And It Shall Be Known As The Big Chill

We met and connected instantly with the Paul family and the Mattern family back at Wide Sky Days in September. Justin and I invited them to join us in January in the Keys. We weren’t sure it would come together (because how often do such things ever pan out with three busy lives?), but it did.

It may have taken us 3 hours to decide but our time together came to be known as #thebigchill13.

(You can see all the photos on Instagram with that tag).

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is to call these families our friends, to see our kids connect, and to have so much fun. So different in so many ways, so very much the same, all with a total love and appreciation for one another. The sheer amount of laughter, depth, fun, and support we shared with these incredible people is beyond my wildest dreams.

(Like seriously? This is my life? Every detail is one I never thought could be mine.)

I’ve sat here staring at this screen, trying to communicate what these two women mean to me, what these two families have given us in such a very short amount of time.

I can’t.

So you’ll get the photos instead.

(Oh, and be sure to catch the video at the end!)

Chilling. #thebigchill13 @heathermattern @calebabc @melimae79

More #artjournal with @melimae79 #thebigchill13

So this just happened. Took a shrimp right out of my hand. #Crane

Messy is a part of every beautiful process. #artjournal @heathermattern

Cheers to #thebigchill13 #keylargo #florida

Sunset with @heathermattern @melimae79 @justinplayswithballs @mrcliffy06 @calebabc

@melimae79 @heathermattern and a photo bomber #keylargo #florida

Sunset #thebigchill13 @melimae79 @mrcliffy06

From the Turtle Hospital #thebigchill13 #turtle #seaturtle #iguana

Me and Zeb courtesy of @heathermattern #thebigchill13 #snorkeling #ocean

Me and Zeb #snorkeling #ocean #thebigchill13

Dinner with the sunset. Missing @heathermattern #thebigchill13

Saying Our Goodbyes

How did it all come to an end?

Like this. 🙂

Six (Wide Sky) Days Together

#wideskydays #sunset #bokeh #ocean #beach #cliffs

Awake before the world. Reveling in the quiet spaces in between. #wideskydays

In case you didn’t see from my Instagram stream, we spent 6 entire days at the Wide Sky Days conference in San Diego. (WSD is an unschooling conference: a long weekend to gather with other “crazy unschoolers” and play, laugh, connect, ask, answer, realign, inspire, support, and laugh with one another.)

What you probably noticed from said Instagram stream is an almost total lack of photos including children.

Fun times #afterparty #wideskydays @heathermattern @melimae79

Zeb spent most of his time in the game room and prefers not to have his picture taken much anyway, but I did manage to nab one photo of him:

Zeb had a lot of this sorta fun all weekend #wideskydays

We got to see him find his own comfort level with meeting new people and balance it with plenty of quiet time to himself. (Yes, he’s still in his Caveman phase, and it’s so wonderful to be around other teens and adults who have “been there, done that” and meet him where he is with love and acceptance and trust.)

But let’s be real: These conferences are just as much – if not more so – for the adults.

Parents whose children are way too tiny to acknowledge the room come. Parents whose children are grown and gone still come. Adults who don’t have children come, too.

Because we need these convergences like we need air.

#wideskydays #beach #ocean

We – as mindful, organic, radically unconventional, and sometimes freak-others-out people – need our people. We need to breathe in the environment that we breathe out into our homes. We need to replenish ourselves, realign ourselves.

We need community.

Especially community not afraid to play.

Thai dinner with @freeplaylife and @livelightly  #wideskydays

#juggling #wideskydays

Drinks with my sistahs @freeplaylife @heathermattern @livelightly  #margarita #wideskydays

Rainbow Bright does #hooping @freeplaylife #wideskydays

Justin and I hardly attended a single discussion, workshop/funshop, or circle the entire weekend.

The things we didn’t miss:

  • SSUM’s (Secret Society of Unschooling Moms): Connecting with other moms about our relationships to ourselves and our partners. What happens in SSUM’s stays in SSUM’s.
  • Justin’s juggling funshop: he taught about a dozen or so adults and kids to juggle!
  • Filling Your Cup: This one was my very own circle to facilitate! More on that soon!
  • SSUD’s (Secret Society of Unschooling Dads): Dads connecting with other dads about who knows what (same thing: what’s discussed there stays there).
  • Firepit conversations, hula hooping with friends, shopping trips, playing at the beach, more firepit conversations, cocktails, good food together, more good conversations around the fire, lots of laughter, and giant hugs.

