Sunday, November 17, 2013

Baseball season is over? NOT!

And for those of you who think I'm exaggerating or otherwise stretching the truth about my son living baseball EVERY SINGLE SECOND of his day, here is a picture from yesterday's hike. Note the batting helmet, the cap and glove tucked in his backpack, and the bat in his left hand. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Whole Story

It is very difficult to to describe something that is indescribable!  This post is my attempt to do just that.  To start from the beginning, Evan likes baseball.  Scratch that--Evan LOVES baseball.  Scratch that--Evan is COMPLETELY, TOTALLY and OVER-THE-TOP OBSESSED with baseball.  Wow...even that doesn't seem strong enough.  Evan lives and breathes baseball.  He has read every book our library has (fiction, non-fiction, biography, autobiography, you name it!).  He has read every book our town librarians are able to get their hands on from other libraries.  He has seen videos on the life and times of his favorite players and he has seen both videos made after the Red Sox (obviously his favorite team) won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.  (He is anxiously awaiting the no-doubt coming video on this year's win.)  All season, he would fall asleep listening to the Rex Sox games on the radio and wake in the morning to run to the computer and watch highlights streamed on-line.  He spends TONS of time every day throwing, sliding, hitting, begging someone to pitch to him (just one more time!), and practicing his base running and stealing.  He knows more about the sport and the players than any 4yo should know...but that is his love, his passion and it brings him so, so, so, so much joy.

Last week, his Grammy emailed us with a possible chance to take part in a batting practice session at Fenway Park.  He could have one go-round...10 balls to swing at.  I asked Evan if he wanted to do it.  I had to explain that it would be off a pitching machine (which he has never faced before) and that they may not be able to set it down low enough for his small strike zone.  I wanted to make sure he understood, before we got there, that it was entirely possible he would swing 10 times and miss 10 times.  This wasn't like playing with Grampy or Daddy (who would never end on a miss!) and that he would get 10 swings and then it would be the next batter's turn.  He didn't hesitate.  "But Mom," he said, "I could swing and miss 10 times AT FENWAY PARK!  I would be standing at HOME PLATE, AT FENWAY PARK!  Of COURSE I want to do it!!"  Thus, I began working out the arrangements.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to get him at least SOME time in front of a pitching machine before the big day, I called a few places that have batting cages in our area.  They are all closed for the season. Just on the off-chance something cool would happen, I called the head baseball coach at UMaine.  I fully expected his Administrative Assistant to calmly take a message and never get a response.  Amazingly, not only did the Head Coach answer the phone, he invited us over to use their $40,000 pitching simulator! They set it as slow as they could and as low as they could and Evan loved every minute of trying to hit 40mph "fast" balls that went over his head a bit. By the end of the morning, he was hitting a few of them.  He was feeling ready for today.  

This is where it simply becomes impossible for me to describe the joy he was feeling as he stepped onto the field.  The man doing the announcing asked him what number and position he wanted announced.  Evan thought for a minute, "Number 29, Left Field"  (Daniel Nava).  He carefully tried on batting helmets and weighed different bats, choosing the one he thought was the lightest and, he said, had the best grip.

"Now batting, number 29, left field, EVAN GERBI!"

I won't give you the play-by-play.  Suffice to say, on the 5th pitch, we all heard the crack of the bat and watched as the ball soared out of the batting cage and right down the middle of the field.  Did it hit the Green Monster?  No.  Did it go past the infield?  No.  Did it go that far at all?  Not really.  We are talking about a 35-pound 4yo swinging a too-heavy bat against a 45mph hard ball.  The physics of the situation are pretty obvious!  Did it wow the crowd and move his mother (and Grandmother, I must say!) to tears?  YES!  Will it be remembered for a long, long time?  The answer to that is clear. 

Waiting his turn!

He's UP!!

You have to be a Fenway Fan to understand this photo, but that is my little guy up on the big screen!  The one under the John Hancock sign!  Look!  He's famous!

