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Reflecting | Atomic Bee Ranch | Page 3

Category Archives: Reflecting

Reflection 2016:1

So we have officially decided to unschool Cam. I don’t know why I say officially, but we’ve really talked about it and come to terms with the fact that she will not be going to school in the fall (or for many falls to come).

In some ways this makes me sad. I love the succession of the seasons and because of my childhood going to school I feel like the school year is very intimately connected with that. It makes me feel like she won’t have that even though I know this is not true. In our family we do a lot that is connected in with the seasons. Gardening, chickens, bees to name a few. Plus our family traditions and celebrations focus on the seasons too. For my husband I know he is sad that Cam will not be a “lifer” at the school he went to. He had deep ties to the school (we both do, but his are deeper and more positive than mine). I’m sure he’s mourning the loss of that potential connection, one we thought for several years would happen. 

I think we both have needed to come to terms with the idea that Cam will have a happy childhood without having one that looks like ours. It’s a mind shift for sure. 

Now that we are going to unschool we’re actually talking to people about our decision. I am getting questions from people. Is she going to school in the fall? Oh, really? What exactly is unschooling? And that right there has been a hard answer for me to articulate. Basically nothing is going to change. We’re just going to let her be. She can play and imagine and choose what she’s ready to learn. Which brings me to her latest endeavor. She’s started to write letters. 

The other day I was working in a puzzle magazine and she was watching me out of the corner of her eye. After a few minutes she leaned over and asked if I would help her write some words. I showed her how to form the letters and told her which ones to write and she did it. And she’s been doing it since. Prior to this she had been doing scribbled lines to indicate text, but she made a comment that she no longer needed to write in “her way” (which, as a side note, made me sad to see that go, it was so sweet).

This is how unschooling works and works well. She has the interest, no forcing or cajoling from me. I’ve offered to teach her letters before, but she hasn’t been ready or interested. Now that she is, though, she’s off. Slowly she is learning the letters’ names and the sounds they make. I suspect if she keeps this up she’ll be reading in six months or so. I’m helping her when she asks for it instead of inserting myself and deciding she has reached an arbitrary date for learning something. It’s very exhilarating to see this happen, because I think until you see your child do it, it’s worrisome and hard to disconnect from everything you’ve been taught about school and the traditional model. 

So, yeah. I’m working on formulating an explanation of what it is we want to do with Cam, not because I’m confused, but because others are. And they are genuinely curious about what it is we mean.  

Advent Reflections: Week 4

I am busy updating a few things on the blog and you can now see my new categories as showcased by the buttons on the sidebar. I also cleaned up my blogroll to reflect more accurately the blogs I read on a daily basis. 

As far as how often I will be posting I think it’s going to be two posts a week. One an activity that set up for Cam (an invitation to play) and another in one of the five other categories. 

Keep your eyes open for a new About Me page. Have a wonderful and safe holiday if you celebrate Christmas and a wonderful New Year’s Eve and Day. Until 2016.

Advent Reflections: Week 3

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction I want to take this blog. I haven’t blogged a lot this year and I really want to be doing more here. It’s very interesting for me to go back and look at what I’ve written over the years and how it documents my thinking, what I’ve learned, and what I’ve done with Cam and I don’t want to lose that.

We are also going to be starting unschooling this year- which is a funny thing to say because you don’t really start unschooling. My hope, really, is to be more intentional in setting up provocations and activities for Cam and making sure I see how she responds to them and just generally being more in tune and more present in that aspect of her learning. 

Between my feeling lost at the end of this year, starting back at work, and getting a dog I feel like our home life has fallen apart (it hasn’t really, but it feels that way) and I want to go forward with more intentionality. 

So what I’ve thought of so far is that I want posts that fall into six categories: activities, sharing updates on our animals (bees, chickens, etc) and our garden, books, food, reflections, and connections (mostly on connecting with kids). I would like to bring in some of my professional life as it informs what I do here at home, but I’ll see how that works. 

