Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Year, Another Opportunity for Self Improvement

Last year I really didn't make resolutions. My Gramps had just passed away, and that seemed to be a big enough change for the time being. I was never that good at resolutions anyway. I love the idea of a new start. I love the idea of self improvement. The problem has always been narrowing in on one or two important goals. The goals end up being too broad, like "I will eat healthier." Still, if I narrow it down to one thing, like exercise for 20 minutes every day, I feel like there are so many more little changes I should be making. So for 2011 I am doing things s bit differently. I came up with 4 big themes that need attending to. Then I made manageable goals within those themes. As it turns out I have 12 goals; which means I can focus on one per month. I am very hopeful that this will allow me to make many small changes that can make my life better. Here they are:

1. Nurture my family relationships
* More field trips
* Delegate more
* More one on one time with each of my family members

2. Nurture my soul
* Slow down
* Practice thankfulness
* Meditation

3.Nurture my relationship with the world
* Write more
* Volunteer regularly
* Reduce clutter

4. Nurture my body
* Serve at least one vegetarian meal per week
* Start a maintainable exercise program
* Spend at least 10 minutes outside each day

I have a general outline of the order I will approach these goals, but I will be flexible. Each month I will dedicated a post to explain the goal's importance to me as well as the specific way I will accomplish it.

So that's the plan, and you know how much I like plans :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm Not Cut Out to be a Gym Mom

So much of my life lately revolves around the kids activities, and since Bear is so involved in gymnastics that means I am involved in gymnastics. Her first competition is coming up fast, and I have to say that although she is fairly calm, I think my nerves are getting the best of me. It is SO easy to get caught up in the drama that seems to surround any organized kids' activity, and although I consider myself a rational person I find myself struggling with this.

One such drama unfolded in Bear's class on Tuesday. There is one other girl who is Bear's age on the level 4 team. She struggles on nearly every event partially because she seems to have more fear than most of the other girls. I think she took a nasty fall off the high beam over the summer and that is when much of the trouble began. Well, on Tuesday they did their normal warm-ups and then went to practice round off flip flops on the floor (a skill necessary for their floor routine). This girl, we'll call her Allie, did the round off, but then would stop and refuse to attempt the flip flop. This skill has been inconsistent for her, and for some reason she wasn't feeling it. For some reason the coaches decided that it was necessary for her to do it on the floor that day. Of course, they knew that she was totally capable of doing it. In fact on the slightly thicker mat, she was doing some of the best flip flops I have ever seen her do, but she still wouldn't even attempt it on the floor. So as her teammates moved from floor to bars, Allie stayed on floor to practice her round off flip flop. She stayed there for 1 1/2 hours. Finally when her team was ready to move on to beam, the coaches had her get her coat and they called her Dad. She had to sit on the floor next to the beams while her teammates practiced and wait for her Dad. My heart was breaking for her. Ever once in a while tears would start streaming down her face. Remember this girl is not quite 7 years old. Finally her Dad got there, and one of the coaches went to explain what was going on. She had Allie show him her flip flop on the thick mat, and then her talked to her for a long time. You could tel that he was being firm with her, but he didn't yell or even look mean. When he was done talking she walked over to the floor and was able to do a very passable round off flip flop. Over the next 20 minutes she did dozens more on the floor. I watched in amazement asking over and over in my head, "Do the ends justify the means?" Obviously Allie just had a mental block with regards to the flip flop. I would never have believed that the tactic they used would result n her doing the flip flop that night. I really don't know that I could or would ever do what Allie's Dad did. Is it my job to back up the coaches even when they do something that makes my heart cry out for my kid? If so I am not sure I can cut it in this sport...

We had our "new to competition" orientation last night. Most of the info I already knew because I am a crazy person and have scoured the internet for information about gymnastics competition. Hair has to be secured in a neat bun, no make-up, no jewelry, sparkly (but not too sparkly) hair... It all seems so crazy, but after my time as a dance Mom I at least have a bit of a handle on that part of it. I didn't know about the "velvet rope". Apparently after you register your child at the meet you send her to her coaches on the competition floor. Once she crosses the velvet rope you are not allowed to go to her NO MATTER WHAT. So if she is scared and crying, the coaches will handle it. If she suddenly gets sick, the coaches will handle it. If she falls on an event and breaks something (unlikely at level 4), the coaches will handle it. This is a bit of a difficulty for me. I never trust anyone to "handle" things when it comes to my kids in any situation. Just trusting the coaches to handle whatever comes up is something I may not be cut out for.

