Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Laughing Wild

Yesterday was one of those days. You know the kind? At first little, inconspicuous things happen. Spill your coffee. Burn your toast. Stub your toe. Subsequently, as the day progresses bigger, more ominous things are happening all around you. Toilet overflowing, bounced checks, car breaking down in the rain...etc. By the end of the day you're screaming aloud to anyone who will listen -- "I'm. Having. A. Bad. Day."

Instead of taking the lengthy route, I'll simply bullet point the occurrences of the day:
  • Started my day at 3am. Could not fall back asleep, children waking at 6am.
  • One of my children was kind enough to colour in the grout lines in the bathroom with a blue marker.
  • Another child was kind enough to break Joseph's fingers off from my nativity set.
  • My youngest child had explosive, pants staining diarrhea all day.
  • The dog climbed up on the trash cans and pulled down a sack of trash, dragging and chewing it all over the yard.
  • I washed, dried, folded and put away six loads of laundry. (I still have about 3 more to do)
  • Internet and telephone service was off and on during the day as a result of the storms in the area.
  • My darling husband called me from work to remind me of a few things. (like to make a bank deposit, not to plan anything for Christmas Eve, etc)
  • Neighbor brings by a tray of cookies at noon with me still in pajamas.
  • Christmas guests have not firmed up their plans.
I think you get the idea.

Nearing the end of the day I really didn't have the energy but,I just had to laugh. Doing so, I remembered a favorite play I performed pieces from in High School called "Laughing Wild".

It's comprised of coinciding monologues performed by a man and a woman each discussing the challenges of living in our modern world and their personal forays into functional insanity. She's smart but slightly imbalanced and a little scary. He's smart but depressed, fearful and insecure.

"Laugh, laugh, laugh. Laughter is a tonic. So forget crying. Cry, and you cry alone. Laugh....and you cry alone later."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Television

In an effort to add value to our family relationship and inspired by our friends the "Starbizzles" a little over one year ago we endeavored to become a television free family. Today, that milestone has come to pass, and I'm proud to announce that as of midnight tonight, we will no longer have cable/satellite television services!

Around a year or so ago, Ralph and I began to notice a severe disconnect in our family relationship where viewing was concerned. Television became the biggest time waster, not to mention the dollars which were wasted to maintain this drain in our lives.

Taking a cue from our friends who had been a television free family for years, we began to turn off the TV; only turning it on for select programming. The evenings went smoother, when we weren't living our lives in 30 minute intervals. There was ample time to visit with one another, read, craft and pursue other intellectual interests.

Pleased in the direction our family was headed we called to disconnect our services, only to learn we had another year left in our commitment with Direct TV. Bringing us to today.

I've been asked how this works. We will still have televisions and DVD players in our home. We will buy and or rent DVD movies and television series to collectivize our viewing moments.

Our goal is to commit to this endeavor for 1 year, where we will collectively evaluate the situation together as a family and determine if we would like to continue or not.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Value of Friendship

I have been feeling a bit bitter and disillusioned about the concept of "friendship" as it's applied to me in my lifetime until recently.

A virtual friend and fellow blogger, Jaime (Just1mama) wrote about a friend from years gone by who is dying from cancer and has only months to live.

Jaime's thoughtful and provoking entry allowed me to take a mental inventory of my own feelings about friendship.

You see, I recently had a falling out with a friend.

My friend and I live close to one another, have kids the same age, share similar interests and taste in music,movies, and clothing. Our husbands even work and play softball together.

It would seem I had found the Thelma to my Louise, or the Rose to my Blanche. For nearly a year we enjoyed one another. Weekend bar-b-ques, adult's nights out, softball games, trips to the park, holiday and birthday celebrations.

Somewhere, somehow it turned cold. At one point, my friend shared with me she felt hurt by me, and the way I talked to her at times. I apologized, and honestly meant that I'd had no intention of making her feel that way.

About a month after that initial discussion my friend then told me that she felt I had a penchant for "one-upmanship" and if she did anything, I would invariably upstage her by doing it better.

At this point in the conversation, (which was being held via instant message) my temper got the better of me. I literally had no idea what she could have been talking about. We carried the conversation into a phone call where I pressed her for details of my one-upmanship.

My friend really had no examples to lend except to tell me that I "don't have to be better" than her. We argued for the better part of what felt like forever, but was probably only ten minutes. Suffice to say it didn't end well.

I was angry, she was angry. I spent all afternoon evaluating the conversation, the history of our friendship and my soul. Later in the day, after I'd calmed myself, "friend" contacted me via text.

Another 2 hours of arguing passed by. Another 2 hours of our lives wasted.

"Friend" told me that we should just "agree to disagree" and the mark of true friendship is "arguing about things, and getting over it." I knew in that moment, I wasn't meant to be friends with her any more.

It's not that I was not willing to accept and acknowledge her feelings, if I believed I had done anything wrong. I never intentionally trumped her accomplishments. I said I was sorry she'd felt that way, and that I certainly did not see our friendship & life achievements as a competition.

I chose to end the friendship.

Since that moment, the fall-out has been nothing short of hurtful and maddening.

Perhaps my method of ending the friendship was where I went wrong. In the past, I always salvaged my imperfect friendships after each argument until I'd been used up and left nurturing a broken spirit. This is the first time I have walked away leaving both dignities in tact.

I chose to end it, by simply not responding to contact or initiating any in return. Maybe I should have told "friend" we were not right for one another. This might have helped her understand my feelings. Maybe she feels slighted.

