Friday, February 23, 2007

Home again! Home again! Jiggity Jig!

Subzero temperatures.
Six inches of snow - more or less.
Occasional freezing rain.
Inhospitable grey and more grey.
Still and quiet - our lives have been anything but this solemn contained seasonal hibernation to which we’ve become accustomed.

All of this business about the colour green and other people’s gardens seems more wisdom than cliché. Suddenly, I understand why it is hard to leave Pittsburgh. It revolves around expectations. Our life there whirled and crashed against my perceptions of things to which one becomes accustomed and assumes. My life there was constantly thudding against an ingrained rigidity demanding that things be as they are supposed to be.

And as unadaptable as I may have been - somehow, my inner heart tolls a mantra which sounds something like:
okay, okay, okay. you tried. you tried. you tried.
this is you. and that’s okay. you are you and that’s okay.
it is not bad to follow your soul. your soul,
your soul is wise and holds.
the truth which is right for you.

Welcome home, me!

I love you England! I always will - like Robert Dudley and Elizabeth loved. Untimely. Forbidden. Hidden. Passionate and doomed.
Like Henry loved Jane. Lancelot loved Guinevere.

Yet, I am thankful for the soul-affirming lessons life in London afforded me. For one, we found a new house. It is much smaller than the lovely one on which we initially made an offer. It has 3 bedrooms - not six. It has a living room, dining room and kitchen - no den, office or sewing room or 3rd floor lounge space. It has 2 1/2 baths - not 3. It has a cosy, tiny garden - not one the size of a house. Our new house is less than half the size of the house which we originally intended to buy. Am I unhappy?

No! No! No! I began to remember the $600 winter heating bills we had in the house we owned before we moved to London. I'm grateful not to have to heat so much draughty space. It remind me to remember this life goal of voluntary simplicity. I’m happy that we currently own exactly 320 cubic feet of stuff. (I’m dreading owning more. - but one needs a place to sit and eat - so these things do fit into what we think we believe and as yet must struggle to practice.) The house we chose should be nice and cosy and affordable. It limits our ability to consume - fill space - seek more. It challenges us to be aware of our behaviour, buying patterns, and consumerism as a method of ego stroking.

Since we’ve returned, we've been very busy. Winston is going to a Spanish immersion nursery, La Escuelita Arcoiris 3 days a week. Whilst I am conflicted about “school,” I am thrilled to offer him the gift of a second language early in life. La Escuelita is a fine place filled with wonderful people - many of whom I knew before I even had Winston. It has all of the feeling of being a co-operative community effort whilst simultaneously being an established school. The school actually grew out of the founder’s living room!

He's also doing two classes on Wednesdays through People Always Learning Something (PALS), a
the co-operative effort and non-profit organisation formed by non-denominational, home educating parents in Pittsburgh. In the mornings he attends a “2 hour Montessouri-inspired prepared environment play group.” After lunch, he takes Mandarin Chinese.

Through PALS we attended a school matinee performance of Peter Pan performed by The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre - at discounted school ticket prices! This was the ideal introductory ballet for a boy who loves ballerinas and dressing up in princess dresses. (More on that later!) It was a real boy ballet. Two strong male corps de ballet, strong male principals and phenomenal dancing! Wow! I am so grateful to PALS for affording this (inexpensive, transforming, evocative and life-changing) opportunity to us.

After all of this excitement - we go to the museums, friends or The Center For Creative Play. I am ashamed to say that we have availed ourselves of only three of the wonderful child friendly places for children in Pittsburgh. But, these places are so large, so engaging, so supportive of children from birth to age ??, that I feel comfortable allowing him to claim, explore and exhaust these resources before moving on.

At The Carnegie Museum Of Natural History, he didn’t even notice that the dinosaur exhibit is “not open.” He saw some bones and spent a better part of the afternoon digging up dinosaur bones. (Yes, they’ve buried bones in some easy, non-toxic stuff which is easy to chip away. They hand out goggles, a chisel and a brush. Then the kids get to excavating!)

At the Carnegie Science Center, we have four floors of activities designed just for him which include: air play, water play, light play, sound play and the planetarium. We attended a fun lecture/demonstration - geared towards little kids - about freezing. It involved a lot of cool stuff using liquid nitrogen? (I forgot! I am such a bad home educator.) The only thing I felt awful about was that they flash froze marshmallows and Winston couldn't have one because of his fillings.)

(If you visit the web pages - do notice that they have classes designed just for home educating families.)

Finally - whenever we can’t handle that much stimulation - we always have The Center For Creative Play It is a place where children can run, scream, laugh, play, be quiet and creative or just make a friend.

And of course - our old friends and new. Pittsburgh is a place of lasting relationships always evolving into new ones. Generally, we come home, eat dinner and collapse. Winston's making the transition like a champion. But, I think he is just so thrilled to have such constant stimulation. My only worry lately is that he seems a bit over-stimulated. And we have yet to explore a dozen other places equally as well designed. And soon Spring and Summer will come - and we won’t want to be there anymore. We’ll be in the garden or at the park.

And I’ve come to realise - that in relation to my children - I am biased and opinionated. I have rigid and unyielding expectations of my community, my city and my peers. And this is not necessarily a failing on my part. It is what I grew up with - values I hold inviolate - such as working together, building relationships, developing community and making the environment one in which all can thrive. This is my heritage. And I am peaceful - for these are not values alien, anti-social or contradictory to most people. It is good to be in a place where others activily work not only on sharing them - but realizing them.

Home again! Home again! Jiggity Jig!