Bear keeps alternating between nervousness about her first meet and unbridled excitement. One of her bar skills is a bit inconsistent, and so she is worried that she will miss it in competition. Yesterday I decided that I shouldn't assume she knows our feelings about her competitions. I told her that no matter how she scores in competition we all know that is just one day. Obviously getting a good score is fun, but the thing that makes us proud of her is her hard work and dedication every day at practice. Then I shared some info I found on he internet about the skill she was having trouble with. By the end of the talk she was beaming. Then I took her to practice where she had a great time (and was more consistent with the skill that was troubling her). Also, one of her coaches took the time to talk to me because I had mentioned Bear's nervousness. His words echoed my own feelings about competitions being just one day, and by the end of the conversation I was feeling much better.

So I guess when the time comes I will march my little girl to the velvet rope and kiss her goodbye. Then I will fight the tears as I try to navigate the stands to my place, and when she falls off the beam I will suppress my need to run to her. I may be in the stands sneaking sips of alcohol I snuck in my purse to calm my nerves, but I will do this...not because I want to or because it is easy. As I mentioned I may not be cut out to be a gym Mom, but this is what my Bear wants and I am cut out to be her Mom.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I have so many things happening over he next 2 months. There are

1 day until Q-bert's birthday
4 days until Bear's gymnastics sleepover
5 days until Bear's birthday
6 days until their party
10 days until we go on a weekend trip
11 days until my brother and his family come into town (for a week)
14 days until my in-laws come into town
15 days until Thanksgiving
22 days until the Book Club I host
23 days until Bear's first gymnastics meet
28 days until Q-bert's play performance
32 days until our family Christmas party
33 days until Bear's gymnastics party
38 days until my Dad's birthday
40 days until our homeschool Christmas party
44 days until Christmas

And even when Christmas has come and gone it does not get better. In January Bear has 2 gymnastics meets, and we are going on a week long vacation. And it goes on and on. In fact, between now and the middle of March we have 2 weekends free.

Does this sound excessive? I doubt it is really much different than most people's calendars. I wonder how society got to this place where every spare second is filled with some other obligation...

The thing is I LOVE all this action. Sitting around at home doesn't do a lot for me, but my kids like to be home. Well, at least Bear does. When we have too many days out and about she needs a break. This is another great perk of homeschooling. Can you imagine if the kids went to school ALL DAY EVERY DAY. At least now I can tailor our days to include down time at home. Time when Bear can play legos, and Q-bert can make up dances.

I watch people dropping their kids off at the activities my kids look forward to all day, and I cannot believe the looks on some of their faces. Many of them do not look excited to be there. Some look positively exhausted. It's probably because they know that after this activity they have hours of homework to finish at home. When can they explore their own interests?

So today instead of dwelling on how many things I have on my plate, I will just be thankful that getting my kids to the bus stop on time is not one of them.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I just skimmed an article on perfectionism. It talked about how perfectionists can get paralyzed by the realization that they can't do something perfect. I originally read the article with Q-bert in mind, but as I read on it became painfully obvious that it was describing me (as a child and even now sometimes).

For example, I have been stressing over how to celebrate my husbands 40th birthday. It seems like the kind of thing that needed the perfect celebration, but he kept saying he didn't really want a big party. To make things more difficult his birthday is in our busiest time of year (more about that later). So trying to schedule things with friends was nearly impossible. I had lots of ideas, but none of them were panning out. So I kind of gave up... Not really, but I did decide to just forget about it for a while. Of course, that is difficult for me, so instead I tried to distract myself by figuring out what else was on my very busy schedule.

Fall used to be my favorite season. The weather is not too hot, not too cold. Everywhere you look there are beautiful things to look at. The farm stands are full of delicious apples and other fall fruits and veggies. Fall food is so comforting. It is the perfect time for a bonfire which in my estimation is the most perfect form of socializing. The problem is that, other than myself, everyone in my household has a birthday in the fall. Kids want Halloween costumes. I have to start Christmas shopping on Oct. Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday to host. Add to that all the "grown-up" chores associated with fall, and now you have a season that I almost dread.

