Monday, December 8, 2014

Life After Japan: A few updates.

It's been just over a months since I flew back from Japan, and it's hard to believe that I have been through such a huge transition in the last few months. If anyone had told me six months ago that I'd be getting a divorce and living on my own in Chattanooga, I never would have believed them. Because so many of you have asked, I decided to write a blog post with a general update about how the girls and I are doing. Despite everything, the three of us are doing really well. We occasionally have our rough days, but by and large, we are happy and healthy.

Chattanooga is finally home.

I went to school in Chattanooga for my bachelors degree. It's where I met all of my closest friends, and really started figuring out who I am. I have so many fond memories here, and have always dreamed of moving back. When I started trying to plan life on my own, I knew that Chattanooga was where I wanted to have a new start. It's only 1-2 hours from all my family, so we're closer than ever, and I still have a lot of friends in the area. Coming back to Chattanooga feels like coming back home.

Our House

I'm renting a lovely little two-bedroom house in one of the best neighborhoods in the city, and our neighbors are wonderful. One brought over a Halloween goody-bag for my girls, and another already gave me a ride to a friend's place when I locked myself out of my house (yes, it only took me 2 weeks). It's not a huge house, but it's perfect for myself and the girls. We've been doing our best to make it comfy and cozy, and the girls seem to have settled in nicely. We spent this past weekend setting up a real Christmas tree (our first real one in a couple of years) and it was picturesque with the gas fireplace going and Christmas movie on the tv. The biggest draw to this house was the school, which is only about half a block away, and is one of the best magnet schools in the state of TN. Who knows where we'll be a year from now when our lease is up, but it's been the perfect house in which to start a new chapter.

The School

The school was the biggest selling point for our new house and neighborhood. My girls are attending Normal Park Museum Magnet, and it is arguably the best school in Chattanooga. Miraculously, their PreK program had an unexpected spot opening in late October, so both of my girls were able to be enrolled there. I'm so glad that they get to go to school together, and it certainly makes my mornings a lot easier. I was a bit worried about how they'd transition into public school after being homeschooled, but they have jumped right in and have integrated into their classrooms effortlessly. Both of their teachers say they have been wonderful additions to their classrooms, and both girls are performing at the appropriate academic level. We've even had playdates and birthday parties with new friends from school, just in the last week, and I couldn't ask for my girls to be doing any better.

From SAHM to Working Woman

As if all the other changes weren't big enough, moving out on my own has also meant that I have to join the working world. It's terrifying to strike out on your own, especially when you haven't worked in a paid position in almost seven years. I'd heard about how difficult it was to make the transition from a stay-at-home-mom to working-mom, but now I found myself facing the same seemingly enormous problem: What do you put on a resume when your work for the past few years has included homeschooling and childcare? I tried to jazz up my resume as best I could and apparently, it worked. Within three weeks of moving here, I had two interviews with Youth Villages, and was offered a job just before Thanksgiving.

I'm headed up to Knoxville today to attend orientation and I'm going to be working as a Transitional Living Specialist. I'll be helping youth ages 17-22 who are aging out of foster care, or transitioning out of juvenile detention. My job is to help them develop housing, job, and educational plans so that they can begin adulthood with some stability in their lives. I'll have a case-load of about 8-10 young adults, and will be working with them for 9 months to a year. The job is salaried, and has great benefits, so I'm very grateful to have found a place there.

It's definitely been difficult to transition to work so quickly, because for so long, I was a professional mother. If I wasn't going to be working outside the home, I was going to do a damn good job working within it. I no longer have time to cook like I did and I don't have any time for all the cute little Christmas crafts I was always pinning on Pinterest. My kids' school projects aren't as fancy as the ones that you know were not done solely by the kids themselves... and I just have to make my peace with it. It's a new normal, and we're all slowly settling in.

