My son Woody turned six in November of 2011. That would have been the kindergarten year for most kids, 180 days that mark the beginning of the school career. But Woody did his learning in the big, wide, beautiful world, without school being a part of it.

I'm Teresa Honey, and I kept this blog to document this time in my son's life, to share pictures and stories with far-away friends and relatives, and to add ours to the many stories of families living rich, engaging, loving lives with learning happening all the time and in many forms, totally inseparable from every other part of being human.

Here you'll find 180 or so learning moments recorded from August, 2011 to April, 2012 in the life of a 5-turned-6-year-old radically unschooled kid.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

121



January has been a month of big things for the Honeys--the turn of the new year in our new state; a trip to Chicago; a huge cache of new-to-us toys; a good, long visit from our family friends; and also--this is one that was more about me and Daddy Honey and less about Woody, hence its heretofore omission from the blog--a discovery of an early pregnancy and then the loss of that pregnancy a week or so later.

Our hike today was well-timed for the last day of this month full of so much great and a little bit of hard: we went for an afternoon walk up the hill on a rocky but beautifully lit path, radiant with fresh moss. At the top, we paused to enjoy the huge rock outcroppings with that glowing moss above and shallow black caves below. When we resumed our walk, we discovered that the path back down the other side had been completely blocked by a fallen treetop. Woody and I (with sleeping Fox on my back) made an attempt at going around and then through it, but shrugged, turned around, and went back the way we came.

In so many ways, we are brought back to the beginnings, not always by way of a new adventure, but rather, via a familiar path, an opportunity to reconsider how we got to the place where we were when we stopped to wonder whether we were willing or able to keep on in the same direction. It's a bonus to make the trip back down with someone you love.

Woody asked if he could use my camera to take  pictures along the way. He was taking pictures, he said, of things he liked. With the exception of the picture above, which I took of him and his brother, the pictures in this post are his images, selected from about thirty but unedited.


This is my favorite of Woody's photos, and how I look in my mind's eye on my best days: onward mama in the big woods, gray skies notwithstanding.








Monday, January 30, 2012

120, con't


It's just a two post kind of a day, which is to say rich and wonderful.

Our friends Joy and Samuel came over mid-morning, and for two and a half hours there were few breaks in the play, from dressed-up knights to Playmobil knights to drawing to football video games to soldiers and back to knights again, this time in the sunny warmth of the backyard on this decidedly spring-like day.

And after some yum snacks (Joy brought coconut milk and raspberries for smoothies--a huge hit, and who would have thought of that for a play date treat?!?), we went to meet another friend at a park we'd never been to before, one which we might visit again tomorrow if the weather stays Florida-winter and the kids are game.

My favorite part of the day was the mama conversation. It was true and deep, the thoughtful, soul-satisfying stuff whose lack is keenly felt by mothers of young children the world over, those of us living in the moment with our kids but not so much in our own heads, much less the heads of other wise women. It was good to talk and listen long and well.






120

When I was pregnant with Woody, I always thought of him as doing yoga poses in my belly; his movements were long, gentle, and slow, but solid, and his little heart rate was steady at 120 beats per minute.

I went to my first yoga class in 2001 at Florida State University where Pam Lightner taught me in her soft, friendly voice about chakras and energy and my favorite pose, the crow. And for a long while after that I dipped in and out of yoga, mostly out, to my regret. But recently I found on Netflix a yoga video that I liked well enough. So, we are trying it. Fox is not so happy about me doing this, and climbs up and under and on me and asks me to stop. Woody did yoga with me as a toddler and littler boy, and alternates between doing the poses with me and coaching me along. I must say, both are pretty cute:

"Extend the arms, mama! You're supposed to be up now! Are you taking the breath now? This one's called Down Dog."

"Look at me; is this right? I have some pain. She said stop if I have some pain. They're using a chair. I want to use a chair."


In my younger mama days, I imagined this morning, doing yoga with my son in a quiet, sunny house (though I didn't, at the time, imagine another sleeping son in it!).  I saw our days moving in happy, relaxed rhythms, punctuated with fresh, organic meals, favorite books, long walks in the woods, and wise and loving friends. I saw Woody as uncannily calm and mature, confident and kind. I saw myself twenty pounds lighter. 