So as I made my list of chores (other than my dear husband's birthday) that needed doing I got more and more unhappy. It became more and more obvious that there was no way to complete all these things perfectly. So I did what any self respecting person would do... I threw away the list, and did something else. I needed to feel productive so I painted my foyer and hallway. Never mind that those things weren't even on the list. Never mind that those things could have waited, and those things created other things that maybe couldn't wait and therefore had to be added to the list.

Truth is, the rooms look great, and getting them done jump started me. Completing one thing to my specifications allowed me to have the confidence to try the other things on my list. I didn't start with the birthday party because I wasn't ready for that yet. I made a list of the appointments that I needed to make. I called and made those. As I was listening to the elevator music on one of those calls the perfect birthday plan came to me. So I was able to make it happen.

So although the article I read was bagging on perfectionism as some sort of disability I think in most cases (if approached properly) it is a great thing. Other people would have settled for half of their birthday plan working out, and that would have been ok, but this is going to be PERFECT :-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I know that spending $2.50 for a green iced tea is nuts. Even worse is spending $5 for a latte that contains as many calories as I should eat for the day. Still I am a Starbucks fan. My favorite thing to do is pack up the kids and head off to "do school" at Starbucks.

That is where we are right now. It feels so nice to sit here sipping a latte while the kids do their work. I justify it as a great educational experience. When they do their work at home it is quiet. There are no real distractions. Mostly that is good. It allows them to focus fully, but I do worry that they will not know how to stay on track without total calm. So a day at Starbucks is a great opportunity to learn to drown out extraneous stimuli.

The problem is that I am not always able to stay focused. I swear that if I was a kid today they would medicate me in a heartbeat. I have trouble remembering why I entered a room sometimes. So sitting at Starbucks and trying to teach is a bit of a challenge for me. Luckily, at least for today, the girls work is all review. So for now I am a woman at leisure to people watch.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alone Time

One thing homeschooling moms lack is alone time. While all my public school friends have roughly 1200 hours to themselves each year I feel lucky to get 2 minutes alone to use the bathroom. It never fails that as soon as I disappear to change loads of laundry or god forbid take a shower, someone comes looking for me. I can only guess that they are afraid that I have hidden a giant stash of oreos behind the washing machine, and that I keep a ziplock baggies full of pudding in the shower drain. Of course they are mistaken. Those things are actually hidden under my bed...

Obviously this leads to me sometimes crave solitude like a fat man craves a big mac. I dream of visiting a coffee shop and sitting there as a lady of leisure with a book for hours. I imagine myself walking around a shopping mall without anyone begging for to go to the Disney store. I'd settle for a moment on the toilet without anyone knocking on the door.

There are those rare moments when I catch a break, and the kids are gone to a sleepover or playdate. On those days you would expect me to be in heaven, and it is nice to get up in the morning and not be climbed on immediately. Still the way I feel on those days makes me wonder if I have forgotten how to be alone. For example, this morning my kids are at Gramma's house. When I awoke at 6:00 I got out of bed because that is usually the only alone time I get, but then I realized that I would be alone for a few hours today. I considered going back to bed, but it was too late. I was wide awake by then. I spent the next hour trying to decide what to do with my time. It was like the freedom paralyzed me. Finally I settled on blogging, but now that I am nearly done I am faced with the same dilemma. Usually all of my time is devoted to what I have to do; so that I am not able to decide what I want to do when the opportunity to choose presents itself. Maybe I'll go back to bed...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Every Burden is a Blessing

That is what Q-bert's fortune cookie said last night, and I thought it was a perfect end to yesterday.

My Dad is a car fanatic. Seriously! I mean he comes from a family all with their own addictions, and cars are his. He owns a car restoration shop. He spends several nights a week going to cruise nights around town, and he spends nearly every weekend at a car show. So you can imagine his summers are just a giant string of car related experiences. For him they all lead up to HIS car show. He belongs to a group of other car addicts, and every summer around this time of year they host their own car show. When it started I was fairly involved with helping in many different ways (making flyers, assembling goodie bags, helping the photographer, etc.) All that changed when I had kids. They took up a lot of my time, and so I couldn't really devote any time to the car show. Until this year...

I really wanted to say NO when my Dad asked, but he never says no when I ask him for something, and so I nodded. What he was asking was kind of huge. The man who runs the photography booth at the car show was not able to do it this year, and so my Dad wanted me to do it. He gave me plenty of notice, and so I had plenty of time to dread it. And dread it I did. Every once in a while it would creep into my mind, and my stomach would tie itself into knots. It had been so long since I had even helped out at the photo booth. My only memories were of dealing with exceptionally picky car buffs. Also, the man who normally runs the booth is extremely disorganized, and I remember it being very hard to keep everything straight. So as the summer pressed on I kept praying for rain!

