Saturday, September 29, 2012


His good consequences chart.
As a parent I believe that I would be remiss if I did not teach Rowan that there are consequences for his actions- either good or bad. I believe that this idea applies to the magickal and mundane. We are responsible for our words and actions- indeed, it is one of the few things that we can ever control.

So how to teach this huge concept to a toddler? We have consequences for his words and actions. "Bad decisions" lead to logical consequences. For example, failure to pick up his toys means the toys go away for a while. Breaking a toy does not get an automatic replacement. And sometimes, if you tease the parrot and try and take away her mango, she will bite you. We allow natural consequences to happen- and give Rowan play-by-plays as he works through his life scenarios: "You know, if you take that toy outside to play with your friends, you need to be willing to share it." or "OK, you don't have to finish your sandwich, but I am not giving you a snack in an hour. I am giving you the rest of your sandwich." (Sneaky kid started scamming for "better" food (mostly sweets) 30 minutes or so after lunch!) "Rowan, the parrot is growling at you. Keep it up and she will bite you."

When something happens that deserves a consequence but there is not obvious consequence (like not listening to mama or hitting), he gets a time out. He sits on the naughty step for a couple minutes. When he is calm, I ask, "Why are you in a time out?" He needs to be able to think back and tell me. If after several attempts he doesn't get the right answer, I tell him. Then I ask if he will do it again. He must promise to correct the anti-social or dangerous behavior before he is let up. While not listening to mama is annoying, I don't correct him with a time out for this merely for my convenience and to get obedience. I am teaching him that there are times that what mama says must be followed right away, no arguments. What if there was a fire? Or he ran into the street? I need him to stop and listen to me the first time. So I correct him now for not listening to me in less dangerous situations, in preparation for those possibilities.

His chill out jar. He watches the sparkles
float when he's in a time out.
We also want him to know that good decisions bring rewards too. So we started a chart. It's just a piece of paper taped to the wall that says "Rowan makes good decisions". Whenever he does something good, whether it was requested of him or initiated by him (this is not simply about obedience and compliance), he gets a sticker. We have a pile of stickers and he gets to choose which one, and then he puts it on his chart. When his chart is filled, he gets to pick "something special". This could be an outing, a toy, a sweet. It is up to him. He is very excited about both the stickers and the something special. He talks a lot about what might be a good decision, in the hopes of scoring more stickers. Smart one- that Rowan.

"Hey mommy, is this a good decision?" he will ask as he puts his cup in the sink. Yes, Rowan. Cleaning up after yourself is awesome. Woodpecker sticker for you! "Daddy, I make good decisions!" he proclaims as he walks upstairs with no fuss so we can put him to bed. Ooh, kid- that was a good one. scratch and sniff lemonade sticker for you!

Don't get me wrong- he IS a toddler. Which means he has temper tantrums, is fickle and bossy, and sometimes doesn't want to share. But I like to think that these lessons are starting an inner dialogue within him- so that the thinks before he acts.

Only time will tell of course. But I am excited to watch him grow.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

October is Coming!

Rowan, "Vanna-ing" his jack'o lantern.
Rowan is getting excited as only a toddler can for October. I mean, mama loves autumn and October in particular too- but he is squealing, dancing excited.

We have the opportunity for a teaching moment here. I am going to have to get him a calendar so that he can understand how we mark the passage of time. Right now, because there are pumpkin displays and an extra candy aisle in the store, he knows Halloween is coming soon. He keeps asking when his costume will here and when he can trick-or-treat.

His nanny is making his costume, as she does every year. Last year, he was an elephant. The costume was awesome. This year, he wants to be a lightning bug. He is fascinated by them, as we didn't see any in California. So fireflies are a new exciting summer thing. Nanny is sewing a pocket in the belly of his costume so we can slip glow-sticks in there. It's gonna be pretty sweet!

He was begging for a pumpkin to carve a jack 'o lantern last week, and I kept being practical mama, saying "It's too early, Rowan. We'll get a pumpkin in October." I was not only resisting the over-commercialization of the holiday, but also thinking of the mushy rotten pumpkin mess on the porch if we carve too soon.

Needless to say, mama caved. I mean, the way we mark time seems so arbitrary to Rowan (and the Gregorian calendar IS arbitrary, anyway). He pleaded with me. The pumpkins are HERE, mama- why can't we get one? So we'll probably carve two this year. The one we just did and one before Halloween (as this one is sure to smoosh before that date!)