It's funny now to think of the map I made in my mind of how we would get to six years old. And even though, when I would talk about this with other parents, they would laugh and tell me, "Good luck!," I held on for a while, Woody's first three years, more or less. I'm glad things changed, that they became a lot more about what worked for our family rather than what was ideal in my mind, and what Woody wanted and needed rather than what I thought he wanted or needed. But I like, too, moments like this where that old vision is brought back to my mind because a small piece of it actually fit, that the life I imagined wasn't so far off the mark, broadly speaking: doing yoga with my son in a quiet, sunny house, ignoring the dustbunnies under the TV, thinking about whether or not I want to serve last night's hamburgers for breakfast, listening with one ear for the little tank to wake up and plow into me, grateful for the minute I shared with Woody in Eagle pose before he took his beautiful swirling chi on to the Star Wars action figures.








Friday, January 27, 2012

119

It has been a slow and steady kind of day. Our house misses our friends. They boys played most of the morning in the second bedroom that they'd been using while here. Woody has wanted a lot more of my time and attention than usual.

"Mom, look at this!" "Mom, come here!" "Mom!" "Mom!" "Mom!" (This, when I leave the room to go pee.)

So, we stayed home most of the day, leaving only to pick up the milk. We played with all the toys that had been favorites for the past week. Daddy Honey was pounced upon when he arrived home from work. Soccer, the board game Trouble, wrestling, and backyard knights. There was drama when the last of the Xylitol mints was gone. Then there was another board game and quesadillas.

Life goes on with this happy week behind us, a period of transition, and something new ahead.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

118

Today was the last day of our friends staying with us. Woody had a mini-meltdown with his dad in the evening, triggered by the big disappointment of realizing that there would be no more opportunities for a long while to have Woody-Nathan-Daddy Honey wrestling matches on the bed. Daddy Honey could relate. He said at eight he once punched a hole in his grandmother's wall when his dad told him that his cousin couldn't spend the night.

The stakes are high when you don't get to see somebody but once in a while.



We tried to go to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art again. Again, it was horrific. One guard reamed us out for a full two minutes, pulling made-up offenses from her pocket of homeless anger. Rebecca. The letter of complaint is in the works.



But, Nathan lost not only his first tooth but also his second tooth while we were there. We made tooth fairy pillows when we got back home.



Fat sandwiches for lunch and an afternoon at the Confederate Cemetery smoothed things out some.



Sunset on Mount Sequoya helped, too.

Still, tomorrow's going to be tough. I can feel it.


117

And on the fifth day, the tears came.

Not many, but some. Tired tears. Missing tears. Change tears. Frustration tears. Little guy and big guy tears.

We rode them out, more or less.

And we also pretended to ride in a Piasecki H-21 "Flying Banana" tandem helicopter. That moment salvaged many a tried mood.





Tuesday, January 24, 2012

116

We did a bunch of fun stuff with our dear guests while they were here. I'm glad the weather was nice. I'm glad the kids were keen. We've hiked and rock climbed and ran a labyrinth and read together in the big pretty library and scaled the castle walls at the park. There are heaps of interesting things I know they'll remember. They tumbled out of the bedroom doors in the morning full of happy energy and fell asleep at night with dozens of positive, shared experiences to replay in their minds

But I am so happy, too, to think of the in-between moments that they got to just be together being themselves. This is the stuff of friendship.








Monday, January 23, 2012

115

Remember a few posts back, when I was talking about wanting to build in more opportunities for community-style living?

Done. And let me tell you, it's going great. I am amazed at the ease with which this 6-year-old boy is sharing his whole life: his family, his house, his toys, his favorite places and activities, his food, his computer, his hours.

I am so thankful for the people I know.





Friday, January 20, 2012

114

We have houseguests, and it's pretty great.







Thursday, January 19, 2012

113

This has been the two-day favorite in our house. Both boys walk through the house, thinking their Fox and Woody thoughts, then break out into, "I'm happy, feelin' glad, got sunshine, in a bag..." in their best impression of Damon Alborn's Brit accent:


Today's dozen of consecutive video watchings were happening on my laptop on the bed today, where I was laying with a headache and closed eyes and a little bit of sadness. The boys especially like that all the characters have names, and they like the last scene with the gorilla as he loses his skin, then his muscles, then his skeleton disintegrates.

I am amazed at their loves.

