A Little Journey

We are planning a little trip this spring.  We are going to visit the kids’ Azu (grandma).  It is a long overdue visit.  This is the last time Onen saw his Azu.  Tia has never met her.

onen's home visit part 2 101

I am excited but also completely overwhelmed by all that is involved.  It is literally on the other side of the planet.   I checked the global coordinates.  Khensa is at 26.33°N 94.53°E.  Mount Carmel is at 38°24″N 87°46′W.  That means the two towns are 182° apart.  Halfway around the world is 180°.   It is just slightly closer to travel west from here than east.  Only that isn’t how travel works. Travel is one of the really overwhelming things about this little journey.  I will bore you with all the details.

We will start our journey at 3 am and drive for about two hours to an Amtrak station.  Friends of ours will meet us and let us leave our car in their driveway while we are gone.  We will spend 3 and a half hours on a train and arrive in Chicago at 9am, 6 hours into our journey.  Then we get to walk the two blocks from Union Station to the subway station where we will catch another 40 minute train to O’Hare.  After the normal process of check-in, and security check, the kids will get a chance to stretch their legs before our 1pm flight.  This brings us to hour 10 of our journey, and we haven’t even left the USA yet.

The flight from Chicago to Delhi lasts 14 and a half hours.  We arrive in Delhi at 2:30 the following afternoon do to the difference in time zones.  Before, when traveling to Nagaland, I flew on American Airlines which arrived in Delhi in the middle of the night.  Then I’d have a few hours at a hotel to shower and try to sleep before resuming my journey at dawn.  American canceled their non stop flight from Chicago, so this time we are flying on Air India.  They arrive during the day, but when buying tickets online, only offer the option to make the afternoon connecting flight to Kolkata the same afternoon.  That means that there is a 2-3 hour layover in Delhi before catching a 2 hour flight to Kolkata.  We would arrive there 30 hours into our journey.  Then we would then have a 14 hour break before our final 90 minute flight. We will arrive in Dimapur 45 hours into our journey… 2 full days of travel.

Dimapur is not our final stop, though we do have plenty of family there. We could do lots of visiting.  We could stay for a night or two.  Part of me would love to just go ahead and get in the SUV taxi and finish the last 5 or 6 hour drive on the rugged switchback road through the hills.

Three paragraphs of the bare bones of our travel plans.

Three paragraphs of intimidation.

It was a long trip to make by myself.  It was a long trip to make with Lipok and one year old Onen.  It will be endless with Lipok, a very active 5 year old Onen and a temperamental two year old Tia.

countercultural loneliness


I want to write, and yet something tells me that I am just inviting criticism.  I have been feeling so very countercultural these days.  It is it’s own kind of loneliness.  Why must I question everything that is common knowledge?  As a teenager, I assumed that it was because I read too much.  It was hard to think like a small town Midwestern girl in the 1990’s when my every spare thought was some character in Boston, London or San Francisco in 1759, 1809 or 1849.  I had a few friends in high school.  I don’t really remember much about what we talked about, but I know it wasn’t football, celebrities or boys.

About that same time my dad decided to get things right with God and started going to church again.  Attending Lutheran services with him was a shock to my Catholic self.  I decided that I needed to know what I believed about Christ, the church and myself.   I started reading my Bible, found a whole new dimension to my faith and when I went away to college started hanging out with Southern Baptists.  That freaked all of my extended family out.  On one hand I was a university student who didn’t drink, do drugs or sleep around so I was a great role model for my cousins.  On the other hand, I’d abandoned the faith of my forefathers.  With my college friends, I talked about faith, living as though I believed what God says about Himself in the Bible, and how that is more than just being good and going to church.

And just when I thought I’d gotten the whole being countercultural thing down, I moved to India. I traveled, studied language and spent time with Christian believers for all over India, the United States and the world.  There I discovered that even among followers of Jesus, there are vast differences in culture, morality and lifestyle.

Which brings me to now.  I am living near the edge of the small county I grew up in.  I have a husband I imported from India, who after 7 years here, still feels like an alien, uncomfortable and unconnected to Americans.  I unschool, homebirth and nurse my cloth-diapered toddler.  Politically, I think I am a conservative, pro-life Christian Libertarian.

The news this week is all about the measles and anti-vaxers and mandating requirements and I cringe and argue with the evening news and Facebook posts in the privacy of my own living room.  I don’t think that I am anti-vax, but to be told that any current medical paradigm is unarguable science and that it must be mandated for the good of society… my hackles rise.  There are too many historical cases of that not being beneficial for me to be comfortable with it.