Since I know this blog entry will invariably make it's way to her, I'll say this.

Dear Friend,

Despite what you think, what you've told others (including your children) I don't hate you. I don't hate anybody. Thought you would have learned enough about me to know that.

It feels as though you've built this image in your mind of me as this cold-hearted, calculating, dismissive, passive aggressive, status quo bitch. I'm not, you know.

I told you that first day at the park that I was a transparent person & that with me, "what you see is what you get."

I am an enthusiastic person. I am proud of my husband, my kids and my accomplishments in life. That does not mean I would ever intentionally minimize a friend's accomplishments. It was never my intention to make you feel marginalized or upstaged. And I am genuinely sorry if you felt that way.

We are two different people. It's obvious to me now, more than ever that I was not the friend you needed in your life. It's not the end of the world, for either of us. I can't see how you'd want to settle with a friend in your life that doesn't meet your requirements or why you'd want to keep somebody around you felt "had to be better than you."

In the reverse, I couldn't be friends with somebody if I felt like I was walking on eggshells constantly. Always wondering, worrying if I had said or done anything that day that would have hurt that person.

I don't see why we can't be cordial with one another when we are out. You know, have a beer, chat about the kids, shoot the shit...whatever. We just won't be "best" friends, or "close" friends.

Life is too short to live this way & there are too many valuable things in both of our lives that deserve more attention.

What do you think? If this isn't workable for you, that's fine, you don't have to respond. But do me a favor, let's leave the kids and other people out of it.

As always, best regards to you and yours.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Off Roading in Week Seven

So here we are, in week seven of homeschool and at this point we are 3/4 of the way to being completely "off grid". Being "off grid" means to be utilizing another curriculum and set of standards other than the California State suggested (required) curriculum.

I think I knew somewhere around weeks 1-3 that we wouldn't last terribly long "on grid." It seemed as if both Gabriel and I were working to feed some faceless monster completed, perfected ditto after ditto after ditto. I felt pressured to plow through the material, and poor Gabriel felt pressure to understand the material as it was presented, which was dry.

Here's what we're working on now .....

Reading & Writing
This was the first subject from grid I threw overboard. The textbook was filled with boring stories Gabriel had no interest in, and was expected to answer questions about. I wanted his reading education to be based upon classic literature. So, we started reading "Little House in the Big Woods". I have based all his writing assignments taking cues from each chapter we've read. For example, he's written journal prompts about "My Favorite Day of the Week", "I Was Afraid but Didn't Need to Be", and "A Time I Got into Trouble."

We've also done a few cooking activities supporting our read as well.

Social Studies
This is a subject Gabriel is almost always interested in, but some days are hit or miss with his attention span. For the month of October, we've gone "off grid" to incorporate Gabriel's choice of Halloween costume (mummy) into a Social Studies lesson. We are exploring Ancient Egypt, Mummies & Mummification.

I have been excited to learn there are a few Ancient Egyptian exhibits floating around Southern California museums, one of which just happens to be held at our local Cal State University! This Thursday we will be visiting the "Art of Death in Ancient Egypt" exhibit. (many thanks to the Phoebe A Hearst museum of Anthropology)

This was our third subject to go off grid with. I was bored out of my mind reading the first two chapters of the book which dealt with "safety in science." I learned our school has several science "kits." The kits are complete with a detailed lesson plan, activity workbooks, and supplies to do an experiment related to the lesson plan.

So, we are currently working on our "Detective Kit" and once we are finished I would like to incorporate some lessons from the Core Knowledge series.

This just happens to be Gabriel's least favorite subject. (it was mom's least favorite too) Gabriel's poor understanding of math has placed him with a third grade level, and I'm OK with that. I would like for him to build a strong foundation in this subject before we move on. Unfortunately, there is no making math more interesting (that I know of) so we've stuck with California curriculum.

Our pediatrician told me about a book called "Math Doesn't Suck" and I might just have to check that out. For now, we'll stay "on grid" with math.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Years Ago, Today

Two years ago, on this very day, my third born child, Noe Michael came into this world saying, as Frank Sinatra would, "I did it my way!"

My loving husband, mother & father (& my little brother in Japan on the phone) helped me welcomed this 6 lb 10 oz, 20 inch long bundle at 4:58pm Sunday, September 30th, 2007. (6 days early)

Our day began with my bag of waters breaking at 6:30 am, and since I was certain this was what had happened, there was no need for me to insist Ralph smell the leakage as I had before, with Capi. (I wanted to make sure it wasn't urine) We began to assemble our "team". MIL and Grand MIL to watch Gabriel & little Capi at our house, my parents to be present at the birth.

I took the time to do some last minute house straightening, take a shower and apply light makeup. (yes, vanity thy name is Capi) We arrived at the hospital at 8'ish, still no contractions to speak of, yet a consistent stream of amniotic fluid.

We were all surprised, since this had not been typical of my previous births, which had been termed "rapid labor".

By 9 am I was admitted into L & D and examined to be at 3cm, with cervix soft, yet completely high. The delivering OB (Dr. Small-Hands) suggested since I'd not begun contracting, to have a pitocin drip and asked if I had any special wishes or concerns? I mentioned I had never had an epidural with my other two deliveries having had rapid labor - so he offered one to me before beginning the pitocin drip. At the time, I obliged thinking "HA! I'm going to try something different."