I have yet to decide how often I will be posting or if I want to give myself some parameters for the blog posts so that they actually get done and don’t overwhelm me. I’ll share more next week in my final Advent reflections post as I work it out. I will be taking off the 12 days of Christmas, of the liturgical Christmas season and will return with the new blog on January 6th, Epiphany. 

Advent Reflections: Week 2

This week I wanted to share our family Advent tradition. It has four components to it that are based on my upbringing in the Episcopal church and as a German. 

Advent Calendar: I always had one of those chocolate calendars as a kid and I loved them. I’m not opposed to them, but I wanted to get back to the German roots of the tradition more. The Germans make so stunningly beautiful Advent calendars that each window reveals a tiny picture, but that feels like something Cam will appreciate more when she is a bit older (tween and teen years). I love the idea of a tiny gift each day, but decided I wanted to get away from Cam getting so much stuff. So I took the religious Advent wreath and made one for our table. Each Sunday of Advent we light a candle in it and each day there is a jar in the middle with an activity. Some are about giving (take groceries to the food bank) and others are something to make the season festive (make an ornament for the tree). 

St. Nicholas Day & Christkindlmarkt: Instead of opening presents on Christmas morning we put out Cam’s shoes on St. Nicholas Night and she gets her presents the next morning. We tried some other traditions, but I am trying to get as far away from the hype that Christmas morning presents brings. In the German tradition that weekend there is a Christkindlmarkt which is like a craft and food fair. Our local German society club puts one on and we go to pick out an ornament and buy some traditional cookies and sausages. 

Yearly Ornament: At the Christkindlmarkt we let Cam pick out an ornament from the blown-glass ornament vendor. This way when she leaves home she’ll have a small collection of ornaments to take with her. For the time being, they are put on our tree.  

Nativity Scene: I have a Nativity set that I remember very fondly from my childhood. Cam and I set it up each year together and she is allowed to play with the figures. Per what I think is a religious tradition and may also be German the Christ child does not arrive until Christmas morning and Mary and Joseph don’t arrive until Christmas Eve. Mary and Joseph also travel around the house during Advent on their journey to Bethlehem. I find this to be a lot more meaningful and way less creepy than that Elf on the Shelf. 

Now I will say Cam does get presents on Christmas. She has seven grandparents so they have her covered (although we limit them to one or two with no pressure to do any). I loved Christmas as a child, but I think it’s gotten a lot more commercial and a lot more intense and I don’t want that for our family. We have all we need and much much more. Cam doesn’t need lots of new toys each year nor does she need the hype of begging things she doesn’t really want. So I’ve tried to tie the season to religious and cultural traditions to tone it all down and make it more meaningful and special. 


Advent Reflections: Week 1

So, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking since my last downer of a post. I’m trying hard to let things go and be more proactive and outspoken when I see and experience things I don’t like or think aren’t right. This thinking has led me to a new direction I want to try with this blog and I thought Advent would be a good time to work out a plan and start sharing those plans, as it’s a season of expectation.

I love mommy blogs that share bajillions of activities and pictures and the like, but that’s not me. What I love to write about are a mix of things, but more big picture stuff. I do like to write about things I’m doing with Cam. I also love to use the blog as a way to keep me honest and keep me engaged with doing things with her. I also love to share book recommendations, particularly my Diverse Bookshelf. So I’ll be keeping those things.

I’m going to introduce a new format- so far I’m thinking limiting myself to about 350 words a post. I’m also going to have a schedule that I want to stick with. You might see my categories change and I desperately need to update my About Me page that I wrote three years ago! Some things may look a little different on the blog itself too, but by and large I like the clean format/layout I have going now. I’m letting other stuff go in my life so I can do this and I have to identify what’s going to give. I’m going to spend Advent (i.e. the rest of the year) planning more throughly and thoughtfully. 

Sunday Reflections: I am tired

I’ve had a rough couple weeks dealing with some bullshit and just sort of hit a breaking point last night. These are the thoughts that have now been running through my head as I reflect on what has been happening. 

