anything wrong with it.  My mom taught us kids to work hard for everything in our lives, but she also expressed that there was no shame in needing help.  

When my mom was a single mother to my sister, she used government aid.  She’s not ashamed of that fact.  Actually, it’s one of the things that she likes to tell people.  She used that help to take care of her child on her own while putting herself through college so that she’d never need the government to help her again.  That’s exactly why government social programs exist; to help people through rough times.  My mom also took “family leave” after the births of my children so that she’d be available at a moment’s notice to come help me.  Testament to my inability to take help, I actually made her cry by refusing to call her over to help me after I became a mom of 3.  She thought I was upset with her, but it was just me being determined to do everything on my own.

Fast forward to now.  I’ve lived in Virginia for almost 9 months.  In that time, I’ve asked my mother in law to help me with the kids (by taking one to gymnastics while I waited for the fireplace repairman to show up before a blizzard) one time.  Poor woman probably thinks I don’t like her, but it all goes back to my hardcore refusal to ask for help.  With my kids, I justify it by telling myself that I decided to have them and so everything about them is my ultimate responsibility.  That same mindset extends to everything.  I decided to buy those clothes for my family, so I’m the only one who does laundry.  I unpacked the stuff in this house, so I’m the one responsible for keeping it in order.  I opened a diaper store, so it’s my job to do everything related to it with no help.  

Writing it out, that looks insane.  I swear, I’m not a control freak.  I don’t do this because I think that I’m the only one who can.  It’s because I feel like I’m the only one who should do it all.  

You know what?  Maybe I am crazy.  Asking for help isn’t a bad thing.  No one can do everything all the time.  Spreading yourself too thin means that no area of your life is getting your full focus.  While I’m trying to be everything for everyone, I run out of time to be anything for myself.  And if I’m putting off taking care of myself, how I can I be giving my all to others?

Admitting that you can’t do it all is hard, but I’m slowly learning to ask for help.  I’m still really bad catastrophically terrible at it, but I’m trying.  What I’m finding so far is that other people really like helping (unless they’re douche bags, in which case, why do you want their help?).  I always like helping others because it made me feel like I was making a difference in their life.  It’s actually pretty selfish of me to not help others to get that same feeling.

So, come on over!  I’m sure I could use your help with something around this madhouse.  🙂

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Oh, drinking…

One of the more snide comments while out and about with all 5 kids is something like, “You must drink a lot.”  I’m not even going to begin to go into how rude that is or what it says about the people saying it to me, but I do want to point out the practicality of drinking when you have any kids.

First of all, with the exception of the last 6 months, I have been pregnant, breastfeeding, or both for the last 9 years!  Clearly, drinking while pregnant is frowned upon and I’ve had 5 full term pregnancies.  That’s about 4 1/2 years where drinking is completely off limits.  Yes, you can drink while breastfeeding, but why would I?  Drinking too much causes dehydration which leads to headaches and body aches…a hangover.  I have a life long problem with dehydration, so I literally have a small hangover every morning that I have a breastfeeding baby.  Why would I want to make that any worse?

Second, do the math on what I just said in that last paragraph.  I’ve been pregnant, nursing, or both for the better part of the last 9 years.  I recently turned 30.  Yup, I’ve been a baby factory pretty much since I turned 21.  And my husband is 18 months younger than me.  So in that brief time between when I turned 21 and when I started making people, it wasn’t like I could go bar hopping with my boyfriend/husband.  Heck, he wasn’t old enough to drink at our 3rd wedding!

But we sure were cute!

But we sure were cute!

We already had a baby by then.  A sweet, precious little baby who woke up at dawn from the day she was born.  Needless to say, getting drunk wasn’t a real high priority.

