Tuesday, September 29, 2009

peer pressure-less

Three months of out school and she's finally beginning to think for herself again!

I know how rude that sounds, but shortly after Smootch entered preschool she stopped using her own needs and desires are references when making decisions, and begin to use the generalized (bland) taste of girl, ages 3-5, as filtered through Disney princesses and Family Channel. Stages we all go through will affect our decisions, and obviously there is something in the over the top, las vegas/barbie style of feminity that appeals to little girls. Much like a super macho, ultra violent masculinity is pervasive in boys' play. I consider this normal (and fun).

As Smootch entered preschool, though, group-think hit her hard and the diversity of things and experiences she could take pleasure from shrunk down to a very narrow, mind-twitchingly glittery, world. Before starting school, Smootch had seen a few Disney princess movies, and she liked them, but she also liked Wee Sing videos, teletubbies and even that wretched Dora. Cinderella was just another movie, with long boring bits about falling in love.

Once in preschool, however, she got Disney religion. Cinderella was elevated to the role of demi-god. Hannah Montanna was high priestess and High School Musical a choir of angels, singing sweet songs of licensed merchandise and a Bring It On attitude. There were no longer any other colour than pink (bubble gum pink to be exact). There were no other princesses but Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Belle, and Jasmine. Eyes rolled in the back of head and hand pressed to slanty hips was the only way to address parents.

Hair could only be long and straight.

The few months since leaving school Smootch has been going through a real wild-girl hair stage, refusing to pin it out of her face, tie it up, or even brush it if it was possible to avoid her mother in the morning. Starting at a dance academy with a strict dress code has been a major point of contention. Hair has to be worn up, off the face, in a bun if possible. Smootch hates this, and will cry if I even mention a hair elastic. There is a real conflict with her idea of how her hair should look - long and flowing - and with the demands of her life: hair tied up for dance and brushed every so often. She's constantly fussing with her hair, annoyed, flicking it off her face and brushing it out of her eyes.

But no longer. Today we went for haircuts.

Both Smootch and I had our hair cut short. I was so very surprised when Smootch requested, without any prompting, her hair short "all the way around". I didn't even know this was up for negiotation. Last I heard on the topic was that Smootch wanted hair like a princess, which was interpreted as a style sported by a komondor dog. Smootch knew the appointment was coming up, and she gave it some thought, ultimatley deciding what she really wants was to walk into dance class and just dance without feeling like her scalp was being pulled off the back of her head.

Yes! She looks sooooooo sweet, pixieish, with short hair, like she should be wearing a flapper dress and doing the charleston. Here she is, zoned out watching tv, but looking cute and not at all feral as her hair of late has suggested:

I suppose can't actually totally credit homeschooling, or, rather, the lack of being in a preschooler hothouse, with this change of stance on hair. Smootch is maturing (too fast!) I can tell you this for sure, though: Smootch would of never, ever considered cutting her hair short when she was attending preschool. No way. She worried too much about what her friends would think. As with the other ladies in her class, the word, "princessy," was evoked as a value call on almost all decisions. As in, this thing/activity is 'princessy,' hence good or this thing/activity/style is not 'princessy,' hence bad. These days I hardly hear a thing about princesses. She also lists a good four or five colours now as being her favorite (but, yes, pink is still on the list, numero uno).

Which brings me around to Smootch's other hair decision. One that does involve pink. Having had her idea to dye her hair pink rejected, the second best was to purchase a pink wig, a la Stephanie of Lazy Town. The short hair facilitates the wig wearing. As Birdie Boy found out:

The wig looks nice on Smootch too (along with about half a dozen neighborhood kids that have also had a wear - anyone know how to wash these things?!)

Here's what I learnt about the whole thing. First, don't underestimate my kid, she's in there somewhere, no matter how much she sounds like an episode of Hannah Montanna. Second, it's not so much of what she is watching on tv, given that there is a variety to what is seen and a life happening away from the screen. What is dangerous is when that other life, the one that she engages in with all five (or more) senses, is overly concerned with what happens on the screens. When everyone else is talking 'princess' and only wears pink clothing with licensed images, Smootch can't help but conclude these princesses must be more important than she initally thought. She revisits, studies, and joins in. She is, after all, a smart one.

See, we are all learning, all the time :)

(Home school rocks!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I confess

Okay, here it is, the real reason why we moved to Vancouver Island...

Butterfly World! Yay!

Smootch loves all things buggy and beautiful. Ever since we visited the Island two and a half years ago, Smootch has been talking about Butterfly World. This is definitely her world.

I was pretty nervous about Birdie Boy, though. I wasn't sure how my busy, grabby little boy was going to handle hundreds of butterflies swooping around his head, not to mention dozens of birds, both flying and on the ground, koi, and turtles. When we arrived Birdie was sleeping and didn't open his eyes until we walked into the main habitat and a whole swarm of butterflies erupted from a flowering bush, startled by our arrival. Birdie peeped this spectacle of rainbow wings fluttering everywhere, his eyes grew into perfect circles, and this beatific smile spread across his face. He was so gentle with the little creatures. He was amazing, almost a different kid.

And I got to be with my two babies blissed out on it all. Watching children having an almost transcendent experience is as good as prozac. Who can worry when the people around you are exuding joy at almost the same rate as they spread sticky fingerprints over every surface in the vicinity? So, there you go. Why we are here, really.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

saturday night is good for sleeping

Everyday, all day, these kids are doing sweet and funny things, which I always think, 'I should so blog this!' And in the evening, after the now, between the two kids, running into 2 hour long bedtime routine and the toddler who wakes up at 4 am, and the preschooler, with homesickness, who now wakes up at 2 am, and The Man who snores loudly, damnit!, I'm just so happy to be awake enough to remember where the light switch is in this unfamilar place.