However, by the time the nurse arrived with the IV, I had second thoughts. I had effectively managed my pain before and I assumed the pitocin would progress labor quickly. I didn't see a need for the epidural and declined it. I wanted to be free to change position, wander about the room and pace as I needed to.

Pitocin was started at 10am at 2ml and triggered contractions every 3 or 4 minutes, which seemed to wane in intensity and frequency. Periodically, the nurse would come in and increase pitocin level. Yet, results were the same. I paced the room, did pelvic rocks, sat and rested, did noticeable changes.

When I reached the point of pitocin at 12ml, I asked the nurse, "what are other women normally doing at 12 ml of pitocin?" She laughed and said, "they're usually screaming and rolling around on the bed." I asked, "am I abnormal or something?" She replied, "I've never seen anything like you!" (nor has anyone since, I am sure)

Pitocin was increased to 18 ml, and contractions started to "change." I felt positive pressure in my cervical area and asked to be checked at 3:30. Disheartened to learn I was only at 4cm, with 100% effacement. Noe's head was right at the cervix, yet cervix opening was at the back of his head.

Frustrated, I decided to try standing and rocking again. I was somewhat annoyed that things were taking so long & I began to wonder how much longer this all would go on?

At 4pm, Noe made an unusual feeling move which sounded somewhat like a sonic boom on the monitor. I felt the all too familiar "immediate pain and pressure." "Game on," I thought. I began to need to breathe through the contractions and no longer wanted to stand and rock. Ralph's jokes became unfunny. I asked to be checked again at 4:30pm, and the nurse confirmed I was "complete".

I was asked NOT to push until the doctor had arrived. I, however was READY to push and stated ..."well, then he NEEDS to get here, now!" After what seemed like an eternity Dr. Small-Hands arrived and assumed "catcher's position". I was given the green light to push, so I gave it all I had annnnd...he told me to stop. I, was not of the opinion I should stop pushing and very politely asserted (through gritted teeth) "NO, he needs to come out NOW!"

Apparently my cervix still hadn't come "around" (I hate when everybody isn't on the same page) so he put on his miner's cap and reached in. I felt and almost seemed to hear a "pop", it was VERY painful and I confess I SCREAMED! (then I did the moon walk with my butt cheeks up the hospital bed)

With that minor adjustment I was allowed to resume, and in one breath out came Noe's head. One more push brought the shoulders. Dr. Small-Hands told me to reach down and take my baby. How absolutely thrilling it felt to be the one to bring him out of me and straight into loving arms. "you're here, you're here! how handsome you are!"

Noe Michael is perfectly unique and an agreed completion to our family. I hear people say this from time to time, but he's everything I never knew I always wanted.

Happy Birthday mijo!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A New Look

Spent a little time this morning updating the look of MLTD.

Hope you enjoy, cos I am sort of loving it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ear on Fire! Ear on Fire! Ear on Fire!

Still suffering from MAJOR congestion and being unable to hear from my left ear, I ran out yesterday to our local health food store to purchase a bundle of ear candles.

After supper dishes had been cleared and the kids had sufficient time to run and play outdoors, Ralph rounded them up for the evening by shouting into the yard .... "kids, time to come inside - we're going to light mom's ears on fire."

Man! What an efficient way to round up a herd of children & dogs! Three children, and four dogs came running into the house full of exuberance.

Without understanding, or reason, my darling daughter began to chant ...."Ear on Fire! Ear on Fire! Ear on Fire!" Noe chimed in, and eventually Gabriel joined in the fun and led his younger siblings on a pot banging, chanting parade through the kitchen.

This carried on for a few minutes until Capi became concerned and sweetly asked me, "mom, if we light your ear on fire are you going to die?" Ralph explained the process to her "no, mommy won't die. We are going to stick this rocket in her ear, and then light it on fire. When it's done, you can blow it out like a birthday candle!"

Immediate return to pot banging and chanting "Ear on Fire! Ear on Fire! Ear on Fire!"

I love my life!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Good to Be Back ..... On Track?

On Sunday I noticed I was coming down with a small bug, by Monday, it had morphed into a virus(y), kind of a thing with a full blown fever, body aches and chills by early afternoon.

The trooper that I am, screwed all my gumption up and managed to pass muster for the day. (including laundry, supper, school & fun with the kids) When Ralph came home at 4pm I was officially ready to crawl into a hole and die. The supportive, caring man that he is, I was relegated to our bedroom with tissues, tylenol, smoothies & vitamins.

After watching so many Law & Order episodes I now hear the "Ga-Gong" noise every time I enter a new room, I eventually recovered and have learned a few things from my exile into quarantine. I share them with you now ....

Moms Never Really Take a Day Off
Similar to the phrase, "old marines never die .... they just keep rowing"; Moms never really take a day off they just change the venue. Intermittent periods of exile provided me various queries from the children, phone calls, giving direction to the husband re: family finances, amidst other details I usually manage on a day to day basis. However, in this case I was able to do it all from the comfort of my Serta throne.

There is a Limit to How Much Daytime Television Drama One Can Tolerate
Much as I love Law and Order, CSI, House, and all the rest there is only so much room in your brain for the various unravelings of the continuing sub-plot continums found in the re-runs of daytime TV dramas. Mom was right, too much tv isn't good for you!

Not All Company is Good Company
Our two dogs & my parent's two dogs we are sitting made a unanimous move to keep me company in my time of need. Periodically, I would awaken to at least two guards (they must've had rotating shifts). It seemed, that no matter which two sentinals were beside me; one or possibly both had the most foul and unrelentless case of canine flatulence it has ever been my displeasure or misfortune to smell.

