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Monday, May 05, 2008

Weekend Ramblings

I finished Amira's little bun cover about a week ago, and it is very cute. I started on the second pair of leg warmers, but I am just not getting the st pattern to work out the way I like. I keep plugging away at it, in the hopes that it will get better on its own, but that doesn't seem to be working. I think I am actually going to have to frog and try again.

Tonight I am trying to work myself up to sewing the side seams on my ballet top. It is very little work, but I have put it off for a long time. I didn't even bring it to the conference, trying to get those leg warmers right.

There were several knitters and crocheters at the conference, which was nice to see. The talks were great (with one exception), and it was inspiring and encouraging to us as we are finishing up our first year of homeschooling. We learned a lot in terms of practical day to day ideas and methods, as well as picking up some inspiration for the big picture of what we are doing.

One of the speakers we particularly enjoyed spoke about homeschooling highschool. She and her husband did this with their boys, and both are in rather nice colleges now (one may have graduated recently, I can't remember). They were accepted at every college to which they applied, as well. The real kicker, of course, is that although their test scores and academics were high and in the same range as their fellow applicants, they did the best in one area, which pushed them over the top with admissions and awards. Can you guess what it was?

Socialization. One of the major things that made the administrations really look at them was how well they were able to speak to people, relate to those of their own age, as well as present themselves to the interviewers.

I have to say that any of my niggling doubts about our childrens' socialization have disappeared watching how the children are able to hold their own in conversations with people of any age. Obviously, Elijah and Amira are not as well spoken as their elder brothers, but all of them are able to speak respectfully, and confidently with anyone and are so capable and poised. It's not that I expected them to be otherwise, but I have seen a real change in how they carry themselves, just in the short time we've been doing this.

I don't know that being in a group of 20-30 people their own age, with one adult supervising would have socialized them so well. That was one of the things the fellow I met at the homeschool PE said to me, that first of all he wasn't concerned about his daughter's socialization, as she was learning to converse with and relate to people of all ages, religions, philosophies, etc, in her day to day life, but that a major part of why they were homeschooling was exactly the kind of socialization that happens in schools. They didn't want her to be socialized like that.

That reminds me, I did find two publishing houses that create/sell Jewish curricula. The first is more geared toward religious formation and the second incorporates general academics with the religious education and seems to integrate it well (from my cursory search of their website). If anyone is interested in either of them (I was thinking of you, especially, Alina), they are Torah Aura and Behrman House. I haven't done deep research, I don't know how Orthodox they are, nor how rigorous their materials are, but I thought it was encouraging that there is a homeschool market aimed toward Jews, like there are for Christians of various stripe.

Anyway, one of the nice things about this conference this weekend, was seeing how the children interacted with other children there. The older children were thoughtful and looked after younger children, and all of them played together. Even the teenagers. Also, it was not considered weird to have five children, and when people saw that I was pregnant, they were excited and happy for us.

Rich commented to me that something that he notices continually is how attractive and radiant us mothers of many children are. He said that with the way our culture thinks about how motherhood and pregnancy changes women, you expect that mothers with four or more children will look run down, dowdy and unappealing, but he kept seeing me compared to other women, and our priest's wife who is a mother of six, and various other women at our church and in other circles who have four, or five, or six, or even up to nine or more children, and that you'd never guess they'd had that many children. There was a lady with her baby in a sling at the conference. She was sitting near us, and Jerome was playing with her son while he wasn't in the sling. Rich asked her if this was her first, and she pointed around the room to her four other children. She was a beautiful, young looking, capable, well spoken woman, who looked joyful. Now, Rich also said that he attributes some of this to our being believing women, and that our hearts show up on our faces and in our appearances, but he said it surprised him how well us mothers of multiple children looked, considering how our society seems to think that children will run you down and ruin your looks.

One of the fathers there had a shirt that Rich wanted to get for himself that said on the front, "Before you ask," and on the back continued "We're not just a large family, we're a dynasty." This family of seven children joined us all at the Friday night swing dance. We had such a good time with that, too. Amira and Dominic danced together, Rich and I danced together and sometimes with Jerome. Alexander and Elijah played with Jerome and some other children who weren't dancing. Toward the end, they did a hula hoop contest and a limbo contest, which all the children enjoyed. It was so funny to see Amira leaning backwards to go under the limbo stick when it was being held about a foot and a half above her head. It was great to see young people, children, parents, even some grandparents, all of these different people dancing together and having a great time. It is exactly the kind of life we have wanted to foster in our family. We've wanted to create an environment where our children will want to celebrate and play and have fun with our family and with other families where family parties and activities include everyone from the youngest infant to the oldest great grandparent.

That is a part of what we love so much about our church family, we really are in each other's lives, and our families are so much a part of every other family. We share joy and sorrow and work and play. It is a sense of community that I think is missing in much of our country now.