#juggling#wideskydays

Late night circles at #wideskydays

Sunset on the pacific. #wideskydays #sunset #sun #horizon #ocean #reflection

#wideskydays #beach #ocean #pacific #sandiego #california

For us, we’re not going to learn more about unschooling.

The talks are always wonderful, but that’s not our need anymore.

For us it’s about culture immersion: surrounding ourselves in the one environment that is so full of love, acceptance, support, and a shared view of the world that your heart goes all pitter-patter as you celebrate life and family and love…simply by living it together.

I can’t get that in the world at large. Yes, we have our caravan. Yes, we connect with amazing people on the road.

But to be IMMERSED in a lifestyle of mindfully creating joy, connection, peace, passion, fun, laughter…a lifestyle that embraces you and your family as wonderful and whole and worthy of trust…a community that nudges you toward your own highest good (while simultaneously passing the margaritas)…a tribe of all ages, all backgrounds, all creeds, all preferences that meets you where you are, embraces you and helps you laugh…

Where else does this exist?

That’s why we go to these conferences (at least once a year, although we’re feeling the pull to make it a bigger part of our life).

We need to fill our hearts with these kinds of interactions to counter all the craziness that can happen in the conventional world.

We need love like this in the same way that we need air.

If you haven’t been to an unschooling conference…can I make a strong recommendation towards it? Whether you’re new to unschooling or a veteran, or just considering it, nothing changes you like immersion in an environment of love, peace, joy, acceptance, and trust. Nothing.


The Organic Parenting E-Course Starts Monday, Sept 17th!

Are you in it? 😀

We’ve got so any participants, some DIYers and many, many more joining through the Tribe to get it on the small and large group calls and the forum goodness.

The first module starts Monday, but the Getting started goodies are available immediately!

I hope you’ll join us!

Click here to check it out!

Connecting With Children (It Doesn’t Have To Be Awkward)

It use to be awkward for me to speak or connect with children.

I would ask them the customary questions: How old are you? What grade are you in? What’s your favorite subject? What do you want to be when you grow up?

(Kinda similar to how I use to talk to adults actually: What do you do? How’s the weather? Time flies huh?)

You know, the kind of questions that you don’t really listen for the answers.

But then I started meeting children who liked to make up their their own age (or name), who didn’t go to school, and who demanded (not with words but with their very presence and the way they experienced life) a whole new kind of interaction.

And it was awkward at first.

I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. It was uncomfortable to be alone with a child I wasn’t related to because there was an expectation of interaction that I didn’t know how to handle (compared to the idea that we don’t have to interact quite as much with children we do know – ack!).

I was realizing today how different that is for me now.

I woke up this morning and immediately upon noticing there was actual SUNSHINE I grabbed my yoga mat and headed out the RV door. I intended to salute the sun all proper like. 😉

We’re camped with our caravan and sitting outside next door was my new friend, whom I call Little Turtle, for we both are learning a lot about our own personal turtle shells. As we greeted I did what I would do with any friend…

I invited her to do yoga by the pond with me.

She grabbed her mat, her brother even came along for a few minutes before he decided he had better things to do, and the two of us saluted the sun together.

The hubby couldn't make yoga this AM but my new friend, Little Turtle, could. <3

Then we laid by the water and just spent time together.

In my past I would’ve felt compelled to ask questions or mentor her in some way (oh the ego!). I would’ve had a different tone in my voice and a direction I felt we should take it (educational no doubt).

But our time together was casual and comfortable instead.

We talked about the water and our favorite colors, and Googled on my phone what different colors mean (she’s all about the happy, creative colors!). We wondered about the weird animal sounds we heard and talked about brothers.

The generations between us didn’t matter. We were just able to BE together, as friends.

And this makes me really happy. I have friends of so many ages and backgrounds and beliefs. And for years I missed out on what these young and wonderful friends bring to my world.

Like the enjoyment of sitting and watching the bugs skimming the surface of the water.

Peering over the deck

Last night Justin and one of the kids went off to a juggling meetup. An hour driving together, several hours juggling with other adults, and an hour back. As friends. Right now he has a 10 year old friend helping him work on the engine as they talk more about juggling. As friends.

It just makes me smile.

