Mother Culture

Is there not some need for “mother culture”? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, “I simply have no time for myself!” “I never read a book!” Or else, “I don’t think it is right to think of myself!” They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification. There are, moreover, unfortunately, only too many people who think that sort of thing so lovely that public opinion appears to justify it. But does public opinion justify anything? Does it justify tight-lacing–or high heels–or bearing-reins for horses? It can never justify anything which leads to the “Oh, it’s only mother” tone in any young person. 

I will start by fully acknowledging that I am a nerd. But even if you are not, that is no excuse to not be learning. And mothers, especially, should be investing in themselves because they have such important work in the investing of little ones (and big ones, as they eventually become!). We want to have much to offer our children, but we must have something to give. Yes, ‘self care’ is a part of this, but its not pedicures and massages (though those have a place, for sure!) that I speak of. It’s Mother Culture.

What is Mother Culture?

This is a mother investing in her own mind by various means. Study, reading, drawing, creating. Ideas are food for the mind, and if she doesn’t seek to feed her mind, her mind will atrophy. Just as the body atrophies when it isn’t fed, so the mind does. With all the demands on a mother’s attention and time, she has to be intentional about feeding her mind. When she doesn’t, she risks having nothing to offer her children as they seek to feed their own minds. And as children grow, the kind of ideas they want and need grow with them.

Productive labor, Reproductive labor, Scholé and Entertainment

Most people will be able to identify productive labor and entertainment as categories for how to spend your time. Scholé is that time when you are seeking refreshment and enrichment. From handicrafts to reading to art, scholé is a broad category. Mother Culture, however, falls into the reproductive labor category*. Generally, this is the labor of investing in others, caring for others, loving others. Sounds like a mother’s job, yes? And for a mother to love her children especially well, she can grow her own mind by feeding it with good quality stuff.

How I do Mother Culture

I will fully acknowledge that for me, Mother Culture overlaps with Schole. I find the time I spend reading, thinking and writing refreshing and rejuvenating. And not everyone will find this true for them (though I expect it won’t be a draining as many think it will be). I got this idea from a podcast episode on Your Morning Basket by Pam Barnhill, about Mother’s Morning Basket. It’s not a basket, and I don’t work from it the morning, but you’ll see the connection.

I found that a medium flat rate box (from USPS), with flaps cut off, fit wonderfully in a worn out reusable grocery bag. The bag by itself is good for getting wet and dirty, but doesn’t provide much support and books, journals, etc would topple it. I like stuff that will stand up and I don’t have to dig to find anything. On the other hand, a box on its own isn’t great for one handed transportation. I’ve got a toddler, and I need one handed transportation abilities. And a box that was already used to ship something is great for ‘can get wet and dirty’. I get most of my reading time when I’m outside with the boys. If I’m inside I always seem able to have something more urgent calling me.

I can be very hap-hazard about picking out the books I’m going to work through. I picked out my current set by… inspiration. I want to be more intentional, but really, there are SOOOO MANY books, and not nearly enough time. And these (the SOOOO MANY) are only the books worth reading (as one part of a good education is knowing what NOT to read). :::sigh:::

Currently, I’m reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass, and Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. And there is Start Here by Brandy Vencel with For the Children’s Sake. I often toss things I print out into this box so that the next time I sit down to read, I can read it. I keep my common place journal in the box, also.

But there are other standard items that will just live in the box.

  • matches for lighting the bug candle when outside
    water bottle, ’cause I always need to drink more water
    sunscreen, b/c we live in central Texas
    chap stick, b/c we live in central Texas
    pens, as you totally need a large selection to choose from when writing in your journal, even though you always choose the same one
  • note cards
  • book darts
  • post it notes
  • extra bookmark (’cause the toddler likes them, too!)

Where to find good reading material?

There are a few places I find good options for reading that has good, strong ideas that feed my mind. In general, its good to have 3 types of books: a stiff book, a moderately hard book, and an easy book, aka a novel. Now, I know myself well enough to know that I can’t just always have a novel going, or novels are all I’ll ready. Especially, a good murder mystery by Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers.