As it turns out my fears were totally unfounded. Thanks to my husband the tech guru organizing the picture files was a piece of cake. I also had a moment of brilliance in organizing the preview sheets. Plus, my uncle stepped up and ran the customer side of things so perfectly that I had no worries at all. Also, the picture quality was great which led to many satisfied customers. In fact, the only problem at all was that the humidity kept the pictures from drying as quickly as we would have liked. We made more money than I was expecting too; and my dear husband, who worked every bit as hard as I did, gave me all the profits to use on our house. So all my dread was for nothing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mark Twain

I read recently that Mark Twain only committed himself to writing 200 words a day. I think that is a goal even I could reach, but before I committed to it as well I wanted to check out whether it was factual or not. Unfortunately I never did find that goal stated anywhere else, but I did stumble across a biography of Twain that got me thinking.

I remember learning about Twain in college. My studies said he was a brash, racist alcoholic, but after reading this biography I realized that the motivations behind his actions make it harder to fully label him. Yes, he joined the militia to fight for the south during the civil was, but he did desert after 3 weeks and run away to neutral territory. Yes, he consorted with bohemians while trying prospecting for silver, but he was still in his 20s, and who among us would like to be judged by what we did at that age? There are many examples that can all be refuted with reasoning.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. What if all our reputations were distilled down to three little words with out any explanations allowed? What would my label be? What would I label others?

And there are my 200 words... That wasn't too hard!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Now back to our regularly scheduled broadcast

So, at the end of last "school year" I had made up my mind to be done dealing with people who just want to bitch. I will say it has worked pretty well, and that chapter of my life seems to be over. I will say that it was trial by fire, and I feel that I learned a lot and am much stronger now...

As for my great relaxing summer... well, that didn't exactly happen. Bear got asked again to be on team at her gym, and this time she was begging me to let her. I was so excited when Q-bert decided to quit competitive dance that I almost cried at the prospect of another competitive sport. Still, I couldn't crush her little dreams, and so we spent the summer at the gym. She was on the pre-team so she only had to practice 10 hours per week spread over 3 days. Yeah, I said only. As you move up through the levels the girls practice more and more; eventually, they practice for over 20 hours a week!

She loves it, and although I thought it was an awfully big time commitment, Bear was begging for more. She spent her free time doing flips on our trampoline and practicing her vault on my couch. Towards the end of the summer they decided to move her up. This was a great honor, but since we were expecting her to be on pre-team for a whole year I was thrown for a loop. Now she will be competing this year! Once again she is pleased as punch, and I am being supportive. I am really so proud of her!!!

As I mentioned earlier, Q-bert decided competitive dance is not for her (at least not right now). She is the least competitive person I know, and the past two years have nearly killed her love of dance. Luckily I think she can get that love back. We have switched to a new studio because she needed a fresh start, and I think it will be just what she needs. She has been working on choreographing a lyrical dance, and I must say it is beautiful. When it is finished we plan to help her find opportunities to perform it. She is also taking theater again this year which she is so excited about. She took it once, but her dance schedule prohibited her from ever taking it again until now. She will have several of her best friends in the class with her too. Her last activity will be at the library. They are hosting something called "Tween Scene". It is programming specifically designed for her age group. They will alternate between gaming (which she isn't sure she wants to do), crafts, writing workshops, and book club. I am not sure if she is going to like it because her favorite librarian left, but she is ready to try it.

That leaves our homeschool group...
I am not sure you would call what we have a "group". It is more of a collection of somewhat like-minded individuals who get together sometimes. Is that vague enough? My plan is to schedule some type of field trip every week, and anyone who wants to come is welcome. We are also bringing in an art teacher, a dance teacher, and possibly a Spanish teacher once a month. I am going to run a book club for the older kids too. The cool thing is that everything is ala carte. The group will not be an all or nothing endeavor. You want to come on a field trip; great, join us. Art isn't your thing; no problem, we'll see you at book club. I think that one of the problems last was that we tried to make sure every opportunity was open and enticing to every person. This year, if you want to do something, plan it and invite the rest of us. Those who want to do it will; those who don't want to won't. We don't have to do everything as a giant mass of people. At least that is my theory. We will see how it goes.