I also have this deep seated, slightly irrational fear that something horrible will happen to my children after I’ve had a few drinks and I won’t be able to take care of them or get them to a hospital.  I know that’s highly unlikely, but it freaks me out enough to have no interest in drinking.  And even if I drank a few shots and nothing happened, what about the next morning?  Baring the likelihood of a catastrophic hangover, I’m still going to be tired.  And I don’t just have 1 child that wakes up at dawn; I have 5.  And they’re loud.  5 very loud, very well rested children talking at me in elevated voices less than 5 hours after I’ve been making friends with Jose Cuervo is not my idea of a good time.

I have lots of mom friends who have a few drinks from time to time.  I don’t think any less of them.  I’m actually a little jealous of their ability to not have a total freak out about it and relax.  And while the people in the store offering me a bottle of wine to “deal with” my 5 kids probably mine well, it’s just never going to happen.

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4th of July

People who meet me seem to think that my family and family life are a bit Norman Rockwell.  I honestly can’t figure out why.  I mean, my kids are really sweet in general.  They’re polite and intelligent.  People compliment me on them often because they’re really good kids.  My husband and I aren’t gushy affectionate, but we like each other most of the time and I guess it shows.  People are always making comments about how obvious it is that we’re in love.  I’m never really sure what that means (we don’t make out in public, or anything), but I assume that it’s a good thing.

We are very not perfect, though.  Let me shatter that “perfect” image for you guys real quick.

As any guest of my home can attest to, my house is not in perfect order. I’ve said before that my house often looks like some sort of natural disaster has occurred recently.  It’s not dirty, but it’s not a museum.  My home is lived in by a bunch of small tornadoes and it shows.  I learned 3 kids ago that keeping my house pristine would only happen at the sake of my sanity and what little sleep I get.

Speaking of the walking natural disasters…yes, my kids can be very sweet.  But let me remind you that they are still kids.  They have bad minutes, bad hours, and bad days.  You get to see them being nice, but sometimes they are terrors!

Persephone, for example.  Everyone who meets her talks about how loving and protective she is.  She always wants to help everyone.  She wants to be the leader.  Unfortunately, that sometimes means she wants to lead them in a mutiny against their parents…she’ll make a great politician.  Dimitrios is my karma.  He can be so creative and intelligent, but he is also stubborn and sarcastic.  Lucius is a whole other type of kid.  He’s so precious, but he’s also so very trying.  Theron is fiercely independent, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

And then there is Calandra.  As I write this, she has thrown herself across the couch and is refusing to get up because it’s bedtime and she wants water.  “But I’m tired!  I mean, thirsty!  And my legs don’t work!”  Yeah, that’s Callie.  She’s the favorite among everyone who meets us.  She’s cute and precocious and intelligent and adorable in the same way Shirley Temple was.  She’s also the reason my husband decided that we didn’t need anymore children, or at least a multi year break before anymore.  She’ll twirl and giggle her way into your heart, and then shriek at you like a howler monkey.  She’ll run up to you and kiss you…then throw a plate at you because it isn’t the color she wanted.  And she’s strong…

My husband and I aren’t perfect, either.  Sometimes, we drive each other completely insane.  For example, I love meeting new people and being stopped for discussions while out and about.  My husband would rather stab himself to death with a spoon than go out into a group of people he doesn’t know.  While he suggests I get to know people in Lynchburg in an “organic, just-bumped-into-each-other” way, he walks through any crowd of potential friends with a vaguely hostile look on his face.  And he’s 6′ 5″.  He’d make a great body guard, but I want people to talk to me.  To be fair, I bug him, too.  I’m not big on what I see as complaining, which means I’ll hold things in until I’m about to burst.  My husband, despite his best efforts, isn’t a mind reader and hates that I don’t tell him when things are upsetting me.  (My mom has actually had the same complaint my whole life, so it’s clearly a character flaw on my part.)