I have found good book lists from Brandy at afterthoughtsblog.net, from listening to the Scholé Sister’s podcast, other podcasts, a slew of different sites, facebook friends, instagram…. I do know that I aim to know who the recommendation comes from, as that informs me of what kind of book it will be. Ann Bogel has book recommendations out the wa-zoo, but I know that I’m not going to be interested in most of it. But, when Mystie Winkler or Pam Barnhill recommends the book, there is a better chance it’s up my alley. As you start paying attention, you’ll find a good source of book recommendations. Here is my goodreads, but I’m a hoarder of to-read books, so be warned!

So, go and do likewise! How can I help you get your Mother Culture on?

Please note that all my links for things are just links. I get no kickback and nothing but goodwill (maybe) for linking to other’s sites.


*I got this idea from an article by Sybil Schwarzenbach, called “On Civic Friendship”. Here is the citation:
Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach, “On Civic Friendship,” Ethics 107, no. 1 (Oct., 1996): 97-128.
https://doi.org/10.1086/233698

Your child’s first teacher — yes, you.

This is a draft of a post I wrote years ago. I’m struggling to get much writing done, so thought I’d get an old draft together and published.


I have been thinking more about my last rant on children’s books and such things. Of course, I often think about what I’m teaching Doctor Destructo (who is now known as Little Man) and what I want to teach him. I am an educator by nature and education, so I think a lot about educating. And I can be a bit odd, so Hubby tells me, so that might be it, too.

My very own sister made a good point, that these Curious George books are ones I read growing up and have I embraced the irresponsible life style? No, I escape unscathed. However, when chatting with my Dad, I learn that he and Mom had similar misgivings about the books. Thus, I suspect that a fair number of conversations and teaching moments were about logical consequences and being responsible.

All this to say that you have GOT to talk with your child. Yes, yes, every parent who bothers to seek out and read any parenting magazine or website will be told “talk to your child. When you are giving them a bath, talk to them about what you are doing. When you are changing their diaper, tell them what you are doing.”  This is a good starting point, for sure, when you are looking at this little bundle of unfinished neural connections (not my words, got that from someone else) and you have no idea what they are thinking or even if they are thinking (but they probably are, ’cause that is what kids do).


Yeah, I can have strong opinions….. And now, I know that sometimes, I just want quiet. My quiet. Little Man quiet. All quiet. It’s good to not talk sometimes. Sometimes a few years of experience brings perspective, right?

Traveling for Totality

Last week, we took a road trip to see totality. Totally. 😀

We could have stayed home and seen about 75% coverage of the sun, but since both Hubby and I turned 40 this year and we’ve never seen a total eclipse with our own eyes, we decided to drive. And this was going to be a location “easy” to get to (compared to get to some random island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean…)

And hubby really wanted to see the sun blotted out, at least for a time.

And it was worth it.

We drove up to Nebraska, and on that Monday, we drove west along with a great number of others seeking clear skies to see the eclipse.

IMG_0681

I-80 West

Yes, it was a “veritable river of plastic, steel and glass” said Hubby. And he was right.

We finally found our spot on intersecting dirt roads in the middle of corn fields.

 

It smelled *awful*. Stinky fertilizer. Of course, I think I was the only one that noticed.

It was awe inspiring. I wish I could have gotten a good picture of the eclipse, but I learned that getting a good photograph of the sun was really hard. But the 360′ sunset was quite photogenic. It was dark; you could feel the temp drop. It was eerie.

Our boys are getting good at road trips. Neither are ideal long distance car travelers yet, but at each road trip, they do better than the last one. I thought this blog post was great at expressing our ideas. From a greatly loved camping book, we learned the idea of 3 types of fun. Type 1 fun is stuff that is fun to do and fun to talk about it. Type 2 fun is no fun at the time but fun to talk about later. Type 3 fun is no fun at the time and not fun to talk about it later. We have found that when something is hard, labeling it as “Type 2 fun” is helpful. We can even begin to enjoy the experience at the moment.