So that is where we are at. As I say every fall, my plan is to blog more regularly. I even made it look pretty to entice myself. Once again, we will see how it goes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Clean Slate

There is nothing like spending a bit of time in rural Iowa to clear your head. After a long car ride or two and some quality time away from home I have realized what my dear Hubbie has been drilling into my head for the past few months. People and events that lead to me feeing bad about things I cannot change need to be cut loose. So with that in mind I am turning over a new leaf. I have never been a person who worried too much about what others think of me. It might the because in my life I have been both the outcast and the cool kid, and I know that in both cases I was still just me. So I have no idea why I let the events of the past few months get under my skin the way they have. I guess someone calling me mean is my kryptonite. Still within my heart I know I have not been mean. I feel comfortable with my actions. If others don't then that is no longer my problem. That is not to say I won't accept criticism. Obviously if someone talks to me about something specific that I did or said that offended them or upset them I will try it work it out. However, there is no defense against the general "you are mean" or "you ignored me" attack. Therefore, I refuse to even acknowledge those attacks. From here on out I am only ready to work with people who want resolution.

So now that I have that off my chest I need to move forward with my life. As I have mentioned our homeschooling is evolving. That means our needs are changing. My goal is to figure out what those needs are and what I need to do to fill those needs. That may include recruiting more members for our homeschool group. It may include joining a different group, or it may even include starting over. The only thing I am certain about is that if I want something different than I have now I am going to have to work for it. Actually I feel like just writing that down lifts the fog I have been under, and dare I say it... I feel excited for the adventure!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I am sad...

I have tried to sleep... it isn't working
I have tried yoga... I can't even breathe right let alone do a pose
I have tried thinking... it just makes my head hurt
I guess the last resort is to type...

I need to remember that the world's happiness is not mine to give or take away. Only my own happiness is mine. I have many reasons to be happy...

My amazing marriage. In less than a month we will be celebrating our 15 year anniversary. He knows exactly how to help me through any problem. He understands when I need to be left alone; he knows when I need a hug; he knows when I need a devil's advocate. He just knows...

My beautiful daughters. Even on days when I feel at my wits end they will do something or say something that makes me smile. Q-bert is so loving and empathetic. Even her little neurosis make me love her more. Bear, my little ball of energy, the way she looks at world from an entirely different angle makes me adore her.

My parents. I am lucky enough to really know my parents as an adult. I love the relationship they have with my kids. They show me respect and give me praise when I need it even now. My Mom still gives me great advice on a regular basis. The cool thing is that she takes advice from me too. I could count on my Dad for anything. I have no doubt he would give up his life to save me or my kids in a heartbeat.

My in-laws. As I listen to others talk about their in-laws I realize how lucky I am. My in-laws come to my house and are appreciative, not demanding. Even though many of our life choices confuse them or even upset them, they don't jab at me about them. They love my kids.

Extended family. Although I do not see my extended family weekly or even monthly, I do see them several times per year. It is always comfortable. I love it that my kids know their third cousins and great uncles and great aunts.

A couple of great friends. I am not the person to let large numbers of people into my inner circle. Maybe it's because I have such great family ties, but I do have a small number of people to share with. Some I have known for a long time; some I have known for a relatively short time. It is nice to have people who I can just sit and chat with (or be quiet with) and feel good.

A wide circle of close aquaintances. I move in a lot of different circles, and it's nice to know that almost everywhere I go I have someone who will say hello. I am not always the best about meeting new people, but I have ventured out enough that, at least for now, I can feel comfortable in the places I frequent.

So as I read back over the list I realize I have nothing to be sad about really... I wish I could believe me.

Despair is the conclusion of fools.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Big Changes are on the Way

I recently discovered that I have MANY blog posts started that I never finish. I though I would try to finish some of them...

"Big changes are on the way" That's what my last fortune cookie said. Not that I put a lot of stock in that sort of thing, but in this case I really feel that I am on the edge of something new. The weird thing is that I am having trouble figuring out exactly what need changing and how...

I started that post abut a month ago. I guess some of the the changes have been revealed to me (some have thrust themselves upon me). The good news is that I know that every ending is just a new beginning. I know that it is ok to feel sad that something is over, but when I look in my heart I know it is for the best. I know I should be grateful for the lessons I have learned from these experiences. I know that I should be as excited about the future as I am sad about the past...

