We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

Feb 26, 2007

Forays into Unschooling Thinking

Well were off as soon as we're packed! This will be a thin week for entries but I'll have a whole trip to tell about when I return. I am excited but tired, as Alder got up four times last night.

I'm just finishing organizing all our books it makes me think about how much there is out there that I have not read yet. I kept on thinking of other areas that I want to learn more about. The more I read about unschooling the more I realize that it is what I have been doing since I left school. I've learned so much more since graduating college.

I remember after the first year I Was out here in Colorado I commented to my father that I had learned more in that one year than during the four years of college. I had learned, how to camp alone, outfit a canoe trip, shoot a rifle, downhill ski, tele ski, measure frames for walls, roll joists, do my taxes, set up a rock climbing belay, become intimate with the Southwest Colorado landscape, hitch hike and lots of other things.

In retrospect that year was my year of Deschooling, I was fairly irresponsible and spent a lot of time partying, but after that year I began to explore more things that interest me. I've taught myself so much since then and what I haven't taught myself I found people to help me. All of this was before I really understood about unschooling.

But to get back to the present. Kevin and I talked a lot about unschooling this morning. We had established during our first date that both of us wanted to homeschool our children. I've realized that a lot of our want to unschool Alder is that we ourselves learn best that way and want to have time to enjoy it with him. A big part of our plans for the future have to do with going on adventures, some close by and some far away. One of our main goals with our business is to be able to afford an annual river trip in the spring. Both of us see that a trip like that is a much deeper education than sitting at a desk watching the minute hand move slowly.

A teachers in alternative schools we saw our ideals decay with the constant impositions of the administration and the parents. It was hard to teach in a school where every time a parent read a new educational theory they came to me wanting it implemented. It was the schools policy to take parent's requests seriously, regardless of what was working well with all the children. I liked some of the parents very much but it was often a struggle to balance their needs and continuity in the classroom. Especially when over half the class was partially unschooled. In retrospect the best method I could have used would have been to unschool the three students I had every day. But since I had not been exposed to many of these ideas yet I rallied against them. Now they seem so natural to me, although I am not sure if they belong in a classroom setting with out the entire school being a Free school.

Now seven years since that first date we are already beginning the process. Everyday we watch as Alder explores our world, we've baby proofed the house only removing the truly dangerous items from his reach the rest we let him touch and taste. While he still loves to put things in his mouth he is starting to manipulate them in his hands first.

This morning he pulled himself up to standing at the couch, I had my first fleeting feeling that he is growing up quickly. We never had to show him how it was done or that it was something important. Why should we ever dictate why of his learning. Of course I want him to learn how to read, write and do math but I am more interested in getting him to want to do these things because he is curious enough about something that he sees that these skills are important to figuring things out. I also want him to read because it is a pleasure to get lost in a story. But I want him to do it on his own terms at his own pace not one set for his year and month.

He is part of our lives now I don't really understand the idea of corralling him off in school for six hours a day in the name of learning. The first, and only, time I breached this subject with my Dad so far his only comment was "Why would you want to waste your time? If you want to teach him stuff just spend time on the weekends doing it" If Alder was going to school the last thing I would want to do is take his precious play time away from him.

This could bring on a whole other tangent but Kevin keeps popping in here to see if I'm finished so this is all from now. I'll come back from Santa Fe with pictures and stories.


Feb 25, 2007

Projects and Travels

Both Alder and Kevin are napping right now. It has been a long morning of cleaning the house and Alder teething. We tried all the other remedies but he's had his first dose of alopathic medicine (acetaminophen). He is an amazing kid. Even though he's been cranky all morning it really is only about half the moments the rest he's smiling away "working" on something, like say how to crawl under a chair or over a mother.

We are trying to go through all the important papers that have piled up in piles. You know the stuff that you need to file away but it doesn't need to be dealt with right now but it can't be recycled. Unfortunately we've accumulated two milk creates full of the stuff since Alder's been born.