Woody also read his second whole book today by himself. His first was one of the Piggy and Daddy Play books; Waterballoons, maybe? But the one today was We're Going on a Bear Hunt. He was so tickled with the ending, the mad rush back through the scenes of the book home to the safety of the pink covers on the big family bed. And Fox, listening as Woody read it, had it memorized after the first time through, so when Woody read it again, when he would pause to work out a word, Fox would yell it. We all found this funny, the joke being that Woody was the one actually learning to read with the book in his lap and Fox, sitting on the other edge of the bed playing knights, was the one helping.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

112


I like eating long breakfasts with my children, those that start not in a flurry when we first wake but rather about a half an hour later, when our bellies more often begin to rumble. I like being able to make a breakfast from ingredients--cook a pot of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins, toast bread and have a fat pat of butter melt on it, fry up some bacon and then cook down greens or peppers and onions in some of the leftover grease, poach a couple of eggs in wilted kale or chard with garlic, whir together coconut milk, strawberries, bananas, ice and a drop of vanilla extract.

But sometimes, there is excitement about the day before's food that carries on into the morning, such as there was on January 14, the day after Fox turned 3. Naturally, that breakfast started with a square of birthday cake for each of us.



I think breakfast is my favorite meal of the day to do. It's unhurried and uncomplicated. It's eaten at the table with the toy that first captured the boys' attentions when they woke up, or sometimes sitting together at the TV finishing off last night's movie or an episode of Sponge Bob. We talk about the day's plans. Woody usually wants to know if we are going anywhere, and if so where, for what purpose, or with whom. He sometimes suggests activities or books or friends we might call. We discuss.


Then, when the meal is over, I do the dishes and they go play. I get my bearings during this time, as I wash: dress boys, brush teeth, pack diaper bag, take out compost, etc. This rhythm works out well for me. It helps me to wake up relaxed and open rather than worried and driven. I do better thinking after a little food and good company, anyway.

When my children are grown up and moved on with their lives, I think I will miss the morning meals together more than the dinners. I think I will miss the joy and sweetness of waking up all together, feeling the day stretched out before us full of opportunities, beginning with an easy rhythm of connect-play-prepare-eat-be glad.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

111



We spent all morning playing with a bunch of new-to-us toys that we got from our 9-year-old friend Peter, who decided he wanted to make room in his room for different kinds of toys. Then, in the afternoon, our friends Mary and Ollie hosted a playgroup at their place so that all the really neat toys that Ollie got for Christmas would get plenty played with.

I thought this was a great idea. Ollie did have lots of very cool toys And there were tricky toy-related problems to navigate. I think this was good for everyone involved. Accommodations were made. Skills were practiced. Positive dynamics reigned. And mamas got to do a lot of talking to each other in between being helpful to the kids.

There was a post written by a Wired Magazine blogger not too long ago called The 5 Best toys of All Time. The joke was that the toys were 1) stick, 2) box, 3) string, 4) cardboard tube, and 5) dirt. As one would expect, it was wildly popular among parents who like to think of themselves as having a natural and more flowing approach to child rearing, those who value imagination, play, joy, and ingenuity, who are suspicious of plastics and trademarked characters. I think it showed up three times on my Facebook paged, shared by various parent friends and liked by dozens more. Daddy Honey  liked it, and commented that you could add 6) bed sheet, and you've have covered 90% of what our boys like to play with.

And this is all true. And I am squarely lumped in with the parents whose self-image I describe above, though I inwardly work on not being sanctimonious about it, because that is just insufferable. But while I could recognize the truth in that post, and I could post pictures for you of our cardboard box graveyard (where boxes go when they are too tattered to use but to beloved to be tossed to the recycling heap) and I could show you our drawer full of cardboard tubes, my Rubbermaid container of yarn that is used far more often these days for play than for knitting (which was its initial purpose), Woody's stick collection outside of the back door, and the public park volleyball court whose soft sand fills the need to handle dirt better than the cold, rocky clay of our backyard--while I could focus on the simple, inexpensive tools that my children and millions of other children around the world use to enact grand imaginative play-pretend scenarios--that would be cheating you of the whole picture.

My boys like toys.

They like cool toys.

And I like them, too.

I'm happy for the sticks, boxes, string, tubes, dirt, and bedsheets. But I'm also happy for Playmobils and Legos and Star Wars action figures and Imaginex knights and Transformers and Folkmanis puppets and Magformers and K'Nex and Nerf guns. We get many as gifts from doting grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We get some from friends whose children have grown out of them. Occasionally, we can find them in good shape still at thrift stores and rummage sales. And sometimes, we buy them new. But  however they make their way into our house, they are certainly plastic. And they are sold under named brands. And their manufacture is not karmically neutral.

