Aurelia is 9!

The day that changed my life.  December 5, 2005.

I am not the same person I was back then.  Aurelia changed my life for the better.  It’s been 9 years since I became a mother for the first time.  She started it all (and somehow convinced me I was capable of having three more after her!).

Aurelia at 5 months old

Aurelia at 5 months old

I remember that cold Chicago day.   I wasn’t due with her for another 4 weeks.  I was in denial I was in labor.  Surely contractions 4 minutes part and 2 minutes long were braxton hicks; surely!

The past nine years have been transformational.  In some ways she’s exactly like me and in other ways she’s completely different from me.  We have days where we see eye to eye and other days where we clash.  She pushes me to be a better mom and just overall better person.

Aurelia at 8 months

Aurelia at 8 months

Aurelia has such an incredibly loving heart.  She has this ability to be calm and extremely patient with her younger sisters.  She wants everyone to get along.

She is a 9 year old and loves to dig in the dirt.  I think that’s awesome!  She is still naive to the mean girl thing that seems to plague our this generation of children.  I’m unsure if that is because that is just who she is or it’s because she isn’t in public school or what.

Aurelia at 18 months

Aurelia at 18 months

She comes up from behind me, closed her eyes, inhales, wraps her arms around me, and exhales.  The.  Best.  Feeling.  I melt inside when she does that.

2 years old.  Eating her birthday cake.

2 years old. Eating her birthday cake.

So much has happened in 9 years.  I’m enjoying watching her grow.  It’s all going so fast.  Nine years old.  Wow.  This is her last year in the single digits.

Aurelia 2.5 years old

Aurelia 2.5 years old

She has her personality pretty much in place.  Her brain is working and developing at an amazing rate.  She is thinking all of the time.  Sleep just isn’t a priority to her.  I am loving watching the fruits of unschooling ripen as she grows up.  She loves to learn.  She soaks up so much still.  She isn’t bored of exploring her world or learning.

Aurelia 2.5 years old

Aurelia 2.5 years old

Aurelia 3 years old

Aurelia 3 years old

Aurelia 4 years old

Aurelia 4 years old

She is still so naive about many things.  This is a good thing, in my opinion.  She is enjoying being a kid.  That is what I wanted for her; to be a kid as long as possible.  To play in the dirt.  To explore her world.  To try things.  To be excited about life.  It’s absolutely the coolest thing in the world to watch it all come to fruition.

Aurelia almost 5

Aurelia almost 5

Aurelia 6 years old

Aurelia 6 years old

Aurelia 7 years old

Aurelia 7 years old

Aurelia 8 years old

Aurelia 8 years old

Aurelia 9 years old

Aurelia 9 years old

Happy Birthday, Aurelia.  You’re an incredibly awesome person.  I love hanging out with you, listening to your new found whistling talents, your discovery of new things daily, your thoughts and opinions about the world, and your overall curiosity about everything.  I’m so glad you are in my life.

Elisha is 2!

Happy 2nd birthday, Elisha!

Elisha, age 2

Elisha, age 2

I type this as my two year old is being, well, a two year old.  She is going through my wallet, pulling out my cards, pictures, and whatnot.  Eh, it’s keeping her busy and not helping me type this post so that’s something! Plus, she’s so damn cute so I just let her.

Elisha, 18mos

Elisha, 18mos

 

Elisha, age 1

Elisha, age 1

The past two years of having her in our family has been pretty awesome; an adventure for sure.  Her sisters really do enjoy having her around.  I think they will be in for more surprises this next year of her life when she starts messing with their toys more so we will see how the fondness for their toddler sister adjusts.

Elisha, age 1 napping

Elisha, age 1 napping

Elisha is generally a happy toddler.  She is up for whatever her sisters are doing.  Since she’s the fourth kid, she is toted around everywhere we go.  She’s portable.  Got a baby carrier?  Toddler will back carry just fine whilst I am handling the other three kids.  She isn’t used to being around other kids her age very much at all.  She’d rather be with the older kids and her sisters.  When she goes outside she seems to know where the boundaries are for street play.  She observes the older children in the neighborhood and really soaks in all the do.  She wants to be a part of everything.