While Kevin mainly works on the papers I'm in charge of organizing the books and Cd's. They tend to migrate away from the shelves that they belong on. I probably took too much on by deciding that I want actually organize the shelves so we can find things again. I think this whole thing is Kevin's "project" this semester. Usually around midterms and exams he feels the need to do a completely non-school oriented project (refinish a hutch, paint his office). This past set of exams he did not do anything and he felt scattered.

I am glad we are doing this, it gives me one less thing to go through as moving gets closer. Of course we have a time limit to finish this since we're driving to Salida to meet my mother-in-law tomorrow afternoon to go to Santa Fe for three days. I am excited, since I have never been to Santa Fe despite the fact that I've been to Albuquerque ten times at least. It will also be fun to have Mary (mil) there since she knows so much about the region. Also it will give her time with Alder, which she hasn't really had since he was born, except for a day here and there.

That reminds me. Last week we went down to the Springs for a dentist appointment. She met us at the office to spend time with Alder. Even through he hasn't seen Grandma since Christmas as soon as he saw her he reached is arms to her. The only other person he does that for is his aunt Amanda.

Feb 24, 2007

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo: Masterpieces Cover
Kevin and I watched Frida last night. For Kevin it struck on the interest in the process of art making and how that often gets lost when you are looking at art and discussing it. Frida Kahol's paintings are intense emotional pieces stemming from her own life. She did not create them for the art critics and historians to dissect. They were created because she had to create them for herself. Yes the topics were of more universal appeal than she would have thought but that only served to benefit her.

The whole conversation got me thinking about imitators. People who are struck by her artwork do it an injustice by copying her style. If they were to truly emulate her they would focus on being true to their own internal monologue. There have been times that she has inspired me to try self portraits but the outcomes have nothing to do with her actual paintings. I couldn't copy her because my experience in life is different.

What I find in her paintings is a sense of strength and vibrancy. This site is a "biography" of Frida Kahlo using her paintings to tell the story. http://www.fbuch.com/fridaby.htm I come away from them with a feeling that one must do not just think about doing. Life is present and if you are an artist you should be making art not just talking about making it.

Yesterday I cleared my art table and I look over there right now and can see the project I am working on. I don't feel spiritually connected to Kahol but my respect to her, as with the other artists whose work I like, would be in creating my own honest work.

Feb 23, 2007

I've been doing a lot of thinking about our move this summer. I was all about moving to Hudson for a while. It's very cute and very much like that dream town I have where life is sweet, diverse, and busy. I pictured us living in a little farm house with a lot of land for Alder to wander on.
From Urban Draw

As the weather in Denver stops being as snowy I've been really enjoying walking around Denver and getting places. Kevin and I like going to see good films and being able to get a cup of coffee at ten pm if we want to. These aren't things you can do in a place the size of Hudson.
From Urban Draw

From Urban Draw

It has also occurred to me that in the ten years that I have been in Colorado that Denver has been the best place we have lived. I love that we can do all those things but also be on a hiking trail in a half hour (which by the way is shorter than reaching most hikes in Durango). I've also meet the people I've liked best here. They are a mix or artists, outdoor folk, and just other people loving their life.
From Urban Draw
From Urban Draw
From Urban Draw
From Urban Draw
From Urban Draw

In a city whose social is partially focused on which coffee house you go I find myself at home. To an outsider Denver seems "suburban" but but if you get out of your car and avoid the downtown that's when you will find the real Denver with it's history and it's plans. Too bad there are too many acupuncturists already here otherwise we would stay.

Where does that leave us with out move then. Well we are starting to look at small cities. Currently our focus is on Portland Maine and Albany New York. I still want to be East at this point in my life. Both those cities are small but close enough to "the country" that our need for a great deal of nature in our life is met.

I have been reading "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv who is basically rehashing many of the ideas of biophilia in a more accessible read. One of his major points is that as people move to the cities and suburbs they are loosing their contact with nature. I would add that the children who are in cities (really towns and villages also) where they don't get every place by car actually have more interaction with nature than their suburban counterparts. This too is part of the draw to these small cities.

Alder will have more chance to explore parks, coasts and rivers when they are part of the immediate walkable (or at least bikeable) vicinity. Yes nature is everywhere but if you spend are always in a metal box going form one place to another you will miss it. This of course leads us to another reason that we like the idea of a walkable city, we are happy only having one car. I don't like the idea of leaving a larger pollution imprint than necessary and as it is here in Denver there are many days neither of us use the car.

