Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Sabbatical: a practice in Savasana

I've been on sabbatical for the last four months. I needed to put away my phone, step away from my email, and live without the expectant urgency of being on call. The start of the new year felt like great timing.

I was intimidated to declare my intentions for a break—it felt risky because MamaBorn had great momentum and work was very steady—but I knew it was what I needed, and it felt like good practice to listen to that inner voice of knowing. It felt even better (in hindsight, at least) to reply YES.

Yes, take a break. Yes, your work and everything else will benefit. Yes, you will figure it out.
Ah, sweet relief.

Not counting two maternity leaves, I've never taken a full break from paid work. At first I felt naked with a clear calendar. It was hard NOT to think about MamaBorn, or some variation of MamaBorn. I found it a challenge to circumvent the natural spontaneous brainstorming that had become my routine. It was hard to stop from dreaming up new projects for MamaBorn, new approaches to marketing, new services, and new formats for delivering birth education to expectant parents. I had to force myself to adopt the savasana mentality—a challenging yoga pose of total relaxation—and resist the urge to think or make or do anything in particular.

This card hangs in my office as a reminder. Credit: Colette Paperie.


I spent January cheerfully but reluctantly settling in. I talked a lot—to anyone who would listen—and brain dumped my nervous energy into my journal to try to clear my head and regain clarity on what my next steps would be. (An iterative process that always brought me back to my intention to master Savasana.)

February was devoted to catching up on a long list of accumulated to-dos that had created a life of their own while I was enraptured with work and family. My office was a disaster and the changing season called me to clear our home space to make room for whatever was to come. So I cleaned, and purged, and organized everything under our little roof.

Writers block had also been pressing hard for months so I enrolled in a creative writing class to try to get out from under it. Timed writing exercises and mandatory read alouds tenderly pushed me beyond my comfort zone. It was terrifying and inspiring. I realized that ordinary life—theirs and even mine—offers universal narratives that are interesting and so worth the writing and telling. I found a new perspective for the censors that live in my head and gladly re-claimed my writers voice.

In March we declared our commitment to homeschooling, and here is where I acknowledge the ways in which the choices that Andy and I make for our family life directly impact my ability to devote energy and time to my paid work. Our priorities have shifted yet again, and I'm just sitting with the uncertainty of all of it and holding space for the possibilities. It is an uncomfortable place for me but I'm getting better at riding out these known unknowns. (I think I accepted the likely ebb and flow trajectory of my career within the the first few months of new motherhood.)

Here it is the end of April and for now, due to Summer travels that begin next month, my Sabbatical continues indefinitely. It feels impossible to know how much energy I will have to pursue MamaBorn in its current incarnation, or even the possibility of another baby, until we begin our homeschooling journey and I can see it unfold in real-time,

How do you mentally juggle career and family? How do you live in the present? Does Savasana come easy for you?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lessons from nature on bats and rabies


Last Friday, Roscoe found a dead bat by the river.

It was a tiny bat that fit so sweetly cupped in the palm of his hand. We guessed it was only recently dead, it's brown fur too soft to resist, with velvety wings that fanned out.

My little expert on the natural world—well-versed in all things Kratt brothers and Jeff Corwin—Roscoe was incredulous at this chance sighting of a real bat. He couldn't contain his joy and reached out with bare hands before I could properly devise my approach.

I told him at first, "Only with this stick," and demonstrated how he could gently lift up a wing, or even flip the bat over entirely to get a better view, and then I offered it to him to give a try.

It crossed my mind to follow the lead of a friend who was sharing the trail with us that day, she firmly made it clear to her own children that in their family they do not touch dead animals. I vacillated but Roscoe's contagious energy swayed me. The way his fingertips danced across the bats belly, gliding up over its face and caressing those fuzzy ears. By my own omission he claimed the bat as his own, the newest member of our crew—4 kids deep and two mamas trailing behind.

Roscoe hung the bat by its claws from the side of his outstretched finger, "This is what a bat looks like when he sleeps. See, his wings fold up like this. Isn't she a beauty?" He was using a familiarly proper and most scientific tone to narrate the bats characteristic features.

He walked on to the beach and buried the bat in the sand, then picked up the corners of its wings like a little napkin, heavy with a sandy load, and carried it over to the river's edge where he slowly dribbled the granules into the water's murky depths.

He washed it next, meticulously dipping its wings and then submerging the furry corpse before wringing it out like a washcloth and darting back up into the treeline for more batty adventures.

By now I was thinking it was time to let the bat go.

One called out to give it a watery grave. Yes, I agreed. "Throw it into the river!"

In hindsight, in just this one case, I'm so grateful for my four year old's insistence to not listen to a word I say.