He deliberately picked a pumpkin with a crinkle, after looking at dozens, including "perfect pumpkins". We decided to carve a smiling lopsided face in it and he loves it. We got a battery powered disc for the bottom instead of a candle. Safer for him that way.

Stay tuned for trick or treat adventures- as well as updates on how we mark Samhain. (I see Halloween as a fun secular holiday that has Samhain-ish roots, and Samhain (which we mark at the cross-quarters, not October 31st, per se) as the religious holiday having to do with ancestors, and that is how we are raising Rowan.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What We are Working On Now

 As many of you know, Rowan is being homeschooled/unschooled, even at this early age. I have considered sending him to preschool a couple days a week (for mainly social reasons), but the one that I would prefer has a huge waiting list. I will not send him to a traditional elementary, though- his father and I are united in that.

Currently, Rowan is 32 months (or a little over 2.5 years old, for all of you non-parents out there). He is precocious and whip-smart. I have a loose plan on what comes next, based on his age and abilities, as well as his interests. Our strategy is to explose him to as much as we can, see what piques his interest as well as making steady progress on some key areas (below):

The three Rs:
He already knows his alphabet, so we are starting phonics this fall. Once he can recognize the sounds that letters make, he can't be far from reading. I read at age three, and I think he will be able to as well. He loves stories, and we get new books from the library all the time. He is motivated to read, because he is always asking what printed things say and memorizing the books he has already read. We have told him that once he learns what sounds the letters make, he'll be able to read soon after that. He's excited and we are thrilled!

He knows his numbers, zero-nine. Now we are working on counting things. He understands that the symbols are the numbers, but he has not yet made the leap that four fish on a page are "four" yet. So he has memorized the symbol but not the meaning, much like his take on the alphabet.

He draws, paints, or plays with playdough every day. I think he's actually best at making identifiable things with the dough. I can recognize when he is shaping an animal- whereas when he draws, it's all a scribbly mess still. He is surrounded by art all the time, especially having the neighbors that we do. (They run a local art group.) He loves music and is looking forward to taking music lessons this fall. We found a kindermusik program within walking distance! He asks for music in the car and at home all the time, and we hope to give piano lessons after he turns 3. There are Suzuki method teachers that will start him that young here.

Life Skills (the important stuff they don't often teach in school):
He knows forwards and backwards, so now we are working on left, right, and the cardinal directions. Once he understands the directions and how they work with the sun and moon, he will be closer to participating in esbats.

He can express himself eloquently (sometimes much too eloquently!), but we are working on manners (such as interrupting people when they are speaking and yelling to get noticed or get what he wants- oy, toddlerhood!).

He is an intense kid who loves touch and being close to his family and friends and sometimes overwhelms other kids. We are teaching him that some kids need space, and he should back up when asked.

Delayed gratification is a basic life skill that so many fail to master. So we have a sticker chart. When Rowan makes a good decision, he gets a sticker. This could be following instructions or something he initiates himself. But when we notice (or he points it out, clever child), he gets a sticker. Once his sticker chart is filled, he gets "something special". He gets to choose between several things we offer, like eating at a restaurant, getting some ice cream, seeing a movie, or getting a new toy.

He is learning how to build towers with his blocks, which is teaching him about gravity, spatial relationships, and developing his hand-eye coordination. It is also a wonderful way he uses his imagination. He builds "towers" and "castles"  and "see saws" and "zoos". And of course, my little Shiva LOVES to knock his creations down.

He is required to pick up his own toys. He has friends that are in constant struggles with their parents over cleaning, and I am happy to say that Ro is not like that. He always has a job to do when we are cleaning and is expected to contribute to the household as a condition of living here. We may decide to give him allowance one day, but I have to think about what I want to teach about the philosophy of money before that happens. I personally hate capitalism and don't want to encourage that model- but he also needs to learn about money, too- so he can survive under a capitalist model.

Speaking of money, Rowan has a bank and we give him our loose change and he squirrels it away. The bank has become too stuffed, so this week when we got o the credit union, he is excited to bring his bank and start his own savings account. Now Rowan will be able to accept checks, LOL!