The Kids and the Divorce

So how are my kids really doing? Honestly, I think they're doing about as well as they could be, given all the change that has taken place in their lives. They miss their Daddy, but seem to handle it well, and only cry about it if they are really tired and it's late at night. They like talking to him on FaceTime, and often draw him pictures that they want to save to give to him when he comes to visit for Christmas. He's going to be able to go to the big "Exhibit Night" at the girls' school where they have the chance to show off all the things they've learned and made at school, and I'm glad he'll be able to see all of that. They're counting down the days on the calendar until his flight into the States, and they are excited about spending Christmas with him and his family.

The divorce doesn't seem to be hampering their ability to function at school, make new friends, and spend most of their days laughing and playing, and I'm so thankful for that. Thank goodness for FaceTime and the ability to make phone calls from overseas. I think it's been helpful to the girls to talk to their dad so often - almost daily at times - so that they feel like they're keeping him "in the know" with everything going on in their lives. When they do get upset about the divorce, or ask questions about it, we sit right down and talk about it. I try to let them voice whatever feelings they have and usually, that's all they really need and they're off playing again in a few minutes.

I'm thankful that they are as young as they are because I think they are much more willing to go with the flow. They have done well with all the transitions and I haven't noticed any behavioral or emotional changes in them. That's not to say that I don't expect it to always be so easy... but I'm glad that they seem to be doing well. I was very worried about how they would deal with all of this, so it's a relief to see them continuing to be happy and healthy. Oh, I also asked the school psychologist to check in with them periodically, and I feel confident that I'll hear from her and/or their teachers if there are any concerns.

What About Me?

For the most part, I have good days. Occasionally, I have bad moments, but rarely does it turn into a truly bad day. My family and friends have offered amazing support, and I know that I did the right thing for myself and my kids. However, it doesn't mean that I don't hate that pain that I've put people through. If I could have taken care of myself, while also protecting everyone else from feeling any pain, I would have done it in a heartbeat. But, sometimes, there isn't another choice.

So, here I am, plowing through and doing what I need to in order to get us settled into this new life. I appreciate all of you who have sent me supportive notes and comments, and I hope that I can offer the same kind of support to those around me who may also find themselves in a difficult transition someday. Life sure is one hell of a ride.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mata ne, Japan.

We had narrowed it down to two choices: Camp Lejuene, NC or Japan. For me, it was not a tough decision. I desperately wanted to see more of the world, and I knew that I’d probably never travel to Japan on my own. I was ecstatic when we got orders to Yokosuka, and I started doing everything I could to prepare myself for our move.

Because I was so excited about moving to Japan, I was completely surprised by the culture shock when it hit me. I knew that I would have some trouble adjusting to a new place, and an unknown language, but those first six months were really hard. I doubted whether or not I should have moved.

But then, Japan wooed me. I could not help but fall in love with its mountains that so comfortingly reminded me of East Tennessee. I fell in love with its kind and proud people, always willing to help a confused-looking foreigner who is obviously lost. I loved the food – especially katsudon, a Japanese comfort food of fried meat on top of steaming rice cooked with green onions and egg. I loved the wonderful mix of old and new: modern houses with all the usual amenities, but with intergenerational families living in them, sleeping on tatami mats with futons every evening; ancient temples in the middle of bustling modern cities; young girls talking on their cell phones while wearing kimonos. I adored the ancient history of the country, which was in stark contrast to the young America I grew up in.

Most of all, I loved visiting the temples. Oh, the temples. There is nothing quite like walking up to the front gate of an ancient Zen Buddhist temple, and stepping over the large beam of wood, hundreds of years old, which divides the ordinary from the sacred. Temple grounds enchant me. It’s as though I can feel the history seeping out of the earth. I felt the same way in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. I was listening to mass in this large, looming cathedral, and I took my shoes off so that I could feel the cold stone floor beneath me. I knew that countless others had walked on those floors before me, all connected by a belief in something larger than themselves. The temples of Japan evoke the same feeling in my soul.

