We just got back from the Northeast Unschooling Conference today. It was our third NEUC and our first with 8 month old Kanoa. As always, we met inspiring people, new and old friends and left with wonderful thoughts and memories.
Here are some pics from the conference - starting with on the way there...
We arrived on Wednesday 8/26/09 in the late afternoon. We ate food we packed, went swimming and ordered pizza for a late dinner. I got to meet and talk with Faith and baby Zola, & Than. Their son Easy was swimming with a boy named Skyler who looked so free and happy. Skyler's mom Heather (whom I also met) is speaking at an upcoming conference of how joyful and free he is after taking him out of school. We were up late and honestly didn't sleep well that night.
Thursday Morning/Afternoon - More info than necessary...but it explains how it went with many people having different needs and preferences.....:
Thursday morning/early afternoon we went to walk around the lake Diane Jones (our local wonderful, kind librarian who used to live in Wakefield, MA and who is moving temporarily to LA so her dh can help produce a Disney show!! and she can stay home with their new baby to be!) suggested and went to two playgrounds too. We first needed food and Katie had to use a bathroom, so we stopped by a small plaza where Katie found a bathroom and we could get bagels in the nearby donut shop to take to the little park by the lake. Li had a bit of an upset time in the Donut shop, but we gave him lots of time to rebalance his emotions and thoughts and all turned out okay. This is what happened: I nursed Kanoa and then waited outside while the rest of the family went into the way too crowded little store. Jim said it was it was very cramped and people were yelling orders from behind him and bumping into him and HE wanted to get out of there!! These kinds of places are really too much for Jim (he dislikes crowds) and he didn't know what it was like until he went in or he wouldn't have gone. They were almost done ordering bagels when Katie came by and ordered her own donuts and paid for them herself. Jim thought this might interest Li in wanting to buy donuts too, but because we had discussed getting bagels and because we were trying to keep expenditures low to save money and because Jim couldn't take the crowds, pushing and yelling, he wanted to pay and leave asap (and he knew it likely would have taken a long time and lots of questions for Li to pick out a donut and he just wanted to get out of there!). But Li felt like the food situation was unfair. It truly was to him as he thought we all were only getting bagels. Why did Katie get to order donuts?! Li began to ask questions about the different kinds of foods in hopes of getting a sweetie too...and if you know Li, he is all about food!! Li got upset because he wasn't getting all the time he needed to make a decision. Jim ended up just paying and Li ended up crying. Li and I and Kanoa (who had fallen asleep) hung out in the van while Jim and the girls went to the park to eat. Jim felt upset at Katie bc he knew it would lead to Li's many questions in the crowded store that he couldn't stand to be in and he felt rushed in. Yet he didn't want to tell Katie not to use her own money to buy herself donuts and thinks it means alot to her to make her own purchases. So.... it was a long while in the car with me offering to talk, listen, hug, whatever. Mostly I read. Then Li spoke and I listened and we talked and I honestly agreed to go home from the conference bc Li was so upset. Then Li talked with Katie and she shared her donuts and Li had something to eat and drink and he wanted to play at the park and even wanted to stay for the conference. Yeah! We played "electric man" by shocking each other as we walked up the plastic slide. It was really fun! We then drove to the other side of the lake where Jim took Li to find a bathroom while Katie was now upset about being thirsty for water. We tried to find a water bottle for sale, but no luck. Makana also was upset as she wanted to go to the bigger park on this end of the lake to play. And I wanted to go to the hotel to register for the conference. I ended up finding a water bottle in the car that was warmish and might have been refilled once upon a time. Makana drank some, but Katie didn't want any. I asked Katie if we could give Makana just five minutes to play at the park and I said I'd take her while Li and Daddy were still at the bathroom. Katie agreed reluctantly and said she wanted to wait in the car for them. She sat in the car while I began walking with Makana to the park. Daddy and Li were coming down the street. Katie joined them and we all had a good time. Makana did not want to leave. I did tell her we were going to go and she went on her last couple of things. But she wouldn't willingly leave and I ended up carrying her to Jim. He talked to her and she went with him. We stopped for food and Katie's water on the way back