Car ride on the way home...he may be a big time hitter, but he's still just 4!  It was a lot of excitement for one day!
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Monday, June 24, 2013


I really have been neglecting this blog lately! We have been doing so much and I'm just trying to keep up with life these days. I have a photo book I have to finish for our portfolio review in a few weeks, the kids are doing a ton of activities, and with summer happening, things are just very busy and fun! Here are a few photos of our latest adventure in Seattle:
Top of the Space Needle

Cousins at a waterfall in the Cascades

Touching the Pacific Ocean for the first time!

Tide Pooling in the Pacific--HUGE sea stars!

Hiking in the Rainforest

Whale Watching around the San Juan Islands--AMAZING!

The other news in our family is Megan and her gymnastics.  She has worked very hard this year and is doing amazing stuff!  A few weeks ago, Megan had her first ever gymnastics meet and did really well.  She has been invited to join the team this summer--her crazy-busy schedule seems to be working for her!  We'll see how it all goes in the fall!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Megan Turned 8...last month.

I am the worst Mommy in the whole it is June 3rd already and I never posted a birthday post for Megan.  Oh! my little Goose is growing up too fast!  Megan's past year has been completely defined by gymnastics.  While it took us some time to appreciate that her requests for lessons were born from true desire (as opposed to just wanting to be with her friend), we finally got her signed up.  She started at Level 1...she was in that for about 20 minutes.  She was moved to Level 2 almost immediately and was in that class for about a week while they waited for an opening in the Level 3 class.  When she switched from one gym to another, she found her groove.  Level 3 lasted a few months until she (and her best friend) were asked to join PreTeam.  That is where she is now, anxiously finishing up the last few practices of this session to see who makes it to Team.  She is very, very close and working hard.  We'll see what happens!

Obviously it doesn't matter what happens in the world of gymnastics--she will always be my Goose.  Happy (very belated) Birthday to the newly crowned 8-year-old who brings so much joy to our family and to everyone she meets.  We love you, Megan!

(This is a picture of the baby goose we saw in Seattle--so not MY goose, but cute nonetheless!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013


A teenager from the town next to ours disappeared last week.  This week they found her body, and a young man who lives in my town has been charged with her murder.  Near as anyone here can figure out, she was seeing this guy or they were FB friends or something like that.  It seems he may have been a predator, but details are sketchy and I prefer not to jump to any conclusions before this man has had his day in court.  But I digress.  What is my real reason for writing something now?  Connection.

Yesterday, our local newspaper printed an article to remember the victim.  There were several things in it that struck me.  First, clearly this young woman was considered a "typical" teen.  She loved school because she could hang out with her friends and she was, apparently, constantly connected to her cell phone so she could be talking and texting with her friends at all times.  The article even mentioned how she had a hard time this past summer on a two week wilderness trip with her family because of the lack of cell phone connection and her inability to text.  There was nothing, NOTHING in this article that our modern society would deem inappropriate for a kid her age.  And that, my friends, THAT is the problem.  As a society, we have become so disconnected from our children that the only things they have left to connect with are their peers.  We consider this normal behavior, but in many other societies, it is not!  Kids don't naturally connect to peers, they naturally connect to parents and caregivers.  How have we pushed our children so far away from us that we think it is normal for a kid to not enjoy two weeks with their family because they didn't have a cell phone connection?  Think about this--instead of telling her parents or other trusted member of her community or family that she was FB friends with this new, older guy, she was telling her friends.  Instead of someone with more experience telling her to be careful and that maybe this wasn't a good idea, she had kids her own age telling her, "Oh, cool!  He's cute!"  Believe me, I'm NOT blaming the victim for being naive (perhaps she wasn't) and I'm not blaming her parents for being absent (perhaps they weren't).  Again, details are sketchy and I'm not jumping to conclusions.  What I am doing, however, is blaming SOCIETY for not recognizing what we are doing to children!  