After living in Paonia we realized that urban living was much more environmental and I continue to hold this opinion. Matching this with our want for an actual cultural life to the place we live, and of course a bevy of coffee shops, it seems that a small city fits more with our needs than a town like Hudson where things seem to close down at 5pm.

I guess I'm more a funky front porch in the city sort of woman.

Feb 20, 2007

Valentine's Dinner 1

This year Kevin and I decided to trade making nice dinners for each other as our Valentine's gifts. We thought it was a good way to spend time doing something we love (cooking) for someone we love (each other) and getting to do something we love (eating good food) together. I made my dinner on Saturday night.

From Valentine's m...
The table is set and the candles lit.

From Valentine's m...
Sauteed Shrimp with Saffron Rice (a bit blurry)

From Valentine's m...
Red Snapper Stuffed with Shallots on a bed of Arugula

From Valentine's m...
Strawberries and Blood Orange Slices in Balsamic Vinegar served with a Soft Sheep Cheese

From Valentine's m...
Flourless Chocolate Cake dusted with Coco powder, they had powder sugar hearts on them.

The meal ended with a massage. Mmmm. Somehow I was the one who got the massage. I can't wait to see what Kevin creates.

Feb 15, 2007

How I Do Mama 2

The story sort of starts with weddings, I am not sure if you did this but when Kevin and I first got engaged and chose a date I briefly got bitten by the wedding bug. I bought into all the stupid things that the magazines said and I wanted the frills and all. Luckily I quickly came back to my senses.

Having a kid is similar, first there is the wait between getting pregnant and having them. Second, there is all the consumer media about what you need to do/ buy for the baby. At first when I was pregnant I mainly thought about names, nothing concrete or committal. But after we moved to 34th Ave and I had to set up a "nursery" and get ready for the baby I started to let my mind drift mainstream. I chose colors and came up with room themes that I wanted (don't laugh) I even pondered a wishing well crib (2000 dollars). The romance of a nursery soon wore out when we decided to cosleep with Alder. After cosleeping and the choice to have a homebirth all the trappings of the soccer/SUV cult dissipated.

But the mainstream culture was soon replaced with the cult of natural parenting and attachment parenting. I envisioned myself spending my days wearing Alder in a sling and breastfeeding until he was four. The funny thing about the natural parenting resources out there they are also filled with consumerism. Sure you are not giving your money to Gerber or Pamper but you are still a market group being sold to. Still I agreed philosophically with the parenting ideas that were espoused (and still do). I wanted my baby (I won't say Alder yet because he was still just baby) to grow up happy independent and loving. But I also imagined him only playing with wooden or handmade toys. Any new parent can tell you that anything that you imagined parenting to be like is a fantasy.

Then came the day I was at the fabric store looking for fabric for the baby's sling. I was very pregnant and it was hot out. The air conditioning was wonderful and I was prolonging my stay in the store. It was then that I met the woman who invited me to join a mother's co-op. What a great idea I thought. So fitting with the ideals I had for my baby. I liked the image of spending hours in someones kitchen as the little ones played on the floor while we made homemade baby food and sipped herbal tea. I could see little Allia (what I called the baby to myself) running with a crew of slightly natty rose kids all in cotton clothes playing together like brothers and sisters.

I even started to go to their Monday playgroup/ discussions before the baby was born. It felt good to be around other mothers. Most of my friends don't have children. Sure I felt like the neighbor girl invited to the sleepover who was not really friends with anyone. But it was good for Adler (he was alive at this stage). I wanted to fit in, to be like. I started doing more with them and volunteering to organize things. As I did more I saw less and lass of my old friends.

Then came my offer to create a creative outlet for mothers. A blog where we could show our arts, writing, and crafts. My offer, that was only there because I wanted external motivation, was rebuked by the "leaders" as trying to steal their email list. That I was trying to duplicate their group, and somehow steal their idea. I even felt the need to diplomatically explain myself, making sure I dropped all sorts of platitudes towards the groups "leaders". Their reply was something about wanting to process this misunderstanding as a group.