 One of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had in Japan has been taking part in zazen, or Zen Buddhism’s sitting meditation. I still remember how giddy I was to go to my first zazen session at Kenchoji temple in Kamakura. I could not believe that after studying Eastern religions in college, I was now walking into an ancient Buddhist temple in Japan to sit with monks and meditate. I fell in love with the scent of incense wafting through the temple; the faint aroma of aged wood. I loved the way my bare feet felt against the woven tatami mats on the floor, and the feel of the cushion underneath me as we sat and bowed to each other before beginning zazen. I became completely addicted to the calm of the room as these human beings came together to quiet their minds, taking what was probably the only moment in their day to be still, listen, and feel the world around them.

I never dreamed that I’d be friends with Buddhist priests, or that I’d fall in love with the practice of zazen (who ever thought I’d be able to sit still, and in silence, for almost an hour?!).  I never dreamed that a foreign country in Asia would become another place I called home. And I never knew that I’d fall so deeply in love with Japan that it hurt my heart to leave.

 I went to visit Dokuonji temple, the temple of my friend Fujio san, on Tuesday night before flying out of Japan the next day. I could barely get out of the car when I arrived. I knew that it would be the last time, in the foreseeable future, that I’d step into that temple. Over the course of the last two years, Dokuonji temple became MY temple. It’s been years since I felt comfortable in a church, and this temple became my church. It became the place where I could go and feel closer to God. Each visit had me leaving with a wonderful stirring in my soul.

On that last night, I talked with Fujio san, and could barely hold back the tears. Fujio san was no better. We talked about how much we have enjoyed each other’s friendship, and how much the temple had meant to me. We talked about my divorce, and he lovingly told me that he would always support me, and that I had no need to blame myself, or my husband, for what was happening. We then sat in zazen together for a while, me wiping back tears as we began. Just as it was supposed to, zazen calmed my feelings of grief and anxiety, dulling them just enough to make them more manageable. I felt immense gratitude as I sat there in the darkness, listening to crickets outside, and smelling the incense stick that I’d lit upon my arrival. These experiences are what life is about.

My life in Japan was a blessing. Even knowing what I know now about my marriage and what was to come, I would not have done anything differently. I needed Japan. I needed to grow in my spiritual practice, to challenge myself in ways that made me feel vulnerable, and to expand the world for my children and myself.

Thank you, Japan. I love you and will miss you terribly. You will always have a piece of my heart.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What happens when you blog about your divorce.

When you decide to open up about your divorce online, be prepared for what you may learn about yourself and others. 

1) You find out that everyone has an opinion.

It’s amazing to receive Facebook messages from people who never have any contact with you outside of Facebook, but who suddenly know how to fix your marriage. The internet has been a blessing for our family while living overseas, allowing us to keep close relationships with people even though we live on the other side of the world. But, the internet has also become a place where people feel emboldened to pass judgement without any fear of having to look someone in the eye while doing it. 

People don’t just want to know you’re getting a divorce. They want to know why, and whose fault it was. I know I did. And for me, it boiled down to a fear of it happening in my own marriage. If I could diagnose what went wrong with someone else’s relationship, I could make sure it didn’t happen to mine.

2) You lose some friends.

When people decide that the fault in the divorce lies squarely on your shoulders, some of them will decide that they can’t be friends with you anymore. Mutual friends are put in a particularly rough spot. They may try to be supportive to both of you, but in hearing each of your stories, they inevitably feel compelled to take a side. You’ll start to feel the cold shoulder. You’ll get messages of support, while your spouse gets messages of pity. And underlying those messages is the opinion that your spouse is the victim and you are the perpetrator. 

“I think our first response to pain - our or someone else’s - is to self-protect. We protect ourselves by looking for someone or something blame. Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgement or by immediately going into fix-it mode.” - Brene Brown “The Gifts of Imperfection”

Some of your friends won’t be able to understand your reasons. They’ll want justification for what you’re doing. And because you won’t be able to satisfy their questions, you’ll feel the friendship starting to wither. It will be disheartening. You’ll feel shamed, and lonely, and abandoned. In simple terms, it will suck.