I have made my peace with this, because it's not as much about me as it is about the big picture.

I don't want to be one of those parents who tinges a play experience with a little bit of shame or disappointment because a favorite toy wasn't handmade, or because it has bells and whistles, or because the parent company of the toy company has a contract with the defense industry.

It feels weird to write this, especially that last part. Nobody wants to actively support weapons manufacturers, or rather, to couple that support with our children's playthings (since we are supporting them de facto by participating in the economy that sustains them).

Did you ever meet kids growing up who weren't allowed to eat sweets, or whose religion didn't permit them to cut their hair, or whose parents insisted that their rooms stay spotlessly clean at all times?

How did those kids feel about it? The ones I knew were confused, resentful, resigned, and later, as teenagers, rebellious or withdrawn.

We live in a flawed and lacking world. But I'm not going to make my kids feel responsible for that because I've drawn an intractable moral or political line from Fisher Price to Evil. We can hold on to our ideals, we can live out our values, and we can let our kids experience life as 21st century children without judging their wants and curiosities. I think doing so is a quick way to create a lot of distance between us and them, a lot of bad feelings about our politics and philosophies.

I think often of that Krishnamurti quote, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

My aim is to raise kids who are whole, healthy, and well-adjusted people. Whole and healthy people recognize ills in society, and they live their lives full of goodness anyway.

I'll take the Lego carbon footprint hit for that.






Monday, January 16, 2012

110


Woody was in a mood this morning. He was throwing around "hate you's" and "stupids" and other ugly things. It was a quiet anger, one whose source I could not ferret out. He would be playing for five minutes, then tell one of us how bad our idea was or how poorly we did something or another.

I think people used to use the expression "full of piss and vinegar" for such dispositions, temporary though it was. Being with Woody this morning was about as pungent as the two.

But, we calmly moved forward with our plans for the day nonetheless. We were going to walk downtown to join in an MLK Day march. We read a book on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life. We put on the favorite cammo pants. We walked slowly to accommodate tired young legs. We sweetened the pot with the promise of a family lunch out together afterward. We celebrated small moments: the time in the march that Woody got to walk along the top of a short brick wall, the time the banner flew up and whapped Daddy Honey comically in the chest, the time the two brothers skidded down the grass hill next to the marchers and landed as a pile of giggles and limbs, the cool drink of water from the fountain at our destination. We kept on with cheerfulness and sympathy.

The walk was about a mile. It was probably a lot to expect of Woody. And it was uneventful. We were too far back to hear the singing or chanting, though once we were so far back that the rear police escort was very near to us, and that was entertaining.

Woody doesn't want to do it again next year. Next year is a way's off, I told him. His legs will be longer and stronger then. He may decide it's not too bad. He didn't disagree. Today, we'll call that a successful ending.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

109

Woody ran wild today. There were Nerf guns and foam swords involved. Also ducks and chickens and a couple of roaming friendly dogs. Goats, too, but they were behind a fence. It was at his friend Kavi's 5th birthday party out at their homestead in a community just outside of town, and there were teeny tiny nurslings and teenagers and parents and toddlers and a big middle pack of kids, to which Woody belonged. He was outside more than in, wandering around four or five different properties, doing the happy gang thing with a rotating group of boys and girls aged 5 to 8.

I was so glad for that. The kids were mostly sweet and helpful and encouraging of one another. Only small disagreements bubbled up, and those were easily smoothed with cake and present time, with fresh kids joining in a group and changing the dynamic, with a parent nearby to offer short bits of wisdom or sympathy before watching the child skip happily away again to play. 

It was terrific. The parents were all there, all checking in, paying attention. The kids looked out for each other, the older ones telling the younger ones what was unsafe or what wasn't allowed. Woody looked out for his little brother. He came to get me when another kid fell and was crying. He helped look for a littler boy who'd gotten carried up in the stream of running kids, but who couldn't find his way back. (He was found very shortly.)