Process, that word annoys me. It usually involves some amount of sharing secrets that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, a good deal of tears related to childhood wrongs, and still I would somehow end up apologizing. Perhaps that is bitter of me, but I have never been invited to process anything with out it really turning into a veiled excuse to dump on one person while others stroke their own egos (usually very fragile ones hiding in vocabulary). Process to me means that people want you to change and listen but they do not want to change or even hear what you are saying. Of course I am excluding all the wonderful versions of process; like the process of making a book or baking bread, I am talking only about the discussion sort of process.

Luckily for me just as the beginnings of the processing I was heading to New York. It is funny how being around people who have known you for a long time puts things into perspective. As I spent time with my family having fun and having interesting conversations an idea began to form in my head. I would never be friends with most of these women except that we happened to have children of approximately the same age. There was no herbal tea in kitchens.

Then, while I was still in New York, there was another spate of emails about misunderstanding. Again the same people were the ones offended. People that I liked left the group. Here I was with people who I love spending time with and what could I tell them about the people I had been hanging out with? Someone asked and then the words came to me. They seemed like lonely women who had always wanted to be popular and had now created their own forum where they were the popular ones. My move to volunteer is no different than the high school girl who helps with the prom to hangout with the popular girls (not that we even had a prom at Friends). When I said this out loud to my cousin I realized then that I needed to leave the group.

I do not really think badly of these women. They are filling a need by creating this co-op, but it doesn't fill any need for me. I know enough people with children for Alder to see other children once or twice a week. For me I need to be around friends who are interested in things that I am. I really do need to be around other artists or just other people who I like for themselves. So I left the group, and Alder and I have become busier since then, there are people to have coffee with, libraries to explore, walks to go on (alone and with friends). Also I am happier, I can focus on Alder more as well as me. I love my son and he has done much to enhance my life but he has not changed me to some other "mommy" creature. I am still the same Stacey, maybe a little calmer, but still me.


I know I shouldn't be enjoying Alder's moods lately, he hasn't been the happiest kid (remember the perspective here) but his mood of late gives me lots of opportunity to hold him. Things must be changing for him in some way that I don't see because he is needing a lot more physical contact than usual. He still is a laughing smiling kid a lot of the time but now he wants to be held to keep that mood going.

Unfortunately, he is also having a lot of trouble staying asleep for long periods of time. This of course means that neither Kevin or I am getting any sleep either. I hope it isn't all because of the introduction of the crib. Last night he didn't not want to go back to sleep so Kevin played with him for an extra hour (until 11pm). He then fussed for an hour both in my arms, the crib and the bed. Finally on his second trip into the bed he fell asleep.

Finding My Flow

I've been thinking a lot about my writing lately. I've been trying to push forward on the Eli and Hannah story but it has gotten a bit stale lately. I still love the plot and the characters but I feel like I am not getting anywhere as I write it. I think it might be time to shelve it for a little while and just stretch my writing muscles.

Part of my need for change is that I haven't had much time to write since before the Holidays. It seems like all of my free time, when I get any, is spent on other things. This means that when I do sit down to write it doesn't flow naturally. This is what I want to get back. The rhythm of writing where hours can disappear while you are caught between your mind and the paper. That's why I write to be in that 'zone'.

Of course it is easier to procrastinate on project in particular than to move forward on less concrete project. But that is the direction that I am heading. I took "A Writer's Book of Matches" out of the library and I'm going to use it daily for the next few weeks. If I find that the prompts are helping me to reenter writing then I might actually buy the book.

Feb 13, 2007

My Magical Boy

From The Magical B...

Last week Kevin commented to me that he thought that Alder was a magical kid. You know the type who just seem to have their own path clearly set out and who don't seem bound by the regular rules. Ever since he said it I have been trying to see what it.

I don't mean that I think Alder is boring or bland, I just never used the word magic to describe him. But as I watched him over the past week I have seen glimpses of the magic. It is hard to see more in a kid whose main goal in life at the moment is to master stair climbing, even though crawling is still only hit or miss. He spends literally hours at the bottom of the stairs pushing up on them and trying to get his hands one step higher. Unlike crawling in this activity it is the hands that he has figured out first.