As a whole, we have a very sick society--and yes, these murders and acts of violence (marathon bombs, school shootings) are relatively rare.  Really, they are. HOWEVER, while the acts of violence are rare, children with anxiety disorders, OCD, ADD, ADHD, obesity, diabetes...these things are not rare.  We are a very sick society and the younger generation is getting sicker.  Much of these problems can be directly linked to how we treat our kids and the way we force disconnection on them because society says we have to.  (Ask yourself, honestly, why do your kids go to school?  Is it because you truly think it is what is best for them?)  We need to understand that this isn't about tough love or forcing kids to obey and all will be well.  This is about completely changing how we treat the youngest and most vulnerable section of our society.  We MUST begin to connect with these kids.  Get them out of school if that isn't good for them.  Find them alternatives to school and day care and, instead, let them play outside and learn and follow their passions.  We need to let them be who they are with an adult beside them to support, nurture and fuel their desires (as opposed to an adult telling them what to do every day).  It is about letting kids play in multi-age situations and learn from all kinds of people; older kids, younger kids, adults, etc.  It is about telling a child that they are worthwhile, no matter what they are feeling in a given moment.  Until we change the way we approach children in our society, we can continue to expect them to grow up disconnected and confused.  We can expect them to make mistakes from which there is little ability to recover.  We can expect mental illness, obesity, and depression.  We can expect rare acts of violence to become more common and for us, as a society, to simply shake our heads and wonder what went wrong.  I'm telling you here what is wrong.  We are lacking a connection and we think it is normal.  We think it is the way it is supposed to be!  It isn't.  There is another way.  [Getting off soapbox now....]

Friday, May 3, 2013

The curriculum question

Last week, I went to a housewarming party and got to hang out with a bunch of our neighbors as we welcomed a new neighbor to the area.  One of our neighbors, who lives across the street from us, is a wonderfully kind gentleman who has been very supportive of Erin's Death Star Bottle Drive, loves watching my kids play outside, and is often invited to partake in our crazy science experiments that usually involve blowing stuff up.  Last night, as we were talking, he asked me what curriculum I used with the kids and wondered how I managed to adjust it to meet the needs of all the different ages I'm trying to teach at home.  It is one of those questions that I have come to both dread and thoroughly enjoy.  It becomes a dread question when I know the person I'm talking to comes at the idea of homeschooling from a very old-school perspective.  They want to hear how my school-at-home is going, what subjects we cover, what prepared, boxed curriculum I use, and how do I test my children's mastery of each subject.   These conversations can be challenging, to say the least.  However, if the person I'm talking to is clearly open to the idea of unschooling, we might get into a fantastic conversation about how kids learn and the value of play and connection.  But, of course, when someone just asks a question like that, I'm not sure how to answer.  So, last night, I took a deep breath and explained to him that I really didn't use a curriculum and that I adjusted the subject matter to whichever kid had an interest in that subject.  His response?  I'm just wondering what you use because your kids are so utterly amazing and bubbly and wonderful!  Whatever you are doing, you should do more of it!  (Phew!  Off the hook!)

Here's the truth.  Kids learn about life by living life. They learn about loving by being loved.  They learn about respect by being respected.  Nothing in the whole world is so utterly simple and so incredibly challenging as trusting a child to do what they need to do.  This trust is the root of everything we do with our kids.  I wish I could say I'm perfect at it--that I have let go of all desire to control my kids and that we meet each other's needs as a family in harmony everyday...but I would be lying.  The truth is that we are a large family and we fight, we get sick, we get tired, we get on each other's nerves.  I find, however, that because we base everything we do on this deep rooted trust in our children, we are pretty quick to find forgiveness, patience, love, laughter, play, pretend, joy, adventure, know, the good stuff.  Chris and I are letting go a little more each day, digging a little deeper into the partnership paradigm with our children.  Yes, we were both raised differently and yes, we turned out pretty well (if I do say so myself!), but there is something to be said for Gandhi's challenge to be the change you wish to see in the world.  If I want a world of freedom and joy, I must provide that for my children.  Along the way they will learn their multiplication tables (if they want to) and they will learn the difference between your and you're (because they WILL want to learn that!).  How do I know this?  I trust them.  The challenge for us is to be the change we wish to see in our children.  We are still working on that.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Life Rocks!