I am tired of feeling like no one takes me seriously. That because I am a stay at home mom I must not  do anything (except lounge around and shop online); that I am some sort of airhead. I am so tired of feeling like people don’t take me seriously because I’m young and a woman.

I am tired of trying to balance all the things I want to do (build a strong library program, blog, read for work) with my job and with spending quality, meaningful time with my daughter. So often I feel like I’m failing at all those things. 

I am tired of the meme that tells us to be kind always. It feels too much like what we teach girls. Years of training I have to just “be nice”. Not make waves. Not stand up for myself. I am tired of trying to teach Cam that she can be more what our crappy society thinks of girls and yet failing to be able to do that myself. 

I am tired of the backward glances at what I wear and the fact that I don’t have on jeans, high heels and makeup while toting a four year old around. 

I am tired of feeling like I have to give several extra days to my job in the library even though I’m not paid. I’m tired of bending over backwards to make sure things are equitable for the teachers and my contract. 

I am tired of people feeling entitled. 

I am tired of petty, insecure, selfish and self absorbed people. 

I am tired of people asking me if our daughter will attend the private school my husband and I work at. And I’m tired of answering in a conciliatory and non-committal way to avoid making the school look bad or making it look like I don’t work there in large part because we need the money.

I am tired of keeping this in because I feel guilty feeling this way. These are all champagne problems. I could be homeless. Or a black. Or undocumented. Or a whole host of other things that are so much worse or more difficult than what I’m dealing with. 

And, I am just plain tired. I have a lot on my plate.

So, what am I going to do? Well, most of the time I just feel angry, like I might implode. But I feel like I reached a breaking point yesterday and I just need to make some decisions.


I am not going to take crap and sexist remarks from other people. I’m also not going to denigrate myself and what I do with Cam. I am going to remind people that I have work experience, life experience and an good education to back me up. This is going to be hard. I have years and years of conditioning that have taught me to be quiet. To be nice. That I should care what everyone else thinks and thinks of me. 

I’m done trying to reschedule work days that are taken up with other things that are not of my making. I work extra hours planning, setting up and on projects and that makes up for the times I don’t have the kids in the library. And if work is getting in the way of quality time with my daughter I’m not doing it. I’m done letting that interfere. 

I am going to say no. No you may not put your needs before my work. My work is important and just because you aren’t sure about my program doesn’t mean you get to decide that what you do is more important. (This comes specifically from what happened yesterday, but is broadly applicable.) No you may not put your needs before my own. My time is valuable and my needs are real. There are other things for you to do, go do them.  

I am going to try and be sure I am not feeling entitled to anything and am going to call out entitlement. You are entitled to nothing in this life. If anyone is entitled, it’s the people our society and government have disenfranchised and built systems that institutionalize racism and inequality around.

Why are the petty and self absorbed people always the loudest ones? I guess because they feel a certain sense of targeted injustice in the world. I am done engaging with them. 

I am done telling people Cam will go to private school. Their educational philosophy doesn’t fit with what I want for her, for starters. We also had a really shitty experience applying last year where the admissions office was not willing to hear our concerns. If we were any other family we would look elsewhere and we are going to. 

I am going to do the things I want to and not do the ones I don’t. I won’t be the book police at school. I won’t do extra things for work. I certainly won’t bend over backwards for a system that allows others to shirk work and time, but expects me not to.  I know I’ve consciously put things on my plate that are there, but I want to reassess and be sure they are things I am glad are taking up my time and are intentional not just conscious choices. If things don’t get done, they don’t get done. Sorry. There are only 24 hours in a day and I need to rest and focus on Cam during a lot of those. 

It breaks my heart that last night I actually looked over at my daughter and wondered if it was worth it. If giving up my career, my body, my time and putting myself out there for all the judgement there is around and in motherhood was worth her. Because of course she’s worth it. Fuck the system that made me question that. I am tired of it. 