From The Magical B...

Even in the middle of being change he has one thing on his mind.

No matter where in the room we put him he makes his way back over to the stairs to try. Yesterday evening he was so tired but he would not stop trying, even though he was in tears he continued to work at the stairs. I finally closed the screen over them so he would calm down.

All of this determination to figure things out on his own when he wants to adds to our reasons for unschooling. How sad would it be if he became a kid who learned to suppress his curiosity to appease a teacher. Or worse learn to hate learning because the structure did not take into account what his needs or interests.

Back at Thanksgiving when homeschooling came up my dad's only comment was that he couldn't see why we would want to waste our time. If we really wanted to teach him stuff we could do it after school. Luckily explaining this to my family has a longer time frame than homebirth.

Now that I can see the magic Kevin is talking about I would never want to snuff it out.

Feb 12, 2007

The Big and the Heavy

You'd figure that since we know were moving that we would stop acquiring new heavy furniture but this in the last few days we've picked up a few things.

On Friday we went up to Boulder for a change of pace. Every time we go we have it in our minds that it will be different. But it never is, the town is a mixed message of environmental spiritual peace and mass consumerism. I'm torn which annoys me more, the trustifarians walking the streets asking for money or the fact that the Pearl Street Mall that touts itself as a unique small town place is filled with the same stores as the malls. We try ever six months to like Boulder, but we can't.

However, there are somethings that you can find in Boulder that we occasionally need. This time we were heading to the bookstore, a book on Native American Healing (I'm still not sure what it's for but Kevin made a persuasive argument that it was useful for some sort of acupuncture crossover), and to Two Hands, the paper store (I was hunting for small vellum envelopes). Kevin found his book, after an hours search with a fussy baby, hungry wife and having to lug the stroller up and down the stairs a few times. I however only found things I didn't need at the paper store.

Once again Boulder was turning out to be a disappointment. After regaining some of my sanity through eating lunch at Mountain Sun, including a surprisingly good tasting espresso stout, we headed back to the car. Walking back past the paper store we saw one of their old paper display shelves out on the side walk with a FREE sign on it. How could I not.

With much effort from Kevin we moved what must have been at least 200 hundred pounds of wood on to the top of the car and got home with out the roof caving in.

From Art shelf
Our second find of the weekend has a larger impact on our life. We bought a crib from Craig's List for 75 dollars. We trekked down to Centennial to pick it up. The family had not dismantled the crib yet so Kevin did while mom corralled her two children and the 'step son' played the guitar. The ride back up home we enjoyed making up the story of this family's life.
From Art shelf

I was a little afraid what Alder's first night in the crib would be like but I had no reason to, the boy already sleeps anywhere. The crib's in our room so the only real difference was that I had to stand up to hand him a bottle.

As for the night sleep I think we all like this arrangement better. It's a little sad that his warm little body isn't bumping up against me all night long. But Kevin does his best to fill the gap and he doesn't pee in the bed.

Feb 11, 2007

A Stroll in Grain Valley

You know when you get one of those healthy multi grain rolls, sometimes called crunchy rolls? Well those little yellow crunchies are millet. For a long time I have searched out these rolls primarily for the wonderful crunch that those tiny beebees make. I've even started to add them to my own bread. Well today I met a whole different face to millet.

I was contemplating dinner and didn't want rice or couscous. But dinner needed a grain. So I went wandering in the dark forest that is our grains shelf. The trail was a wandering one. The first grain that I met along the way was quinoa. I respectful little dude with a Saturnal ring around it's belly. But for as kind and decent quinoa is he's a little boring. Not the sort of guy you invite for a road trip. We said our goodbyes and I continued on my way.

Next I encountered old bulgar. Now bulgar is fine if you give her good company. She a wonderful counterpart to something strong like feta or lemon but on her own she's quite a shell. Not only is she a bit flaky but she is quite gruff too. As she was alone on the trail she barely even said hello- just a grunt.

