Monday, September 26, 2011

Confessions of a Fruit-fly Killer

Do you remember the Brave Little Tailor who killed seven flies with one blow and went on to inherit a princess and a kingdom?

I need him now. For the last 6 weeks, we have had fruit flies invading us in waves as one generation dies out and another is born or hatches or appears from nowhere which is sure what it seems like. (Where do they come from? Maybe don't answer that.)

It's something to do with the flood of tomatoes we had in August, I'm sure, and my slowness in getting them processed into sauce and canned. And possibly my continued watermelon addiction and the fact that in summer, the compost bucket under the sink does tend to fill up. (Did you know you can find watermelon all the way through October if you look hard enough? So that one marvelous juicy way to start the morning lasts all the way up to the beginning of the next, i.e. fresh orange season?)

Now I keep a clean house. (Some people say a little too clean.) Habit of twenty years of living with a child who is allergic to everything he breathes or touches, and my own inability to tolerate anything that smells. And I have a sensitive nose: when I walk the cove  in late summer, there is a peculiar, particular sweetish odor that field corn gives off when it is ready to harvest. Which no one else but me seems to notice. In the five months times three (pregnancies) when I threw up around the clock at the whiff of a tea kettle boiling water, that corn smell really bothered me. Now it just reminds of old times. . . .

Soybeans, actually
 I do appreciate nature. I'd better, with 63 acres of it outside my very door, not counting whatever our farmer neighbors own.

I just don't like it invading my space. MY space. And I have to admit that I also like my nature tidied and trimmed and mowed and confined, and you may dispute this, but I'm sure that in the Garden of Eden lurked a full-time gardener, deadheading, weedeating, pruning, planning, and otherwise laboring so that Adam could wander around looking for Eve. I mean, servants don't generally get mentioned in a lot of literature, and the presence of a gardener goes a long way to explaining the sudden appearance of a wife for Cain.

Not to mention why the garden was called paradise.

Here, our outside is a bit, well, shaggy.

But back to fruit flies. All those passing descriptions in old novels to 'flypaper' and 'turning the plates upside down to keep off the flies'--these are active strategies in my kitchen. I've even got flypaper hanging from my bedroom door, to Charlotte's dismay: before she learned to duck, she, or rather her hair, got thoroughly stuck. And let me tell you, once stuck, you stay stuck.  Not hot water nor soap nor rubbing alcohol nor plastic dish scrubbies will remove it from your skin. So you go around with other objects--scraps of paper, coffee mugs--attaching themselves to your fingers, like the pencil in that old denture commercial.  

Flypaper works wonderfully. But it's hard to put everywhere. So at the risk of estranging at least three readers I who will close this blog immediately and possibly our friendship, I have to confess that I did spray. Once. Ineffective; headache-producing; and, yes, toxic.

Oh, I love seeing those little brown dots adorning the flypaper. Though more satisfying is to whap the little buggers yourself. Except it becomes something of an obsession. You're always on the lookout, your eyes continually darting from side to side like one of the manic narrator in an Edgar Allen Poe story ("True! Nervous-- very, very nervous I had been and am. But why will you say that I am mad?" ) On alert for that one miniscule floating object, just there, right there, slowly, carefully-- whap! It's very distracting.

Which is why I need the Brave Little Tailor.

I can't promise him a princess or a kingdom, but if he could end this current invasion, I would share my last slices of summer-fall watermelon, the handful of Starbucks decaf beans I'm hording, and up to one-half of my collection of Beany Malone books.

But  please, may he appear soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Last Homeschooler

The  last homeschooler: Two down, one to go. Twenty-five years!

Though it's the first homeschooler I'm thinking of today. Happy Birthday, Marshall!

First career

Did we know, all those years ago, that we'd still be homeschooling all these years later?

Are you kidding?

Do newlyweds ever for a single second stop unwrapping gifts long enough to contemplate that marriage lasts (hopefully) long after the scrapbooked invitation has turned that faded-newspaper yellow? When I was Marshall's age and admiring our fresh fluffy wedding shower towels in their oh-so-carefully-chosen coordinating shades of rose and periwinkle blue, it never dawned on me they'd wear into rags I'd use to wash the car and mop up after children with stomach viruses. That there would be years I'd be delighted to find a clean towel, let alone a pretty one.