And being authentic has also become easier. Zeb and his new friend (and Little Turtle’s brother) were playing in the RV and I needed to get some work done. They were having fun and talking and I was struggling with overwhelm and feeling distracted.

So I reached out in kindness. “Hey guys, would it be okay if I had the RV to myself for awhile? I’ve got so much work to do.”

“Sure Mom.” “Sure Tara.” And they finished up their game, asked when I thought I’d be done and headed outside with a smile.

In the past I would’ve resorted to demanding they go outside, or just internally huffing and puffing over how I never get what I need until I became resentful. I never would’ve thought I could’ve spoken to them about it in the same way I would speak to my husband. It would’ve been control or martyrdom for me.

I’ve missed out on a lot of time with these incredible friends, especially the incredible friend I have in my 12 year old son. There were lots of things I had to DIG IN to in order to release my own discomfort and fear and superiority: like the emotions or reactions that would come up for me, the old stories about permissiveness, and the kind of connections I really wanted in my life and what had me settling for less.

But most importantly the idea I had learned that only people of the same ages could have real and meaningful friendships together and that adults were meant to lead children, not simply enjoy their presence.

My Belly Feels Empty, But My Heart is Full

We’re officially one week into our elimination diet and the biggest challenge is probably boredom. With so few foods and flavors to choose from it’s annoying more than anything else.

I’ve also struggled with hypoglycemia and woke up yesterday with too low blood sugar, almost passing out and taking several hours to recover. Not good.

So I’m adding in salmon on intuition and am feeling better now. (Justin is going to continue going without for awhile longer.)

We have had so many questions on the elimination diet and how to do it and I think it can pretty much all be boiled down to this:

Listen to your body. Trust it.

Every body is different, and each individual’s needs will vary throughout their life too.

Food dogma is bullshit. Intuition is king.

We chose this elimination diet on intuition. We choose to follow it how our intuition guides us.

And the more we do that, the better we feel.

Heart = Full

Feels myself howling at this one.
Happy Full Moon 🙂

Even though we’ve been learning how to fill our bellies, my heart right now is expanding like WHOA.

The past few months have been rough for us, and we’ve been consistently pulled back to look for the cause and the shifting Life is asking us to make.

Zeb has been really struggling.

Really struggling.

He’s 12.5 now and becoming a man, not as smoothly as we had hoped (ah, those parental ideas – that’s a whole story in itself).

It hasn’t been fun to say the least.

It’s been hard.

And Justin and I have been triggered a lot.

And individually and together we’ve had some really bad moments that suck suck suck.

But thankfully we leaned into our tribes and our tools and we kept coming back, kept making amends for the mistakes, kept putting our intentions and our heart into finding what’s missing for all of us, what each of us needs to thrive.

We kept coming back to the drawing board again and again.

Until we finally had the Aha moment. The breakthrough.

In a few heart-wrenching, emotional and deeply connecting conversations Zeb articulated what was happening beneath the surface for him.

Beneath the anger and the frustration and the blah and the rut.

He’s lonely.

He enjoys traveling, but it’s not filling his cup with a Tribe of his own.

He wants more than Mom and Dad.

Going back to Vegas was a wonderful thing for him. But it was only temporary.

And he struggles to connect with people as we travel. He can feel awkward and uncomfortable until he warms up – like we all experience at some point. And so as we go along he feels withdrawn more than he’d like to without that extra time to settle into a comfortable place with people. By the time he’s forming a connection, either we or the other family is heading off.

Can I tell you what a GIANT sigh of relief it is to finally hear this from him?

For a long time he couldn’t put his finger on it. Even when we would check in with him about it, he wasn’t fully aware of it.

It can be hard as a kid (heck, for most adults too) to see with clarity what is really happening inside.

He needs community.

And we have been feeling that same need ourselves.

Zeb needs guys to hang with, to run with, to laugh with, to grow with.

Justin needs men to connect with, to sit with, to feel like himself with.

I need women to hug with, to walk with, to celebrate with, to dance with.

We also want to continue to travel!

So we talked and drew out our ideas.

We discussed traveling one more year to see the East coast, then settling down so Zeb could try out a Sudbury School.

But one year felt like a long time to wait.

Then a beautiful traveling family, Angela and Clint and their 3 kids, invited us to their budding caravan, but they were headed to the West coast and had plenty of big plans and it just didn’t seem like the pieces would fit.

The idea of not joining them had me bummed.