Elisha 16 mos

Elisha 16 mos

She is an early to rise type of kid right now.  She usually wakes up around 5am and wants to nurse.  I might get her to stay in bed until 6am but I rarely am able to go back to sleep.  Once she is up she is hunting the house for her sisters and is ready to play!  She’s been slowly shifting her daily nap.  Some of that might be her age but some might be because we are on the go a lot being an unschooling family and she car naps.  She doesn’t transfer well so if she gets a twenty minute car nap she is awake until she goes to sleep around 7-8pm.  Oh and she’s getting more teeth!  I think the 2 year molars are just under the gums.

Me and Elisha at about 9 months old.

Me and Elisha at about 9 months old.

So far she enjoys posing for me when I get out my camera.  If I ask her to go stand somewhere so I can take a picture we will and look at me and cheese it up!  She seems to have figured out bodily noises and loves to laugh at hers!

Elisha, 6 months old

Elisha, 6 months old

The girl loves to eat.  She will eat lots of food, be the first one at the table, and begs for food at the stove while I’m cooking it.  She also enjoys shopping for food.  She recognizes foods we buy and goes right for them and if she can reach them she will grab them for me to buy.

Elisha, 3 mos

Elisha, 3 mos

I am really enjoying her.  Really really enjoying her.  I think it has to do with my maturity level in combination with a been there done that mother.  That and I haven’t gotten myself knocked up again so my hormones aren’t making giant shifts resulting in me being horribly exhausted and emotional.  It’s a lot to have a bunch of children in seven years.

Elisha, 2 months

Elisha, 2 months

Elisha has the best giggles.  Who doesn’t love a good belly laugh from a toddler?  That smile of hers is charming.  If she wanted to down a bag of sugar and flashed me that smile and a belly laugh, I’m sure I’d cave.

Elisha, 1 month

Elisha, 1 month

She is at the beginning stages of the slow toddler to early childhood physical detachment from me.  She is able to be with other adults more and more.  She needs physical reassurance from me less than she did at age one.  Having been there done that it is interesting for me to observe the slow transition especially as an attachment based parent.  A sign that she is ready to detach a little is when I try to give her hugs and kisses and she tries to bite my face like a rabid dog.

Elisha and Daddy, 1 month

Elisha and Daddy, 1 month

Elisha, born at home in the water.

Elisha, born at home in the water.

Newborn assessment on our bed.

Newborn assessment on our bed.

Getting weighed in the wee hours of the morning at home.

Getting weighed in the wee hours of the morning at home.

Then of course she belts out a full-bellied giggle and I let her do it again!  When will I learn??

Checking each other out in the herbal bath.

Checking each other out in the herbal bath.

Our baby girl, Elisha on the night (or rather really early morning) she was born.

Our baby girl, Elisha on the night (or rather really early morning) she was born.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Elisha Badisha!

Surrender to the Rhythm

Fall is rolling through like a dump truck driving through a nitro glycerin plant! (Christmas Vacation reference for all you Griswold fans.)

I just opened up my blog and realized I haven’t tended to it since the end of September. Eh. Life happens.

Pretty much the whole month of October Keira (age 4) spent in San Antonio with Mimi and Papa. I’m sure that makes me sound like an awful mother to have one of my children spend four weeks away from home. I can say it wasn’t torture for her. She loves being with Mimi and Papa. She really needed some one on one attention from an adult figure in her life. I had a friend with five kids tell once that sometimes you can’t do, be, and experience everything with your children (especially when you have a bunch of kids). Although I want to be the one to give her one hundred percent of my attention all of the time and be able to give her that one on one times, it’s just not possible right now.