And really, even if you have toddlers, it can still work. Maybe the toddler screams for hours or the baby doesn’t sleep. It can still be a good trip, because the toddler/baby isn’t going to remember and think of the stories! “Do you remember that trip where so-and-so refused to sleep at night? Oh, that was rough.”

Plus, the more you travel with the kids, the better everyone gets at it. Kids learn to travel well (or camp well, or hotel well) and parents learn what these specific kids need to do well. So, start young and do it often. It’s worth the work. At least, I think so!

Did you enjoy the solar eclipse? Did you travel? Do you think you’ll travel for the 2024 eclipse? We won’t…. because we are all ready in the path of totality!

schedule adjustments and help sleeping

Ah, I missed getting this post up as I had scheduled in my mind. Sure, a sick baby doesn’t help, but really, I am my worst enemy on these things.

Adjusting the schedule

I realized very quickly, that although my laid out schedule was well received, due to various factors, we rarely get through one whole day’s worth of stuff. Laying it out like this made sure I got the weekly subjects in on a reasonable schedule, but we couldn’t just start at the top for the new day. Yes, Little Man might like that, but we would miss much of the feast that comes later in the list. So, Loop it, I did. This changed nothing but my own thinking on this, really. I have a little sticky arrow that I stick on where-ever we happen to stop when we do stop, and that’s where we start up the next time we start up. Yes, we want to be more consistent, but with swim parties and park playdates… and sick baby brother, life happens. This is something I love about homeschooling, and about Charlotte Mason and AmblesideOnline, if something ain’t working, adjust and try again.

Sleep

Did you know that sleep is the “little death”? I think this is a philosopher’s thing, for when we need to talk about what it is to be a person and other ethical arguments¹. But in our house, the littles seems to think that sleep is something to be avoided at nearly all costs. At least, this is what Little Man’s 6 years of life has been like. I was reading an ad-disguised-as-a-blog-post about ‘weighted blankets’, and thought this might help him sleep well (and longer). Commercially, these blankets are over $100, and I was not about to drop that much on a ‘it might help’. So, what does this mama do? She looks up how to make it! It’s not complicated but it takes a bit of finesse to stitch the rows after filling will the beads². And after 2 nights with it, Little Man slept a bit later both mornings! He says he likes it, which counts for a lot. Hubby wanted one and now I want one, too. Weighted blankets all around!

 


¹ I would be happy to talk more this, but this section wasn’t the place for it. Consider such questions: What makes someone a person? As in, they have personhood? This has impact on how we might treat them and what rights they have. Does someone in a coma have personhood? Does an embryo have personhood? Is consciousness needed for personhood? What about when you are asleep, do you still have personhood? This drastically simplifies the issue, but I am not a philosopher… I’m just married to one.

² I’d be happy to point you to where I figured these things out. Start with this link. Let me know if you have more questions.

Simplifying, Decluttering and Personalities

Back before Little Man was born, I received the book Simplicity Parenting. It really made since. I aim to keep us home at least 3 or 4 days a week, we’ve aimed to keep toys to a minimum. We aim to sandwich A days with C days.

Then, one day Hubby says that there are just too many toys out. Its too much to clean up, he says. I had to agree. So, I removed several toys that weren’t played with all that much. Put about 1/4 of the duplo blocks into a basket that was put back out; the other 3/4 were put away. The next day, Little Man hardly noticed, but he did play quietly by himself for a while.

A few days later, I read a blog post about a mom who, in response to seeing her daughter’s discontent, put away *all* the daughters’ toys. As in, every single toy. All the dress up clothes, all the toy food, all the puzzles. It took two weeks to adjust, but then the girls started playing happily together.  Then they reached the day when the girls would ask for a toy (such as dress up clothes) that would keep them happy all day.

I was inspired. We’d been trying to teach Little Man to play on his own for months; nothing too intense, just setting him up with something and leaving. Or making suggestions of what he could do. I hoped that it was just a ‘someday’ skill, he is only 2. But I figured this was worth the try.