3) You find out that some friends were even better friends than you first realized.

Here’s the silver lining in regards to friendships: even as you feel some friends turning away, you’ll feel some of your friends pull even closer. I have friends who I felt I was close to, but who, since reading my blog, have gone above and beyond in offering their love and support. The good friends haven’t judged and haven’t offered advice. They aren’t there to fix, or to help, the situation. What they are is present. 

The good friends practice compassion. They suffer with me, holding my hand as I wade through something difficult. They don’t make me feel as though I’m somehow less than them, or that my situation reflects an inherent fault in who I am. They continue to make me feel as though we are equals. They recognize our shared humanity, and by doing so, remind me that I’m not really on my own. 

4) You regret putting the blog post out there.

In some ways, my life would have been a lot easier had I never written about my divorce on my blog. I would have shed far fewer tears over the course of the last week, and I would have preserved my “good standing” with many friends and acquaintances. I would have kept some blog readers, too, one of which informed me that she no longer admired the life I was creating and would be unsubscribing from the blog. By writing that post, I made myself vulnerable. I laid myself out there, and thus, welcomed both support and criticism. And believe me, I received a fair amount of both. 

5) But then you remember that some woman out there needs to know she’s not alone.

This is not the first time that I have chosen vulnerability over comfort and safety. I would like to say that I’m chock full of courage, but really, I am open and honest because I don’t quite know any other way to be. When I write posts about my struggles with post-partum depression, low self-esteem, the difficulties of parenthood, or divorce, I’m writing to the woman (or man) out there who feels the same way that I do but is too scared to tell anyone. 

Underlying each of those struggles are the same inherent desires. I want to feel valued. I want to feel capable. I want to feel worthy of being loved. And I would venture to guess that most people want those same things. Do I know the secret formula for feeling valued and loved all the time? Of course not! Yet, I think the work we do - the journey we take - is ultimately more important than the answer itself. 

If laying my struggles out for all the world to see makes someone else feel less alone, or helps them along in their own journey, the blog post is worth it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

when the only choice you can make is the one that hurts the most.

Photo credit: Taylor Loy
"What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs." — Rumi "The Essential Rumi"
Once something is brought into your consciousness, you can’t really make it go away. As Brene Brown says, “Once you see something, you can’t un-see it.” I try to live my life in a way that is intentional and mindful, always attempting (and it’s an attempt, at best) to avoid harmful speech, actions, and thoughts towards myself and/or others. This has been the focus of my blog, my parenting, my zazen practice, and most of my experiences day-to-day. So, you can imagine how surprised, distraught, saddened, and scared I was when I realized that despite what always seemed my best efforts, I had been blind to the fact that in order to live more mindfully, I was going to have to put myself first and even hurt those closest to me: my husband and children.
A few weeks ago, I asked my husband for a divorce. I have my reasons, obviously, and one of the hardest parts of this decision-making process has been to honor my feelings and intuition, even though they may not seem rational, or reasonable, to those around me. To hear that I’m asking for a divorce has been shocking to some of my friends and family. It most certainly has been shocking to my husband. And yet, as shocking as it is, it feels like the only choice I have.

So, I now find myself wrestling with the knowledge that in being true to myself, I’m causing a lot of pain and sadness for people I love. I’m capable of getting rid of their pain, and yet, it’s the one thing I cannot bring myself to do. For a wife and mother who has always put her husband and children ahead of herself, this has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done: sitting with the shock, the sadness, the hurt, and the confusion of those around me without doing anything to fix it. 