Just Because There's a Stand In, Doesn't Mean Your Work Will Be Done
When I returned to the land of the living, I happened upon a kitchen filled with yesterday's scrambled egg skillet, last night's fast food cartons and a dishwasher full of dirty dishes. The living room looked a little less worse for the wear, with only Monday's clean laundry waiting to be folded. Suffice to say I am playing catch-up in a big way today!

I Need to Clean my Ceiling Fan and Light Fixture
Really. I really, really do. It's disgusting. I don't know how I've missed that.

Is it weird that I have missed the chaos at the breakfast table? My altruistic daughter? The driving determination of my toddler to ignore me at every turn? The laundry? No, no I don't miss the laundry, just kidding.

At any rate, it is good to be back. As for on track? If being well & carefully mismanaging portions of my day counts .... then yea I am.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mean Girls vs. The Roller Derby

Saturday night, we managed to take the entire Z-Crew out to the local Roller Derby. Surprisingly we learned that our town has not one, but two leagues! In my opinion, it was, hands down THE best entertainment for a family of 5 for $25.

Gabriel wasn't so enthusiastic, but little Capi was absolutely enthralled. We had to make a trip to the restroom & encountered two Derby Girls waiting in line for the facilities. (which answers the age old question "DO Derby Girls put their pants on one leg at a time like everybody else?") My little girl was instantly star struck by the stripey socks, tule skirts, glitter tee-shirts & sparkly makeup. After her initial moment of being gobsmacked, she tugged on "Princess Paxa Punch's" skirt and stammered out .... "is it hard? What you do? Does it hurt?"

My little girl and Princess P.P had a brief yet memorable interchange, which only helped to solidify what I've told my daughter since before she was old enough to understand.

Girls. Can. Do. Anything.

Never underestimate. Never under mind. Never downgrade.

I actually had someone question my judgement in exposing my children (namely my daughter) to the Roller Derby. Citing it will (or might) teach her to bully other girls. I actually (surprisingly?) disagree with this theory.

The typical feminine competitive activities (dance, gymnastics, ballet, pageants, cheer etc) all seem to invoke some unhealthy (in my opinion) traits, I'd like my daughter to never acquire.

(if dance, gym, ballet et. al is an activity you've chosen for your child, please don't assume I think poorly of you. I am simply citing my experience, however limited with these activities and those involved in these activities. & also lack of parental guidance to correct these vicious behaviors.)

My reply to this argument,

Roller Derby is a sport. It's a healthier brand of competition than say, ballet, tap, cheer leading or pageant. Derby girls come in all shapes and sizes as do "real" women. Derby girls ...are strong, fiercely independent, capable and determined. I don't see that mentality coming from the "typical" girl sports & competitions.

I want my daughter to be strong, independent, capable and determined. I don't want her to feel invaluable because she doesn't fit into a certain size, shape, weight mold. I don't want her to spend her life trying to measure up to other girls and their ideals of perfection. In turn, I don't herself in the "Mean Girls" clique. That sort of behavior is just abhor able to me.

In this scenario I feel solid in my choice, and naysayers be damned.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ancient Housewife Wisdoms ....

Somewhere, in some pagoda far far away, written on an ancient tablet I just know there are wisdoms imparted to us by the Ancient Housewife Masters. I imagine they read something like this ....

Ancient Housewife master say, the surest way to have something spilled, is to mop the floor.

Ancient Housewife master say, do not pat yourself on the back for a job "well done" lest you wish for more to do.

Ancient Housewife master say, if you sit and have empty thoughts, soon there will be much to fill your mind with.

Ancient Housewife master say, never enjoy the silence of your children, for they are up to no good.

Ancient Housewife master say, do not plan too far in advance matters of your own enjoyment, your children will turn up sick.

Ancient Housewife master say, never speak your thoughts aloud to no one lest you wish to be questioned by your children.

Ancient Housewife master say, if you leave your coffee unsupervised a small child will come along and drink it, negating nap for the day.

Have a prosperous and balanced day my friends!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Evaluation With Resource Teach, "Reinventing the Wheel"?

Part of the requirement of doing your homeschooling through a charter school is that you must meet with your assigned resource teacher every 4 weeks. He or She will evaluate your work & make suggestions or recommendations as needed.

We had our first evaluation yesterday. Apart from her making me feel like an idiot, judging Gabriel's hair and clothing, repeatedly correcting (read reprimanding) my younger two children I did gain one very valuable piece of information from that meeting. According to her standards, I am working too hard. I have been told to "stop trying to reinvent the wheel."

This was a saying frequently used when I worked at Edward Jones, in reference to the younger (inexperienced) brokers in the business. There would be this poor sap beating his brains to go out of the way picking up pennies, when nickels and dimes were laying in front of him. We would all stand around at production meetings and say, "stop trying to reinvent the wheel, others have gone before you and have found a proven method for doing things."

In thinking about my past experience with the invention, reinvention and revamping of the wheel. I'm not so sure reinventing the wheel is a bad thing. It certainly is time consuming, labor intensive, costly and frustrating. I'm going to have to ponder this further as it applies to us.

I am relieved to know that she feels we are spending too much time daily on school. I am also relieved to know that it's OK to do certain subjects only twice weekly. This opens up more time during the day for running errands and taking care of mom business.