too. Oh, and that is a story too. The first stop at Greg's only had Dasani water - that water has sulfates in it, so I did not get Katie water there. I only got a sub and Li got a lemonade there. The next stop was Subway where they have Poland Spring water for sure. Subway is one of Katie's favorite fast food places to eat out, so she was happy. She got her ham sandwich, apple slices, Dr. Pepper and water. When we went in to Subway to get the food, Jim stayed with Kanoa and just Katie, Li, Makana and I went in. Well, Katie ordered relatively easy, Kana and I took a while as Kana didn't want to answer the lady directly and instead whispered her answers in my ear and I spoke aloud to the lady for her. When Li took his turn he had lots of questions. The lady taking our order asked me what he wanted on his veggie sub and I said to ask him. I helped Li and the lady communicate better to figure out the choices and he told the lady what he wanted. He apologized for changing his mind on a thing or two. He apologized about three times for different things - not that he had to, but I guess he felt like he had alot of questions and again there seemed to be this rush to do the order...also the counter is so high I wondered if they could hear each other. But the lady remarkably stayed with us and in the end she slowed down herself, stopped rushing us and it was okay. The hard part at the end of the transaction was figuring out who gets what side dish and kind of drink. Whenever we order food out there are so many choices that mean so much to the kids to make for themselves - and no matter how long we take, we are paying customers..ALL of us no matter what age we are. Our family may take longer than most customers, but we are kind and polite and we expect others to treat us respectfully...like any polite customer (I think) should be treated. Phew! Well, that was us trying to have fun outside and get food b4 the conference!! It can be hard to please everyone at the same time - sometimes you just do the best you can. I think I usually try to help the person who has the most urgent need first. Looking back, I wish I had stopped along the way somewhere else to get Katie her water. I know the water in the car was warm and in a previously opened bottle so that was unacceptable and the water at the sub shop was unacceptable to me due to sulfates, but I should have bought it anyway or better yet asked for tap water!! Or I could have skipped getting my sub there and got a Subway sub just so she'd get her water faster. I know that if Kanoa were a happy traveler in the car I would easily have stopped anywhere right away to get her a water, but bc he might have gotten upset and the conf was starting, we opted to do an all in one stop.
Thursday afternoon began the talks and Thursday night was karoke night. The kids and I enjoyed getting henna designs on our hands and/or feet. Kana and I got matching hand flowers! Friday was another great day of talks and Funshops and I think this was the day that Katie went to the pool for a long time and Kana and Li painted dragons on my arms. It was a calming activity for Kana, so I was very happy at her getting really into it. Friday night was a fashion show (put on and organized by the kids to help show off some of Fire's sisters handmade skirts)...cool! Then the Talent Show began. Thursday night the kids practiced and stayed up till after midnight getting their dance act together to Boom Boom Pow. Kana was not interested in watching it as their act got on late, but Li and I got to see it and it was great. (Jim offerred to stay with Kana in the craft room so I could go - thanks!! but I am sorry you missed it...a fun dance show organized by Fire who always puts on a great show!) The Briggs family played music and sang great acts as always too! We especially loved the Blues Brothers act! All in all, a fun time. Saturday the weather turned rainy, but lots of Funshops inside. Katie especially enjoyed learning to play poker. She also went to the Shakespeare acting Funshop and I got to see one of the girls perform as Puck from A Midsummers Nights Dream. Late at night walking Kanoa around was fun too. One night I got to stay up late and talk to Julie Persons and her son who also live in Maine. One night our family played games in the game room. One night I got to talk to Kathryn, Beth, Erika and whomever else was in the lobby area. It is always nice to meet great people and families!
THE ROOM: - It was alright. Doable. Clean enough. Big enough. Just kind of loud. The fan made alot of noise as did the tv. Add in Kana who was hyped up on top of being normally quite loud and bouncy. So..our room was loud much of the time. In general, the conference was overstimulating for Jim especially as noise really gets to him and he can't concentrate nor hear when there is any kind of background noise. I am so grateful that he went in spite of knowing how conferences in hotels are for him. Thank you sweetie!!!