I resonated so strongly with the families that were already gathering around the idea. I loved the moments I had been able to grab here and there with them – at the first Full Moon feast in January, at a FOTR rally, even through email when we could.

But I’ve learned enough in my 30 years to not try to force anything. That it never works best that way. That things either happen organically or they don’t happen all that well.

So I stressed a little. And let go a little. And leaned into Trust a little.

And tried to remind myself that when we plant the seeds of our intentions, Life/Spirit/magic happens.

And it did.

Not pictured: Drumming papas, belly dancing mamas, galavanting kiddos, great convo, tears and laughter.
Around the Fire

Angela and Clint invited us again to another full moon feast – a monthly gathering of traveling and non-traveling families and friends to eat, talk, connect, make music and make even more laughter.

We couldn’t camp with them, but we drove 45 minutes to visit for the evening.

Zeb ran off with the kids.

Justin drummed with the men.

I connected with the women.

Fire dancing mamas!
Fire dancing mamas!

We felt at home.

And my heart ached a little to know it would only last an evening this time.

And then I heard the most beautiful thing I could imagine.

And it’s bringing tears to my eyes to write it out.

Angela explained how their plans had shifted. How they aren’t heading to the West coast. How they are traveling up the East coast this year. Exactly to the place we wanted to most see.

Inside my heart jumped a little.

Said a tiny Eep!

Goosebumps. And tears. And hugs. And laughing. And “See?”

She and I knowing and seeing (again) that Trust always leads us in the most beautiful direction.

That everyone’s needs – for connection, for adventure, for timing – will always be met.

That this was the beginning of a beautiful thing.

Zeb is on board. Wholeheartedly. Can’t wait.

Justin’s feeling it out, has some hesitation to examine, some things to sit with internally. But I can trust fully the right pieces will fall into the right place and at the right time now.

And my heart is filled to the brim with the idea of having our own tiny, traveling village of mindful parents, and passionate women, and strong, gentle men and confident children, and entrepreneurs, and autodidacts, and diversity, and laughter.

We have details to work out, and schedules to coordinate, and plans to create.

After all, this isn’t JUST a caravan they’re planning – it’s bigger than that. And I can’t wait to share it. 🙂

But right now I’m just happy to share my heart and my soul and my answered prayers and the smile and excitement of my previously sullen 12 year old whose cup is finally being filled.

And to share this little reminder: Lean into Trust. Life is good.

Being a Parent vs. Being a “Friend”

I was recently asked this question by a girlfriend on Facebook, about my take on whether parents should be friends of their kids.

Tara and Zeb

The Comment/Question

Tara – Here’s a thought I’ve had. I’ve been in a lot of discussions about parenting that include those who view “being your child’s friend” as a very negative thing – “be a parent, not a friend”. I really feel like there’s this false dichotomy between having a good relationship or teaching/guiding them – like they are mutually exclusive. The “be a parent” crowd assumes that if we are focusing on maintaining a close, connected relationship, it means that the kids just do whatever they want and have no respect. What if being a friend and parent weren’t mutally exclusive? I would love your take on this. – Cindy from www.birth-smart.com

My Answer

I would ask them who the heck their friends are and why they have such a low idea of what real friendship is. 😉

In my world, a friend is someone who loves me compassionately, who sees my worth when I may not see it, who listens deeply and never encourages me to do less than I’m capable of doing, nor do they support my actions if those actions are hurting me or others.

A real friend brings out the best in me with love and laughter and support.

So who the heck have they been hanging out with that isn’t all those things? And why wouldn’t we want to be those things to our child? 🙂

And I want to add:

Maybe if more kids were used to seeing this kind of love and support from their parents they wouldn’t be accepting anything less in their friends.

What is your take on the parent/friend conversation?

And just because I can, I want to share a video I created that reminds me just how quickly it passes, just how much we should cherish the tender moments and just how much we miss out on when we’re more concerned with how we’ll look as parents, instead of the moments of connection we’re capturing with our kids.

The If/Then Syndrome and Unconditionality

One Of Us - Storypeople

There’s an epidemic that has infiltrated our culture. It creeps into families and relationships and make us all sick. Sick of each other, really.

