March 31, 2008

Bad Night/Bad Mom

There were so many possible titles for this post. “Mother Loses it Over Seemingly Insignificant Event.” “Going Asunder Down Under.” “Immaturity Reigns (in me).” Or I could take the passive aggressive route and go with, “Jealous Now?!”

Unfortunately the title doesn’t change the fact that we had a bad night and I’m still feeling it this morning. I’ll just start right off and give my excuse. I think it’s the cumulative effect of being away from home for two months, not having a car, having a child that’s homesick and at the same time doesn’t want to leave the four walls of our new (temporary) home. And having a husband that works a minimum of 13 hours a day (including some weekends—both days last weekend, in fact, though the days were shorter).

This is what happened:
Jerry’s very sweet friend slept over last night—well, he was supposed to. He ended up leaving around 11 because he was missing his mom (probably my fault). His mom had dropped him off in the afternoon and he and Jerry played their DS’s, watched TV, played on the computer, and generally had a good time. I spent the day doing laundry, sweeping, mopping, and trying to get in touch with our landlord who has not returned my calls for two weeks and has failed in his four week old promise to deliver us a vacuum that works (which means the floor of our bedroom is littered with the corpses of unfortunate bugs who fly in through our many doors and windows and never make it out again--disgusting). I baked a cake, which I had to bake in a pan two times too big (there are cake pans here but they’re rusted and I had no wax paper) and then the boys didn’t like it. I wanted to get out and Jerry’s friend was keen to go to the park but Jerry didn’t want to go and was unmoved by the fact that his friend did. So we stayed home. Again.

Eventually I decided I’d watch a movie and had just put it in the DVD player when the boys started talking about going somewhere (it was almost dark now). So I stopped the movie and we tried to figure out an arrangement everyone would be happy with. Jerry’s friend wanted to go to the park (and so did I). Jerry wanted to go to Movenpick for ice cream sundaes. I wanted them to eat something before the sundaes so I suggested snacks now (they were both hungry), then park, then home for dinner, then Movenpick, or snacks, park, Movenpick then dinner. Jerry hemmed and hawed and didn’t want to go and finally I gave them some snacks and started making dinner.

But here’s where it went awry. Jerry had lost one of his DS games the last time he had a friend over. I had already noticed the DS games on the floor by the couch earlier in the day and had said, “I don’t think your games should be on the floor. You’ll end up losing one.” As I walked into the kitchen to start dinner I saw the games scattered across the sofa cushion (which is where the missing game was last seen). I said again, “Jerry, I really think those games should be put away in their case.”

Jerry snapped. He said didn’t like the way I’d been talking to him lately. I asked how long he felt this had been going on and he said “It’s been flippin’ five months!” to which he added “You know I’m exaggerating” as he slunk down on the couch.

That was all it took. First off, the word “flippin’” really bugs me. I don’t have a big problem with bad words, it’s the intention behind them and how they are used that matters to me. So he may have said flippin’ but his intention was fuckin’ and after two months of bending over backwards to make our stay manageable and fun for him, and spending day after day in our house with the television blaring (something that REALLY effects my wellbeing in a negative way) an accusation of five months (exaggerated or not) of talking to him in a “way he doesn’t like” was enough to send me over the edge.

I didn’t yell though. I just went upstairs and turned on a This American Life podcast. After a while they asked when we were going to get ice cream and I said we weren’t going—we had never come up with a plan anyway since Jerry couldn’t agree on doing anything anyone else wanted to do (I didn’t say that part).

After my podcast was over I made dinner—one for Jerry and one for his friend since they both eat different things—and put it on the table. “Dinner’s on the table,” I said. Nothing. “Hey, you guys. Come and eat. Your dinner’s on the table.” Then finally, “I know. We heard you the first time.” Me: “Then why didn’t you respond?” Jerry: “You can assume that we heard you.” “Not with the television blaring I can’t.” Then there was some kind of snotty remark and I just walked out and slammed the door.

I’ve never walked out before. But I was so angry. I think part of why I needed to get out is that as much as I love this house it’s come to feel like I’m trapped here half the time. I’m sure that has a lot to do with not having a car (though we’ve been getting around fine by bus and the shops are just a short walk away). Anyway, I went out to the garage, folded some laundry, then sat on the deck waiting for Warren to get home. (I couldn’t go in because I had locked myself out and there was no way I was knocking on the door!) I could see Jerry at the dinner table through the window. After he ate he put his dishes on the counter then started looking for me. Eventually he found me and came outside. He wanted to give me a hug but I just couldn’t. I told him I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t even talk about it yet.

When Warren got home I left. I took my purse, thinking I might get on the bus and go somewhere but I ended up just walking. I thought about getting something to eat but I was afraid if I had to speak I’d start crying, which I did anyway. I ended up sitting on a park bench for a long time. I called home to let Warren know where I was and after a while I went back. But I was still mad. I couldn’t believe it really, but I was.