Fire Safety

Life has been busy, but it was interrupted last week by a rather scary experience. The house behind ours burned down. We didn’t notice it was on fire until we heard the sirens, our power went out and there were 15 foot flames coming out of their roof. Everyone made it out safely, but we were very concerned for awhile that our shed or house could catch fire too. 

After the excitement had died down we realized we needed to look carefully at our fire safety and I thought I would share some of our ideas and plans here. 

Fire extinguishers: there is now one in each part of the house including the garage and shed. Fires can start in garages with cars and junk piled around it can feed the blaze. Having an extinguisher nearby may help. They are also incredibly important in the kitchen where a lot of other house fires start. NEVER put water on a grease fire, use an extinguisher if you have time. 

Escape route: we don’t have a big house so I don’t know how detailed we need to get. If we can, we’ll leave through a door. But every window has a screen that can be easily pushed out. If your screens are screwed on, get them replaced so they fit properly and aren’t attached if possible. If they are metal consider having them replaced with the plastic screening so it can easily rip in an emergency. Second stories need escape ladders in the rooms. 

Defensible space and tidiness: Keeping the sides of houses clear of debris and junk will help prevent a fire from spreading either from your house or to it. I know it’s hard to keep houses totally clean, especially yard debris, but it can make a difference. Also keeping rooms tidy and garages clean will help slow a fire’s spread. It won’t stop it, but it can keep it from having lots of fuel. Again a tough one, but looking at how jam-packed our neighbor’s house was I’m sure they were not very good housekeepers and that didn’t help. (I’m talking piles and stacks of things, not not picking up toys).

Smoke detectors: Probably the most terrifying part in retrospect was how quickly the entire house was engulfed in flames. It took about 15 minutes. If they hadn’t had smoke detectors and had been asleep, I’m not sure they would have gotten out. Seriously. Make sure you have smoke detectors and make sure the batteries are working. Don’t combine them with carbon monoxide detectors. Smoke rises so detectors should be on ceilings or up high. Carbon monoxide is heavy and sinks. These need to be near the floor or on it. If CO is high enough to reach your smoke detector or smoke is low enough to reach your CO detector, it’s too late. 

Spark arrester: If you use your fireplace be sure there is a spark arrester on the chimney. This will prevent sparks and ash from landing on your roof and igniting a fire or blowing over to your neighbor’s house and starting one. Having the chimney regularly cleaned can also reduce the chance of fire. 

If at all possible make sure your electrical wiring is up to code (I know that’s an expensive one) and be sure you aren’t doing anything like overloading circuits or plugging things in to tons of adaptors and extension cords or power strips. The fire at the neighbor’s was an electrical fire that started behind the TV. If you have time run outside and hit the breaker, but being careful to begin with can help. 

I think this is all timely information too because we’re coming up on the holidays when people put out candles, have fires in their fire places, and will be cooking a lot more. Never leave candles unattended or cooking (for more than a moment or two). Under the right conditions fires can spread rapidly. And if a fire does start, get out and call the fire department. Your stuff is not worth risking your life or your family’s lives for. 

Hundred Languages Read Along: Introduction

Hundre LanguagesIntroduction

I don’t usually read introductions. They tend to summarize what’s going to be discussed in each chapter and if I’m going to read the book, I can discover that for myself. The introduction here literally introduced the reader to Reggio Emilia, the city, and the surrounding area. It also did what introductions do and summarize each of the chapters. I did see how, if you did not plan on reading the book in its entirety, that could be useful. More information was provided than the chapter title so it would be easy to use this as a gauge for which portions would be most relevant and useful to you. They also explained why several of the chapters take the format they do, specifically why they are in interview form.

The chapter does go into a bit of detail about the title of the book, which stems from the famous exhibit that has been traveling the US for decades now. (Sadly I missed it when it was in a city a few hours south from where I live when Cam was tiny.) The authors wanted, after the exhibit opened, to elaborate on it and study it more fully. This was simply not possible in the exhibit format so they decided on a book. 