During the month of October I also started trying to figure out a direction I wanted to go or a focus I wanted to have. I’ve struggled with this for awhile.  While my world is pretty busy with unschooling four kids I do feel a push to give in a capacity I’ve not been able to in awhile; well, really since I was a teacher.  There was fulfillment in my soul when I taught teenagers.  The urge to serve and truly give of myself is just a part of who I am.  I’m unable to go back to something full time and still unschool my kids with the way our lives are right now. I’ve tossed around a few options and really thought about what I am passionate about. There are a lot of things I am passionate about but I also have to take into consideration how my choices will affect my family, fulfill my need to serve, and maintain my personal code of morals and ethics.

I really enjoy being a part of the birth world. I enjoy being present and encouraging new moms, friends, family, etc. through this huge change in their lives.  It’s healing to me and hopefully of some benefit to the woman.  I feel that if I’m able to help and give to new moms in ways that I did and did not receive when I was a new mom, I may help them discover their strength and also prevent some of the unpleasantries I experienced as a new mom.  There is something powerful and transformative about being a woman, about pregnancy, birth, and about becoming a mother.

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I’ve learned so much over the years of birthing four children myself, having a miscarriage, being around birth, lots of reading and research, watching the highs and lows, learning what I can and cannot say or do, when it’s appropriate to insert myself, when to back off, and when to just toss my knowledge aside and just be present in a women’s journey even when it isn’t what I would choose.  I’ve learned so much about freedom of choice and the way that is right for me may not be right for someone else. My ego has been shattered enough with friends and family by my well-meaning intentions and my knowledge of birth that I may have just enough wisdom to do good without judgment.  I’m not saying I still won’t open my mouth and insert my foot but I’m hoping that these incidences of stupidity will be less as time goes on. I also file this stuff under “Reasons I like myself better in my 30’s than my 20’s.”

It’s called wisdom.  I’m gaining that like I gained weight in my pregnancies.

I see the parallels between art and birth.  Sometimes birth is the first time a woman has truly experienced art because she is the artist.

I’m comfortable in my knowledge in the areas of pregnancy, birth, natural parenting, alternative medicine, real food, unschooling, and dance. I’ve also learned a great deal about photography but I file that under dance as well because it’s all art. Art, birth, and being human. All of this has molded me into, well, me.

The struggle now is to figure out what I want to do with the knowledge and experience I have while also thinking about my family and knowing my limitations.

I’ve begun the process of getting certified to become a natural childbirth educator. The reading, research, getting connected with resources, and just figuring it all out has taken a lot of my time. There’s so much that goes into this. It’s a lot. I am enjoying it. My mind is sorting through it all. It’s a process.

I’ve a had a few moments where I’ve felt that cold fear creep up my spine and wondered if I made a huge mistake diving into this. Gah. I hope this isn’t a giant f*ck up. I think that comes with the territory of putting yourself out there. Risk. Risking financially, risking failure, risking rejection. That voice in my head that constantly says I’m not good enough.

Much like birth, I’m riding the wave where it’ll take me and trusting in the process.  I must surrender to the rhythm that is this journey.

Free as a Bird

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.

So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you.

And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

― Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons

The girls wake up between 6:30am-7:00am every morning even though they are unschooled.  I say “even though” because unschoolers stereotypically wake up later.  I make a cup of hot tea, put a cardigan over my pajamas (because I’m too lazy to strap on a bra that early), and walk out there with them as they wait and play with a friend who does attend school to catch the bus.

On a recent morning the girls discovered a bird’s nest in a tree.  It was on a branch low enough that I could lift each of them up and they could look in.  I ended up taking some pictures of the birds in a very wobbly step stool in which the girls not-so-confidentally told me that were holding stable for me to get the pictures.

nestlings
Over the next few days we checked on them every morning.  They started growing their feathers and one day they were gone from their nest.  The girls were sad.  They wanted them to be there forever, I suppose.

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Of course I tried to explain why the birds need to leave the nest and even tried to prepare them for what would be happening a few days before the birds left the nest.