I recently returned from a trip to NH to attend the Life Rocks Radical Unschooling conference.  It was an amazing experience!  Being around like-minded people for a week to share stories of this life we are building was incredible.  It was so refreshing to breathe in the love, passion, and excitement that everyone there shared for living a peaceful, joyful life with their kids.  We are home now, eager to step even deeper into this world of partnership parenting.


Meeting up with like-minded moms every morning at 8am!  The discussions we had over food freedom, media freedom, and living peacefully with our children were truly awesome.  I can't wait to attend this group again next year!

Watching how quickly Megan found like-minded friends and just played and played.  I didn't see much of her for the time we were there, but each time I saw her, she was beaming!

The water park.   

The sessions that reinforced the reasons we have kept our kids out of school until they are ready to choose that path for themselves (or not).  I love the freedom we have as a family and I love that my kids are in charge of their own futures.

The entertainment--nerf wars, pirates, sword name it, they had it.  The kids LOVED it.  (Oh, and a TV in the bedroom that had the Red Sox on every can guess who loved that part!)

All in all, a wonderful conference that left us with lots to think about.  I can't wait for next year!

 Evan sleeping with his Red Sox hat on...not sure he has taken that off since opening day!

 Erin was in her element during the Nerf Gun war.  Evan was thrilled with just being in a big crowd of kids who would fall over when he shot them.

 Spectators on a beautiful day!

Evan has told everyone that there was a real pirate at the you know it is true!

(I know there aren't any pictures of Megan up here, but like I said, I hardly saw her!  She was off with her friends the whole time!)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

100 Days

100 Days*!! Today, in the pouring rain with my daughter riding her bike beside me, I completed a challenge I set for myself at the beginning of the year. For the past 100 days I have run/walked (mostly run!) a minimum of one mile EVERY SINGLE DAY. I haven't missed one.  Why? Because I have crazy friends (I won't mention you here, Lauri and Jen, don't worry, your secret is safe with me!) and I figured if they could do it, I could do it. So I did.  Yes, the past 100 days have included sickness (me and my kids), travel (running in the White Mountains of NH is all uphill...all of it.  Even the downhill parts), single parenting, crazy schedules, early mornings and late nights.  And it was all totally worth it. 

It has been a wonderful 100 days and I can't wait to expand my training a bit to include biking and swimming as I train for the next challenge I recently put on my plate.  But for now, I'm basking in the glow of this accomplishment with a smile on my face and a bowl of ice cream in my hands.  And know what I'll do tomorrow morning??  I'll probably go for a run....

My kids made a 100 day banner for me and were waiting for me at the end of my run this morning. 

*Yes, I realize it is only the 99th day of the year, but I started my challenge on December 31st so while everyone else who did this challenge has one more day to go, I'm basking today.  Life is good!

Friday, March 1, 2013

10 years!

A decade.  That is how long I have been a parent.  Can you believe it??  Me neither.  I cannot believe what changes have happened in my life in the past 10 years.  When I was pregnant with Erin, I was planning to breastfeed her for 6-10 weeks (yes, that was weeks), go back to work and never look back.  You know, modern woman and all that.  HA!!  What things we learn and journeys we take when we open our hearts to the amazing love of a child and the world of being a Mom!  And now look at us--look at my family and my path and look at the wonderful things my journey has taught me.  I can never describe what it is like to be the mom to this kid--this amazing, gifted, moody, sarcastic, joyful, true-to-herself, Lego-obsessed, boy-clothes-wearing, tree-climbing, happy, loving, kind, fabulous kid.  Happy Birthday, Erin, I can't wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!!
This is Erin right after her Polar Bear Plunge on January 1st. She was cold but happy!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2 Years

Evan's birthday marked another anniversary for our family, one that is not so joyous.  It has been two years since Amy's passing.  Two years of not hearing her voice, not seeing her smile, or watching her play with my kids.  There have been so many times in the past two years that I would stand in my kitchen, phone in hand, just wanting to call her about my day.  Of course I could easily punch out her phone number and I can hear her answering machine clearly.  I've reached out a few times to other friends from college, just to maintain some type of connection to that part of my life and, by extension, to Amy.  It isn't the same, but it will do.  (Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to have reconnected with some of my old college friends!  Truly grateful!)  I'm not sure what else to write about this, other than I did not want this anniversary to pass unnoticed.  Amy, I miss you tremendously.  It really is that simple.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Four Years Old!!!