I cleared out another 1/2 of the toys. Most of the toys left out fit on a small 3 foot bookshelf. The books fit in a basket. There are other random toys around, and he’s acquired a few more ‘toys’, like an empty roll of tape. I didn’t clear out all the toys, because he isn’t old enough to ask for particular toys. Here’s what’s out:

Most of the toys. This is the 3 ft bookshelf.

Most of the toys. This is the 3 ft bookshelf.

DSCN2425

DSCN2426

DSCN2427

DSCN2428

I use a wire trashcan to hold the various balls and a beanbag. If nothing else, it makes a natural target for throwing.

I use a wire trashcan to hold the various balls and a beanbag. If nothing else, it makes a natural target for throwing.

The remainder of the toys that got put away are up in our closet. The books are on a shelf in our bedroom. I figure I’ll trade a few things out every now and then, especially if I see something that isn’t played with all that much.

This doesn’t include outside toys, those are just a different category.

Result: One morning, he pulled out his car and truck and played with them, quietly and on his own for nearly 2 hours. I think he was watching the wheels as he rolled the vehicles over various surfaces. Another morning, at the local children’s museum, he played, quite intently, with toy trains for nearly an hour. And this has continued. He has spent 30 minutes studying the water as it flows ‘down hill’ as he poured it with a cup from the swimming pool (not that we have hills in our yard, but there is enough of a slope in places for the water to flow down).

Last weekend, at my nephew’s 1 year birthday part, at one point I realize that Little Man isn’t out playing any more. I look around and find him back in the bedroom with toy trains, playing quietly on the bed. I realized that Little Man is more like me than I’d assumed. Yes, he likes interaction, but he likes the one-on-one interaction. Big groups seem to wonk him out. And with slimming down his choices about toys, he seems to find it easier to focus on one thing.

And its all way easier and faster to clean up.

 

Crazy Boy Not-Activities

Little Man has reached a point of activity and need for interaction that I’m having to get intentional to meet. He will be 2 in mid-May (really? already? no way!) and he is most certainly a crazy 2 year old.

So, what does the good mother do? She goes to look for activity ideas on the internet.

As I read about these activities, and there are some really creative people out there, I can’t help but think, “wow, they must have a kid who has already figured out how to be gentle” or “they must have a really calm child” or “their child must be really careful about staying clean”. Some activities got me thinking about the mess that Little Man would make, or the craziness that would ensue  Let me give you a run down.

Involving paint:

I found activities that were about painting with different items: bubble wrap, toy cars, toilet sponge, blocks. Fun ideas, for sure, and for the child who loves to paint, this gives them a chance to explore the effects of various textures. Little Man, on the other hand, would like fling the paint covered object creating what might be taken for a post-modern painting on our walls. And on him, and the table, and the floor, and the cats, and me. Perhaps, they just ought to be outside activities.

Involving food:

Painting with food? Sounds like fun! Use pudding, yogurt (#31 on this list), or any spreadable food item. See concerns about paint to understand my reluctance to try this.

Involving bags of stuff:

There are a variety of things that are fun to play with when they are in a bag and you get to manipulate the item through the bag. Activity #24 on this list, or a bag of ice cubes with dodads in them, or a ziplock bag full of goop (glue, pudding) and they child can draw in the goop through the bag (can’t figure where I saw this). These are all well and good, until a kiddo decides to open the bag. Or he squeezes the bag so it bursts, or he bites through the bag. (or a cat decides to chew on the bag). I love the i-spy variations (bag or bottle filled with rice/sand/etc and other small items to find in the filler material), and I think I could set up a bottle so that Little Man can’t get in it, but I would fear for the stitching on any bag.

Involving bins of stuff:

We did this. I set up a container filled with rice, lentils and beans and let Little Man have at it. He loved it! He played for 40 ish minutes. And I was sweeping up rice, lentils and beans for a month afterwards. Turns out the beans make good cat toys, too. Other ideas include pictures of loved ones or other pictures in oats, or spaghetti on a ‘town’. Perhaps its just that these are outside activities for us. Generally, anything able to be thrown will be thrown, but that applies to anything we do.

When I figure out good activities, and how I’m going about meeting Little Man’s need for interaction, without going crazy myself, I will post about it. That way if you have a crazy child, you can get some ideas.