"Bury it in the sand!" another said.

"Hang it by its toes on the bark of this tree?" I pleaded.

Get rid of it, we encouraged. "It's time."

But he was adamant that when he finds bats in nature it is easy for him to get attached and next he insisted that he would much prefer to bury it in our backyard at home.

No. That was going a little too far. "I'm sorry, but that's not happening," I empathized. "I know it's hard, but you must."

I wrestled him for the bat and dropped it into the nearest dark space that I could find, just off the trail where the weeds grew tall.

What came next: 

Back at home as the day was winding down, a nagging little feeling hung with me, and so while the kids made believe they were pirates in the backyard, I pulled up the CDC website to settle my mind about rabies.

Any contact with a bat—dead or alive apparently—warrants a call to the pediatrician. The triage nurse insisted and we complied: call the police to dispatch animal control, retrieve the bat's body from the trail and arrange for it to be tested, head to the emergency room to begin the rabies vaccination series.

I couldn't believe it. Really? No one had been bitten, the bat had been found dead. In fact, Roscoe, Merritt and I had all been "exposed" having touched the bat to various extents and so we were all candidates for vaccination. (They were very confident on this point.) I was told the boys could only receive their doses at the Emergency Room, a potentially exorbitant cost for a series of 4 vaccines each, but Rabies is 100% fatal and so there wasn't room for skepticism.

Roscoe and I stayed at the pediatric emergency room for more than three hours. The nurses fawned over him coaxing him to repeat his version of the story to any newcomers.

"Now tell her. What did you find by the river?" They would say with anticipation. "And where did you touch it?!" Everyone was hysterical at his telling, nodding somberly and stifling their amusement as they waited for the best parts.

Roscoe would articulate from the beginning and then point to his nose and mouth with a smart grin. He did touch the bats teeth, but not the tips, he only rubbed them across the front he would say, demonstrating with his finger on his own teeth. "I didn't touch the canines," he assured us. The details were becoming clearer to him with every telling.

When we were alone though, I could tell he was a little frightened, alarmed and bummed that his play-date with the bat had come to this. He made me promise to go first when it was time to get our shots.

Around midnight, after consulting with the state epidemiologist and other infectious disease experts we learned that because the bat was in custody we could go home and wait for the test results to come in on Wednesday.

If the bat had been rabid and if any of us had even truly been exposed, the statistical odds felt so far-fetched that we doubted it was true and so we were not surprised, though terribly relieved, when we learned that the test results came back negative.

How do you balance your children's curiosity in nature?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My First Fermented Tea: Kombucha


A few weeks ago a friend came to visit and she brought with her a gift for me in the form of a baby SCOBY (or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). They are pretty hearty and I kept mine in the cupboard for a week while I waited for a good brewing vessel to arrive.

Our local grocer carries kombucha on tap and I've been more than a little curious about the recent homebrewing craze. This is my first go at making my own kombucha and so far I like how unfussy and forgiving the process is. At least it seems that way!

SCOBYs thrive in a nutrient mixture of tea, water, and sugar. To create the nutrient I boiled 2 liters of spring water, and steeped 8 bags of black tea for 30 minutes. Then I added 1 cup of sugar and another 2 liters of water and let the nutrient reach room temperature overnight before adding my SCOBY.**

After securing the jar opening with a rubber band over a square of cotton fabric to keep out any little bits of dust or curious bugs, I left it to sit out on the counter for another week or so. (I like that precision is not key to the brewing process.) When I taste-tested the kombucha, it seemed about right—a little tangy but still pretty sweet, with a teeny tiny hint of that effervescence that I love so much.

I could have consumed it then, but I like kombucha best when it is really bubbly so I bottled it up for a second fermentation to give the carbon dioxide a chance to build up for good carbonation. I left this batch flavored plain but next time I think I will try for an easy addition like grated ginger or vanilla extract.

**A few little particulars: High heat will kill the SCOBY (so don't put your baby SCOBY into a hot tea bath) and SCOBYs don't like metal (so no metal spoons or containers can touch the SCOBY or the brew, if the SCOBY is still in it).

Update: On day 2 of the second fermentation, the kombucha tasted great but there wasn't enough fizz. On day four the flavor was pretty sour but the fizz was good. I will try again but this first batch will be repurposed as fruit spray or used for other household cleaning needs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How We Came to Homeschool Part 4: Looking forward to kindergarten

This is the last post in a four Part series about how we came to our decision to homeschool. 