I've been rambling for some time now. I wanted to make a plug for a restaurant we went to on Friday: Pabla in Renton. It was fantastic! We eat meatless on Fridays anyway, and this is a vegetarian Punjabi style Indian restaurant. Rich isn't as excited by Indian food as I am, but he likes it enough. We had a discount for it in our Entertainment book, so he figured we might as well try it. My so-so on the Indian food, meatatarian husband was wowed. He loved the food. Dominic also was entranced. He said he wished he could eat like that every day. We all enjoyed it immensely, the service was superb, and they even had a dish that was named after the region my maiden name comes from, so we ordered that and got to tell the children how that dish came from where their ancestors did. The prices were also reasonable (and they have a lunch buffet that looked like a great value), and we fed our family of seven with appetizers, extra breads and a full dinner with some left over to take home for less than $70, including a good tip. Oh, also aside from being vegetarian, it is also Kosher, and had their certification information there, so if that matters to you, you can check that out. The food was simply amazing, and we will definitely make our way back there sometime, even though it isn't really in our neighborhood.

Now, I ought to get offline and go make my long suffering husband some strawberry shortcake. He hasn't had any, and I've made it for a bible study group and our children, with him not getting one bite. He's had to watch me make it and then take it away. So, since he was up most of last night working on a presentation he had to do, I thought I should make him one tonight.

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I think part of it might have to do with *why* you have so many kids. If you have more than four because you don't know how to control the number of children you have, then you might be run-down and miserable. But if you have a large family through a belief that each and every child has joined you in this life due to choices made by forces higher than you, and you love them so deeply that it burns through you -- well, yeah, how could that not make you even more glorious?
I'll have to try out that restaurant the next time I visit home.
Undoubtedly, you are correct, Kristine, that motivation makes a huge difference in our attitudes toward our circumstances.

One of the observations Rich made was purely about the physical, however. Pregnancy and delivery, or pregnancy and labor, do take their toll on a body, but these women, don't seem to be so much more affected by it, as we would be led to believe. Now, I am no longer a size 6, nor is my frame the same as it used to be, but you wouldn't peg me as someone who has had five children (now working on six), three of whom were delivered by c-section. The popular mythology is that women like me will wear their pregnancies like a black mark, and that just hasn't seemed that way to Rich.

As for women not knowing how to space their children, I have a hard time believing that anyone raised in the West (or in any developed countries) in the last 40 years has that issue. Between the various liberation movements, and the intentional emphasis on contraception in schools, hospitals, women's clinics, print advertising, news, billboards, radio, television, etc. it would be hard not to know how to prevent a pregnancy. Which is part of my peeve when people make the idiotic comments about don't we know how babies are made. We certainly learned how to keep little bananas from running around at our school.

Even in the developing world, western medicine and mores are being spread, so that more and more women understand and have access to contraception, and population trends support that. I believe the number of births per woman even in places like Africa have gone from about 7 per woman to 4 per woman in roughly 25 years, which is a pretty rapid change. Those numbers are what I remember and may not be perfectly accurate, but they were from the UN's population studies.

So, anyway, I basically agree with you that attitude and frame of mind make a huge difference, I just think it is a myth that there is a significant population that doesn't know how to "control" their reproduction. What they do or don't do with that knowledge is a separate discussion.
Living here in Israel, it is common to see familie with anywhere from 5-10+ kids and these are usually the most well adjusted kids in the world. I think a lot of it is faith, what ever that means to a person as we all come from different religions on this post. People who choose to have large families have values that are different then those of "secular" society. It is believed that G-d will provide for those who have more children, the number children are not based on finances and the shortage of budget it might cause. It would also seem that those with large families are not so caught up with the material things in life, but realize that having another child is more important than a trip to Maui. What my husband and I have also noticed is that people who only plan to have one or two children tend to treat them more carefully and can be more over protective and there by tending to suffocate their individuality and their level of responsibility. If a child grows up in a large family, if done right, they learn to pitch in and help out early on because that is the way it is done. Also, as Ranee pointed out earlier, a parent learns to cut through the manipulation quicker when it has already been tried 4 or 5 times! But I don't think that people with small families are bad either. Not everyone has the ability to raise a large family, it takes a lot to raise a large family well. But as for preventing pregnancy, while it is true that choices abound and the education is there, cost can make reliable contraception even in a married family, prohibitive as I know that some pills cost $40 a month. And while to some one who is not prepared for another child, it is a minor expense, that is still difficult for a lot of families in the current economy. And some how teenagers are still sleeping through those important life classes about how 1+!=2! :) And on another note completely: I love Pabla's! I was so suprised to read it in your blog! I love the desserts, which you can also buy in the attached shop and the rice pudding. The lunch buffet is for sure worth the money, it is the only time we ever went. The have a great selection of everything and it ranges from really spicy to really mild so there is something for everyone. Yummmmm! Thanks for a great flash back!
P.S., thanks for the Jewish homeschool information. I will have to check it out.
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