I was heading down the valley trail wondering if I would end up inviting good old couscous since she's easy and tasty. It's been said by some that she's so fast that even her kisses lack virginity. That being said couscous is a good friend, solid and true, I've known her for years.

I was lost in a memory of lamb and couscous when I heard a small cough. I looked up to see millet. Millet I said, nice to see you but shouldn't you be over in Bakingtown? Why no no he said, that's just a part time gig. I spend most of my time here among these grains.

My face must have betrayed my surprise because he continued. Actually, I am one of the most popular grains in Africa and Asia, hearty and tasty. While I love millet's spunk I was a little surprised by he forwardness. I was used to him as the punch line, not the whole story. But he continued on, you should give me a go I'm done up like quinoa but there's more to me than that sorry old grain.

How could I say no. And he was right I'm now in love with a new grain... Millet. He's got a lot of depth of flavor slightly sweet and nutty. Like couscous he is supposed to be there to accent the main dish, but both of them don't realize that there is pleasure in eating them alone, especially if their cooked in broth. I'm not giving up couscous but millet is up there in my heart now.

Feb 7, 2007

Hannah Brandt Riegelhaupt

From Hannah Brandt...

Hannah Brandt in 1916

I spent today scanning photos from my Dad's photo album. The photos start in 1901 and I made it through part of the 1920's. For a while I felt as though I was sitting on the stoop at 264 E Broadway, watching as everyone had there pictures taken. Or up in Riverside Park with the sailors who picked up my grandma and some friends during fleet week in 1919. Having been to the building I know what the stone feels like, the place has depth.

From Hannah Brandt...

264 E Broadway

Sadly many of the pictures are fading. Many that I remember being clear when I was younger now are faint contrasts of ochres. This is way I took the album back to Denver last month. If I don't do this no one will and then all the pictures will fade. Then the only place these people's faces will be clear will be in my Dad's head.

From Hannah Brandt...


They were a stylish bunch the Brandts. Especially my Grandma Hannah. Before she was married she was a bag designer. Part of her job was to window shop at the big department stores and see what was already out there and figure out what to come up with next. She stopped working in the 1920's but she was always still conscious of design and fashion.

From Hannah Brandt...

Both Grandma Rose (left) and Grandma Hannah (right) with my dad on his wedding day.

From Hannah Brandt...

Grandpa Lou and Hannah with me on my 3rd birthday

Feb 6, 2007

How I Do Mama

I've tried to write something for the last few days but I've been struggling. During the day I narrate these great piece to myself but when I sit down here I can't seem to phrase things the way they sounded earlier. Partially it's that my mind is cluttered. I've been thinking about the business and moving, but now I'm focusing on writing again in my mind. I also just decided to go to my 15th High school reunion.

I think it's the reunion that really has been playing the most havoc on my brain. I keep imagining conversations that might happen. My voice always seems defense about the life I have chosen or deliberately vague. For the most part these are people who I like and who I still think about sometimes. But most of them are still in New York doing the city thing with careers and social lives that include things like clubs where you can't where any shoes you want (Amanda quote).

I think of my life here and I see days of long city walks with Sam fading into dancing at the High Dive in definitely inappropriate clothes. These images turn to endless Sunday projects at Jenna's or potlucks at our old apartment. All of it is low key. Perhaps there might some dressing up to go to a First Friday or out to eat but mainly it's about friends.

That's sort of funny if you think about how scared of people I was when we moved here. I still remember being too afraid to go to Stitch and Bitch even though Zakk had invited me. That was the night I met Amy and Sam two of the people from Denver I am closest too. I still have the green cotton yarn tied to my button hole from the corny idea that one should remember that if things got too annoying in real life there was always Monday nights. That was when all of us had hell jobs.

I'm happy now being mama. I don't think I'm loosing myself in Alder like some of the mothers I've met are. Instead I feel that having him around is making me live up to the comments about myself I make. I can't just say I'm a writer if I'm not writing, nor can I talk about the importance of nature if I just spend my days inside. I think I 've started to do a better job of living up to these things that I want to instill in him.

I used to be afraid that I would be the parent who talked about all the things that she did in the 'old days' but had become a sedintary mainstream mom. I even tried on the dress briefly but it ddn't fit. Mother's groups are not for me. I'm just not a big group person. Besides few of the women in the group did I have anything in common with except that we all happened to have vhildren during the same year.