This whole experience is a learning curve. I know I will constantly be changing, revamping things.

Week Three of Homeschool

I had intended to do daily updates about our homeschool journey and probably will continue to do so as needed, but I have been extra special busy lately and completely missed any update during week 2.

Towards the end of our first week, my mother was rushed to hospital with a suspected stroke. After two days of testing, magnesium (to reduce blood pressure) and rest she was released with no lasting side effects. During the daytime I kept to business as usual, during the evening I left the children in Ralph's care and went to be with her at the hospital.

Mom's release was in time for the maiden voyage of our camp-tent-trailer we'd purchased recently. (given the moniker, SS Snickelfritz) At her request, we continued with our plans and camped for 2 nights / 3 days at San Simeon State Park, just downwind from Hearst Castle. We could smell the ocean mingling with campfire smoke & at night we could hear the waves as though our little Snickelfritz would be swept out to sea. I brought "school" along, in the mornings Gabe and I worked amidst the squirrels and curious blackbirds.

At some point during my first week of school I had a small homeschool identity crisis. Using the packaged curriculum given to me by our resource teacher from the charter school, I felt as though Gabriel and I were only working to feed a ditto hungry monster, never quite satisfied. After a brief conversation with the resource teacher, who told me simply -- "of course it's boring and repetitious, what we've given you is the 'loaf'. It's a tasteless, bland compilation of everything you'd need to nourish yourself and survive. What you do with it and how you use it is up to you."

Given that encouragement, without hesitation I decided to go "off grid" (charter school speak for using an alternative curriculum other than state recommended) for Gabe's reading and writing assignments. Ultimately, as I gain more confidence I will likely go off grid for science and social studies as well.

We are now studying "Little House in the Big Woods" as a comparison to life today. I feel strongly that classic literature has a very valuable place in society and I want to expose Gabriel to as much as possible of that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Interesting albeit Baffling Phenomenon

How is it, that just as I triumphantly strike an item from my "To-Do" list, three others appear in it's place?

Why can I never seem to be done? Is this something scientists are studying? Perhaps it's a job best suited for physicists? Licensed Psychics? Is there a "To-Do" whisperer like there is a "Dog Whisperer" or "Horse Whisperer"?

I have this very vivid mental image of my "To-Do" list resembling something of a Hydra, whilst I, am Hercules, unsuccessfully truncating heads left and right, only to find new growths in their places.

What was it Hercules did to defeat the Hydra? Flew to the underworld, on the wings of Pegasus, firing flamed arrows ... chopping off heads with a sickle until his nephew bailed him out by burning off the decapitated stumps.

Let me see if I can manage it... I'll fly (via my trusty Envoy) to the underworld (aka Wal-Mart, Costco, & Winco) chop off a few heads (read = spend a boatload of money), fire some flaming arrows (run a handful of laundry loads), and finally seek help from a close trusted friend or family member (via my martini shaker).

Hmm. Who says Greek Mythology isn't applicable today?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Day of (home) School!

Today was our first official day of "school". As with all firsts, there were a few hitches - not starting on time which resulted in working past my mental deadline, failure to take into consideration the length of time it would take Gabe to finish certain subjects (and acclimating himself) and of course the very minor interruptions from the little ones.

Keeping all this in mind I will be able to fine tune our system over the next few weeks or so, into a well oiled, highly functional operation! At which point I will be able to incorporate Capi's lessons as well. I intend on doing a combo pre-K / Kindergarten regimen for her.

Our lesson in math was a small triumph, as I was able to learn what method best helps Gabe in understanding and grasping the concept. In regards to math, we've had to go back to third grade and I hope that with this small victory it will open the window to get him back on track!

When Ralph came home tonight he asked Gabriel how he liked the first day of "school" and he replied, "I thought it was great! I liked being at home and riding my skateboard in between lessons."

I learned that I thrive on chaos, adrenaline, planning, scheduling and having several balls in the air at once. Today reminded me of when I was working with my mom and we'd been given the opportunity to sell an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to our clients. What a thrill!

Except today's thrill meant I was investing in my children, my greatest asset.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An Apple for the Teacher?

At 1pm today, Gabriel and I met with his resource teacher & recieved our curriculum "grid", textbooks, workbooks, practice books, test books, independent reading books, study books, standard books, teacher books, answer books and all the other kinds of "books" one needs for a complete and full 5th grade education.

After a 1 hour crash course on the "grid" I was sent home with a crate packed to the gills with "stuff".

Made a delightful supper, and sat down at 6pm to plan out my first quarter as a homeschooler. "I've taught preschool before, I've made lesson plans" I cavalierly thought. Ha! "This should take what? An hour? I'll be having a whiskey on ice by 7:30!"

It is now 9pm and I've just barely finished my first week.

What, in the name of all I hold sacred could I possibly have been thinking? This sinking, overwhelming feeling is strangely familiar to me. I am reminded of the first month after bringing Gabriel home from the hospital.

Sleep deprivation, panic, and paranoia taunted me as I vaguely recalled the romantic notions Ralph and I had of becoming parents and bringing our newborn home. This crying, hungry, wet, smelly, relentless tiny "thing" had begun to control our lives. One by one the fantasies of "and baby makes three" disappeared.

Reality set in, and eventually became better than anything we could have ever hoped for. There was only the brief period where we felt like we'd hugely underestimated what we'd gotten ourselves into.