Part of me is just lazy because I know that applying these lessons will be a lot of work. No one said that getting what I wanted would be easy... Wish me luck!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Felted Wool and Fishnets

I had the privilege of attending two very different event within one weekend. Due to my own crazy scheduling I ended up at both a homeschooling conference and Q-Bert's first dance competition in the same small period of time. The culture shock as I moved between these events was enormous.

The most obvious difference was purely visual. My husband and I jokes that after a certain age homeschoolers must not be required to comb their hair. We saw some of the wildest messiest hair I have ever seen, and many were wearing pins they had made of felted wool at one of the booths. Of course at the dance competition the performers all had their hair done in perfect buns with entire cans of hair spray used on each kid and most were wearing fishnet tights. but even the spectators were gussied up. Whereas the parents at the homeschool conference were dressed very simply, the parents at the competition were dressed to impress. This isn't really surprising since they are representing a certain studio. Looking well kept is an unwritten rule at most studios including ours. If it was just about looking good I would say it was a function of dance being a visual art, but there are more differences lurking beneath the exterior.

I could go on at length about the way homeschoolers looked at each other with a friendly look in their eyes, and the dance fans seemed to look each other up and down as if sizing them up. I could talk about the way the homeschooled kids displayed a combination of enthusiasm and inner calmness that seemed almost unnatural for a child versus, the anxiety and false cockiness that the dancers walked around with. However, I think the best way to illustrate the differences is my comparing Q-bert’s experience at the homeschooling talent show, and her experience competing at the dance competition.

Q-bert’s good friends were performing in the homeschool talent show, and of course she wanted to join as well. I had strong apprehensions about it because she was already to busy with the dance competition. As luck would have it her dance schedule left her free during the talent show so of course she decided to do it. Originally she wanted to choreograph a new dance for the show, but I convinced her that there wasn’t time for that in addition to practicing for the competition. She decided to use one of her competition numbers and modify it slightly to use as a solo.

When Q-bert dances at competitions she never says she is nervous. She is always excited to go on stage, and afterwards she never seems to be worried about how they scored. Part of this is her personality. She is not a competitive person in general (although of course things are different when we talk about her relationship with her sister :-). For her, dancing is about entertaining the audience. She also likes to get feedback from the judges because she says that helps her be a better entertainer.

True to form, Q-bert showed no stress when we arrived at the dance competition even though the morning had been early, hectic, and covered by surprise snow. She was filled with excitement at we did her hair and make-up (a process which takes about 45 minutes). The chaos and territory wars in the dressing room didn’t bother her nearly as much as it did me. Finally, it was time for me to turn her over to her teacher and I went to sit in the audience. The atmosphere in the audience was electric. Even at the early hour, the place was nearly packed. Spectators were vying for position each eager to cheer on their dancers. Finally the competition started. As each dance was announced most of the audience politely clapped while the spectators from the dancers’ own studio went wild. The act of cheering was in itself a competition. Between dances I would hear an occasional comment about a dance, but overall people were there to root for their own, and after their dances, often times, the fans left. Kali’s dances went well, and their effort were rewarded with a high score. Kali was most excited that she got to get up to receive the trophy. So all in all it was a positive experience, and we rushed back to the homeschool conference.

Her attitude at the talent show surprised me. She was a bundle of nerves. Part of it was that she was worried about being late, but it was more than that. I know that performing alone is a bit intimidating, but that wasn’t the problem either. It was also a bit scary performing so close to the audience, but that didn’t really bother her. I think her apprehension was that she cared what this audience thought of her performance. Of course after watching for a while it became obvious that this audience valued effort and bravery as much as actual talent. A couple of the performers were extremely scared, but you could feel the whole audience pulling for them. The air wasn’t electric like it was at the competition, but it was warm and supportive. As we sat watching the other kids perform some of her nervousness dissipated, but she was still a bit anxious when her turn came. When she got up for her turn she turned on her charm and gave a great performance. As with everyone else, the audience clapped and cheered enthusiastically, but the biggest reward came when her friends (and their parents) told her how great she did. I think she valued that more than the trophy she got at the competition. After her performance one of the teens with uncombed hair approached my husband and said in a very teenage boy voice, “Congratulations on the talented daughter.” That struck me as funny, but also a bit touching. No one outside of our studio would have bestowed a compliment on us at the competition, but here was a teenage boy showing such manners.