Daddy Honey and I wanted to move to an intentional community when I was pregnant with Woody and for his first few years. We were on a waiting list for one in the town we lived, a long-standing one with a big community center and pool and playground and lots of community participation. But when our names came up, the houses were priced out of our reach by the boom, so we couldn't do it. I'm not sure, but I think it was or is a kind of generational trend. I seem to meet a lot of people who at least considered if, if not tried it or are actively living it. But then again, I may just gravitate toward community-minded people. 

Today reminded me of that vision. I'm not sure if I still want to live in an intentional community (though I can imagine it being beautiful, challenging, and an incredibly fertile person-growing grounds under the right circumstances), but regardless I found myself wanting to create more occasions to get together and share food and happiness and well-loved kids running around free.






Friday, January 13, 2012

108

The in-love feeling is in every room of this house.

The kitchen is still fragrant with a lunch we ate together out of our white bowls at the round table: a pumpkin soup, made from a recipe copied from the cookbook of a friend years ago--cinnamon, tumeric, hot buttery onions, ginger, and honey.

The dogs are curled up on the blankets on the floor in the boys' bedroom where the sun shines brightest and the chill is quickest lost. They have bellies full from licking out the pots, and are so relaxed in their rests that they are snoring loud enough for me to hear from here.

The speakers, hooked up to this computer in the living room, are playing a song I first heard as a teenager, when I was waking up to the world and needed to tie my heartstrings to guides that I could hum to.

And in the other bedroom, on "the big bed," my two boys, happy in hand-me-down clothes and each other's company, are busy at work at play, integrating a new set of knight toys into the other knight toys, sharing swords, guessing catapult trajectories, trading helmets and cheering together at the vanquished enemy pirates.

If there is more than this, I don't need it.

But still, since today is Fox's 3rd birthday, there will be cake on top of it all. May it never end...



Woody is giggling here because "It's funny, how his little hands go when the blender vibrates and he can't hold it."


Thursday, January 12, 2012

107


I had some stamina and focus today, which was handy; I don't always. But I was pushing off the pressing things on my own mind, and I didn't answer my phone or get on the computer except to check my mail and Facebook mid-morning. And because of that, there was free space to be here and be real with the boys.

This is good for me to remember. I am glad for this to be written down. Don't worry about my own stuff, don't get caught up in the digital world, and be here, right here, with my very real little people. Also, we did everything we did today for $8, convenient since that's about what I had to spend while waiting for our reimbursement check for the Chicago trip.

To start the day off, we made a big production of bundling up for the cold: coats and hats, yes, scarves, too, but also mittens and gloves and two layers of shirts and socks. It was as insulated as any of us had ever been in our lives. 

Walking down the street, more interesting things: a Wagoneer that had slid on the icy road into the ditch in front of our house; the suddenly empty lot where yesterday the burned-up house had been; icicles; and striated rocks that Woody liked.



Meeting Daddy Honey at the bakery downtown, we split quiche and pastries (that was the $8) and met our across-the-street neighbor who works there.

Then, we walked on to the library where we read books from B authors (books that happened to grab our eyes as we were in the B-authors section of the picture books looking for Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger) and played a good game of Othello. Woody won by two pieces. Fox enjoyed pushing the moveable chairs around and hiding in them.



Back home, we knapped those rocks to try and make arrowheads. We got some flaking, but not much.



Then, a game of chess, start to finish. I won, by a hair's breadth, and not because of a move I orchestrated but rather one that I noticed at the last minute that surprised both of us. I had fully expected to lose, since I stink at chess.

Finally, making dinner together, Woody worked on the cornbread and carrots and radishes, using the stovetop for the first time.



Some days can trip along like this. Other days, not. Some days have appointments and accidents. Some days, you plan something special and much has to move around to accommodate it. Some days there is not the $8. But to tell you the truth, if I could have one day to stand for what I hope this whole blog stands for, it would look like today did. It wouldn't be fancy or expensive or complicated or scheduled much. It would be smooth and sweet, easy and flowy, curious and interesting and experimental and engaged. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

106

I am cooking rice for rice balls and the boys are in on my bed with a chess set that we picked up from the free table at the community center. I can hear bits of their conversation. It is a back-and-forth, not exactly a play scenario, more of a discussion. I peek my head in. They both have pieces in hand and various pieces on the board. I go back to cooking. A moment later, Woody runs in here to tell me "Fox just said, 'I dropped a pawn.' Mom! He knows to call it a pawn! He said that! AND, he put the bishop in the right place!" The child is beaming. I listen closer and realize that Woody is showing Fox how the game works:

"Chess is all about war, and the battle has already started. What is this? Right, it's a knight."