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On the first day they saw them they wanted to keep them as pets.  I explained that capturing wild birds, especially nestlings, would most likely end in their demise.  Letting them grow and develop naturally was the preferred method here.  It was then suggested to me that we could use our blender to puree food to feed to the birds.  Problem solved.  The baby birds just needed food and they’d be good to go.

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Except all living things need more than just food and water to thrive.

Drawing parallels between the baby birds and the way we are allowing our children to develop as naturally as possible were obvious.

Our goal is to let them leave the nest when they are ready.  We don’t want to kick them out prematurely, before they have their wings and can fly.  We also don’t want to force them to stay or be caged up.  It’s a bit of time before we will be entering that phase of parenting.  It’s worth taking time to think about after all the thing I hear from all the parents who’ve come before me is that it all goes so fast.  The days are long but the years are short.

I hope when we are in those years with each of the girls I can look back and remember these baby birds in their nest.  They were so helpless in the beginning.  Over time they grew wings until one day they just flew off.

Lucia Lost Her First Tooth!

Lucia’s first tooth lost was her front left tooth.  That little bugger has been wiggly for some time.

The dentist let us know awhile back that that both of her front teeth’s root were dissolving prematurely.  What this means is it’ll be a little longer than average for her permanent teeth in those spaces to come in.  That hole will be there for awhile.

There's our Lucia!  Part smile, part growl.

There’s our Lucia! Part smile, part growl.

We were on a bike ride around the neighborhood when she came up to me with a some blood in her mouth and said the tooth felt like it was almost going to come out.  She needed to get a drink of water and after looking at the situation I was a nervous that if she were to drink water that she might swallow the tooth.  I let her know the predicament and I asked her if she wanted to just pull it out.  She said no.  I asked her if she wanted me to do it.  She said yes.

Lucia's first lost tooth.

Lucia’s first lost tooth.

First tooth!

First tooth!

A little backstory.  We call Lucia our bullshit sniffer.  What we mean by that is that she can sniff out insincerity a mile away.  We have to talk real to her.  Give it to her straight.  She doesn’t like adults who act nice.  She knows when it’s not genuine.  I think this is why she doesn’t like childcare or church.  Most adults instinctually speak to children a different way than they do adults.  Lucia does everything but roll her eyes.  Wait, she has rolled her eyes.  When adults act this way she automatically files them away as unsafe and untrustworthy.

First tooth gone.

First tooth gone.

So, for her to trust me to pull out her tooth was a HUGE deal.  She trusts me.  It’s taken 6+ years to gain this trust (and many more years ahead to keep it).

I told her straight up what was gonna happen.  It would continue to bleed.  It might hurt.  She appreciates brutal honesty.

We had a busy day the day she lost her tooth and I was unable to get pictures of it before bedtime.  So, the tooth fairy wrote her this note and the next morning we got pictures.

Note from the tooth fairy.

Note from the tooth fairy.

On our way home I looked back and Aurelia was talking to her recalling when she lost her first tooth.  They are both in the lost tooth club now. Lucia rode her bike back home with more confidence and is walking taller, ready to tell everyone about her first lost tooth.

Back to Unschooling!

It’s that time of year again when schools nationwide are starting back up.  And us?  We are still on that unschool train.  (Choo-choo!)

Sing it with me!  Come on ride the train!

Sing it with me! Come on ride the train!

I tell myself that we commit to unschooling one year at a time.  We’ve made the choice to walk into another year of unschooling.

If the girls were in a traditional school setting, Aurelia would be in third grade, Lucia first grade, and Keira would be pre-k.

Do my kids know the same things that a public school kid would no?  Probably not.  Do public school kids know the same things my kids know?  That would also be a most likely a hells to the no.

I try to find ways to explain what we do that is different than a traditionally schooled kid to people who may not completely grasp the concept of unschooling and I came up with a puzzle analogy.