Now I know that it isn’t really fair to compare a competition with a show. By it’s very name a competition puts it’s participants at odds with each other, but we are talking about kids here. I am not a fan of taking the score keeping out of baseball, but I do think that the spectators should model good sportsmanship. That means applauding effort and appreciating the learning that accompanies every experience. I don’t feel that at the competitions. The fans are there for one thing... To see their dancers win. At the talent show, although we all wanted our kids to do their best, we were there to see our kids try.

For our family, we move fairly seamlessly between these two societies. I believe there are things to be learned from both situations. Still I love the relaxed feeling I had at the homeschool conference, and I have a bit of dread as we move towards the next dance competition. I guess not all learning has to be fun :-)

Friday, March 5, 2010

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Homeschooling Support

This post is going to seem a bit rambling, but I am hoping to work some things out in my mind here. It involves the homeschool group I am part of, and the commotion that has been brewing in recent weeks. This will take quite a bit of back story so bear with me...

When I first began to consider homeschooling I was lost. I didn't know any homeschoolers, and I had no idea how to find them. After some searching I did find a couple groups. None of them met my needs. Some were formed for older kids. Some had a forced statement of faith. Others were just full of crazies. Finally, I I met a few like minded people. All of our kids were relatively small, so our get togethers were more about the kids playing and the Moms socializing than about "school". This lasted for 2+ years. People came and people went. Sometimes, people decided to send their kids to school. Sometimes they moved away. Sometimes they just drifted off because our gatherings were so informal. Others would drift in to take their place. We had field trips and park days, and in general it went well.

Finally a year and a half ago one of our members said she had found a group of other homeschoolers that we should merge with. I'll be honest I was a bit nervous because I didn't want to end up like one of those previously mentioned crazy groups. Eventually we met, and most of them seemed "normal". My initial reaction to almost all of them was positive, and as we planned for the fall of '09 I felt pretty good. We had lots of good ideas, and a regular meeting space. Then the year started. For a number of reasons the meetings didn't go as I had hoped. I left every single meeting feeling awful. It was utter chaos. I was ready to drop the regular meetings altogether. Still there were a few high points. Many in our group were also members of Earth Scouts which seemed to run much more smoothly. Also, several of the more rowdy families moved on. I guess they sensed that the situation wasn't a good fit for them. We took a break for the summer vowing to have some park days, but somehow none of us took the initiative to plan them.

When summer ended we decided to get back to our regular meetings. We met again with lots of good ideas. Additionally we stated this year with a great group of people. I can honestly say that I like all of them. Fall went pretty well, and I was fairly happy with things in general. After a short winter break we met and discussed more ideas, and got back to our regular meetings. I thought things were going well. Then it started...

It's funny how little innocent things can start such drama. Someone made a suggestion, and then someone else have a flippant response. Suddenly it's on. People begin debating things that probably shouldn't be debated. People get annoyed; people feel misunderstood; people get mad. Eventually that issue gets dropped, but Pandora's box has been opened. The next misunderstanding gets to this point even quicker, and is slower to be dropped. Finally people stop speaking altogether.

I will be honest. The whole situation has me feeling sick to my stomach. I do not like conflict (although I do enjoy philosophical debates). The dismissive, territorial tones of some people make it almost impossible for other people not to respond in defensive tones. Then the cycle continues. I am afraid of where it will lead. As I said I like these people. Do I think they are perfect? No! Am I perfect? No! Still I do like these people. I feel a connection to them, and I really do hope to make this group my perfect support system. I also would love to be part of the support system for them. It doesn't seem possible at this time. The group seems to be developing into some us vs. them mentality. I HATE that.

So now we are on the edge. I'm just very nervous about what comes next.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray

I've figured out the main reason I don't blog often. It's not that I don't have lots of ideas for entries. I do. It's not that I couldn't find time to write. I could. The real reason is that I want to have an idea fully fleshed out before I write about it. I am sure that is silly. In fact, I know that most bloggers use the actual writing as a way to develop an idea. My problem is that I want to know where an entry is going before I even start it.