And it goes on...


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

105

Something unexpected came up on our trip to Chicago, what felt like a significant social moment, a noticing, commenting, and processing.

Sitting on the couch in the corner of the second floor lobby in the hotel, I typed away on my computer and the boys played a spy game. A tall, thin man in a dark gray suit walked by on his way to the lower-level elevators.

"Did you see that man?" Woody asked as he rounded the corner.

"Yes."

"He had weird eyes."

"I didn't see his eyes, but that's not really something you'd say about somebody. It could be hurtful."

"But he did have weird eyes."

"I hear you, but it doesn't feel kind. It's like if someone said about your mom, 'Your mom is fat.' Even though that may be so, it's not a nice way to talk about someone."

I do not know why I chose this comparison. Looking back, I wouldn't have, but I there it was. Woody took this in.

"Are you fat?"

"Well, yea, but that's not usually how people put it. People say things like overweight or bigger. It's just more polite."

That was the end of our conversation. The next day, on a crowded bus, we were near a man with a large nose. He looked a bit like Ben Kingsley, but with thick, curly hair, and his nostrils arched slightly over the middle so that inside of his nose was more visible than most people's.

Woody leaned over and whispered (a little loudly) to me, "That man's nose is kind of creepy." I raised my eyebrows and said, "You and I will have to talk about that later." He nodded, then a moment later said quietly, "It's something that's not nice to say, right? It's OK. We don't have to talk about it. I know."

We left it at that. No shame. No judgment. I was glad. It felt significant to me personally, having successfully, kindly, and tactfully moved us through a small rough patch in the social waters. I know I've mentioned in the past that I am challenged by social anxiety, and I was cheered to see that Woody seemed, in this moment at least, able to move past a gaff as a learning moment.

I wouldn't have as a kid. I would have been self-conscious and embarrassed. I would have been angry at my mom for pointing out my misstep. It would have taken me hours to recover, and when  I remembered it, I would get upset all over again. I don't know why that was so, but it was, and sometimes still is. So I work through my own issues not only for myself but also to be able to represent ways that whole and healthy people can meet challenges. I want my kids to see the world with optimism and the people in it--including themselves--with benevolence.

And then, last night, I was tested in my commitment to that vision.

As we were watching the LSU-Alabama game, there was a commercial that featured a close shot of a full-term pregnant woman's round belly. Fox turned bright-eyed to me and said, "Mama, she has a big belly just like you!" I took a deep breath and sighed and nodded. Yes, yes she does.

We'll get there.

Monday, January 9, 2012

104



Today, so far, has been one of sweet recovery and reacquaintance with a favorite place, home.

The K'Nex, toy tank, and Playmobil vikings have all seen much action. Laundry from the trip was washed and hung out to dry. Nicktoons has been on more often than off. Scrambled eggs with broccoli, orange slices, and the last of yeterday's animal cracker car snacks were eaten. Eyewitness Medieval Life and Florida's Native Snakes have been pored over. The mail was checked. The dishes were done. The dogs were let out to romp in the weak but appreciated sunshine. An aquarium brochure was found in the suitcase and examined with what thoughts, I can only guess. And in a sweetly telling moment of the effect of having made the trip to Chicago as a family, Fox asked, "Where's daddy?," forgetting that during the days during the week, Daddy Honey is at work. Woody reminded him. They resumed wrapping a toy soldier in string in order to show that he was the captive for the K'Nex aliens to rescue in the toy tank.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

103


One of Theodore Seuss Giesel's private paintings, titled Free Bird, seen on today's adventure

The historians are all leaving town tomorrow, and so dries up our meal ticket. We ran into an old friend from Florida State University on the street, a historian also in town for the historian conference. He and Daddy Honey used to go to all the same shows that came through Tallahassee, including the White Stripes before the White Stripes' first big album hit. (Daddy Honey likes to brag on that one.)



For our last full day in town, we headed toward the Museum of Science and Industry. It took an hour and a half of botched bus advice for us to arrive, and when we did, it was exceedingly busy. It reminded me of Disney World with the long lines and crowd control with staggered start times for choice activities. It was a very different feel from our previous two days.