Imagine you are given a puzzle.  For giggles lets say it’s a 1000 piece puzzle.  How would you go about putting it together?  Would you start in the center, would you look at the picture on the box, would you put it together with the edges first, would you commit to doing it all at once or would you take breaks?

Now image the puzzle pieces are bits of information we gather or learn throughout life.
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Unschooling allows a person to put together a puzzle in any order they want.

I (along with other people in their lives) provide our children opportunities to absorb information; I provide them with some of the puzzle pieces, so to speak, and some they gather on their own.   They put their puzzle together at their own rate and in the order that best makes sense to them.  There are things my kids can do and know that a schooled kids their age cannot and vice versa.  One way isn’t necessarily better than another.  It can be difficult to fully grasp this concept because we all (myself included) have a schooled mindset that tells us children should know certain things by an exact age or grade.

How do I know if they are learning?

I look for progress.  For example, are they doing things and know things now that they didn’t know this time last year?  The answer has always been yes.  That’s how I’ve measured success in unschooling.  No, it’s not with percentiles or any other quantitative forms of measuring.  My assessment is more qualitative and observable.  I look at the whole picture of their lives.

This next year we will be spending time inside, outside, playing, reading, watching movies, going into Houston for various activities like Aurelia’s Houston Museum of Natural Science class she so adored from last year, Aurelia and Lucia are taking an art class through the YMCA’s homeschool program, and Aurelia and Lucia are going to be joining a homeschool choir.  (When classes are advertised as “homeschool” classes what that basically means is that they are classes offered during the normal school day hours and not that you have to sign a secret pledge of the underground homeschool coalition and know the secret handshake and password.  But if you are asked, the password is pimpinhomeschoolbiznitches.)

The girls have expressed interest in taking a trip outside of Texas.  I know they all would like to fly on an airplane but I’m not sure that is in our budget (flying a family of 6 round trip is at least $2k).  I’m glad they have the desire to see other places and to travel further.  I wasn’t that adventurous when I was a kid probably because I knew it wasn’t an option with the obstacle of school.  I suppose now our goal is to figure out how to make it happen.  How much do they give for donating organs or my eggs?  I jokingly (or not) told Sal there had to be some sort of niche in the stripping industry for a post four baby, stretch marked body.  Someone would want to pay to see that sexiness strip.

I digressed…a little too much.  I shouldn’t always write everything I think.  Filter, Valerie!  Wrapping this post up.  Unschooling.  Yes we are doing it again.  Putting together a puzzle is pretty much how unschooling works.  You do it your own damn way.  The Lopezes will be busy this fall and I need to get my shit together.

Peace, pimpinhomeschoolbiznitches!

Summer 2014 Wrap Up

This summer was crazy busy.  We were on the go a lot.  A lot.  Driving here and there.  Having guests.  Trying to not melt in the hot and humid Houston summer heat.   We made memories, dammit!

Our summer started early.  In May we spent several days in Galveston at a beach house with Sal’s parents and brother.  That was pretty sweet.  And when I say pretty sweet I mean effing awesome.  I really could have spent the whole summer there.

On the beach in Galveston in May before all the nasty seaweed hit later in the summer.

On the beach in Galveston in May before all the nasty seaweed hit later in the summer.  May, before school is out is definitely a good time to go.  Water is a little cool but the weather is awesome and the sand was so soft.  

Aurelia on the beach.

Aurelia on the beach.

Lucia having fun on the beach in Galveston.

Lucia having fun on the beach in Galveston.

Keira posing

Keira posing

Elisha posing as Daddy was behind me coaching them on modeling.

Elisha posing as Daddy was behind me coaching them on modeling.

I could post ALL of the beach pictures as there are a ton but I’m certain that unless you’re me or their grandparents you probably don’t care to scroll through that many on this blog post.

Then on May 27th my sister gave birth to another baby boy in San Antonio.  I got to be present for that.  What an awesome experience!  Yup.  Still convinces me that if I were able to pursue midwifery I’d not hesitate.  Watching a child be born is amazing.  My experience with birth has only been on the side of the person doing it.  This was my first time supporting and watching a birth.