My early imaginations of homeschooling resulted in Gabriel graduating two years early, going to medical school and working on research that will largely by the catalyst for the AIDS cure. In his spare time he'll run marathons for charities and patent vastly useful medical equipment that will net him millions of dollars. In his various humanitarian award acceptance speeches, Gabriel will mention me as his inspiration, without whom he'd be lost.

After I began to work on my lesson plans, which by the way is something akin to translating latin stereo installation instructions. My fantasies shifted to Gabriel enlisting in the military and being dishonorably discharged for illegal sales of black marketed items and returning home to live on public assistance. I supposed that then he'd join an elitist militia group bent on bringing down the dvd rental industry as a poison to the American public.

I am sure that the truth, reality will lie somewhere in between, and that's ok with me. Right now, I feel like I've opened that can of comedic worms and I had no idea how to shove them all back in there.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Are Our Goals for Homeschooling?

We want our children to end up as the kind of people we'd like to see them become, with the type of education we'd like to see them have.

We don't agree with putting our children in someone's box. Standardized testing, rigid teaching methods, choreographed exercises and a "this is the way it's always been done" mentality don't allow children the freedom to grow. We don't support a "one size fits all" education. Learning is an intensely individual and complex process that should be tailored to fit.

We believe in the concept of a classical education including but not limited to literature, history, mathematics, science, the arts etc. Yet, we also want our children to learn practical life skills with the opportunity for hands on exploration.

We see The Scientific Process as a profound method for learning.

We want our children to keep a joyful interest in life & learning. We want them to discover they can accomplish anything based on their own merits. We want them to see that they are capable and competent individuals instead of training them to seek the approval of others as a measure of success.

We want to let each of our children to live, grow, and decide for themselves who they are, what they think, how they feel, and what their interests are.

A Quick Homeschool Update

I have been asked by family and friends alike what our status is with homeschooling so I thought I'd throw a quick update here.

This being my first year as a homeschooler, I hope to blog about it. Don't really care if anyone actually reads it -- I want to get my thoughts out and this seems the most likely source.

For our first year out, I decided to go with a Charter School for Homeschoolers. The school manages and maintains all records for me, supplies our curriculum & text-books and has avenues for elective & enrichment courses. Should he choose, Gabriel would be eligible to participate in statewide educational competitions such as Science Fairs, History Fairs, Spelling Bees, 4-H Competitions etc etc.

The Good: I don't have to worry about curriculum and if I'm missing things. I don't have to use their curriculum if I don't wish to, I can supplement anything I want to, for any particular subject. Gabe can meet other kids during the enrichment course classes & field trips. I can work ahead of schedule if I want to. They supply a stipend monthly for Gabe to take elective classes outside school (guitar lessons, art classes, drama, sports).

The Bad: The enrollment process has been a little jumbled. Valley Oaks Charter School requires an orientation before enrollment, which I attended on Monday, August 17'th. I am now awaiting word that Gabriel has been registered and assigned a Resource Teacher. Once the Resource Teacher has been assigned we can then meet with him/her to discuss curriculum and recieve textbooks. At this moment, I have not had any phone calls and school starts Monday, August 24th. So, effectively we will be starting our first year homeschooling a little bit behind the pack!

Which brings me to my only other bad point about going with a Charter School. While I am allowed the freedom to choose our days of instruction, and can work ahead of schedule - I cannot design my own school schedule. I kind of have to start and end (or be finished) by the time Valley Oaks is ready to be done with the school year.

I have been reading "The Homeschooling Handbook" and the more I read, the more excited I become. The more excited I become, the more I start to think that this will not be a temporary practice, but a more permanent way of life for all my children.

Which brings me to my next post ..... "What are our Goals in Homeschooling?"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

They Always Melt My Heart

I have been listening to XM Radio's Station "The 40's on 4" for the last few days on and off. Whenever I listen, the music sound and styling always reminds Capi to ask me if she can watch the "Wizard of Oz". It being my favorite movie, I always oblige.

Today has been no exception, as I was busy making supper in the kitchen, Capi asked me if she could watch "Dorothy". Since I was in the middle of a salad, I told her if she could find it in the movie case, she could watch it. Typical Capi, lost interest in the project and ran off to play.

After a few moments had passed and I'd finished the salad, Noe was tugging at my leg.

Noe: Onnnnn ..... Onnnnnn ..... ON!

When I glanced down, he was holding the dvd of "Wizard of Oz" thrusting it up at me. After I put it on, he plopped down on the floor cushions and extended his chubby little hand up to me to hold mine.

Not only did he want to watch it, but he wanted me to watch it with him, holding his hand and snuggling on the floor.

I. Love. This. Kid.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Officious Intermeddlers and The Things They Say

As we've increased confidence in our choice to homeschool, we've graduated from announcements amongst close friends and family to mentions in casual conversation at various social functions.

I am literally astounded at the broad brush statements, generalizations, half truths, and blatant insults vague acquaintances feel confident in uttering as an acceptable means of conversation with my mention of homeschooling.

The most common dim witted utterance I've heard is .....

"I knew a (insert relation here) that was homeschooled, and that kid was weird."

Weird. What a profound, thought provoking articulation there, Professor KnowsSoMuch. Your vast experience with homeschooling reaches far and wide and you seem to have an infinate basis of knowledge supporting your stance. How thoughtful and perceptive you are!

Other stimulating variations include .....

"Make sure you 'socialize'. Socialization is KEY!"
"But just think of all the wonderful elementary, school, junior high & high school experiences he will be missing out on!"