I knew Jerry would want to talk when I got home. I knew he’d want to hug me and to be honest I didn’t want a hug and I didn’t feel ready to talk. But when I got back he broke down. He sobbed. He kept apologizing. I felt awful. I hugged him. I said it was alright, but it didn’t feel all right. It still doesn’t.

March 30, 2008

Unschooling? Me?

I've been thinking about why I haven't been posting much since we've been in New Zealand and aside from the fact that we've been traveling around a bit, I think the real reason is that this blog is about unschooling and the truth is I've hardly even thought about schooling in any form since we got here. And I'm thinking that's a good thing.
Sure, I take time to point things out to Jerry. I talk about what I've discovered since we've been here. We visit places and people where we can't help but learn something. And all of this newness has started a fair number of philosophical conversations. But the learning is just part of our day. It comes naturally.
So, for now, I think I've got this unschooling thing down. I have no illusions, however, that this will continue when we get home. Once we're home I'm sure I'll start feeling the pressure to take the more traditional route (not from other people--from myself). So I'm really enjoying this "vacation" from schooling of any kind. I only hope it continues when we get back to Los Angeles.
Note to new readers: If you are reading this and wondering why on earth a thinking, responsible parent (yep, that's me--thinking and responsible) would want to homeschool their child without actually "schooling" them, check out the links to the right under "What the heck is unschooling?" 

March 25, 2008

Read This!

I just wanted to share a post that I found today on Unschooled in Calgary. What caught my attention was this paragraph about learning:
Homo sapiens are hard wired to learn. It is the only way we have survived as a species on this planet. We were not the fastest runners, we were not the strongest predator, we did not possess the keenest sight, or spectacular hearing, or the finest sense of smell. We were not uniquely characterized to our habitat niche in any way. We survived as a species for one reason, and one reason only: because we learn, at an alarming rate of speed, an incredible number of things.
But the post isn't really a discussion about unschooling. It's actually very thorough recap of a lecture given by David Suzuki, a Canadian geneticist, environmental activist, and author of 43 books. It's more of a call to action, really, and a reminder that our planet's resources won't last forever--and it's darn good reading.

Oh! And on a similar topic: fellow unschooling blogger, Tara, has started a terrific new blog called Sustainable Sundays. Be sure to check it out!

March 24, 2008

The Bay Of Islands

Have I mentioned that Jerry isn't too keen on leaving the house? At least not without some pressure. Last Thursday, the day we packed for our weekend in the Bay of Islands, I was dying to get out of the house but Jerry didn't want to leave, so I let him stay home while I took my camera down to St. Stephen's Chapel and cemetery to take some photos. The chapel was built in 1857
and the cemetery is home to some of Auckland's earliest settlers. The oldest headstone is from 1844. I found the grave of Vicemius Lush, the man who lived in one of the historic cottages I visited a couple weeks ago when Warren took Jerry to work. This is just a random crooked headstone, but I liked the picture.Thursday evening we set out for the town of Whangerei, where we stayed in a motel clearly bent on winning the title of "Most Disgusting Motel." It was only $75 a night, which maybe should have tipped me off but, as Warren commented once we were tucked into bed with sheets carefully turned over the bedspread so we wouldn't inadvertently touch it, "There are decent motel rooms for $75 a night" to which Jerry replied, "Sadly, this isn't one of them."

We made a quick exit the following morning, driving the scenic highway through the Waipoua Kauri Forest. Kauri are the second largest tree in the world, after California's Giant Sequoias. We learned later that most of the houses built in San Francisco during the late 1800s were built of kauri from New Zealand, which may explain why there are very few kauri trees left. We took a short trail to the second-largest kauri tree in New Zealand, Te Matua Ngahere ("Father of the Forest"). Then we continued on toward the coast and Hokianga Harbor
where we boarded a water taxi that would take us across the water to the headlands. Wherever there was a dock there were local kids jumping into the water.Here's the view looking back across the water.And here's the reason we went across the water in the first place. Each of us grabbed a boogie board and started climbing the dunes. Jerry was the first to give it a go. He kept his hands and feet in the sand to slow him down on the first couple runs. Eventually, though, he was speeding down the hill at an alarming speed, straight for the water. Jerry and Warren liked to stop themselves before they got wet but for me the funnest part was skimming out onto the water at the end of the ride.
Jerry met two fourteen-year-old girls on the dunes and ended up hanging out with them most of the afternoon. Finally we left the dunes and headed for our next, much better motel in Paihia on the Bay of Islands. Here's Jerry on the little patio outside our room. Bright and early the next morning we boarded a catamaran for a full day of sailing. Jerry's feeling pretty comfortable on the water these days.Soon after setting sail we came upon a pod of six dolphin. We couldn't swim with them because there was a baby (swimming with babies about is against the rules) so we were happy to watch them jump and play. After watching the dolphins show off for us we sailed to one of the 144 islands in the bay for some snorkeling, hiking, and relaxing on the beach.Here's Warren at the top of the island.
And here's another view from the top.The next day we set out for Cape Reinga, which is almost as far north as you can go in New Zealand (but not quite). On the way we stopped for fish and chips in Moganui, ice cream in Cable Bay, and we walked to the Rainbow Warrior Memorial at the top of a hill near the water.
This one is for our "conscientious objector" file. (Mothers of boys be sure to follow that link!)After a long day of driving and what felt like a never-ending dirt road (which the guide book failied to mention!) we made it to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean (the Pacific--and home-- is to the right, Tasman--and Australia-- to the left).
Cape Reinga was nice but the best part about our time there was the two hours we spent on the beach just below the cape. It was a 45-minute hike down to the sandbut we had the entire beach to ourselves. It was magical.