It’s the If/Then Syndrome, sometimes referred to as the When/Then Syndrome. And it gets us all at some point. It’s that Tit-for-Tat behavior that we all loathe, and yet it’s just as much a part of us as we feel it is of anyone else. Some examples of its symptoms:

  • If she’s going to be rude to her kids, then I’m going to tell her off.
  • If he’s gonna yell at me, then I’m gonna yell back.
  • When you act nice to me, then I’ll act kind in return.
  • When you help me with the chores, then I’ll pay you.
  • But if you don’t help me, then I’ll be moody and passive-aggressive.
  • When he apologizes, then I’ll stop giving him the cold shoulder.
  • If she cheats on me, then I’ll cheat on her.

Truly, it’s all equal and it’s all pretty immature thinking. But the most mature among us fall victim to it.

We apply it to our parenting, our partners, and our friendships. Ourselves.

It’s not entirely our fault. It’s the culture we live in, one based on rewards and punishments. We feel that every action must be met with an equal (or greater) reaction. We give kids grades based on their performance, allowance based on their contributions, attention based on their behavior. We give our spouses snide comments or biting retorts. We give others parents pointed looks, or offer hurtful, harsh remarks.

And we say (and truly believe) that things won’t change unless we do these things.

We’re a culture of human reactors.

I’ve just realized I do it all the time. If Justin isn’t helping out, I am moody or unhelpful in return. If Zeb is cranky, I act cranky right back. It’s stupid, really because here’s the thing:

I need to be Who I Am, not because of anyone else, but because it’s who I want to be.

  • I want to be a kind, patient, compassionate mother – not to get a particular behavior from my son, but because I want to be that mother.
  • I want to be a generous, loving partner – not to get something from my husband, but because that’s the woman I want to be.
  • I want to listen, support, and honor others – not to be recognized, but because that’s the person I choose to be.

And what does it say about ourselves otherwise?

We expect kids and adults to “take responsibility” for their own actions and we don’t allow them to use others as a scapegoat for their own behavior. Then we yell, punish, criticize, humiliate, embarrass, lose our tempers or our patience and we say it’s because of something they did. We say it’s because we have to make a difference, because they need to change, because of some assumed outcome if we don’t.

Bullshit.

It’s not because of what they do; it’s because of something we do. We base our actions off our expectations, instead of our intent. We sacrificed who we want to be because they aren’t being who we think they should be. And when we didn’t get what we wanted (and how often does coercion really result in real cooperation anyway?) we responded with something akin to a temper tantrum.

How can we possibly expect our children (or anyone else) to do something we ourselves can’t master?

This is what unconditional love is about: That we continue to love a person in the same exact way regardless of whether they are being kind or mean, helpful or disruptive, quiet or loud, thoughtful or inconsiderate, joyful or short-tempered, patient or rude, generous or stingy.

Anything less is not unconditional love.

It’s fair-weather friendship, the parent who isn’t there when their child is hurting, the partner who leaves you feeling alone.

And if love is not unconditional, we’d better not call it love at all.

Over the past few weeks, with engine problems and stress pouring out of our ears, I’ve been told by nearly everyone that it all happens for a reason; it all works out for the greater good, that we are exactly where we need to be. It’s so easy to apply that principle to things like dead batteries or a long pause in your plans.

But why don’t we apply the same principle to our relationships?

If we truly believe we are exactly where we need to be in tough times, that there are no accidents, and that it all happens for a reason, how can we try to change someone at all?

Every mood, every attitude, every hurtful or kind word, every helpful or hindering action from our children, spouses, friends or loved ones is exactly where and what it needs to be.

It’s all good, even the messy, the hurtful, the disruptive. It’s all opportunity, experience, chances for understanding, an occasion for contrast, a space in which to learn. Not just for them, maybe not for them at all. Maybe it’s just there for us.

There is always a bigger picture to view. We get all caught up in the details of the moment, the stories we tell ourselves, without ever remembering one of the most important reasons for the moment, for life at all: Growth.

And only by meeting people, especially children, where they are and accepting them for who they are in that very moment while remaining who we want to be, do we give anyone the opportunity to grow. Only by being the person we want to be can we allow others to be who they are, as well. Only by accepting ourselves as imperfect first, can others accept their own imperfections.

Only through unconditional love and compassion can anything be okay.

You can thrive in unconditional love for yourself and others. You can learn to cut beneath the drama and craziness of the world, parent from a place of compassion, and live an unconventional, organic life. Click here to discover how.