I'm starting to understand that mindfulness, compassion, and kindness aren't always about keeping others from feeling pain. While I was trying to be a mindful wife and mother, I was ignoring some of my own intrinsic needs and truths. In the last couple of months, I have learned that there is a fine line between being compassionate and kind towards others, and making sure you take care of your own needs. If I had been more honest with myself, and my husband, about what I wanted from my relationship, I might have saved my marriage. Or, I might have asked for a divorce even earlier. But instead, I pushed a lot of uneasiness, and longing, and resentment below the surface and led my husband to think that everything was fine. Admittedly, I convinced myself it was fine too. I now realize that I was being mindful of what everyone needed except me.  

I’ve heard a saying that the only way out, is through. And the only thing getting me through this is the profound sense that I’m doing exactly what the Universe wants me to do. If I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that, I never would have considered putting my husband and children through this. So, coupled with the pain, and guilt, of what I’m inflicting on people I love, I’m also comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that I’m following the path that has been laid out for me. It’s true: once you know something, you can’t un-know it. 

In the next few months, I’ll be writing my way through my divorce. I’ll write about moving away from Japan earlier than I expected; about moving back to my home state of Tennessee. I’ll write about the transition from homeschooling my children, to sending them off to a public magnet school. There will be posts about why I felt like I needed a divorce (while obviously trying to be respectful of my husband, my children, and his family), and what the entire divorce process entails. You’ll no doubt see posts about both the good days, and the difficult ones. And all the while, I’ll be trying to live a mindful, compassionate, loving, and honest life - not only for those I love, but for myself, too.
"Whatever life you lead you must put your soul in it--to make any sort of success in it; and from the moment you do that it ceases to be romance, I assure you: it becomes grim reality! And you can't always please yourself; you must sometimes please other people. That, I admit, you're very ready to do; but there's another thing that's still more important--you must often displease others. You must always be ready for that--you must never shrink from it." — Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little Passports (a review!)

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.**

Do you want your kids to see the world? Do you have an unlimited budget, loads of free time, and no responsibilities? If you're like most of us, the answer is no. The good news is, thanks to Little Passports, you can show your kids the world anyway. 

Little Passports World Edition lets you travel the world with your children, teaching them about a new country every month. With a monthly subscription, two world travelers, "Sam and Sofia," will send your kids a goody bag full of new souvenirs and facts about the latest country they've visited. 

We received our first package last week, and my kids couldn't wait to open it up. Inside the box was a brand new suitcase for all their travels. 

In the suitcase was:
  • a passport 
  • an introductory letter from Sam
  • a colorful world map
  • a boarding pass (with links to online games and activities)
  • stickers for their suitcase
  • and an activity book. 

After pulling out the map, my 6yo dove right into the activity booklet, figuring out the secret codes that showed her how to say "Hello" in several foreign languages. 

A Little Passports subscription would be a great addition to any family, especially those who are homeschooling. These monthly packages could easily be a jumping-off point for more in-depth study of a country. You could look up the country's flag to color, find library books about the country, cook a meal that you'd eat there... the possibilities are endless. There is also a Little Passports USA Edition for older kids who might be interested in learning about our 50 states. 

My girls are excited about seeing what country we're visiting next month, and they can't wait to add some stamps to their passport.

What do you think of Little Passports? Would your kids enjoy it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Our Daily & Weekly Rhythm (Or, how we keep our sanity)

If you follow along on this blog, you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago, we were dying for more routine in our lives. We finished up our homeschooling year at the beginning of April, had friends come visit, went to Kyoto (Japan), had a two-week break before my sister came to visit in May, took lots of day trips with her, and finally settled back down at home - with no visitors - in June. Kids at the base elementary school were just beginning to enjoy their first days of summer vacation, but we were desperate to start our next year of school. Because we’d also be traveling for a month at the end of August, I decided to start our 2014-2015 school year on June 16.

We’re now in our second week of school, and I couldn’t be happier! Our routine and rhythms seem to be exactly what we needed, and today, I thought I’d share what our days and weeks are beginning to look like. We try to have a fairly relaxed schedule that includes time outside, lots of play, and afternoons free for our own special interests. And I am trying to institute a 4-day school week this year so that one day of the week is free for trips to the grocery store and library. Why not do those things on the weekend? Weekends are for family. We still have Saturday free to explore Japan, and Sundays are for being lazy - together. 