It is virtually impossible for me to describe what it felt like, 4 years ago, to wrap my arms around a living, breathing, perfect little boy. The child who would never have been, the baby we never dared believe would make it into this world, the miracle we needed more than anything...this was all wrapped up in an 8lb, 1oz warm, squirming bundle and placed on my chest that cold, snowy night 4 years ago.

As this blond-haired, blue-eyed little guy grows, he continues to charm all who meet him. We are so in awe of this little guy and so lucky he has joined our family. Happy Birthday, Evan!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Party Pictures

Baby's first cake...though as we were talking about it, we realized that, being the fourth child, we have no idea if this is actually her first cake. Probably not!


Oh wait...this stuff is GOOD!

More, please!!

Birthday presents wrapped in newspaper.  Love it!!

What is it??


Ahhhh...a new laundry basket!!

Maybe I should explain this--you see, Jordan LOVES rides in the laundry basket.  The girls will throw a pillow in the bottom of one and carry her around while she giggles and claps her hands.  Unfortunately, all my laundry baskets are broken, resulting in sharp edges on many of them.  Erin is pretty careful about putting pillows in just the right places, but for J's birthday, she decided that Jordan could really use some new baskets.  So we did!  (See, with a little explanation, a new laundry basket seems like the perfect gift for a 1-year-old, doesn't it??)
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Saturday, February 9, 2013

A year??

Tomorrow, our Grand Finale, our precious baby girl will turn one. ONE. I cannot believe how fast this year has gone and, while I know how cliche it sounds, I believe the more children you have, the faster it goes. Our last little one has gone from a tiny infant to a nearly-toddling path of destruction. She is amazing and I'm so very thankful for the opportunity to be a mom to a baby girl once more.

 Then (above) and Now (below)


Happy Birthday, Jordan!  I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lesson from the past

So, a woman I respect a great deal posted this thought on her facebook page yesterday: When we judge someone, we don't know their story or their path. We instantly shut down the possibility to spread peace and love and make a difference in the lives of others. When we can look beyond the surface, we may see ourselves in others. We have all been at our worst at times and it hurts to have the eyes of judgment on us when we are needing support and connection.  It really struck a nerve with me.  See, over the past 6 years, I have lost some of my closest and dearest friends--not from illness and death (though I did lose one that way), but through distance and judgment.  In 2007, at a time in our life when we needed support and connection, we got a lot of comments about how to deal with the tragic loss of our child.  People who were not us and who were not living our nightmare told us how to move forward.  Instead of quiet hand-holding and reassuring words, we were told to "get over it" to "move on" and that "at least we had our girls" or "at least we could have another baby."  People who were friends with both Chris and I seemed completely unprepared for the depth of our grief and the intensity of our love for our baby girl.  Of course we quickly learned who we could talk to about these things and who would prefer we didn't mention the fairly large and obvious elephant in the room.  And know what happened with those who couldn't or wouldn't talk about it?  We aren't really all that close to them now.  Sure, we may chat occasionally or follow each other on Facebook, but we don't have a real relationship anymore.  At times, this fact makes me deeply and horribly sad.  I miss these friends who were so much a part of my life who now seem too far away, either physically or emotionally, to try to bring back to my circle.  I'm sad that Sophie had this effect on some of the important people in my life.  Of course, with the work I do with grieving couples and families, I have learned that this is far, far, far from unusual.  So many people I know have lost friends and family members over the death of a baby and the intense hurt that follows.  It is a second loss in many ways--not only do we lose a child, we lose some very important people in our lives.
As January wraps up and I begin hauling my very-well-hidden-yet-definitely-still-present grief around for a 7th year, I just want to put the above quote "out there" in the hopes that it will resonate with some and you will make an effort to open to peace and love instead of shutting down with judgement.  Sophie taught me that--it is a lesson I will forever be thankful for, despite the cost of learning it. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

6 years...