If you want to catch up on the rest, check out
Part 1: Let me Begin at the Beginning
Part 2: Saying Yes to the BoldHeart Life, Saying Yes to Homeschooling
Part 3: Calming the Fear and Moving Beyond
___________________________________________________________________________


The preschool year ends on May 29th, the same day we'll be heading north to coastal Maine for an extended Summer vacation. I'm planning to take advantage of all the natural learning opportunities that we'll encounter there by getting plenty of PBH journaling practice in while we are away. When we return home in the first of week of August I'll refocus my attention to readying myself for a September start to the upcoming school year.

Fortunately, the three most important aspects of my preparation are already in place. I've reorganized the main spaces in the house to encourage Roscoe's independence and to maximize everyone's ability to enjoy spreading out and getting to work (this was part of my homework for the PBH Master Class), my journal lies in wait, and we have integrated into our routine dedicated project time by virtue of the fact that Merritt will be in preschool for a couple hours each morning of the week. Of course, Roscoe will be able to work on his projects at any time, but we'll both benefit from having an hour or two set aside every morning when he can expect my undivided attention.

Sometimes planning long-range can feel overwhelming, so another feature of PBH that gives me peace about homeschooling is that I don't have to write weekly or yearly lesson plans. The curriculum is child-led and emergent so I need only to observe, document, and mentor Roscoe's process and help him to dig deeper into his interests as he explores them. I love the simplicity of it.

We'll continue to look to nature and the changing seasons to inspire our activities throughout the year, exploring art, the great outdoors, our community, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  Although we are taking an informal approach to the kindergarten year, I am looking into a play-based elementary Spanish course offered through a local homeschooling academy. One day I hope we can all be conversationally fluent.

I also made a list of the themes and holidays that I want to acknowledge or celebrate in a timely way—this isn't really homeschooling related but knowing that he won't have that structure outside our house has compelled me to make it one of my priorities. I'm sure that developing a new daily routine will be in order too as we transition into new and different ways of spending our time together and apart, with Roscoe at home and Merritt in preschool 5 days a week. Eventually, I look forward to letting go of the construct of the "school year" all together so that we can really take advantage of the flexibility that living off the grid offers to all of us--maybe working year round or perhaps taking off the Winter or other portion of the year as it appeals to us.  

I'm still considering local co-ops and other opportunities for Roscoe to routinely work and play with his peer group. I've started conversations with some of the families of his preschool buddies to create opportunities for them to continue their friendships but the kids are all headed to different school districts next year so I'm thinking it may be a challenge as our need for social time outside of school hours will likely be higher than theirs. I've considered starting a project-based group or a lego club, but also feel that the newness of all of this may be more than enough for me to tackle in the first year. I would love to join in with an already established and thriving group of families, but I haven't found it just yet.

I gather that homeschooling life is ever-evolving and there's still so much I don't know but I'm just going to go for it and learn through doing.

If you're a homeschooling mama do you have any tips or advice to offer? I would love to hear!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How We Came to Homeschool Part 3: Calming the fear and moving beyond

This is Part 3 in a series about how we came to our decision to homeschool. 
___________________________________________________________________________


While I loved the overarching promise of how PBH could enrich our lifestyle and family culture as one that supports and promotes meaningful work, I still needed to find my confidence in homeschooling in general, which was buried in fear that choosing to homeschool would deprive Roscoe of something crucial—information, skills, relationships, or experiences. I wanted to be confident enough to think outside the box of education as I've always known it. I wanted to see how far we could carry this homeschooling gig past kindergarten. I wanted to explore the data and I wanted to to know what is best in education.

You can read all about Project Based Homeschooling at the Camp Creek Blog, but the gist is this (excerpted from the What Is PBH? primer) :

Project-based homeschooling combines your child’s genuine interests with long-term, deep, complex learning. It is the part of your curriculum when you mentor your child to help him learn how to direct and manage his own learning.                                                  
PBH works with any homeschooling method, and it can be a way to unschool. It is the essential portion [you get to decide how big that portion will be] of your child’s learning life when you devote time to helping him do his own self-chosen, self-motivated work. 
  • You create a space dedicated to doing meaningful work, set up to both attract your child and allow him to work independently. 
  • You offer him an interesting variety of high-quality materials and tools. 
  • You build blocks of time into your routine for project-related learning, making, and doing — time when you are available to support and mentor. 
  • You become a trusted resource who will take him where he needs to go and help him meet his own goals. 
  • He provides the interest and the ideas, so his work is self-motivated. You help him keep track of his plans, intentions, and questions. 
—Lori Pickert, Project Based Homeschooling 



It was easy for me to see right away the logical connection between this approach and say, art or the natural sciences, but how would his interests organically arch to complex mathematics or the physical sciences like chemistry? How would Roscoe learn to read? Do homeschooled kids go to college, and how? Would Roscoe be a weird kid and then a weird adult? (I don't mean only in the sense of being different from his public or private schooled peers, but would homeschooling affect his affinity for meaningful relationships with co-ed friends and eventually romantic love?) What about socialization, and how much extra effort and added responsibility would be required to create opportunities for him to develop friendships outside the context of compulsory school days? What quintessential childhood memories would he miss out on by not attending traditional school? Would he be "well rounded", and is that even important? What opportunities are available to homeschooled kids for joining sports teams and other extracurricular activities? How would he learn a foreign language? Would he be satisfied later with the choices that we're making for him now?