State Line Shuffle

We seem to have acquired a habit on the road. Every day we’re scheduled to cross a state line we tend to do a deep clean, from top to bottom. We’ve termed it The State Line Shuffle. 🙂

Thankfully, this shuffling takes us about 30 minutes. In that time we (and by we I usually mean I) put away toys, books, computers or other things, sort clothes that need to be washed at our next location, and rehang or refold the rest. Then we (I) grab a rag and the spray bottle and wash down the fingerprints that have graced our walls, clean up the sinks, wipe down the shower and clean the toilet. Then I sweep and hand-mop the floor with a second rag. Justin then takes that second rag and the spray bottle to wash the bugs off the windows. We may or may not throw the fridge somewhere in there for good measure.

We don’t always do it at the state line, but Justin is threatening to drive us across the border every week anyway.

View From Here-Lousiana Storm Clouds
My view from Louisiana

We’re now in Louisiana, in a little town called Keatchie (pronounced key-chie), about an hour south of Shreveport. So small in fact, they don’t even have their own grocery store!

It’s beautiful and quiet and the serenity feels so good. But it’s lonely not feeling connected to a tribe. I’m making the most of what it is but I’m looking forward to driving into New Orleans and Baton Rouge and meeting new people and finding friends.

In the meantime we’re hooping, playing games, watching movies, playing online and relaxing. Zeb is hoping to do some fishing in the neighbor’s pond soon and Justin is excited to have found a boatload of free veg oil for the RV. Next weekend we’ll be celebrating with the locals at the annual crawfish festival.

But for now we’re just trying to stay connected to each other as Justin attempts to go back to work and we attempt to find a tribe.

So, tell me tribe, how’s your weekend going?

Old Friends in DFW

K and T

Kristin and I were best friends from elementary school through her graduation. Even after her family moved away in middle school, I would fly to Texas, then Florida, to visit her over the summer. I have so many fun memories of our times together: walking down Harmon Hill after school, prank calling the radio station (we really wanted to hear that song!), talking about boys and laughing over nothing funny.

Things weren’t always beautiful between us, though. I often felt a lot of (probably imagined) judgment from her family. They were very conservative and traditional and…well, we never have been. I even vaguely remember being referred to as a “bad influence” on my dear beloved friend. When I became a teenage mother that feeling became very acute.

The last time we saw each other was almost exactly 10 years ago, the June before Zeb’s first birthday. I had flown to Florida to attend her graduation, as we had promised to do at the age of 13. I was in a strange place in my life, struggling with depression and a real disconnection from Self. I was in a relationship I had yet to realize was doomed and on the precipice of major life changes I couldn’t have anticipated. It was a tumultuous time of change for me to say the least and I was desperate to feel that familiar sense of belonging within our friendship.

Instead I felt slightly outcast being put up with a stranger, and out of sync as I tried unsuccessfully to meld into her circle of friends and family. Our relationship was obviously strained. We had grown into two very different people from two very different walks of life and we struggled to bridge that gap. I flew away from that trip brokenhearted over losing a friend and floundering without that connection.

I know now that change is inevitable, that people grow – sometimes together and sometimes apart – and that all of this is okay. I also understand that my emotions and perceptions shaped my reality in ways that weren’t always true. And when we found each other again online (the internet is a beautiful thing) many of our questions were answered and our feelings understood.

But none of this stopped me from feeling a bit nervous for seeing this dear old friend of mine this weekend, meeting her husband and her son and bridging something long ago lost.

Joel Laughing

I listened to her talk and recalled with love her voice, her tone, and the strong, fearless nature of the soul I knew and still saw within her. I watched her as she interacted with her child and marveled how two little girls like us could become mothers ourselves. I saw her as she smiled at her sweet Southern man and rejoiced that her life was filled with love.

I’ve often missed the friendship she and I shared and have yet to find that in another. And as I looked upon our vastly different personalities, upbringings and beliefs, I can’t help but wonder if I too often seek out similarities. Were we friends because of or despite our differences or was it simply because of our classroom placement?

Kristin and Tara

I don’t know. Nor do I know if this weekend or any weekends to come will rebuild that bond we once shared.

What I do know is that I have been forever blessed to have shared such a deep and meaningful friendship with such a beautiful, resilient and authentic soul as she. And regardless of where we are or where we’re heading, I’m blessed to still call her my friend.

Friends at Ironwood

I realized I’ve been talking all about Ironwood Farm without actually introducing you to the awesome people here!