I guess that could be a problem in other aspects of my life as well. I am a planner. If I don't have a plan I feel scared. It makes me nervous, and if forced to operate without a pan for too long I actually get sick. The rational me knows that sometimes it is a good idea to "fly by the seat of your pants", but I really have a hard time sticking to that. I can't tell you how many times I have decided that I should be more spontaneous. Yes, I see the absurdity of planning to be more spontaneous.

The problems with over-planning involve a couple things. Of course, there is the problem of missing out on new things because I have already planned something else. I think that I have done an ok job over the past few years combating that one. I am much more flexible than I was a few years ago. I credit that to being a Mom. My girls, so often, find amazing opportunities. They are so amazing that I know we can't pass them up (even if it means adjusting my precious plan.) This flexibility has created a new problem that I can't seem to shake. Even though I am happy to add new things to my plan as they are presented, I can't let go of the planned activities. The result is that I end up feeling stressed as I try in vain to "stick to the plan". Eventually I end up feeling like a failure.

This tends to be especially true with the girls' school. I have what I think are very realistic goals for them. The plan is for them to do math and language arts (writing for Kali, reading for Claire) five days a week. I do have "curriculums" for other subjects, but they are used to supplement the life learning. The problem ends up being that as I try to be flexible to allow lots of opportunities for life learning we often have less that five days to devote to math and language arts. As much as I believe that real life learning is absorbed better than artificial desk learning I still can't let go of the plan when it comes to skills like reading, writing, and arithmetic. This results in school sometimes being less than the euphoric experience I imagined when I decided to homeschool the girls.

So once I again I am planning to be more spontaneous. To help me in this endeavour I looked up a few quotes about chilling out.

"Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." John Lennon

"Expect the best, plan for the worst, and be prepared to be surprised." Denis Waitley

"In preparing for battle I have found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Dwight Eisenhower

"Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their plan." Winston Churchill

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Darwin

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year...

Well,I am a little late on posting a new year update. In fact, the new year didn't really begin in the way I was hoping. My Gramps dies on January 2nd after having broken his hip a week earlier. I know that he had an amazingly long (and eventful) life. In fact,you could almost say that he had several lifetimes. He was a child in Brush Creek Tennessee. His family were sharecroppers, and he began working the land at a very young age. He also got married when he was quite young, but we don't really know what happened to that marriage. As a young adult he joined the Army, and fought in WWII. He was on the communications team. His job was to sneak in and run communication lines before the combat teams arrived. He helped lay the lines at Normandy! It was very dangerous work, and in fact he lost his hearing in one ear (and a good friend) when his fox hole blew up. The war wasn't all bad for Gramps though. I am sure we could fill a whole book with the escapades of (the alias he gave all the European women he wooed). After the war he came home and married Margaret. They moved to Illinois where they could find work. Then when they couldn't have children, they adopted my Mom. The real story is that my Gramps brought my Mom home as a present for his wife. Unfortunately, Margaret struggled with mental illness, and because of this she always wondered if my Mom was actually Gramps illegitimate child (which she was not). It was a rough patch of time for my Gramps, as he tried to protect my Mom from Margaret, but it formed a close bond between my Mom and Gramps. Eventually, Margaret succumbed to her illness and committed suicide. Shortly after that my Mom became an adult, and Gramps decided to move back to Tennessee. Once again he took to wooing the woman, and it seems he had quite a good time partying for a few years. Eventually, he met another woman to settle down with. She was a widow with a 10 year old son, and 2 grown daughters. Gramps married RosieLee and tried to raise the son. He and RosieLee stayed married for 27 years. Toward the end RosieLee was dealing with Alzheimer's disease. Gramps took care of her faithfully even when she became combative. Eventually she too died, and Gramps was once again a widower. By this point he was in his mid 80's, and my mom was able to convince him to come live with her. He was suffering from severe artery blockages, and it took some time for my Mom to nurse him back to health. The past 6+ years have been spent living with my parents. He got joy from spoiling their dog, doing circle the word puzzles, watching Wheel of Fortune (and beating everyone), and playing with my kids. I would venture to say that getting to be with the kids is a big reason he survived so long. So as you can see, he had quite a ride. Even so, the abruptness of his death is hard. We should be thankful that he didn't have a long painful death (and we are), but we didn't really have time to prepare ourselves for it. At any rate, I personally am thankful that my children got to really know their Great Grandfather, and her really was a GREAT Grandfather.

Well, this turned into a tribute to Gramps. I have more to say about the new year, but I think I will save that for another post.

Happy New Year Gramps!!! We miss you...