I would love any other ideas you’ve got… ideally things I can set Little Man up with and just let him play. Ideas that I do with him are welcome also!

Moms and Sons

Doctor Destructo helping with laundry

I’ve read in a variety of places about the relationship of a mom and her son. Often it goes something like this —

Traditionally/in the past/ commonly, mothers begin withdrawing from their sons in an attempt to make them strong. In fact, research has shown that this doesn’t always work.

What??!!! I am always amazed at my reaction to these things. I’m aghast, amazed, and wonder at what any one was thinking. Why does isolation suggest strength? Why does emotional distance suggest manliness?

I know in my head that the origins come from sin and sin’s effect on a man. Nonetheless, it makes me a tiny bit angry to hear of women who encourage this behavior, even if it is in a round about way.

I, for one, am standing up to say that I will always give my son a warm and secure place in my home and heart. I will not distance myself from him, nor will I ever withdraw from him. I will give him the tools of independence and the freedom to exercise it  in appropriate ways. But I will not force isolation on him.

That said, I know that he will distance himself from me and he will withdraw from me. But I am confident that true and confident independence is found in having a secure and safe foundation. He will seek after independence and freedom (he already is!), and sometimes he will get it and sometimes he won’t. And eventually he will leave us to become his own man, find a wife, and cleave to her. And when that times comes, I want  him to be the kind of man that can show affection to his wife and children, be loving, and be strong.

With the future in mind, I aim to give lots of kisses and hugs. We talk about being kind and gentle and practice with the kitties and stuffed animals. And he’s learning to put away his clothes, clean ones in the drawers and dirty ones in the hamper. These are all key skills!

So, Moms, have you thought this way? Have you tried to parent in light of the future teenager and adult you have under your authority right now? What have you done, particularly for your sons, to prepare them to be men?

Book Review: Wild Things, The Art of Nurturing Boys

I have discovered the joys of a Kindle. First off, there are a slew of free books available and I’ve found several that I’ve gotten and enjoyed.

And, with amazon prime, you can ‘borrow’ books! For free! Woot!

Recently, I borrowed the book “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys”. I generally enjoy the books that talk about relationships or psychology or sociology or some such. And my desire to read about parenting was began about 2 years ago, and my desire to read about parenting boys has peeked recently. Peanut is a handful these days. He’s not quite walking, but he is cruising with confidence and is amazing mobile. More than once, he’s dashed out the garage door and he’s halfway out the garage before I can catch him. He loves to be outside and pine at the back door looking out the window for 10 to 20 minutes at a time several times a day. A a girl, who only has a sister, boys baffle me. I’ve learned a great deal from Hubby, but his memories of being a 1 year old boy is vague.

So, after reading “Bringing up Boys” a second time, when I saw this book, I thought ‘go for it’.

I’ve really enjoyed the book. The authors have some good things to say that resonate with stuff I’ve read before. They are fans of “Wild at Heart” which is about what true masculinity is, and this book is about parenting your boy so that he is comfortable and confident in his masculinity and you maintain your sanity while doing so. Though the book isn’t specifically written to just moms or dads, several times they address the single mom directly.

My first frustration with the book hit when they defined the first stage of being a boy, the ‘explorer’, as ages 2 to 4 (or so). Well, I thought, what about the pre-2 year old!?! That is my primary frustration with most books these days… their parenting strategies don’t start till the child is 18 months to 2 years old. The one book I have that addresses the pre-2 year old is “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, and they only say “teach the child that he is under authority”. Okay, makes sense, sounds good… how? Yes, yes, I understand that you can’t give specific instructions like “at 9 months your child will…” because kids don’t work that way. But to hear “we did [this] with our kids and we saw [this]’ would be really nice. Come on folks, lets get down and dirty when talking about disciplining and parenting.

Okay, back to this book.

It is split into 3 parts with an appendix called “Hot topics”. Part 1 is about the stages of development a boy goes through as he grows up. Part 2 is about what a boy’s mind is like, and part 3 is about a boy’s heart. Unfortunately, these author’s also conflate the mind and the brain, but that is such a common error, that I wonder if its worth really taking notice of.