While all this information was interesting and marginally relevant, the introduction really shone in the last 8 pages or so where it gives an excellent historical overview of the educational and child care system in Italy.(They have high quality, state funded child care available to families from four months up! The US needs something like that.) It starts in the early 19th century, and without getting too dry and involved, covers political and social movements and reforms that shaped the system and allowed the Reggio Emilia approach to emerge and flourish. This was absolutely fascinating, but again not essential to understanding how the approach works or how to apply it (although I think they would argue differently). Certainly it gives a great foundation and at under ten pages it’s well worth reading. 

I do wish I could find an overview like that about American education. I think it would be very informative and would allow educators both a sense of how all the pieces of our educational system fit together and how to go about changing them for the better and adapting something like the Reggio Emilia approach to our schooling. In my own research I have come across the idea that our idea of school comes from an imagined ideal of the 1950s and it would be interesting to see both how that emerged and how it is changing. 

One last thought, I have an older edition (I believe the third edition is out now. It has a green cover.) which makes this one a bit dated. I suspect with the much more recent economic downturn and European economic crisis things have changed more, at least on an administrative level, and I would be extremely curious to know how that has impacted these schools and the services available to families. 

Activity in the Hive: Summer of Mess

This summer, because of two books I’ve been reading through, I decided to embrace mess and being off from work. I actually work several very part time jobs both from home and outside of the home. They aren’t what you would consider traditional part time jobs, so I often don’t think of myself as home only part time, but I suppose in reality I am. That means I try to embrace the time Cam and I have, but with farm chores, housekeeping, and work that crops up I am not always successful. But this summer I have planned to put aside a lot of my library blogging, my work and my hang ups about being messy. I picked out a ton of activities for Cam and I to do together. 

Everything will start at the beginning of June since that was the soonest I could wrap up the majority of my commitments. (I am still teaching two weeks of half-day summer camp classes and we have a long weekend for a professional conference.) However starting this week we are going to have two messy planned activities and a set of quiet boxes for each week (although some of those may carry over or repeat). I would like to blog about this summer and my plan is to have three posts a week. The first, going up on Mondays, will be pictures and descriptions of the quiet boxes. The second and third, going up on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be the messy activities we are doing with a picture or two. I’m having the posting schedule mirror our weekly schedule, but it will lag a week behind us. That means this will be the only post this week about our summer of mess so that I have some lead time to take pictures and write up the posts. If this becomes too much I’ll stop, but that’s the plan so far. Please check back if you are interested in seeing what we do!

If you are interested I highly recommend these two books- the books I am collecting my ideas from:

Screen Free TinkerlabTinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors by Rachel Doorley

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro

Separation of Home and Work

This week I just wanted to talk a bit about separating work life and home life and how that can be a struggle. I don’t think I’m alone in this and if anyone has suggestions I’m all ears. I also know that my jobs are not nearly as intense as other moms, many who work intense full time jobs. Part of the reason I keep my work to a minimum is because I have a hard time with keeping one from interfering with the other.  

I had a particularly unprofessional and nasty interaction with a future colleague this week. And now I have spent the last days and hours of last week reflecting back on it and trying to come up with a constructive response that won’t be coming from a reactive place. The unfortunate thing is, Cam lost out because I let it get under my skin too much. I haven’t been as attentive and, worse, she is picking up on my feelings of frustration and anger at how poorly I was treated.

I want Cam to see me deal with bad situations with grace and with firmness. I want her to see me stand up for myself while still being kind. But I don’t want to have her loose out when I need to deal with situations like this. I think this is just a “file under parenting is hard” situation. I don’t have a magical solution for how not to let this stuff get to me. I do try very hard to continue to remind myself to pay attention to Cam, take deep breaths, and let the frustration go. 

But this isn’t limited to being upset by an interaction with someone. This encompasses times when I have a project or deadline looming or even just when the to do list is hanging over my head.  It can be really hard to be present when I allow other things to creep in and bother me. In the fall I will be starting a one day a week library position and I am going to work very hard to have work stay at work and home be our sanctuary.