So, even though the children are continuing to display more then adequate amounts of curosity and intelligence, I have no cutsey stories for you tonight. I apologise for my antedotelessness. Just so you know, we continue to live much like we did before in our beautiful blue home. We read stories, go for walks, play, argue, craft, eat peanut butter and jam a bit too often, paint, tell stories, and watch movies. The kids and The Man get in my face and I get in theirs, and we should probably eat more vegetables. Same old, in a lot of ways.

Still, the differences overwhelm me. I'm feeling so very grateful for the salt water air, the sunsets over the mountains, the amazing old growth forests. All the lovely unfamilarity and profound beauty. It helps me focus on what is important. Through all of this, my healthy kids, my good man. It's good.

I try hard not to think of the other shoe. My garden variety mommy paranoia and the child-of-divorce legacy of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I hope the peacefullness of this inlet will mellow me. I walk beaches with measured steps and count my breaths. I take care to take in the good and let the bad flow on by.

I know, I'm starting to sound like a west coast hippie. I'll cut that out and try to actually write down the sweet things the kids do so I can report back later. Until then, sleep is needed. And perhaps some peanut butter and jam toast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

innocence is so last year

Earlier today Smootch and Birdie Boy were pretending to be my litter of overgrown puppies. Something I said about needing kicked out of the den after having to wrestle them both for control of the cd player volume button (I eventually took the knob off the cd player and hid it on top of the tv). They make very cute puppies, though a bit icky when they tried to lick me. To distract Smootch from giving me sloppy kisses, I mentioned that a female dog was called a bitch. Smootch loves facts, especially ones that have an edge of the illicit. Giving her this bit of information was a mistake, however. Smootch is fully aware of the other meaning of 'bitch' and wasted no time in using her new information in her typically smartmouth, fiendish way.

Smootch says, "Ah, so you are my bitch mama!" with the sweetest smile that said, oh yes, I meant it to mean exactly how it sounded.

Make no mistake, she is a precocious child. If I wasn't her bitch mama, I'd be so proud.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I know these kids of mine are quite young, and it's probably a bad idea to forecast any particular future for them based on their current interests and quirks, but there are a few things that have been relatively consistent in each child that looks like it is probably something about them rather than their particular age or passing fancy.

Like Smootch's desire to poke, prod, and squish any avaliable living creature. She's got a bit of science geek, particularly natural sciences, in her that becomes really obvious when she calmly studies the spider she finds running across her hand rather than doing the shrieking hyper speed running man that other little kids do (and quite a few adults too). Beetles, crabs, worms; she has no idea these are supposed to be icky. Her curiosity has always outdone any attempted socialization (read: censorship) about particular aspects of life. Like when she presented her auntie with an anatomically enthusiastic (if not, in fact, correct) cutaway view of her mother's uterus. Or talk about anus' and what are they good for, really?

Sometimes all we can do is to make sure she washes her hands frequently.

I think animals can sense the curious objectivity in her, the desire to know about what makes them tick rather than seeing them as cutsie critters to love and pamper. Smootch likes animals, and seems to have a developing sense of empathy for them, but cats and dogs really do not like Smootch much in return. They must know that Smootch finds a dead cat more interesting than a live one.

Birdie Boy, however, loves animals for their soft fur and sloppy kisses, especially dogs. The sight of our cats always brings out this huge, crinkly eye smile, and a joyous, "Kitty!" He also talks to birds and can imitate crows and seagulls. If there is a bird around, Birdie will be off trying to get a hug.

Another thing Birdie does well is rhythm. He loves singing along with the radio (which is fun, considering most of his speech is a long string of vowel sounds), beating drums, or getting rhythm anyway he can, even if it's just splashing in the water.
Birdie is always listening.

For entertainment on our long car trips, Birdie has begun to teach himself the harmonica. Really. We have a couple of harmonicas that we sometimes play with. Birdie began by just trying to make a sound (which is tough to do when you're only 16 months old but he was quite determined) and has slowly been developing his repetoire. Right now he's playing two note melodies - with one low note and one high note, alternately played in a simple rhythm.

Birdie is very physical. He will never look at something - it will always be in his hands before he can visually identify it. Unfamilar books are for throwing (books that he has heard us read to Smootch many times he will tolerate, but as long as they have a punch line with a tickle or a roar somewhere in them). If Birdie was my first born, I would chalk it up to him being a toddler, but Smootch was so very different. She watches and learns. Listens and follows instructions. She focuses on my words and will not move a muscle while she absorbs new information. Birdie thinks that my mouth opening and closing while giving him instructions is only about having something to put his fingers into. He kicks, hits, and squirms because he has to move. I pity anyone who gets in his way.

I know many people believe that the differences in my kids is about their sex or birth order. Maybe somethings, I concede, but not all. In the end, though, it really doesn't matter. They are here, now, and I am in a prime position to enjoy their pecularities and innate talents and never have to worry about what all the other girls and boys or first and second borns are doing because it's really not helpful right now. I'm just going to watch my kids and encourage them to follow their passions and challenge them a bit to strengthen their weaknesses.

Knowing these things about my kids is one reason we are pursuing the homeschooling. Smootch's method of knowing about the world is so much different than what we've seen of Birdies'. I can't even imagine them trying to learning from one teacher using one method. Each kid has their way of learning and tolerance for frustration (Birdie: pretty good, Smootch: none at all). It's going to be such an adventure!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Sprout Lake

Parksville Public Beach


Long Beach