Instead I'm focusing on friendships I already have. Maybe it would be better for him to see more kids. He does get his weekly dose of Lucero and it seems at least once a week we end up hanging out with one other baby for a while. It's good, when he gets a little older and more mobile life will become more social. The snow might stop by then and we can do the playground thing. Right now were focusing on being us.

Most of my friends do not have children. One commented how most of her friends who did have kids moved to the suburbs and bought the SUV. She said it as a compliment. WHat I don't tell her is that having Alder means that I exactly can't do those things even more so than before. I wouldn't last a week in a cookie cutter crapshack in a neighborhood isolated from the world. My sanity comes from the long adventures Alder and I take on the bus and by foot, they come from taking him to concerts and festivals, galleries and libraries. If he is going to grow up curious and unafraid he has to be exposed to the world that we live in.

A few years ago I was at my mother-in-laws and she had a beautiful picture book on the table. It was the story of Ceasar Chavez's life. She saw it sitting there and explained to me that she had originally bought it for my niece (7) but decided not to give it to her because she thought the niece was too young to know that there were hardships like those which he fought against in the world. I held my tounge but it made me wonder what that meant for someone who becomse an adult with so many holes in their perception.

I understand wanting to keep children safe from scary and dangerous things but there is also value in showing them the world and helping them to digest what they are seeing. To let them form opinions and ask questions. When I do expose him to these things it isn't to scare him but to show him the whole of our world.

I don't want him to think that the Little Mermaid really ends happily ever after, it doesn't but Hansel and Gretel does. Life has goods and bads.

wow I think I'm done.

Feb 1, 2007

A Feel For Books

From house of books

It's a cold day here in Denver. The sort where reading is really the only thing you can do to whittle away the hours as you nurse a cold and watch your kid (who also ha a cold) sleep. So I picked a book out of my library bag and settled down at the table to read. Today it's Eternal Network, a book about mail art. Yesterday I read Troubling Love, and The Essential Hip Mama. The day before was Garlic and Sapphires. And Dirty Sugar Cookies as wells as the Lafcadio's Adventures the day before. [I've linked these because I wanted to share] Interspersed with these have been the books I read Alder. Add to this mix Kevin's books and text books you get a house piled with books.

All of these books are starting to have an effect on Alder. The same way he knew how to use a spoon the first time we handed him one he now knows how to handle a book. Well except that following flipping pages he tries to eat the books. Giving a new meaning to devouring a book. Sometimes when he's playing he tries to pull about out of my hand. Instead of giving it to him, I read what ever I'm reading to him. He continues playing but glances up if I lapse into silent reading. I know he doesn't know what I am saying but it's clear that he wants to be included when it comes to the books.

I guess this is one of those "rich environment" things they talk about. Alder is surrounded by books therefore he will have some relationship with them. If he sees his parents enjoying them he will think that they are for enjoying. This makes me think of the story Sam told me about the school he used to work where the students now spend six and a half hours a day reading and writing. The district's idea is that they will become excellent readers if they spend all their time doing it. The unintentional drawback is that none of these kids enjoy reading. They won't ever just pick up a book for pleasure because all they associate books with is being stuck in a desk all day and being forced to read.

"All kids in literate societies learn to read." David Albert wrote. He explains the obvious exceptions of children who have organic brain syndromes, visual problems and ptsd, used in the broadest sense. But his point is valid whether or not we set about to teach children the act of reading it is part of our development in literate cultures. In the microcosm of our house Alder will read because there are words all around him and he will want to make sense out of his environment. I'm not concerned if he learns to read at four or seven only that the process is pleasurable and that he never looks at reading as a punishment.

Like so many other things that he is learning reading is already beginning. I don't have any misconceptions that he understands what the markings on the page mean, but he does understand that there is something in these compilations of paper that attract his parents. He knows we look at the pages and that we go from one page to the one next to it. As a practical proof of this he know flips the pages for a while before sticking the book in his mouth. Of course he still puts everything in his mouth... eventually.