Then there is the little matter of expecting my next child the same month as my sister-in-law and one of my ex-sisters-in-law.  One of us is planning a cesarean, one a drug-free hospital birth, and one of us a family member only homebirth.   We are all respectful of one another’s choices, but again, it’s a little lonely.

Now please don’t think that I am asking you to agree with me or support my thoughts or choices.   Nor am I asking you to change my views.  I just wanted to release my feelings into the great unknown, maybe to be scoffed at, or maybe so that you can feel just a little less lonely yourself.

A Fringe Offensive

I offended one of my aunts this week by posting one of those Facebook photos.  You know, one of those things that Facebook calls a photo that is really just a pretty statement, possibly with a photo as a background.

I have about a dozen aunts, but there are three who have each let me know, on more than one occasion, that I have offended them by my thoughts, words, and choices.  I don’t mean to be rude, insulting or obtuse.  I know that many of my choices (especially my parenting choices) are controversial.  I know that they fly in the face of how most Americans see the world.  I also know that when I broadcast my ideas, people are going to disagree or think that I am saying that they and their choices are wrong.  I am hurt by the thought that I might appear to be harsh and judgmental.

I am a fact and opinion collector.  I like to share what I have learned.  I don’t expect everyone to reach the same conclusions I do.  I once heard that in order to influence a culture, one needs to conform to most of the cultural norms.  According to that idea, I have no chance at influencing the culture.  But, perhaps, if I share and keep sharing, I can influence a little, or encourage someone who might want to do some little thing a bit differently than others.

I plan to have an unassisted birth with my next child (no, I am  not currently expecting).  This is not because I hate or fear the medical community.  I am grateful for modern medicine and for those who serve within it.  I just happen to fall into a strange little demographic that is underserved here in southern Illinois and my choices are to submit to a surgery that I don’t want, hire a unlicensed, illegal direct entry midwife, or simply have my mom and husband by my side while I labor and birth at home.  Each of my options have significant risks.  I can simply choose the one that I feel most comfortable with.

I have chosen to Unschool my children.  This is not because I hate formalized education or dislike teachers and administrators.  I know many wonderful, dedicated people who are called to serve in the education system.  I just feel that with the people in my family, our individual strengths and weaknesses, my children will be best served learning in an unstructured,  and less people-filled environment.

I breastfeed my toddler in public.  She has no notion of discretion.  When she feels the need to nurse, she jumps into my arms, turns herself into a comfortable position, and pulls up my shirt, all while giggling maniacally.  I can’t hide that with a Hootie Hider.

I like cloth diapers and the jury is still out on my opinion of the list of required/recommended vaccines.  I read too much and do too little.  I am low energy, need lots of sleep and am ridiculously frugal.  Politically, I lean towards the Liberatarians, though I tend to vote Republican.   Oh, and I am a Catho-Lutho-Bapti-tarian who believes that God is who He says He is in the Bible.

So, yeah, I am, in the fringe in most areas in which people hold strong opinions.  I am okay with that.  My aunts are much more normal than me.  They are intelligent, strong women.  I have no intention of degrading or insulting them by being different, or by posting thoughts and ideas that they find disagreeable.


Unschooling or Teaching my Toddler to Read

My dad recently told me his definition of unschooling.  “You know how in homeschooling, you buy the book, give the test and grade it?  In unschooling, you don’t.  You just answer all the questions the kid asks… or tell him where to find the answers.”

I was criticized in my unschooling Facebook group for teaching Onen to read as a two year old.  Now here I am as a committed unschooling mom, teaching Tia to read.  Obviously, at 20 months, I can’t sit down with her and a copy of “Learn to Read in 100 Easy Steps.”  I wouldn’t want to.  I can’t give her a pencil and make her trace letters.  She doesn’t have the muscles for that.

Honestly, I don’t know that I am actually teaching her to read.  I am teaching her English, mostly spoken, but also written.   She is noticing letters.  Everything she sees with print on it gets touched as she recites, “O, I, O, I, A.”  She sees me reading.  She sees Onen reading.  There are words on tv, in books, on the computer.  She sees them all.  She brings me picture books, asks me to read to her.  She sees letters and wants to know what they are.  I tell her their names.  I tell her their sounds.  I got her the “Your Baby Can Read” videos.  I don’t know that they teach reading, but they do link the printed word with the noun or verb it represents.  I like their format.

I am not doing much different than what I did with Onen.  As Dad said, I answer their questions.  If they seem interested in something, I explain it, point it out, offer them more.  If they end up reading before they are potty-trained, well, that is okay by me.1147497_10151534969635881_2059706818_o



The Introvert’s Mothers Meeting for Smooth and Crunchy Mamas

I just finished reading a Le Leche League book on sleep called, Sweet Sleep- Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family” which is an excellent parenting book.  Of course I think it is excellent because it agrees with my parenting style.  It ended with the suggestion that it is important for mothers, especially mothers of young children to have a support network.  The authors strongly recommended being part of a Le Leche League group.

