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First blog post

This is the post excerpt.

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The nut doesn’t fall far from the squirrel.

Hello!

You are either here due to an offbeat sense of humour, a fellow mom-in-arms or you’re mad about squirrels. For the first two, great we’ll have some fun, the last one …regrettably I know next to nothing about squirrels so please move along.

I am Chief Squirrel. A forty something, revoltingly happy, carrying a few extra pounds,  home educating mom of many.

List of people who will feature:

Deputy Squirrel (aka my wonderful husband);

Golden Squirrel (aka my eldest son, 19, brilliant, compassionate and unnaturally good at almost everything);

Pink Squirrel (aka my teen daughter, who after looking at her brothers example, decided that she had other plans);

Junior Squirrel (aka my 9 year old son, wearing size 13-14, sporty, educationally gifted but as lazy as hell);

Baby Squirrel (aka my youngest, a slightly ginger addition, sent late in life to remind me that this parenting thing is bloody hard work!);

Granddad Squirrel (my Dad whom I adore, lives with us and is getting older by the day);

Foster squirrel/s (aka anyone sharing our home at any point);

Cottage Squirrels (those who we educate with day after day);

Anyone else will be introduced on a need to know basis.

My views are mine and mine alone. Feel free to argue, voice your disapproval or leave. If you stay however, I hope we can walk together along this bumpy path known as life, hopefully laughing as we mess up together.

First post tomorrow. x x x

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 years of ‘pinking’ up the nest.

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On this night, 16 years ago, I became the proud Mama to a brand spanking new, baby girl.

From her very first, Pink was determined to break the mould.

Not content with the drug free, unassisted labour I had planned, she carelessly played with her cord and got stuck. Forcing a C section after several hours of rather tough labour. Surely a minor blip? Nope. Determined to change the way I view almost everything, let me tell you about parenting Pink…

I severed all contact with my violently abusive mother many years before Pinks arrival. So, upon finding out that I was going to be blessed with a girl, I went into a slight meltdown. My son was EASY. I knew boys. I understood them. But a girl??? What on earth was God thinking??? As usual, I didn’t get what I wanted (as in the easy way out), I got what I needed.

Through Pink I have explored the world of dolls, fairies, unicorns and magic.

Through Pink I have faced the fear of bullies, of being a girl in a tough world.

I have faced, and had to deal with, her rejection of what society demands of a girl. The role that we are pushed into, very often subconsciously.

I have had to face and modify my own harsh judgements when she doesn’t behave in a nurturing way, when she is more demanding than I feel fitting, when she refuses to back down and accept the norms that I would like her to.

You see, my daughter is more like me than either of us care to admit. And yet…

she is unashamedly her own person, with her own set of rights and wrongs, her own ways of dealing with fools, her own set of insecurities.

At 40 and a few more years, I am STILL learning about the boundaries that she so effortlessly enforces. I am still not as confident or as assured in my own self as she is at 16. I am still learning about taking risks, laying my heart on my sleeve, being open and (hopefully) accepted for who I am.

Raising this girl has taught me much. Mostly by challenging the assumptions of everything I believed that I knew. By stretching and growing me. By forcing confrontation where I would have preferred a nice peaceful sulk. Without a doubt, it has been a roller coaster not a ride on the lazy boats!

Parenting my first born healed the hole in my soul. Parenting Pink grew me into the tough, uncompromising, more careful, more confident parent I am today. For she takes credit for making me face the many demons that I would have left untouched without her prodding. For examining how things are and how they SHOULD be.

I am no longer her hero, but she will always be mine.

Happy Birthday darling one. I loved you from your first breath and continue to do so with an intensity that I don’t even pretend to understand. For all you are today, know that I am so very proud of you. That I am slightly envious of your ease and social skills. But above all, know you mean the world to me. x x x

 

Prepping my ‘branches’ for wheels…

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The meeting today went well.

I met a very young mom, who was faced with an unexpected baby who came with many extra challenges. At nearly 20 years her senior I learned much.

As she sat there, I was struck with the dignity of the lady (and she truly IS a lady). Not one complaint for the cards that life have dealt her. No self pity, for herself or her young one. Simple, real, explanations to my questions. Ready to learn. Eager for an opportunity for her little one to make friends. Honest. Slightly embarrassed that she enjoys work far more than being at home full time. (Oh I wish grown ups would stop apologising for either needing to work or wanting to!).

So what did I learn?

I was shown, once again, how lucky I am. My squirrels come with their own set of challenges, but none of them are broken in body.

Prepping Baby Squirrel for today’s visit (at 4, he’s mostly played with a wheel chair and had races, so I needed him to understand how important it was that she be included…hard for a very active young one), so we were brainstorming what things they could play together. After several unsuccessful attempts (he felt that she should be honoured to just watch him do stunts!) we settled on races, him on his bike, her in her chair. Magnanimously, he said he would only win the first one. He would let her win after that. Not QUITE what I’d intended!