It is painfully obvious to me how well your public school education has served you in the area of social settings. It seems you've developed a permanent (and likely fatal) case of "foot in mouth" disease.

In looking back at my middle and high school years I cannot recall very many memories I treasure. It was a painful, awkward, unsure, unsettling, unambiguous period, and am glad to have it behind me. It was because I was able to look past the immediate and see the big picture in life I believe, is what made me the person I am today.

If I can spare my son the time wasted, I will go to any length to do so. Make no mistake, I don't intend on sheltering him or secluding him, I just do not see socialization in a public school setting as the pinnacle of success for a happy, healthy child. I want my children to live, grow and decide for themselves who they are and what their beliefs are in a loving, non-judgmental, non-confrontational environment.

I have wondered aloud to my husband, if, by sharing our choice to homeschool we are opening ourselves up for these types of comments. Ralph, ever pragmatic says yes, we are but I say, no. I don't recall asking for opinions, counsel, admonishments or other ill gotten advisements.

I made a statement, a declaration, a vocalization.

It would be as though someone said to me, "I am going to buy a new car" this is a statement. Entirely different from, "I am going to buy a new car, what do you think?" or "Have you ever purchased a new car?"

We are not having a debate. We are not negotiating. I did not make an affirmation for you to offer a counterpoint in suggestion.

It is exactly this sort of attitude, ignorance and blatant disreguard for boundaries and social etiquette that makes me say "It may take a village to raise a child, but I've seen the village, and I don't want it anywhere near my children."

(Katie Lewis, if you read this... you are an educator that will always be the exception to that statement!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

On Your Marks, Get Set, GO!

When I do my Friday clean, I start from one corner of the house and work my way along in a general direction flow.

While working in a room, remember "top to bottom". This means if you plan on dusting any items, since dust flows downward start at the top .... Ceiling mouldings, Tops of cabinets, Shelves, Paintings/Pictures on the wall, Lampshades, Coffee Tables etc.

Cleaning House ... Getting Started

Gather up your tools!

  1. Empty Laundry Basket "The Go Back Basket"
  2. Empty Small to Medium Trash Can
  3. Vacuum (yep, I have a Dyson...that's how I roll!)
  4. Caddy filled with your supplies
  • Wad of paper towels
  • Window cleanser
  • Squeegee
  • Generic counter top cleanser
  • Carpet spot treatment
  • Micro-fiber dust rag
  • Dusting solution
  • Swiffer sweeper dust brush
  • Febreeze
  • Empty large cup
  • Sponge/scrub brush
  • Wet soapy rag
I wear my sneakers to clean & I do stretch out before I clean. It is a workout, and I am serious about it!

I drag all of my supplies from room to room as I work. Which eliminates the need to stop what I am doing to go and get my dust rag, vacuum or throw something away.

The Go Back Basket

The empty laundry basket is what I call the "Go Back Basket". I bring this along with me from room to room, and when I come along something that needs to be put away (i.e. sneakers in the living room, etc etc) it gets thrown in the basket. This eliminates the need to stop cleaning to go put said item away. As I continue to clean the house, when I stop in the room certain items belong in, I can deposit them there.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bleeble Blabble and Bangs

I've often thought that as a mother of a toddler, a "Bleeble Blabble to English" dictionary might be useful. Problem is, that with every child, the dictionary changes. Here are a few translations I have made note of for the third edition of "Bleeble Blabble to English Dictionary" ....

  • fiest = fast
  • ah-phlumb = awesome
  • uh-key = lucky
  • uth-pen = open
  • guck, guck, GUCK, I GUCK! = stuck, stuck, STUCK, I'M STUCK!
There are many others I can't recall at this moment, those are just a few that stand out to me. Especially the stuck, stuck, STUCK, I'm STUCK reference. My immersion into this foreign language has been a trial by fire, as of late since Noe isn't exactly the best communicator of my three children.

Yesterday, while fighting off fever (albeit happily) Noe was playing in the dollhouse my Dad had built for Capi this past Christmas. Happy, quiet playing turned into shrieks of "guck, guck, GUCK et. al" He'd somehow managed to get his arm through one of the windows, and then out another - but couldn't pull it back through as he'd gone in.

This momentary crisis was solved by lots of Jergen's "Skin Firming" lotion and a little soothing patience on my part.

In other news, Capi asked for a "big girl haircut" and since I'd been warned by family members that if I seriously touched her hair with a pair of scissors that I'd be beaten redder than a baboon's ass (true story) I opted for a trim and bangs.

I'm truly surprised at how much older she looks. Ralph nearly cried when he came home from work yesterday and saw her.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

This Day Starts In a Fog

I am starting today in somewhat of a fog.

On Monday I had a tension headache that morphed into a classic 5-Alarm migraine by 3p.m. By 4p.m. none of my home remedies appeared to be working so I waved the white flag of surrender & called into Kaiser. "No appointment needed for Urgent Care clinic" is what they told me, so I thought "great, I'll pack a diaper bag & have the kids ready to walk out the door in 15 minutes when Ralph gets home."

Unfortunately for all of us, Ralph ended up working an hour of overtime and did not call to notify me until he had already worked his hour. By the time he'd arrived home I was already vomiting with the kids underfoot. Into the car we all go, barrelling down 99 in record timing.

By 6:30p.m. I'd been injected with a phenegren/dilaudid cocktail strong enough to bring an elephant down.