There used to be a group in Mt. Carmel.  I know because I was a regular attendee when I was little.  There are pictures of me playing dress-up with my wide brimmed straw hat, bag of books and newsletters,  and my bottle-free baby doll on our way to our pretend meeting.  My mom was a Le Leche League leader.  I kind of assumed that eventually I would be too.

There aren’t any groups within driving distance.  I checked before Onen was born.  I checked before Tia was born.  There was a breastfeeding group, I got a post card or two from them just before and after Onen was born.  I didn’t go.  There was and probably still is a mothers of preschoolers group in town.  I went with my step mom for a while, but it was twice a month and often conflicted with my work schedule at the time, and I always felt like I was off on the sidelines, a bystander.  It is not that they treated me like I was different, I just didn’t have the energy to connect.

So, I finished “Sweet Sleep” and I thought, “I should start an actual Le Leche League group!”  But then I paused.  It would take a whole lot of effort to start an authorized group.   And it would feel weird to me to focus only on the breastfeeding portion of mothering.  And my parenting choices are so…. odd.  And I am so not the extroverted, energetic leader type.  And.

So I started typing.  I have lots of information.  I think that I am good at sharing it, especially in written form.  I can also easily share in person when talking to one or two.  So now I have started thinking.  Perhaps I should start a group, but what kind, what focus and how?

In historical novels set in Europe, I have often read about people having “at home” days where their friends and acquaintances could stop by, drink tea and discuss local news or politics.  I think that I like that format.

So here is what I propose.  I am going to call Wednesday morning from 9-noon, my “at home” mother’s meeting.  I am going to give it a name, “The Introvert’s Mothers Meeting for Smooth and Crunchy Mamas .”

I have been a stay at home mom, a day care worker,  and a working mother.  I have cloth diapered and disposable diapered.  I have had a C-section, a drug-fee hospital birth and a home birth.  My kids have slept in cribs, on couches, in tents and with me.  They have eaten breastmilk on tap and in bottles.  One ate jars of baby food, the other has had to feed herself solids.  I have experienced infant loss.  I am willing to share and listen.  And I know that mothering is hard and that babies and children are different and what works for one family will not work for another.



A Long Email About My Child and His Possible Connection to Hyperlexia and Asperger’s