We are also teaching him about the passage of time. He understands that the clock tells time and often guesses what time it is ("7:30 'o clock, mommy?"). He knows that daddy gets picked up from work at 5 PM. He knows that breakfast comes before dinner, and that naps happen before he plays outside or goes on an outing. Right now, I give him a run down of his entire day, starting when he wakes up:
"OK, Booper. Today we are gonna get dressed, take daddy to work, come home, eat breakfast and let the girls (my parrots) out, then we'll play a little bit before your nap." Doing an item and crossing it off the list means reviewing the list and adding to it. "OK, Rowan after you play, you are going to take a nap, then when you wake up, we'll have lunch and then you can play outside with your friends (or go to the library/zoo/science museum)!"
I find that he transitions really gracefully if he is given a map of the day and countdowns to things he fights, like naps. Maybe not all kids need this, but Rowan thrives on routine and knowing what comes next.

Chill Out jar
Another thing about time, since it is so abstraact and relative is the passage of time, esp. when waiting for something fun or while in a time out. I have started to use cheap kitchen timers for countdowns and this chill out jar for time outs.

He is also learning about the calendar. "Can I go to Halloween, mommy?" is an opportunity to start counting down and show him how a calendar works. He has decided to be a lightening bug for Halloween this year and he cannot wait!

Cooking is also something we show him and he participates in. It is not only a life skill, but counting and measuring, chemistry, and creativity all rolled into one!

Another thing he will learn in this category next year, after he is three is swimming. Everyone should know how to swim!

He is enchanted with animals and plants, so we are starting plant identification, insect identification, and learning about zoo animals he is fond of with books from the library and the internet. I want to get him this awesome board game called Wildcraft! which will help him identify medicinal plants. Once he starts showing interest in other science, we will start learning about that, too.

To help with his love of animals up close, we go to the zoo almost weekly and he has a pet of his own (mama has two parrots, which he loves, too)- his is a toad named Peia (short for Cassiopeia) and soon Peia will have a buddy, whom he's decided to name Dromeda (short for Andromeda). He watches his toad hunt for crickets several times a week. I always show him how his animals need care- he watches me feed Peia (when he had a fish, he fed the fish. But live crickets are hard for a toddler to catch!), turn on and off his light, and clean his enclosure. We shop for crickets together.

I have been accumulating links and tips for homeschooling on my Pinterest boards. What skills are you working on with your kids, whether they are homeschooled or not? How do you work on them?

Monday, September 17, 2012


I know plenty of people with tattoos. Some have personal meanings, some spiritual, some are just for fun. Mine are not about fun.

My tattoos are large and hard to cover unless I wear what Muslims and Amish call "modest dress" (which is not something I normally wear!). This is intentional. While it may restrict me from certain types of work and lifestyles, that is exactly the point. My tattoos are devotional, offerings to gods that I call beloveds. The type of folks who would take issue with the art on my body are usually also the same folks who would take issue with my being a polytheist and/or a Witch, too. I live my life as I am, with no pretense. I can never go backwards.

My first tattoo was on the left upper arm. It is an image of a god that came to me and changed my life. On top of that image is a sigil of the name/title he gave me in a dream, topped by a ball of blue fire. every single detail of that tattoo was given to me, I merely collected the information and sketched it out for the artist.

My second tattoo was a large black snake coiled around my right leg. In my dream, the snake had words and glyphs rising and appearing on its skin and then fading back into its scales. I had a hard time reading it in my dream, which was frustrating. Before I woke, I heard the words (which are from the Oracle at Delphi): "Know Thyself and You Shall Know the Gods." So that writing appears on the snake, which has firmly wrapped itself onto me and not about to be shaken off.

My third tattoo was another snake- a green one this time, with a fiery belly. It is biting me on the ankle. The whole tattoo is not finished, as I hope to one day have the whole lower leg covered with an owl leg- feathers under my knee, talons over my foot, etc, etc. It is to be a union of bird and snake.

My latest tattoo is not yet finished. It is a "collar piece" that centers over my breast bone and extends out over my shoulders. It is what many call a "tudor rose"- which is an artistic, precise rendering of a five petaled rose, with another inside that one, each in opposite directions. On my version, between each outer petal is a bee, not a leaf. The outside petals will be red, the inner white, and the center will be filled with craters and glowing ink to create a full moon, complete with the rabbit. Vining rose brambles extend out to each shoulder. On the left is a lunar moth, on the right is a blue rose bud. It is gorgeous and I look forward to completing it.

This piece was especially devotional, to a goddess that has commanded me to heal in her name. She is not normally known as a goddess of compassion or healing, but She is also very misunderstood. She has directed me to remove suffering from people's bodies, and offer it up to her. She devours it as an offering.

