Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wild Nettle Farm

Harvest season has come and gone, and I let the turnips go bad after we brought them in, the turkeys ate the carrot tops so I can't find them, and the "3 sisters garden" never really grew, but instead a huge patch of nettles grew instead. The garden is full of comfrey, burdock, nettle, eyebright, and purslane. This seems like a message from the powers that be, reminding us what we need to be healthy, and the fact that the fennel did fine reminds me of what is needed to make milk. Perhaps we need to look to what we have rather than what we think we want to be successful in our farming future. Many of the herbs that grow here wild (or otherwise) feed us well, nurture and nourish us, and make great bitters!

Nadia is playing Mommy a great deal, which seems to help her in her moments of jealousy. Her baby (or babies, depending on the day) nurse, sleep in the cradle, hang out in a basket that can be moved from room to room, get swaddled in a blanket, and ride in a carseat. All of this seems to allow her to work out how to feel about Milo's need for attention. She and Sage play dress up by the hour, and move about their play giving each other emotional support when Momma has to cook dinner and nurse and sweep and do it all at once!

Aidan is working on some projects to sell on a website for homemade crafts we found. There were lots of comics, zines, and coloring books for sale and self-published on this site. And he asked for a few for Christmas, as well as a sock pirate (like a sock monkey only not). Hopefully he'll sell a few of his creations and art, enabling him to have some extra spending money, and to find a sense of usefulness from his art. It also gives him something that is his and his alone, a hard feat with 4 children in the house. He tries not to show it too often, but he has his moments when there is too little mommy time. He does express it verbally well.

Sage is showing a new wit and quick sense of humor that wash away the hard demeanor she often shows on her face. I recently had to read a series of articles on gifted students in my courses, and there was a description of giftedness I hadn't seen before; it included a list of attributes that describes my little girl well, and confirms by assertion that gifted students can be mislabeled and often have learning issues that either mask their giftedness or are masked by their gifted nature. These include ability to manipulate a symbol system, logical thought, reason by analogy (very Sage), resilient,takes on adult roles, independent thinking and leadership ability, strong desire to learn about and understand culture, strong inner will (hmmm....), and heightened sensitivity to others and the world around them. These may be in conjunction with traditional definitions of giftedness (both intellectual and affective). Often these "atypically gifted" students had a disruption in early childhood (like divorce?) and perhaps a less than stellar early childhood ed experience (she was my full-time day care baby... with fluctuations in quality and turnover at the center). Interesting fodder for thought.

Milo is a new person already. His face has filled out (actually, his head looks gigantic compared to the rest of him), and he is seeing farther. Today he even reached for a toy in front of him. He's settling into a routine, and is getting better about changing time (he really hates being changed, I have to say!). Nadia responds to him quickly and softly, and Sage wants to, but often finds his failure to calm down immediately (especially in the car) distressing... which of course makes things worse. He likes tummy time, and being talked to, and often smiles when I kiss his nose. We had some "alone time" at lectures up at the Center for Northern Studies (Momma's mommy time!) and he spent most of each slide show staring into my eyes and smiling. It was nice. He's even beginning to make some intentional noises, although not many, which sound much better than his usual grunts and groans (less piglet, more human). His old man lines are smoothing out, and he is looking more and more like a baby, especially when he smiles-- dimples and all!

The house is changing too! The back bedroom (ours) got jacked and the sills and framing were rebuilt, and reinsulated and resheathed. The small upstairs bedroom (Aidan's) has been reframed, mold and rot remediated, resheathed, and insulated with foam board outside. The windows were ordered, with a low-e one for the north side. All the upstairs windows will be replaced in 2 weeks, including 2 south facing ones in Sage's room, both front doubles, and the north facing one in Aidan's room. Aidan wants his big closet ripped out, and we are building a smaller one with a built-in cabinet to replace his dresser. After the energy effeciency people come, we'll replace all the dry wall (in both upstairs bedrooms) that had water damage behind it, and finally paint the kids' rooms, and run a heat vent upstairs. Next project for me is to refinish the stairs (including pulling out the stupid staples).

As I study education more and more, and read the new "Race to the Top" Initiative being put forth by Arne Duncan and President Obama, I have to say I am even less convinced that teachers can do what they need to do to educate our future. Race to the Top is more of same, high-stakes testing, charter schools, taking education out of the hands of educators and putting it in the hands of legislators, and adding isult to injury: "merit pay". Even my course teachers are either enrgaed or clueless... not realizing that we cannot use what they teach us, particularly in areas of assessment and curriculum development.

And, watching my kids with the different personalities and learning strengths and weaknesses, I am more convinced that we have moved further away from genuine assessment and learning, and into a hole we will not be able to dig ourselves out of.

Which leads me to the area of social and emotional development. I have always been of the mind that children need a holisitic approach to their growth in the early years. Too much emphasis on intellectual development can lead to very lop-sided human beings. Many of the smartest people I know are very sad, manic-depressive, or just plain immature. (I do not preclude myself entirely from those statements). This week, someone I knew who spent a year at the Center for Northern Studies killed himself. I do not know the details, other than he finally lost his battle with manic depression, and that he was one of the most brilliant and sweet people I had ever met. His life with his girlfriend and family had disintegrated completely in the last two years.

It is not that I think that educators and families can stop this type of mental illness. It is that I suspect that a more genuine approach to education and child development, particularly in the early years, could allay some of the sadness and anger felt by the smartest amongst us. If we spent time on genuine experiences, genuine emotion, and genuine interaction, rather than a renewed focus on "kindergarten readiness skills" in early childhood (Read the executive summary of the Race to the Top on the US giv education website), we would grow healthier, happier, more genuine people. In this vein, Colin and I hope to get Nadia into an early childhood experience a few days a week that focuses on her social and emotional development, spending time outdoors, acting out stories, and being part of real life. She focuses almost too much on wanting to know how to do the things that Aidan and Sage and Colin and I can do already. We're hoping to send her a few mornings a week come January, although where we do not yet know, and I am hoping to use that time to do one on-line class, and to volunteer up at Sterling a bit (maybe it'll lead to part time work?)

In the meantime, I am looking forward to not being the host for Thanksgiving, and just bringing my weed-eating, nettle-nourished turkey for us to enjoy. I am sad I will miss a holiday with my big kids, but am looking forward to a holiday with the parents, however brief a trip it may be. And as we head out in the "muthaship" for the long, long drive.... I am filled with love for all of you.

Right now, I am off to nurse miss Nani to sleep for her nap, to call and check on the "big kids", to hide some craigslist Christmas booty, and to throw mister Milo over my shoulder for a bird's eye view of his world.

Maybe I will drink some nettle tea, too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Erica, thank you.

Love, IJG