That's my newest nephew, Xzavier!

That’s my newest nephew, Xzavier!

My sister took this of us  just a couple hours after he was born as she sat in her bed at the hospital.  Another drug free natural birth for her!

My sister took this of us just a couple hours after he was born as she sat in her bed at the hospital. Another drug free natural birth for her!

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Lucia hesitantly petting her cousin’s head.

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Aurelia LOVED holding him.

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Trying to lure their cousin away from one of his brothers. Good luck with that.

The Lopez girls and their newest cousin.

The Lopez girls and their newest cousin.

Sal and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary this year.  We took time out to spend a three nights in Wimberely by ourselves.  We drove into Austin a few times.  We even zip lined.  That was a blast!

The cabin we stayed in in Wimberely.

The cabin we stayed in in Wimberely.

Being silly in the huge bathtub in our room.

Being silly in the huge bathtub in our room.

We arrive back in San Antonio and I got a chance to take my nephew who will be a senior in high school this year to see Texas State University and get a formal tour.

Alkek Library in the back.

Alkek Library in the back.

Sticker shock at the price of books.

Sticker shock at the price of books.

Good luck hand shake from LBJ's statue.

Good luck hand shake from LBJ’s statue.

For the 4th of July we went back to San Antonio to spend time with family to celebrate.

4th of July in San Antonio

4th of July in San Antonio.  Lucia with a sparkler.  

 

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Aurelia and sparklers.

 

Elisha not too fond of the fireworks.

Fireworks!

 

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Elisha not too fond of the fireworks.

This summer Aurelia took swim lessons at the Y.  She loved it.  It was really cool to be on the sidelines as well as just leaving her with the instructor for her lesson.

Jumping in!

Jumping in!

Floating

Floating

 

Images uploaded from my phone.  Becca was her swim instructor.  They had a great time together!

Images uploaded from my phone. Becca was her swim instructor. They had a great time together!

My brother, sister-in-law, and their boys came to Houston for a visit as they are moving to North Carolina soon.  I’m trying to push past the selfish sadness of them being further away and cover it up with happiness for them.  I know this means that their boys will get good quality time with their soon-to-be retired grandparents.  It will be good.

Rogan playing at our house.

Rogan playing at our house.

Rhys playing at our house.

Rhys playing at our house.

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My brother, Danielle, and their boys Rogan and Rhys.  

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My brother, Danielle, and all the kids.

My brother, me, and all of our kids.

My brother, me, and all of our kids.

Then we had our annual visit from the Pattersons.  Aurelia and Logan have been friends since their daycare days in Bedford, Texas.  Kim, Logan and his sister Ali’s mom, has been really awesome and brings them here each summer so far.  I’m so glad they came.  It was an awesome time.  Well, minus the stomach bug everyone except Kim and I developed while they were here.  There was vomiting and diarrhea everywhere.  It was a par-tay!

The Pattersons visited over Sal's 35th birthday.  These are the kiddos hanging over the balcony area upstairs to drop balloons on him as he walked in from work.

The Pattersons visited over Sal’s 35th birthday. These are the kiddos hanging over the balcony area upstairs to drop balloons on him as he walked in from work.

Aurelia and Logan. They pick up where they left off and just "get" each other.

Aurelia and Logan. They pick up where they left off and just “get” each other.

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Minecrafting time!

Aurelia, Lucia, and Keira spent two weeks towards the end of summer with Mimi and Papa in San Antonio (on top of Aurelia and Lucia spending time there earlier this summer by themselves).

Over Labor Day my sister and her family are visiting us as well.  That will be eight children in our house.  It should be chaotic and fun.  Hey, there will be memories, dammit!

So yes, this summer was jam packed full of activity.  I had to seriously limit the number of pictures I posted here because I took thousands.

Okay, Fall 2014, here we come!