At the same time that I worried about how I would facilitate Roscoe's academic experience, I also worried about how choosing to homeschool would affect my life. I had for the last five years assumed that when Roscoe turned five he would be off to school every day for much of the day, which would free up my time for another baby or a return back to full-time work, perhaps. Our commitment to homeschooling the boys would mean no school day away. Ever. Could I handle a pregnancy and another baby in addition to this new responsibility to homeschooling? What about my career, would I ever have the time or desire to go back to work? How would I carve out time in our schedule to pursue my personal interests and work, and nurture my need for time alone? Could I be a good mother and a good mentor? Would choosing to homeschool even further isolate my mothering experience? Would I be able to hack the homeschooling lifestyle—would our time together crowd out other (better) influences, and would it serve to magnify the less than perfect parts of me? What if it was a negative experience for all of us? And frankly, who did I think I was to take on both these roles, I know nothing about any of this education stuff!?

It was easy to feel overwhelmed by all the what-ifs, so before I got too carried away I bought the book Project-Based Homeschooling. I needed to understand the big and little ideas of PBH to know if it was truly a good fit for us. Through reading the book I fell in love with the method. I felt that if we were to choose to homeschool, PBH was definitely for us!

I began to furiously research every facet of doubt, worry, or wonder. I started a Home Education Pinterest board to bookmark articles on the topics that resonated with my thinking process.

In January I met with Roscoe’s preschool teachers to discuss his personality and learning style, his strengths and weaknesses academically and socially, and to get their perspective on what they thought would be the best learning environment for him. Public school, Waldorf, homeschool? While I was excited about the opportunities that homeschooling offered to our family as a whole, was it the right fit for Roscoe? I wanted to hear their perspective on everything.

Then, in an effort to learn more about what homeschool looks like in real life, I had coffee with several local homeschooling mamas to hear what the experience is/was for them, what methods and curriculum they used, how the decision played out for them over the years, what their children thought about it then and now, and what their kids are up to these days. Every meeting inspired confidence in the process, and encouraged me to take small steps in my own journey.

In February I enrolled in a 6 week online PBH Master Class that bridged the gaps in my knowledge about the method and the nuances of its implementation. I joined the forum and had direct access to Lori for all my specific questions. While I initially thought we would "unschool" through exclusive PBH, I realized that we want to also incorporate some academics after the kindergarten year.

Last month I attended two introductory sessions at the VAHomeschoolers Conference, Homeschooling 101: Homeschooling for the Non-Homeschooler, which helped me to see how my family fits in statistically with the larger homeschooling community, and Beginning Homeschool an overview of the law and getting started. I'm already looking forward to attending the full conference next year.

It has been a steep learning curve and while there have certainly been days when I felt like I was having an identity crisis, through my research and exploration of our decision I am feeling very comfortable and confident to trust myself, and trust my kids, as I always have in my role as their mother.

I don't know what is the best environment or approach to education, but I do know that traditional methods are not the only way to instill a love of learning, or to help children become strong thinkers, learners, and doers for success in a life of their own choosing. Homeschooling is one option in the patchwork of educational choices available to us, and to choose the best method of education for my kids, and for my family, feels as deeply personal as any other parenting decision that I've been charged to make so far. Roscoe's memories of his childhood and of his learning will be just as good as mine were, they will just be different. Yes I sometimes wonder if I am cut out for this, but I don't want to choose not to homeschool based on a fear that I am not good enough. I feel called to the challenge, and I am motivated by the potential rewards of negotiating and navigating authentic and lifelong relationships with my sons. There are few things more important to me.

Just as I trust that the boys will become skilled thinkers and learners, accept and work through their mistakes, and ultimately find out what they are good at and what inspires them, I trust that I will find my way as their mentor. I'm giving myself permission and opportunity to learn and grow alongside them. I doubt this first year will work out exactly as I imagine. I don't think it will be easy, but parenting never is! I truly hope that homeschooling will be for us everything that it promises to be, and that we will forever homeschool but our intention is to take it one year at a time and always remain sensitive to everyone's needs.

Next up, Part 4: Looking Forward to Kindergarten

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