The ‘hot topics’ are various specific topics that parents will, perhaps, deal with as their son grows. For example, spanking, screen time, sensitive boys, competition, ADD, emotional literacy, and several others.

Now, my opinions… First, I appreciated getting a glimpse of how a boy’s focus and tendencies will change as they get old (part 1). As they talked about the age 2 to 5 year, the explorer, I could see some of how Peanut is.  And it was enlightening to see a bit of where Peanut is heading — development wise.

Much of what they said in part 2, about a boy’s mind/brain, I’ve heard before. I don’t think there was anything new in that section.

Part 3 was particularly interesting. The author’s discussed specific ways of interacting with a boy that will nurture his heart and ways of interacting that won’t.  The example that stuck with me was one where a boy is 15 minutes late. Dad has been waiting in the car for those 15 minutes. When boy comes out, Dad proceeds to berate the boy, “Do you realize you are 15 minutes late? I’ve been sitting in the car, waiting for you. Do you realize that your coach is also waiting? What will he think?” Don’t spar with the boy, says the authors. Instead have him suffer natural consequences. Perhaps he doesn’t go. Maybe he owes the coach or Dad time. Maybe this is the first time, so he just needs a warning “when you are more than 5 minutes late, you aren’t going to go”. I know my tendency would be to lecture. I must break that. ‘use only a few words’ say the authors. Goodness, I am a woman of many words, that’s not going to be easy.

I also enjoyed several of the ‘hot topics’.  Specifically, ‘screen time’, ‘masturbation’, ‘ADD and ADHD’, and ’emotional literacy’. I thought they had some good thoughts and got me thinking more about each topic. I know a fair bit about the first 3 topics, and I thought they presented the material in an effective manner. I’d never thought about emotional literacy as something to be learned (even though Hubby and I have talked about learning to use the f-word — feelings), so I learned a lot about teaching emotional literacy and the value for doing so.

One reviewer on amazon said something about “wish I’d know it was a religious book”. In part 3, the authors discuss giving your son something bigger than himself to believe in. Other than God, I’m not sure what would be, and the authors make the assumption that you, the reader does believe in God (of some sort, at least). But I’m not sure how that makes it a religious book. Well, I can guess.

I don’t know if I want to buy the book. Haven’t decided if its worth it. But, if you can get it at the library, I think its worth a read if you are one who likes to read these kinds of things. If you generally don’t like such books, it might just drive you crazy.

Today, it begins

I’ve realized that it would be very good for me if I can put Samuel down for his nap and know that he will be just fine and will go to sleep even on his own. This is also important if I want Hubby to be able to put him to bed at night (say, I want to go to book group or somesuch) — he needs to be able to go to sleep with out nursing and without tons of fuss.

But Mommy…..

The other day, I started letting him fuss for 5 minutes, then going in to him. I’ve realized that this child is *very* strong willed, and is persistent. Today, I decided to start letting him cry it out (oh, that sounds horrible!). I let him cry himself to sleep for his first nap this morning. He’s just started to quiet down (he might be asleep…) and its been 30 minutes.

I had to turn off the baby monitors (too loud) and even went and took a shower where I couldn’t hear him. I cried in the shower; it just breaks my heart to know my little boy is so upset! But, I know that what is good for me is good for him. And I get so frustrated running back and forth when he doesn’t want to go to sleep but is so very, very tired.

While weeping in the shower, I realized something. This is a form of discipline, as I’m teaching Samuel a new skill (in a sense). How our Father God’s heart must break when he needs to discipline us and teach us something. We are often as clueless and stubborn as this little boy, and we make just as much noise. I can think of times when I have “thrown a fit” at God and at what he was taking me through, and I had no understanding at that time of what I was learning.  {Ah, he is wailing again, so not really asleep} At times it felt like I was suffering for no good reason. I’m betting that if Samuel has enough cognition, he is thinking that I’m making him suffer for no good reason. Ah, the lessons one learns as a parent.