Junior was slightly easier. At 9, he’s aware of some of the challenges and not an unkind child. However, I vetoed the suggestion that we put her on the trampoline while he jumped them both, fearing for her life. He settled on Uno, video games and ‘tag’ (but he said he’d let her catch him but not make it look too easy).

Assuring the younger 2 that there was pizza for kind children (NOT a bribe, I prefer to call it an incentive), I was fairly confident of compliance.

Naturally Pink and Golden have faced similar situations many times before, and apart from an overexcited Golden, I knew they would be gracious.

Was only SLIGHTLY taken aback when I heard ‘you are my mortal enemy’ spring from the lips of Baby, thankfully in a game, but a huge success all round.

She comes for a play date tomorrow.

Here’s hoping that I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew!

Suggestions for ramps gratefully received. x x x

Golden Squirrel strikes again.

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My eldest squirrel (Golden) is a man child, nearly 20.

Delicious to look at, all muscular, tall, dirty blond (usually washed but may actually BE dirty), super fit and a wields quips with a dry, sharp wit.

Educationally, a high flyer. Did Cambridge, then USA, now studying Special Ed.

Hard worker, least lazy person I know (well, except for possibly me!), bought his own car with cash he earned and saved since he was 14.

Clearly enough to make any momma proud, right?

Indeed it is, and I am proud. Very proud.

All the above is not the reason though, the main reason I am proud of this nearly grown squirrel is for his heart.

Golden has gone around collecting squirrels since he was old enough to make a difference, and boy! What a difference he makes.

His latest ‘acquisition’ comes to us in the form of a disabled squirrel. An 8 year old girl who coincidentally shares the name of the young girl who made him want to study Special Ed.

(If you don’t know Golden, let me explain that he has been bringing others home since he was old enough to wander around on his own. We have had several baby and toddler squirrels, some adult squirrels down on their luck, a few old-age squirrels and a huge amount of ‘stuck in the rain’ squirrels. So this is not a new thing. He brings them home, and then we set about fixing what we can.)

Yesterday, we were gardening when we saw the wheelchair and carer walking past our gate.

Out dashes Golden (in all his mud splattered glory) to introduce himself and offer a play date with our bunch of similar aged mad squirrels.

Undeterred by the fact that our home is far from wheelchair friendly, he breezes past this ‘small’ consideration with assurances that he can lift the young one, that his sister will assist with any toilet needs and that his mother (me!) would LOVE to have her visit us.

I adore him. I relish the energy with which he has gone around seeing how ramps can be made for our home. I’m slightly less enthusiastic about  all the play equipment which he has priced which is chair friendly, for our new friend. I’m exhausted by his constant chatter today (which brought the new information of her having been born at 31 weeks, the duration of her NICU stay, her challenges and strengths) and his unbridled enthusiasm for a new (as yet fairly unknown) friend.

Above all, I am proud. He changes the world, one broken squirrel at a time. I see reflected in him, echos of a younger self. Someday, he may run out of steam. Until he does, this weary mom is holding on tight for the ride, fiercely proud and slightly awestruck that I made him.

Wish me luck! I meet her parents on Monday.

Don’t mess with my nuts!!!

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Whilst I am an exceptionally kind person, I genuinely struggle when dealing with stupid people.

Now, I hasten to add, not stupid people wishing to learn. Those I have all the time in the world for. Nope, the ones I have the hardest time with are the ones who either don’t know that they’re stupid or those who are blissfully happy with a level of ignorance that I would find shameful.

My role as admin on many Fb pages puts me in the firing line of many. I love Fb. I genuinely enjoy supporting others who are starting out on a home education journey. I fully remember how scary it was when I was a newly home educating squirrel. How unsure I felt. How daunting the task appeared. So it is truly a joy to help others with those same fears. It’s wonderful to have Golden Squirrel with all his pieces of paper to ‘show and tell’ how Home education can and does work. Pink squirrel is keeping up her end and will have the requisite Uni entrance at 16 too, meaning that I have done this for a considerable time and can help plenty.

Having established that I enjoy my role on Fb, why the rant?

My pages are notorious for a total advertising ban. New home educators are a vulnerable target and I abhor the idea of schemers taking advantage of them. Hence the ban.

Every so often, the pinned post is ignored, and some silly person comes along with a ‘bright’ idea that sits on my pages until I get Baby squirrel to bed (I don’t go online at all during the day, my addictive personality means that I would never get off!). I USUALLY handle the situation with grace. A gentle reminder, redirection and matter is dealt with. Tonight though…

I opened one of my pages to ‘DO YOU CHILD BATTLE WITH ENGLISH’. And my blood ran cold. This paragon of language usage is offering extra lessons. No really, I kid you not.

Surely, SURELY to goodness, surely there should be some minimum level of intelligence before you can go around taking parents money for teaching their child a skill that the ‘tutor’ doesn’t possess? How is this acceptable? How can these people not only live with THEMSELVES, but also convince others to part with their hard earned cash?