Meet the folks:

Falling Into The Music

This is Chris. He’s the man around here and passionate about sustainability and Real Foods. He’s kind and extremely generous, as well as patient as he answers our endless questions and teaches us whatever we request. He’s also a *phenomenal* guitar player. Seriously. He’s been fun to work with and learn from and even more fun to chat with or just hang around.

Erin and Yuli

This is Erin and Yuli, both WWOOFers on the farm.

Erin is visiting from Minnesota. She’s quiet, except on nights like tonight when we’re all cooking homemade pizza and making homemade ice cream and she starts joking around. Then her funny and goofy side shine through, complimenting her kind and helpful nature nicely.

Yuli is from Peru and just left the farm. 🙁 She only speaks a little English, although she understands quiet a bit. She’s so tender and loving with the animals, not to mention goodhearted and kind. She was also very patient as she taught me a little Spanish. She was so charming and beautiful that simply being around her has convinced me to learn Spanish, instead of Italian.

Chicken Love

Sheep Skull

This is Eliza and her big brother, Scotty. They are Chris’ unschooling kids and Zeb’s newest friends. Eliza is a few years younger than Zeb but they have a lot of common gaming interests, which has made them fast friends. Scotty is only a little younger than Zeb and loves anything with gears. It’s so cool watching the different interests diverge. Or to watch them all playing a game one moment and running out to play with the goats the next.

Shaky Legs

And because I just can’t contain myself, this is the mama cow, Rena, and her new calf, Stickers (named after the sticker bush her mama birthed her into). Zeb is still a bit amazed to have watched this spectacular event. So are we. 🙂

There are, of course, dozens of other animals on the farm: goats and kids, sheep and lambs, other cows and a calf, insanely annoying geese, ducks who tag along behind the geese like social outcasts trying to keep up, dozens of chickens and roosters, mean turkeys, rabbits, fish, pigs…

It’s a regular madhouse around here!

Our Life Learners

There is family. And then there are friends who feel like family. And while nothing can replace family, nothing can compare to such good friends. Such good friends, in fact, it takes a full four times to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye to the Life Learners just plain sucked. We’ve been with our local unschooling group for three years and although it’s members have come and gone, it’s still our place of refuge. Our entire week revolves around Wednesday when we pack our things and spend half our day at the park. What may look like play or relaxation is really so much more. It’s our community.

sleepover
Multi-age, dual-gender, parents invited Life Learner sleepover.

For Zeb, it’s a menagerie of friends from toddling babes to teenagers. It’s a safe place to be goofy, express a new interest or play with a 4 year old without fear of judgment. It’s his opportunity to try on new “hats” within the embrace of people who will still accept him after a bad day or bad choice. Over the years the Life Learners have given him the liberty to deschool on his own terms, to dye his hair blue, to shun the group and come back again. They’ve introduced him to multi-aged dynamics and authentic interactions with both genders, as well as new favorite games and interests. My heart warms when I see that he’s touched their lives as much as they’ve touched his.

hugs goodbye
Big hugs for smaller friends.

For me, the Life Learners have been my world. I remember my own trepidation in joining, still feeling unsure about my place in it all. We arrived at the park and were welcomed with open arms. I sat quietly taking it all in: the happy kids opening their tribe to Zeb, the tender interactions between child and adult, and possibly most importantly, the community the parents had made with each other. I had never seen anything like it and it was such an inspiration. Fast forward three years, and even as the group moderator, I still rely on them for my weekly dose of recharge. Being around parents all striving for what we strive for ourselves – a better way to do things, a respectful relationship built on trust, a fun and joyful life experience – it changes your life. I can’t imagine parenting without such a community anymore.

beautiful days
It’s always a beautiful day with friends.

Validation, love, laughter, good conversation…and especially acceptance. The feeling of complete and loving acceptance. It’s unlike anything else. Only by being accepted for Who You Are in this exact moment can you be inspired to want to grow or learn. The Life Learners gave us that. A safe place to Be as we Become.

the tribe (some of them)
Just some of the Life Learners we are blessed to call friends.

As we were leaving our last park day today I insisted I wasn’t going to cry. But just as I turned my back I changed my mind. It’s hard to let go of such a safe place and such beautiful people. Zeb and I drove home hand-in-hand with breaking hearts as we talked about our favorite Life Learner memories, each one of our beloved friends and how great it would be if they would just travel with us.