Let's face it: most new parents don't think past the moment when the baby finally - - finally! - - makes his appearance.

So, no. Homeschooling was never "a plan." It just kind of happened, evolving from our very-young-and-idealistic determination that we would raise our children ourselves rather than farm them out to absorb other people's (other kids'!) habits. Starting with our stubborn refusal to take advantage of 'day care,' then morphing into "oh, I guess we're going to keep them at home for pre-school, too." Then kindergarten and etc and etc, and suddenly, there I was designing a college prep curriculum for my high schooler and hurriedly learning how to be a guidance counsellor and apply to colleges.

Until recently, I never believed we really knew what we were doing, and every year, for every child, went through the "should we really keep doing this?" worry. As we tried, every year, to figure out--again!--what would be best for each child.

Most of this was done in isolation--very few other homeschoolers near our mountain cove. Very few people, for that matter, though we do see a lot of cows, trees, deer and chickens. And much of it before most people had heard of homeschooling. Our boys got a lot of "oh, is there a school holiday today?" when we went to Kroger. Certainly before the richness of today's internet resources. Or the internet itself, for that matter. All of it managing (yes, you can!) on one income, and at times, not even that.

What I would have given during those years to have been able to talk to other mothers who were homeschooling. Who were homeschooling the way we were- - not to "protect" ourchildren from the infection of evil ideas, but to infuse them, hopefully, with fresh air and music and books and a work ethic that had them doing daily chores from the moment their little feet were stable on the ground.
Cleaning up

I take that back: none of my children ever had little feet.

 What I would have given to talk to other mothers about figuring out what to teach and when, about working through learning disabilities, about burnout and frustration and frequent (OK, I'm lying: constant) bouts of self-doubt, self-questioning, self-recrimination.
It's been a long haul. And now my youngest is almost 16, and I can see the endpoint of my teaching career, and that has made me at once more determined to finish off strongly, and more casual ("it's worked! it's working! you can stop worrying now!")

(I won't.)

But. The last homeschooler. Two more years--or not, depending on what we decide next fall. . . .

And the first: An honors graduate, who put himself through school and still maintaned his grades and a very active social life; the only person I've heard of who has had multiple job offers despite graduating into this depressed economy; definitely the only person I've ever heard of whose parents received a letter from a former boss thanking them for producing such a superb young man.

Multi-tasking already
Would I do these last 25 years again? There's a loaded question.

Knowing what you know now, would you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Presumption, Charles Dickens, and Fumbling Towards Faith

Morning in the Cove

 It struck me yesterday while swimming my laps that behind every blog is the belief that there will be readers.  Or at least one! Which pre-supposes that the world is a (mostly) friendly and welcoming place.

Which is also called trust. 

So, what do you know, creating a blog turns out to be yet another excellent exercise in the development of faith. Which can be a bit of a struggle for those of us with less-than-trustworthy backgrounds.

This may explain why so many blogs are so upbeat! Because in order to create one, to put yourself out there, it helps enormously to have the kind of innate optimism that with every breath declares, "It's good that I'm here! I'm glad that I'm here! Others are glad that I'm here!" 

It can't be by accident that humans are born as infants, innocent of what their world may hold for them, unaware of the possibility that the very arms they are born into may not offer the welcoming embrace they need. Otherwise, given a choice, some might well kick up a ruckus-- "I'm not so sure I want to be out there. . . . "

Could this be in part why Charles Dickens titles Chapter One of David Copperfield, "I Am Born?" 
I am born.
With a pause before the opening paragraph, a breath, while we take in the enormity of those words. I am born.  Only then do we get the first sentence: "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."

It doesn't take pages. We already know. "I am born." That by itself is an act of enormous courage.  Proof enough for me already, David C, that you are indeed the hero of your own life.  

So, here, now, my act of courage for today. (More likely, for the week.) The birth of a blog, the birth of a blog that I hope will honestly chart thoughts on life, writing, reading, homeschooling, homesteading--and under it all, like the invisible power of the tide beneath the waves tumbling around all those tiny shells and and grains of sand , their constant motion proof it's there at all- - under it all, the ongoing fumble towards faith in life, in  people, in God, in - - something.

Maybe you'll share some of your fumblings, too.