Kanoa made some new friends along with the rest of us - a lovely person named Wendy Green (who so enjoyed him) and a very smiley and lovely smaller person named Tess who smiled at him so much he couldn't stop looking at her. Kanoa was happiest at the beginning of the conference & shared lots of smiles! Toward the middle and end I think he didn't want to be in the conference rooms so much. Jim was busy with Kana who needed lots of one on one attention much of the time and so Kanoa & I took part as we could and walked around for the rest.
Now, although I enjoyed the conference very much overall, it was not without its challenges for me. Makana is in this phase of being very excited and frequently gets overtired, hungry, bored, jealous (or whatever the cause is at that particular moment) and hits or bites one of us. Sometimes it is Jim or I or sometimes Li or Katie. She also can play too wild with Kanoa and not be able to stop when we explain it is too rough and too loud. Or maybe she might not want to stop or calm down sometimes too, esp if she is feeling jealous that whoever's attention she had is now being diverted to someone else. Like when she had all of Daddy's attention and then baby and I came into the room and she got kind of wild and loud by baby when Jim and I began talking. I know this is a phase, but I don't like it when that happens. I took baby out for a long walk as it wasn't worth staying in the room and having us all get frustrated. Luckily, along our walks and especially at night, I got to talk to many wonderful people, young and old alike!
Things I loved that people said at the conference:
Rue - Anybody can have the kind of relationship I have with my children.
Kelly/Cameron - (or maybe Cameron said his mom says this)I'm not a big fan of burning bridges.
Things that I'd like to see at next year's conference:
- Deb Rossing to speak (asked her in the elevator if she ever thought about speaking and she said no one has asked her to)...I will ask if she can be asked as I think what she writes online is fantastic and she has alot of wisdom to share.
- an outdoor session (if it could be safe for kids to be there...or even just for SSUDS mabye...let some group get some fresh air)
- more parental supervision of little kids (at least make that announcement at the beginning or when people register)
- I'd like to do a dance Funshop for 3-5 yr olds
- Kt wants to have a masquerade dance
- I'd like to hear more from partners on how they parent differently or are at different places in the parenting journey and how their family dynamics work and how parents strengthen their family relationships by honoring Who They All Are in each moment.
- I'd like to hear more strategies (tools for our parenting toolboxes) on peaceful parenting.
Leaving the hotel: Jim was packing up the room while I attended part of the last sessions (thank you again so much for letting me try to attend while you packed Wolfie!). I was able to hear most of what Dayna spoke about, but then had a poopie diaper and missed the rest. However, a really important thing happenned. Jim came downstairs with Kana and Li. Katie was off with her friends. Jim said he was almost finished packing and wanted to know if I wanted to come up and do a double check in the room to make sure he got everything. I said I trusted him to do it just fine. He was shocked and said "Wow, you haven't said that in twenty years. In the car when we were about to back out, he said, You know, that meant so much to me that you trusted me. Thank you!" Wow! I didn't know it meant so much! I had no idea that was a big deal! Great!!
Kana leaving the hotel: Jim, Kana and Li were all by the computer area while Katie and I were saying goodbye's. Kana was playing Dora games. She didn't want to leave when we were all ready to go. I had explained that we were all ready and we all used the bathroom and that baby seemed tired and that he was just nursed and likely will sleep and that she could play her game at home. She kept saying she wanted to finish her game. I was feeling frustrated. I walked out thinking I might let Jim get Kana. Kana ended up catching up to me and saying that she "thought about it and she could play her game at home." Great!
Coming over the bridge from NH into Maine: Just as we always do when crossing over that bridge, we held hands. We all do it. I hold Wolf's hand and Katie's and she reaches back for the others hands. So sweet. It felt so good to be in the car with a happy Wolf and a still happy baby and going back to the state where the motto is "The Way Life Should Be."