My right frontal lobe, just behind my eye, throbbed at the end of the day, and Woody pronounced his favorite moment as being able to stand up on the sardine-packed bus ride home, second only to the tour of the German U-Boat U505. Of course the sub tour alone, with the attendant interactive activities, would have made the trip worthwhile, so I'm looking at it as we got to do a handful of other things, too, for our trip to see the Axis war machine.

The museum actually built this five-stories-below-ground room just to accommodate this U-boat they acquired back in the '50s, making the floor and walls first, lowering the whole sub into it, then pouring the ceiling and filling in the hole, which is just under the front lawn of the museum.







We're leaving fairly early tomorrow morning, so maybe no post. But, we'll be crossing the river to pick up Highway 55 out of town, out of Illinois, and then heading south to our regularly scheduled life.

I think this trip may turn out to be a highlight of parenthood for me. I met a man a couple of weeks ago at a party who offered two very sweet and very true cliches to me as we both stood drinking milk punch in the corner of the kitchen:
  1. Raising children, the days are long but the years are short.
I've only been at it for 6 years, but Amen to that one.

And 2. When you raise kids, you get to relive childhood, but in a really great way.

This one's sad, because the caveat is, of course, necessary since most of us have huge chunks of our childhood we would prefer not to relive, and would certainly never design to be in the lives of our children. But the point is that all the fun and wonder of being a kid is available to us again in a very direct way. Our children want to learn and live with fun and wonder. If we plug into this, if we help make this so, then we can learn and live like that, too, with fun and wonder. It reminds me of yet a third cliché about kids, and that is that
    1. children are our best teachers.
If Daddy Honey and I were to have done Chicago together without kids, I would not have had nearly this good of a time. I know how I am. I would have let myself get cranky about things such as the expense and the crowds. I would have worried more over the ways and means of sightseeing. I would have made expectations for the days, and I would have been disappointed and discomfited if they went unrealized.


As it was, with the boys I found pleasure in nearly every new or unusual experience: watching pigeons strut and coo at each other, making breath-fog on huge windows, crunching dirty city snow underfoot, racing through plazas, jumping in and out of revolving doors, and standing up on a rocky bus bobbing and swaying down Lake Shore Drive. The purpose of the trip was around us all the time, with every activity that we chose or that landed in our laps. We were here to soak up some Chicago—museums, buildings, pigeons, buses, restaurants--all equal in the eyes of those eager to figure out what life has to offer and how to best be in it.

I hope this is a fond memory for Woody for his whole life. Maybe Fox, too, though I suspect he's a bit young. I've already filed it under the “great things we did when the kids were little” category, which gets its own big room in my brain for rainy days when I need to remember how glad I am to have made the choices I did.


Friday, January 6, 2012

102

I am writing these blog posts from where the wi-fi is free, which is on the second floor of the hotel where all the conference rooms are, from which are spilling hundreds of historians to gather around small tables and drink cocktails. Brown, gray, and black are the dominant colors of clothing. There are more people wearing glasses than not. I have overheard the following in the last five minutes:

"Are you going to hire a Mexicanist, or is that not in the budget?"

"Read my book already!"

"You're not impressing me if your paper reads like a tangram."

"Egalitarian culture: where are we protecting that on the downside? You've got to make that shit policy."

Historians are a funny bunch. They're not nearly as serious as people think they are, though they often take themselves more seriously than some. But as one would guess, they like good stories. I like good stories. That's a good starting point.

We took the bus this morning to the Shedd Aquarium. We began paying the very reasonable $8 general admission, but by 1 o'clock, we had exhausted the $8 offerings. We were already there, and Woody wanted to see sharks, so I ponied up the bigger bucks for a few other special exhibits.  Again, thinking of all the dumb stuff I've spent $46 on in my life, this was so, so, so worth it. Woody remembered animals we'd read about in this one book in the library months ago, including the "Japanese Giant Spider Crab, Mom. Don't you remember?" Ah, the superior stretch and flex of the child's brain! He spent ages in exhibits that he liked a lot: sharks, interactive sub, giant coral reef. And he was really, really into it, wanting to read and do and touch and play games. We didn't rush anything. There was nothing else we wanted to or had to do but this. We walked out at closing time, 5:00, to a gorgeous setting sun on the plaza.












Both boys fell asleep on the very full bus home. We got many sweet looks and comments from fellow passengers. Seems like everybody can relate to being happily bone-tired. Most of us have a tender memory or two of being carried gently from one location to wake up in another.