I don’t think I’d ever want to be perfect.  That sounds so boring.  I like that my husband and I can argue.  It makes it that much better when we agree on stuff.  And I like that my kids feel comfortable enough at home to be wild hooligans when they’re upset.  They know that we’ll still love them even if they’re being little shits at the moment (though I’d never call them that to their faces).  The fact that no one in this family freaks out about the little things is awesome!  Imagine how tense my house would be if everything and everyone always had to be perfect?  That would suck!  Plus, I feel like it makes all of us better.  I mean, it’s real life; things are not perfect.  Sometimes, mommy gets mad.  Sometimes, Dimitrios picks a fight with Lucius (and often losses).  Sometimes, Calandra and Theron have tag team meltdowns and none of us want to talk to them.  But we all work through it in the end.

Even though I don’t want to be perfect, I really should finish unpacking.  Seriously, I’ve got boxes here I haven’t unpacked in 4 moves…


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10,000 Hours

Those last few posts have been a little intense, so let’s do one that’s a little more light hearted, shall we?

Author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.  I’ve heard this thrown around a lot and it’s even in a Macklemore song I really like.  In fact, listening to that song a few times on my recent 12 hour driving trip with my family is what got me thinking about this in the first place.

But how long is 10,000 hours, anyway?  I mean, that’s just too big of a number for me to really wrap my head around when it comes to time.  Well, it translates to about 1 year and 52 days straight.  What have I done for the equivalent of a year and 2 months?!?!  And would I really consider myself a master of those things?

Well, I’ve probably spent somewhere around that amount of time doing laundry over the course of my life.  And I’m totally a master at running things through a washer and dryer.  I’ve only dyed 1 load pink with that evil, sneaky red towel.  I’ve absolutely mastered listening to music, what with how easy and passive that is.  Hmm…what else…oh, pregnancy!  With 5 kids, that means I have spent about 3 3/4 years on successful pregnancies.  While I’m not a master of all pregnancies, I can probably say that I’m a master at my own.

But none of those things are actual things I’ve had to work at.  They’re kinda things that just happen while you’re living life.  So what have I actually worked at that I can claim mastery over?

Reading is the first one that comes to mind.  I’ve been reading voraciously since I was little.  I literally ready everyday.  And I’m not talking about reading facebook comments or road signs (though, I’m sure those count toward the overall total).  I’m talking about reading books.  Despite having a host of children and little to no time to myself, I read at least 1 chapter of a book everyday.  I love reading.  Getting lost in a book is one of my greatest non-parenting joys.

Breastfeeding is another thing I’ve mastered.  And, no, that one doesn’t fall under the previous header of “things that just happen.”  I had to work at it.  In fact, I consider myself a failure at breastfeeding my 1st child.  I tried and tried and saw specialists and consultants.  I ended up so engorged that I was prescribed a hospital grade pump.  After 3 months (which is actually pretty impressive), I couldn’t do it anymore.  It was too hard, too painful, and turning into an experience where I resented my daughter for it.  I’m a firm believer in nursing for as long as it’s good for both you and your baby and with my 1st baby that was only 3 months.  My 2nd was 1 year.  My 3rd and 4th were over 2 years.  My 5th was just under 2 years.  After nursing 3 toddlers, 2 of them through pregnancies and into tandem nursing, I can say that I’m a master at it.

I’ve also probably been sewing for close to 10,000 hours of my life, if not more.  My mom can sew and she taught my sister and I when we were kids.  I had one set of sewing lessons (30 minutes per day for 4 days) when I was 8 years old, in which I learned how to follow a pattern (I made shorts), make a 9-patch pillow, and ad lib a scrunchy.  After that, I was off and running.  I made a dress with my mom.  I made pants with my sister.  When I was 10, I designed and made my own shirts.  A few years later, I made my first quilt.  I’ve made bedding, clothes, diapers, stuffed animals, headbands, baby carriers…I can literally sew anything that can be sewn at this point.  And I love to sew!  I’ve got 4 sewing machines right now (I burn through them pretty quickly).  Persephone has her own sewing machine.  Dimitrios has a junior sewing machine that Calandra is always trying to use.  Theron likes to sit on my lap and help sew.  The only child who hasn’t gotten my sewing bug is Lucius, but he likes the way the machine works.  🙂

So, it looks like I’m technically a master of the things that I love.  Wait.  That’s not right.  I hate laundry.  But the children, the reading, and the sewing I totally love.  I don’t know that I’d really consider it a mastery over those things, though.  I’m fully willing to admit that I’ve got a lot more to learn about everything.