Perhaps because it is Friday, a Friday of a loooong week, my sensitivities are heightened. Or, perhaps the stupid squirrels really ARE taking over the world?

I’m often laughed at for my patience with small squirrels, but in truth, these mini beasts are so much easier to deal with than grown squirrels.

There must be a special place in heaven for those who persevere with the teaching of grown ones who are clearly not yet cooked.

 

Manners maketh the squirrel…

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In so many ways I am an old fashioned squirrel.

Alternative enough to enjoy home educating, free spirited enough to love frank discussion about the birds and the squirrels with my children. And yet. SIGH.

I cannot get past the way the world seems to have gone stark raving mad.

My squirrels are well-mannered. Please and thank you are among the first words they learn.

Boy squirrels hold the door and stand aside for girl squirrels.

Adult squirrels are not interrupted when talking.

The dinner table requires decorum.

Visitors are welcomed by all when they enter, offered tea or coffee and shown around.

Theses simple pleasantries, which let’s be honest make life so much more smooth, are established as baseline minimum standards.

However, I have inadvertently made a name for myself as the sergeant squirrel with these ‘regulations’, and therein lies the crunch.

Whilst the world at large is quick to praise the offspring for their beautiful manners, to gush over how helpful they are, and to loudly exclaim how LUCKY I am, the method in which I got lucky is seen as old fashioned and (gasp!) strict.

Guess what? IT DIDN’T HAPPEN BY WISHING IT WAS SO!

From Golden Squirrel down, offspring have always been treated with the utmost consideration, loved, protected and celebrated. No squirrel has ever been made to hug an aunt (which has caused many ruffled tails) or been whipped into submission. There has been no withholding of nuts, no dire threats of sitting in the naughty nest, no punitive punishments whatsoever.

However. There HAS always been the expectation that they will go out into the world, giving others the same respect, courtesy, kindness and gentleness. By ‘other’ squirrels, I include myself, the family, elders, those we have just met and those we know well.

This simple truth is something our parents accepted as a norm, but one which has languished as the ‘new’ tree hugging parenting has taken over.

I am your mother. I am worthy of your best. Just as I give you my best. I will NOT be treated in a way that is demeaning, disrespectful or disregarded, just as I will not demean, disrespect or disregard you.

Chief Squirrels everywhere, TAKE BACK YOUR POWER. Hold those young ones of yours to account. Refuse to accept less back than you give. You won’t believe how much easier your life will be! x x x

 

Keeping your nuts under control. A lay squirrels guide to ADHD.

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Hoping you all had a fabulous day!

A reminder (should you need it) that my opinions are mine and mine alone.

The reason I am Chief Squirrel is simple, I am ADHD, as are all my squirrel offspring (although only the 3 oldest officially diagnosed).

We choose not to medicate which brings some interesting life challenges, many amusing, some hair raising and some have aged me by several decades.

Squirrels are known for their lack of sustainable attention. UNLESS it is a task that the squirrel in question is seriously invested in! They are active, bounce off walls (when confined) and yet are as cute and captivating (and tiring to watch!) as anything nature has yet to produce. Sound like anyone you know?

Here are some ways we make our business, distractability and high energy levels work for us:

We home educate: Easier to do than you can possibly imagine, you can get into Uni on less than 3 hours a day of book work (yes, we do sit exams!), we have fellow squirrels as friends so there isn’t a constant need to explain our behaviour, we work to our strengths (do our least favourite subjects when most able to concentrate) and make sure we tailor our day to our individual needs.

We keep our lives as uncluttered as we can: typically disorganised, we make sure that each nut is in its place. We lose less nuts this way (although we swear that some occasionally go walking!). Almost every room has a whiteboard for all those ‘must do things’ that we will forget. I use my electronic reminder (what on earth did people DO before their phones told them things???). Lists, many of them. Ignore what doesn’t matter (Baby Squirrel very often goes to the shops with no shoes on, he has yet to have me reported to Social Welfare).

We exercise, often, every day: Now, I don’t mean your usual run around, I mean hard core exercising, soccer, running, hockey, trampoline time, baseball. We need to be more active to function like half normal squirrels, so we do. No matter the weather, no matter the reason, exercise is a staple.

We are kind to each other: Surviving on very little sleep, we are often cranky, forgetful or even just plain awkward. The blessing of all being this way is that we understand the challenges that each one faces, and so we cut each other more slack for those horrible days. Kindness goes a long way, especially when dealing with an out of control squirrel.

We hold each other accountable: The flip side of kind, is allowing no excuses for inexcusable behaviour. Apologies are frequent and heart felt. The expectation is that we learn and go forward, if the learning part fails to happen (as is frequently the case with teenage squirrels) accountability comes in to play.

I am ADHD and have a fulfilling, wonderful life. Conventional? No. However I have made my place in the world, building several successful businesses, by using the many strengths that come with this ‘condition’.

If your child is struggling,try to look at the end picture. The adult they become is very much down to how well they learn to live with their unique set of challenges. Be sure that you are supporting this in the most positive way you can.

x x x