As the sun was setting we hiked back up the hill where a million hitchhiking mosquitoes managed to make their way into our car. Okay, there were about thirty, but I'm happy to say I killed them all--I'm scratching those darn bites as I type this!
The following day we went to Russell, formerly known as "the hell hole of the South Pacific," where we learned all about tanning leather (which involves lots of urine) and printing and binding books in the 1860s. I'll explain and provide photos later. For now I'll leave you with this one of Jerry--just because I like it.

March 19, 2008

All Caught Up

There. That last post got me all caught up on photos of our trip so far.

This weekend Warren will have four days off (hooray!) so we're heading up north to the Bay of Islands where we're looking forward to some sand surfing on the dunes, a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean meeting the Tasman sea off Cape Reinga, a few hours spent on a deserted island, some kayaking, and maybe even a swim with the dolphins if we're lucky.

Before we get there, though, we'll be braving the holiday weekend traffic with all the other Aucklanders trying to get out of the city for the holidays. Ah, sitting on the roads stuck in traffic for hours at a time. It'll be just like home....

Sailing On An America's Cup Yacht

Early on in our stay in Auckland we spent a few hours on an America's Cup Yacht. I'm forever trying to find activities that will spark an interest in Jerry. He hasn't started begging for sailing lessons yet but we did have an amazing afternoon of sun, sea and wind.
I thought the America's Cup Race was a really long one but it actually only takes a few hours. A few hours of working those grinders would be more than enough for me--grinding is really hard work.
We caught this view of the city between the two volcanic cones of Devenport.
Hey, look who's driving the boat!It's Jerry!!
He took us past Rangitoto, the big volcano.
I took a turn at driving the boat, too. Whether or not Jerry is interested in sailing lessons I think I'll be signing myself up for some when we get home!

March 18, 2008

Waitomo Caves

A few weeks ago we woke up early on a Sunday morning and traveled about three hours south of Auckland to Waitomo where we had made reservations for a trip through the Waitomo Caves to see the glowworms. We met up with our guide just before 10, piled into a van, and drove along a narrow mountain road until we came around this bend and found a tree had fallen into the road.

The guys managed to push it out of the way with a bit of teamwork.
A flock of sheep grazing in the pasture below us made a quick exit when the tree crashed over the fence. (By the way, did you know there are more sheep in New Zealand than there are people?)
A few miles along our guide dropped up off so we could enjoy the five minute walk down to the first cave.
We walked past hills dotted with limestone formations like this
and this.Once we got to the cave we donned helmets with attached flashlights.
This is what we saw once we got well into the cave. These are the sticky threads the glowworm creates to catch its prey. (I didn't take these next three photos.)
The blue glow is actually the, uh, poo of the glowworm. Nice, huh? It lures it's food over with glowing poo. The long worm-like thing you see there is the sac that the worm lives in. It moves along inside this sac, which is strung like a hammock on the rock. When a bug gets caught in the thread the worm pulls it up and feasts.
After looking at the glowworms up close we boarded a small boat and floated down a stream inside the cave (kinda like Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland but real!). This is what we saw overhead. It looked like the stars were just above our heads and we could reach out and touch them. We were in the boat in complete darkness and utter silence for about thirty minutes--it was just mesmerizing. I think my jaw must have been on the floor the whole time. It was one of the most magical things I've ever seen.
We reluctantly left the glowworms behind and went to another cavethat had a lot of stalactites and stalagmites.
Here we are in the second cave.
When the tour was over we went to check out another cave on our own. We didn't go in too far because it was dark and scary and at a certain point along the trail Jerry refused to walk any farther. Warren and I gave it a cursory look then headed back to the car.We hiked to this natural bridge before heading back to Auckland. The bridge was nice but it's what was just beyond the bridge that made it special. We spent a long time here just marveling at the scenery, climbing the rocks, enjoying the beautiful blue sky,

oh, and playing the DS, of course.