Except the laundry.  Unfortunately, I’ve got that down.

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100 years ago seems like a really long time.  In many of the ways we take for granted, it was a whole world away.  1914 saw Henry Ford introduce the first assembly line, something we use in the production of damn near everything now.  The Panama Canal opened.  Beverly Hills incorporated (and I’ll watch it’s Real Housewives when my kids go to bed).  The first stone of the Lincoln Memorial was placed.  The first successful blood transfusion happened.  The birth of Paramount Pictures and color films, commercial airlines, Greyhound Buses…hell, that’s the year the Red Sox first got Babe Ruth.  World War I started that year!

My grandmother was also born that year.

Now, think of all that has happened since then.  2 World Wars, and a host of other conflicts the world over.  The birth of the auto industry and it’s expansion until almost every household in the US has at least 1 car.  The advent of computers and the advancement of computer technology until I can type on a lap top that weighs less than my current reading selection.  The entire Civil Rights Movement.

And my grandmother lived through it all.

I would have loved to hear her talk about all she had seen.  She was a living historical perspective.  While she did like to talk, she didn’t like to talk about her past or the past, in general.  I guess there was just too much history.  I mean, we’re talking about a black woman from the South who lived through the time before Civil Rights.  That’s a pretty dark time.

I’ve seen pictures of her when she was young and she bore a striking resemblance to me.  In fact, we looked so much alike that my parents said they used to pray that I’d break 5 feet (she was about 4’6″ while I’ve peaked at 5’7 1/4″).  I apparently also got my stubborn streak from her.  This is a woman who honestly argued with me about how long I could keep my hair in a French braid (I said 1 day and she said at least 3) and swore up and down that I didn’t call her anymore (she often confused the sound of my name with the sound of my dad’s first wife’s name on the phone).

I like to think it was that stubborn nature that carried her life beyond all the negative.  I’ve never known anyone who could pick them selves up by their bootstraps quite like she could.  This is a woman who outlived her husband by almost 3 decades but could still smile when she talked about her time with him.  She outlived her oldest son by a decade, too, but could still roll her eyes and joke about his hijinks.

I’m kinda a history buff and I wish she would have told me about her past.  I wonder what it was like for to watch the advances of the world from her tiny apartment in New York City.

I’ve been reflecting more on her life and how her experiences impacted me now that I’m living in the South.  She was from a small town that no longer exists in Virginia.  I actually drive by an exit labeled with the town that absorbed it 3 times per week.  I’m only a few hours from where she grew up, a place she couldn’t wait to escape.  10 years ago, I told her that I had started dating a boy from Lynchburg, Va.  I remember the pause on the phone, followed by her concerned little voice.  “Honey, we wouldn’t even drive through Lynchburg.”  Seemed silly at the time, but I get it now.  Not because there is anything wrong with this city, but because of where she was coming from.

People talk about slavery and the Civil War with a measured sense of detachment.  It’s something that happened a long time ago.  Most people I meet in Virginia are 5 or 6 generations removed from it.  Also, most of them are white.  This gives them a certain separation that I’m not afforded.  There are a lot of Confederate flags around here, though very little outward hate.  When I point the flags out, the most common response is something along the lines of, “It’s heritage, not hate.”    If I say it’s the heritage of a battle based on hate, people get very uncomfortable and point out how long ago slavery was.

It wasn’t that long ago for me.  Slavery was 3/4 generations back for me.  My grandmother, born in 1914, was raised by her grandparents because her mother was a teenager.  Those grandparents that raised her were freed slaves living in Virginia.  My grandmother was raised by people who had been property.  When you used to hold the same value as a chair, you view the world as a very scary place where you’re never sure of your own merit.  My grandmother left Virginia as soon as she was an adult and went to a big city in the North.  She raised my dad, who became incredibly political.  He went to UC Berkeley during the height of the Civil Rights movement.  He dated my mother, a white woman, while the Supreme Court decided if different races should be allowed to marry.  Virginia v. Loving was the case.  Yup, back to Virginia.