When I was getting this especially painful tattoo, there was no respite. On past tattoos on extremities, I was able to tap a hand as a distraction, or breathe deeply. While my tattoo artist was working on my chest, I had to be perfectly still. The only thing I could manage was chanting, "This is for You, Lady- this is for You" over and over. It felt like burning hot scalpels mangling my flesh for three hours. I never finished this one, as I got pregnant and then breastfed, and they advise against tattooing during those times. I am now half a continent away from the artist who needs to finish my work, but it will be finished one day!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Even More the Gender Agenda

Gender is several things, although most people confuse them.
I am raising Rowan without an assumed gender. It is perplexing to his grandparents, who try and "boy him up" every chance they get, but we believe it is necessary to make him a full human being, rather than a caricature of what most in our culture think what boys or girls are.

When he is old enough he can choose. He can even choose daily. Lately, he fluctuates between saying he's a boy, a girl, and a raccoon. A chocolate raccoon!

Some days, he's "Rowan", sometimes, he's "Princess Doe", and most days, he prefers "Boop-a-Noodle". He likes pink and purple, and frankly ALL colors, especially ones that sparkle. Like this father, we support his choices and defend them to people who think they know better than him what his "gender" is.

Booper gets it, most kids do. It's only after a lifetime of oppressive socialization that we adults conform to others' expectations of our genders. Booper knows- people are people. We can all wear whatever we want, have our hair however we want, we can like do play any kind of game. Those who restrict our full humanity and exploration are simply not fun.

We had a funny conversation recently. It happened after he got into some paint he wasn't supposed to, and I told him it was for adults.
Rowan: "When I grow up and be a mommy, I gonna use paint."
Me (seizing this opportunity):  "Hmmm. You know, Rowan- most boys, like you, grow up to be men (who could possibly be a daddy) and most girls like (your friend) grow up to be women (who may choose to be a mommy). But some boys grow up and choose to be women (like mommy), and boys grow up and choose to be men (like daddy). When you grow up, what do you want to be?"
This is where Rowan showed me his true age and told me he wanted to be a chocolate raccoon. He is too young to choose, just like he is too young to be restricted. So why would I do that or let anyone else do that to him?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back to Unschool!

 People who read my blog know that my take on child rearing is not the American standard. I co-slept, breastfed, wore my child, work part-time so that I can be with him, plan on unschooling and traveling for his education, and homestead to feed him well instead of feeding him "kid food" (whatever that is!). He is not being restricted in his gender expressions and he is being raised knowing that I will love him always. My love is not conditional on him making choices that I would personally chose for him.

Spiritually, he is being raised as a Witch with a UU community and ethics (which come from individual discernment) instead of morals (which are an outside code adopted by someone instead of thinking for themselves).

He is also smart- while we have "teaching moments", we do not have school per se- I take advantage of what happens in our lives. Our gardening together is a science moment or a time to count. We sing the alphabet song in the car, which he loves. Right now we are working on slowing down L...M...N...O...P... so they are no longer a one-letter combo! He knows his letters and numbers by sight already, and memorizes people's names after meeting them once (I wish I had that skill!). He remembers everything.

Today, we decided together what we were gonna do- and when those plans didn't work out (the science museum was closed! Boo!), we laughed and went to eat breakfast instead. (He ordered himself- after I told him his healthy options.) I was delighted he did not have a fit over something neither of us could control. (Personally, I put that down to his always getting his emotional needs met, so when his desires are not met, it's OK. I buy into that attachment parenting idea. It has worked well for us. While Rowan has his "toddler moments", he is generally an easy-going, well-adjusted, kind child.)

Later, I taught him and his friends (the three girls next door) how to play hopscotch (they are all a tad too young to play by the exact rules yet) and then formed a marching band with Rowan's play instruments and marched around the yard. Keeping equidistant from one another, learning how to march and hop "the right way", throwing the rock on the right number by sight and in sequence- that would bewhat the educator calls developing hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor control, counting, sight learning of numbers, following detailed instructions, and fostering creativity. Top that, preschool! Ha!

Later still, we cleaned up his insanely messy room together. His job was to get the stuff off the floor and put it on the bed, and my job was to sort it and put it away into his bins and such. I put down a rug that shows a little town- complete with roads and buildings. He can play on it with his little cars and people. I dragged up the new toy box his Pap Pap made him- a huge behemoth that made me huff and puff and sweat afterwards! (Porbably should have waited for daddy to come home, but I didn't.) He now has a wonderfully clean room (until tomorrow, LOL) that is organized and swept. It looks awesome. I should take a picture, because it won't last long!

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.