Suffice to say that the last 24 hours have been somewhat of a blur. I slept on and off for most of the day yesterday, with Ralph watching the children.

I've been awake now for almost an hour and a half and am still a little hungover from all the drugs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Have To Write it Down, Before I Forget

Little Capi is prone to impromptu outbursts of song.

Most often my little songstress composes her arias on the fly, whilst she is performing them. Tonight's little ditty was about Ralph, and I and getting married.

There's a man, named Ralph
He's a big man
But not too big
He can hurt you if he gets mad at you
But not me, because he's my Dad.

He can run, really fast
not like a girl.
Really fast.

Then there is my mom.
When you get in love
then you get a ring
and you get married
because love is what happens


My favorite part is how Ralph can run, very fast, but not like a girl. This is good to know. That your 4 year old daughter thinks that you don't run at all like a girl.

This is something a man can be proud of.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Early Bird .....

My Grammie used to say "the early bird catches the worm." I don't know about that since I don't eat worms, but what can tell you about rising early is this....

Since my feet hit the floor this morning, at 3am. I have managed to ....

  • wash and fold 3 loads of laundry.
  • clean the kitchen (with sweeping and mopping the floor).
  • straighten the living room.
  • make my to-do lists for the day.
  • cut and pin a gift blanket.
  • have been listening to the radio in hopes of winning disneyland tickets even though they don't hand them out until 7:15am.
  • fed the dogs (who are still sleeping).
  • laid out tonight's supper.
  • opened a can of touch up paint and roamed the halls covering up my children's impromptu artwork.
  • played on facebook.
  • worked out more lesson plans.
Soon I will workout & shortly after the children will want their breakfast so there's that to do.

It is entirely possible that I will pass out sometime around 11am.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Rare and Indescribeable Treat

Today, this day, July 27, 2009 has been declared a holiday in my household. (perhaps even the pontif himself has written it down in the official vatican archives) Officially it is dubbed as "Mom's Day Off", unofficially I refer to it as "I Get to Do What-the-fuck Ever I want to Do" day.

My darling, delightful, delectable husband has, for many months been saying to me, "I want to give you day off. You NEED a day off." My reply of course being muttered under breath rife with profanities. It just didn't seem feasible. An entire day wherein I am not in charge, not scheduling, not cleaning, not running errands. Impossible.

Much to my surprise, Ralph chose to use one of the many banked furlough days he has in store that our Governor has been kind enough to offer all his employees. ::dripping sarcasm::

Written in black ink on our dry erase calendar, the words called out to me for weeks...."Mom's Day Off". Furtively sneaking glances at the words, I dared allow myself a seed of hope & pondered the possibilities of a day off. A day to not be in charge of the children. A day to do what I'd like without interruption.

A day. Not hours. Not minutes. A day. An entire day.

I began this holiday by sleeping in until I could no longer avoid the call of nature. Glancing at the clock as I strode past, 8:45 a.m. ?! Wonderful! It gets better.

Upon return from the bathroom, Ralph presented me with a steaming cup of coffee & the television remote. I sipped coffee, read the paper & watched a Las Vegas rerun. After imagining several vile and debase fantasies involving myself and Josh Duhamel I decided to workout.

It was a strange, but fulfulling experience to be able to workout without my children asking questions like, "mommy, why is your face so red? Why are you breathing so hard? Why do you have that funny look on your face?" As I finished, Ralph informed me he was taking the children to get a tune up on the Envoy. I get to shower without tiny hands pounding on the glass?

Now here I sit, in a silent house, lingering over the peach/mango/orange smoothie I made for my breakfast. I've donned my bathing suit and plan to go outside and soak up all of the sun Bakersfield has to offer.

I wonder, wonder, wonder how I will ever thank my husband for this day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Moment w/ A Momma to A Learning Disabled Child

Most who know me, know about my son Gabriel.

After his first grade year in school, he was assessed as being dyslexic. While it was a welcome discovery, to learn that we had a name to hang on the problems we'd been having with his educational development we had no idea what we were in for. Every new concept, every new subject meant frusterations, confusion, tears (his and ours).

I've been contemplating homeschooling and decided to utilize this summer as a sort of testing ground of MY abilities. At the end of the school year, I'd asked the teacher for any disguarded 5'th grade textbooks (thinking a year ahead) hoping to see how far I'd get with Gabriel.

In my concious mind I kept very realistic expectations, knowing that any attempt at bringing forth new concepts would be met with frusteration. To my surprise, today we focused on United States capitols and abbreviations; after an hours worth of dilligent work....he'd nearly mastered the first 10 states. While cooking dinner, I thought to *test* what he'd learned -- to my shock he'd answered each question nearly correct! By this time, Ralph had arrived home and decided to play in our "game". He too was shocked at Gabriel's relaxed manner & retrival of information.

If we thought we were shocked when he successfully named the first ten states, capitols and abbreviations ..... we both nearly fell over when he asked Ralph directly to work with him on math after supper! As I sit here right now, he is still sitting at the table .... alone. Working on multiplication and division, fractions and decimals, contentedly, happily.

My eyes are filling with tears as I even think about this, because I cannot recount the hair pulling moments we've had over the last year with math facts. Could it be the summertime atomosphere? The bare feet and swimming trunks?

I'm nearly certain this is a sign for me to pursue homeschooling. I've wondered for so long if it would be the right choice for Gabriel and I feel so strongly that it is.