And now I live here.  I live in a place intimately tied to my very existence.  The capital of the Confederacy was a few hours from where I sit now.  A Confederacy that wanted my great great grandparents to remain property and not people.  A state that fought tooth and nail to keep people like me from being anything other than illegitimate bastards.  A state that is now trying really hard to embrace the changes in the world while rewriting it’s past to make it a little less horrifying.

And my grandmother watched it all.  It colored who she was and how she saw the world.  It made her fierce and strong in a way I can never imagine.  She died a few years ago, but I can imagine her watching with intense interest as her home state once again tried to stop people who are “different” from having the same rights as the majority…and the joy she would feel when they lost.   She would have been proud to see the state of her birth become listed as one of the top places for interracial couples.  I think she’d be a little scared seeing me live here, but I think she’d also be a little proud.

Maybe I have a little more of her stubborn streak than I’m ready to admit.  I just hope I have some of her strength, too, because my big mouth is going to get me into trouble in this place.  🙂

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Tiny House Living

Tiny houses have always fascinated me.  The idea of paring down your living environment to just the essentials is so cool to me.  My mom bought a summer home when I was 12.  It was small, though not “tiny” by the standards of the current movement.  The entire home could fit inside the living room of my current home and the 2 bedrooms were actually 1 small room with a 6 1/2 foot high partition/wall in the middle.  My sister and I used to throw things over the wall to each other.  🙂  It didn’t even have a bathroom when we bought it.  It had an outhouse.  No, I’m not kidding.  We had to have a bathroom wing attached to the house just so we could have running water.  And it was awesome.

Eventually, a neighbor gave us her house.  My mom had our little house bulldozed, built a walkout basement, and paid to have the entire 2 bedroom house lifted up, moved, and placed onto our new basement.  It’s still not a big house, but it’s a castle compared to the old one.  In fact, I just got back from spending a week there with all 5 of my children.  You realize just how little you need when you don’t have the space for it.

I couldn’t live in a tiny house full time.  I couldn’t really even live in a small one.  My life and lifestyle just doesn’t work for it.  I’ve got a decent size family, first of all, and the beds for everyone take up a lot of space.  We also homeschool, which requires stuff.  Granted, we do a more unorthodox form of homeschooling that leans more toward unschooling, but there is still a lot of stuff.  Work books and art supplies and projects galore!  Plus, you need a pretty big table if you want 7 people to sit together for a meal.  Then there’s my shop.  Fabric, snaps, snap presses, sewing machines, and inventory take up a bunch of space.  I’ve talked before about how I have to buy in bulk to save money on feeding a large family.  Well, you have to have a place to put all that stuff, right?  So, tiny living doesn’t really work for me.

But have you watched any of those shows about tiny house living?  It’s amazing!  There are so many things in our lives that we really don’t need.  Before the rise of convenience machines, people lived in small houses.  It’s our stuff that takes up all the space, not us.  I wouldn’t need a laundry room of I could wash my clothes in a bucket and dry them on a line.  Don’t need a tv room if you don’t have a tv.  To take it to an extreme, bookcases aren’t needed when you can’t read.

As technology advances, the things we “need” are starting to get smaller.  A lap top, smartphone, and Kindle can eliminate the need for books, tvs, cable boxes, dvd collections, and cd players.  Of course, I’m never getting a Kindle because I need my books.  And my husband is 6′ 5″ and hates small spaces.  Clearly, we aren’t going to downsizing and moving onto a bus anytime soon.  But it has inspired me to downsize some of our stuff.  We’ll probably be moving to a smaller place in the near future and I’d like to try out some of the cool storage ideas I’ve found in the tiny house documentaries.

Do any of you guys do the tiny house thing?  I’d love to hear some first hand experiences.  🙂

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