364 days of the year, we are so grateful for what Sophie gave to us, both as parents and as a family.  The love, the understanding, the awareness, the patience, the ability to be in the moment...all these are things that we feel so much more deeply than before she was born.  For 364 days of the year, we can look up and see her in the brightest stars, the most beautiful rainbows, and the passing butterflies.  We can hear her sparkle in her brother's laugh and see her glow in her baby sister's smile.  For 364 days of the year, we can relish each moment with the two little ones who never would have been and the two older ones who continue to enjoy doing random acts of kindness in their missing sister's name.  For 364 days of the year, we are okay.  We the survivors of this sad and unfortunate event and we are stronger for it, negotiating the grief journey with apparent ease as we move farther and farther from the point of impact.  Yes, for 364 days out of the year, there are games to be played, songs to be sung and adventures to have...but not today.  Today we just miss our little girl.  Happy Birthday, Sophie.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My confession...

I fell from unschooling grace...but I'm back, ready to make a full confession.  See, I was at the library a few weeks ago and a woman who I don't know, had never met and will probably never see again, made some comment about my 3.5yo wearing pjs.  It was something about homeschoolers and being too lazy to get dressed or something.  I can't even remember the exact words, but I know how judged I felt in that moment.  Instead of sitting with it all and realizing that the problem was hers and not mine, I began to insist that my child get dressed before we go places.  This little boy rarely gets dressed because he just likes pjs!  (Who doesn't???)  He gets up in the morning and puts on clean pjs, but he really hardly ever wears "real" clothes.  Often, he'll compliment his pjs with a tuxedo vest and tie or perhaps a pink dress and get the idea.  Anyway, I made this decree that he must get dressed before we go places.  And know what??  It has done nothing but strain our relationship.  I began insisting that he could do it on his own and he would cry because he didn't want to.  He stopped wanting to go out and do stuff (like the library) and oh, how we fought.  Daily.  We have been fighting over this daily.  (Of course once the fight started, I would get into the authoritarian parenting thinking that made me feel like my child had to get dressed simply because I said so...but that is a post for a different day!)

Yesterday it came to a head--I was SO angry with him for making us late yet again because he wouldn't get dressed!  Something as simple as getting dressed that he should be able to do!!  Then, something snapped and I finally came to my senses and realized that I was letting that judgmental woman ruin my relationship with my son!  My precious, wonderful, growing-up-too-fast, SON was being forced to do something he didn't want because of someone I've never met!

When I think about it, I was truly concerned about the image our family presents out in the world.  I want homeschooling to get a good reputation in our small town and I was honestly concerned that my son's pj habit was going to reflect negatively against families that choose this lifestyle.  (Just typing that out right now makes me see even more how ridiculous it was for me to think that!)  I also felt very judged as a mother--of course my child "should" be dressed!  How wrong of me to think that this was okay!  Clearly I had lost "control" of my children!  (Again, typing it out helps solidify how silly it was of me to feel these things!)  Bottom line??  This morning I apologized to Evan and told him how much I loved him and how his clothing didn't matter to me at all and that pjs were perfectly good attire to wear to the library, the grocery store, or anywhere else he thought they were reasonable to wear!  We had a wonderful, relaxing, connected day.  When it was time to go to the library, know what he did?  He got dressed...because he wanted to.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

School is in session

We have pulled Evan from the preschool he attended 3 mornings a week last semester.  It simply didn't match our educational philosophies and I was having a hard time justifying the expense while not really getting the time with the older girls I thought I would.  Evan, however, asked if we could do school-at-home for him, with a teacher and everything.  So, Erin has become Evan's teacher.  She set up a desk and whiteboard, got a bell, has snack and recess and everything!  They both love it!  And today I heard her say, "Okay, class, today we are going to learn how to change this cardboard box into a space ship!"  Finally, a curriculum I agree with!!