Our Weekly Schedule

Monday - Errand Day/No School. 

We’ll go to the grocery and library (it’s convenient to get any books we might need for lessons during the week), and I usually have my Japanese lesson on Monday afternoon. While I wish I could do these errands in the morning, our base library doesn’t open until 11:00am (?! - I know I’m not the only SAHM mom that wishes they would open around 9:00am).

Tuesday - Home Day

Wednesday - Home Day (except for the first Wed. of every month on which we have a tour with Fusako san)

Thursday - Home Day

Friday - Home Day + Japanese class for 6yo

Saturday - Free Family Day

Sunday - Home Day/Rest Day

See? Not too much going on there. And that’s exactly how I like it. 

Our Daily Schedule

Our Daily Schedule has a bit more life in it. I have tried to keep the same routine going day-to-day, and this has been whole-heartedly embraced by my children. They are not bickering as much, and aren’t asking me 5 million times a day what we are doing next. My eldest has also stopped asking to play on the iPad or LeapPad all day long. It’s been a much-needed change.

0500 - I’m up with my husband so that I can have sit in zazen (I’m not great about this), have coffee, read, and check email/FB/Twitter, or blog. 

0600-0730 - My kids usually wake between 6:00-6:30am, and they are allowed to turn on the tv at 0630. They have time to watch one show each before I watch the “nightly” news (we’re on the opposite side of the world, remember) at 0730. Somewhere in this time frame, we’ll also fix some breakfast.

0730 - 0830 - While I’m watching the news, the girls are doing their morning chores (potty, brush teeth, get dressed, make beds). Around 0830, we’ll head outside to the playground if the weather is nice. I like to go out first thing in the morning before it’s had a chance to get uncomfortably hot.

0930-1000 - We’ll come back inside, have a snack, and get started on our school work. Usually, the girls will come inside, wash up, and head straight to our “office.” 

Remember how I was going to institute workboxes? They have been GREAT! The girls each have about 5 paper-tray-sized drawers which are labeled with subjects. Only 3-4 trays will be filled each day, and they contain worksheets/activities that take no longer than 5-10 minutes each. Both girls complained a bit when I first introduced them to the idea of workboxes, but after only a couple of days using the system, they eagerly go in to check their boxes each morning. My 6yo now knows what she is expected to do, and there has been little-to-no complaining about her schoolwork since we started using the boxes. 

They usually do “daily work” first. This is a review or mash-up of subjects.

Next comes handwriting, math, and our special subject of the day. 

Two days a week we read “Story of the World” together and do activities from the activity guide. One day a week we study science together, and one day a week we’ll do an art lesson together.

We are usually finished with school at lunchtime (yay!).

1130-1200 - Lunchtime! While the girls are eating, I usually go over a short grammar lesson (we’re talking 5-10 minutes thanks to First Language Lessons).

1230-1330 - This is usually free time for the girls. They might play, read, or work on a project of their own choosing. I might work on my own project or do some household chores.

1400 - By this time, they are usually asking for some downtime by way of the television or computer. And that is fine with me! I’ll set them up with something to do while I read, blog, or continue my own project work.

1530-1600 - We’ll ease back into playtime and I’ll start straightening up the house before my husband gets home. I want him to think it’s looked clean all day…..

1700 - It’s time to start preparing dinner. We have made it priority that we all sit down together for a meal in the evening. We’ll eat around 1800.

1830-1900 - After dinner, the girls will do their evening chores (sometimes they’ll help clean up after dinner, then potty, brush their teeth, pajamas). They’ll spend their remaining time before bed either reading or playing, or maybe snuggling up with us on the couch.

1930-2000 - Bedtime. One of us will read a book to the girls before bed, sing a song and tuck them in. However, for the last couple of months, our 6yo - since she started reading on her own - will spend another half an hour reading to herself in bed. 