Onen was just shy of three in this picture.  I packed books for him to read on this trip.
I wrote an email to a stranger tonight.  I came across an article about Hyperlexia and it seemed it could be relevant, so I sent an email to the article’s author.  
 This is the email.
I am sure that you get a lot of random emails from parents who stumble across your article on Hyperlexia on the Wisconsin Medical Society’s website.  I understand completely if you choose not to read through this one.  But I find it very useful to talk out things in order to understand them and since this is your area of expertise, I figure I will write you.
My son, Onen, just turned 5 years old.  We have been considering getting him evaluated for Asperger’s.  My husband and I have looked at each other several times over the last few years and asked, ” You don’t think he has… do you?”  I mentioned that this summer to a friend from church who has a master’s in Christian Counseling and a 6 year old with Autism and she nodded and said, “Asperger’s.”
Onen is very active, talkative, outgoing and intelligent.  He is also very different from other children his age.  He loves talking to people, but he has no sense of how to do that properly.  He circles around in front of them telling them about the video game or t.v. show that is in his mind at that moment.  He pats them or smacks at them as he circles around.  He is just starting to engage in pretend play and it is always character based on a favorite video game or tv show and the dialog and action is often quoted.  He does not notice when other people are distressed or hurt, though he will often mirror the emotions of people he cares about.  Last week while running with his friend Alex, Onen reached out and hit him.  Alex ran crying to his mother.  I had to stop Onen and point out that he hurt his friend and needed to apologize.  Onen went up to another boy and said “I am sorry.  I should not have done that,” which is the script I have given him for apologies.  I then stopped him and pointed out that Noah was not the one crying, nor was Noah the one he hit.  He hit Alex.  Alex is crying.  So he went over to Alex, flicked him with his fingers and repeated his script.  I then asked him to add the phrase, “I didn’t realize that I hit you so hard.  I did not mean to hurt you.”   Onen nodded, repeated the new script and they happily resumed playing.
I am a complete book addict, so I started pointing out words and letters when he started using language at about 18 months.  He never got into the whole what do animals say thing and he had no interest in nursery rhymes or songs.  The only way that I could get him to sit still was to tell him about words and letters and what they say.  I jokingly told people that he would be reading before he was potty trained.  He was.  He was reading kindergarten level books in the months before his third birthday.  I never went past those early lessons with him.  He could read, and I believe enjoy chapter books by age 4, though he mostly prefers non fiction.  His favorite series is about disgusting plants, animals, and foods.  He will quote whole pages after starting with the phrase, “Did you know…”
I never considered that his early reading could be related with his Asperger’s like qualities.  He speaks and understands English incredibly well for his age.  Yet, if I pay attention, I notice that he is learning English like I was told to learn a foreign language.  He will memorize and repeat a phrase, using the exact intonation and volume at which he first heard or read it. (He learns many phrases off of pbs kids cartoons, Thomas the tank engine or lately, Looney Tunes.)   Then he will substitute in other nouns, verbs or adjectives.  I nearly always make corrections if necessary and he repeats the new phrase several times over the next few days.
I cannot stand sticking to a regular schedule.  This does not seem to bother Onen at all.  He is content to go along with whatever new activity has come up.  Yet he has always woken up at nearly the same time every day.  He picks at dinner, but is consistently hungry for a full meal precisely at 9.  He makes his food choices, both by what sounds good to him and whether he has yet met his quota for the day of whatever type of food group his preferred snack is.  He is always ready to start an activity or outing, but if he has had an exciting day or experience, he doesn’t sleep well for the next few nights.  He is incredibly persistent if he is engaged in an activity or he has chosen something he wants to do or something he wants to eat. A few times, when he was a baby, we tried letting him cry for a while (like 5-10 minutes) when he would prefer to be nursing back to sleep for the thousandth time.  He got so anxious that he threw up or his nose started bleeding and it would take over 3 hours to calm him back down.
He has always hated coloring books.  He ‘x’es out each page, or scribbles on each face.  If given a marker and a notebook, he will write a graph with letters about 2 inches tall, or he will write the number 1 on the first page, 2 on the second, and number all 70 pages.  Yet, in Sunday School he will color his worksheets perfectly, insisting that all skin must be colored with the “Sandy Beach” colored crayon.  He likes activity books, mazes, connect the dots, and addition problems.
I am not sure why I felt like typing all of this to you, a complete stranger.  I suppose I would like to know if you think we should pursue an evaluation.  We homeschool/unschool.  Academically, it doesn’t make sense for him to be with other children his age. Socially, he needs more direct supervision than he would get in a school setting.  Plus, because he mirrors other people’s emotions, if he had a teacher who was frustrated with him, he would mirror it back with frustration and belligerence.  My long term goal for him is not that he be normal.  My goal is that he be a good, Godly man who knows love and enjoys earning a living.

Conversation Starting Questions

I honestly have no idea what I am going to write about in this particular blog.  I just really want to talk, but have no actual topic in mind, yet.  Usually, I get the urge to pick up a book and immerse myself in it.  I went to the library today, I have four novels that look interesting, but I don’t feel like reading.  I want to type.  Onen spent most of the weekend watching and rewatching a Looney Tunes DVD.  He has spent the last several days saying, “Isn’t it funny when Daffy Duck says,” and “Don’t you love it when…happens?”

We went to a “Not Going Back to School” picnic at the park today with other local homeschoolers.  Onen followed the older boys around as they battled with swords from one end of the park to the other.  Tia found the tallest slide in sight and insisted on climbing the ladder to it a hundred times.  That girl has no fear of heights and precious little coordination.  Hopefully she will soon be able to climb up to the slide without a spotter holding on to her the whole time.  I spent some of our time there attempting to remember (or perhaps figure out) how to carry on a conversation with an adult who isn’t crazy passionate about my favorite topics.

I realized after writing my last post that I have the least to talk about with the people with whom I have the most in common.   I can talk for hours on end with my mom.  We get each other and both know exactly where the other one is coming from.  But with other people, those with whom I have similar interests, beliefs, or passions, with them I just don’t quite know what to say.  It is the similarities that trip me up.  I don’t know what to say with other moms.  I get all anxious that they will think that I am judging them or bragging if I talk about my choices or my kids.  And I don’t think to ask questions.  I know that a real conversation requires questions.  But dialogs in books never start with insightful questions.  And imaginary conversations in my head, they don’t include questions either.  I can make comments or observations.  I can relay information I find interesting or pertinent.  I can respond to other peoples questions or statements, but find that I am completely clueless when it comes to asking questions.

Perhaps I should memorize a list of questions, conversation starters or continuation aids.  Then I maybe I could… ah… this is too hard.  Maybe I should just go read a book.



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