Every morning, our school work is done by lunch, leaving us with plenty of time in the afternoons to play, read, work on projects, or watch something that relates to what we’ve been learning during the week. I firmly believe that children thrive when there is a consistent reliable routine in place. And, notice that I use the word “routine.” I do not have our day scheduled down to the minute. I do, however, how a predictable flow that the girls are learning, and they know what is coming next in the day. They know when they have some work to do, and they know when they’ll have free time to do whatever they like. IT. HAS. BEEN. WONDERFUL. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep this going all year.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Plant Party (A small win for Project-Based-Homeschooling)

My kids throw out thousands of "good ideas," every week. Sometimes it seems like there are thousands in one day. I know we can't do every single thing our kids ask, but since I've been trying to integrate more PBH time into our days, I have found myself looking for more opportunities to say "yes."

One of these opportunities popped up the other day when my 6yo said she felt like celebrating something. It's rainy season here in Japan, so she said it was a perfect opportunity to celebrate the rain and how it helps the plants grow. "A plant party! We should have a plant party!" she said enthusiastically. For most of her life, I've probably shot down ideas like this without a second thought about them. But this time, I said, "Sure. You can have a plant party if you make all the plans and preparations." She looked completely shocked that I'd said yes, and immediately got to work.

She decided when she'd have her party (two weeks from that day), and what time of day would be best.

She asked me to help her make invitations and we made one on Facebook (to save trees, right?).

For two weeks, she made lists:

-- lists of what foods we should have
-- lists of games we could play
-- lists of activities we could have for guests (coloring pages, anyone?)
-- lists of decorations
-- lists of supplies/groceries she would need from the store

I rarely offered help or suggestions, only giving my input when she asked for it or I knew something would not go over well with parent (like conflicts with siblings' nap schedules).

A couple of days before her party, she insisted on going to the grocery with me and she made sure we bought some extra fruit, snacks, and cake mix. She also spent time working on a game for her party. She loves "pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey," so she made up her own version for the plant party: "pin-the-pollen-on-the-flower."

The day before, she made a list of things that still needed to be done, and shortly after lunch, she asked if she could make her cake. She's started reading more and more on her own now, so she got all the ingredients together, read the directions, and directed the baking of the cake. She iced it (with a little help from me) and offered her little sister the important job of putting sprinkles on the cake. She was so proud of herself.

Later that afternoon, she asked if she could start decorating. I pulled out a bag of streamers and balloons that I keep on-hand, and I told her to think about what she wanted and that I'd be available to help her in a few minutes. I went to finish up on something I'd been working on, and when I came out, she'd already started hanging up string across the room, and using the streamers as vines.

The morning of the party, she donned her fanciest dress. "Isn't that the same dress you wore for your birthday party?" I asked. To which she responded, "Well, I looked for something else, but this was the only suitable thing I had." Ha! What 6yo says "suitable?"

After getting ready, I showed her how to look for flower coloring pages online, and then showed her how to go to "File," then "Print," and how to change the number of copies printed. She was excited to learn a bit more about the computer, and picked out 3 different coloring pages for her friends.

The plant party went well, but wasn't without a few hiccups for the 4-6yo age group. There were some tears because not everyone wanted to do activities (they just wanted to play), and some party guests were upset about not winning the pollen game, but overall, there were a lot of giggles and hugs.

I could have said "no" to the plant party. I could have dismissed it like I have done with so many other ideas. But instead, I said, "yes," and my 6yo learned a little bit about planning something, baking, and getting creative. She also might be saying that she wants to be an event planner and plan our anniversary party next month.... (Oh boy...) So who knows what will be next. I'm very happy to count this as a small win for PBH in our home, and I hope that these kinds of opportunities will help my daughters learn that they are capable of so much! They are creative, resourceful, determined, intelligent and passionate, and I don't want them to forget it as they grow older (like so many adults do...). That's what project-based-homeschooling is about.