Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Big Fat Update

I read a ton of blogs, and I belong to several online communities with message or discussion boards.  One thing that drives me crazy is that people seem to think that everyone wants to listen to them whine all the time.  The one board I am on has had almost no good news since before last Christmas.  I remember them excited to kick 2010 out the door,  and now they feel the same about 2011.  If their lives really are so devoid of positive experiences then that is sad.  My guess is that they save all their bitching for these online groups.  Why?  What you write down on the internet last so much longer than what you say in real life.  Our online communications will be a snapshot of us long after we are gone.  What does the picture look like?

This is what I am thinking of when I sit down to blog, and consequently when I am feeling crabby or down I don't blog.  Problem is, I am not creatign an accurate snapshot either.  As I read back over my posts of the past few months I feel like there isn't much of me in them.  This blog is a catch all.  My intention was for it to have posts about my feeling on issues, descriptions of our brand of homeschooling, and personal posts. I have noticed that I have a very difficult time with the personal posts (especially lately).  I think it is because I am tryign to force some positive experiences into it, and, lately, when happy things are happening I don't feel like blogging because I am busy enjoying them; and when not so great things are happening I am not in a hurry to immortalize them here.

So I am extremely behind on this blog.  I will do a super quick update on the major events of the past few months...

  1. The doctor thinks Bear has hypoglycemia.  She was having what appeared to be panic attacks, but on closer inspection they seem to be related to her consumption of sugar.  We are treating it with dietary changes, but she is being a total PITA about it.  She doesn't want to eat frequently; she doesn't want to make the healthiest choices, etc.  Trying to keep he rfed has become the biggest stress in my life.
  2. Actually Bear is being a PITA about a lot of things.  In her  whole life she has only really gotten under my skin a handful of times, but lately it is an every day occurrence.  I am not sure if it is because of her stress with her health or just her age, but I feel totally unprepared to deal with her stubbornness. 
  3. Bear is still doing gymnastics, but I am not sure if she will continue it after this season.  I think she will have a very successful season in terms of winning, but it has lost much of its sparkle for her.  There are many places to lay blame about it, hypoglycemia, her clueless male coach, being so much younger than her teammates, her best friend quitting the sport, etc.  Bottom line is that she spends far too much time at the gym for it not to be something she loves.
  4. Curly is dancing more than she ever has before.  She is taking a ballet technique class which I think is very good for her, and she is a member of a competition team through a park district.  The competition team is fun, but so far seems to be a waste of time and money from a competition standpoint.  The coaches are very young (17-20), and they are completely unprepared to be in charge of the girls.  On the plus side, Curly is one of the best in the class, and her confidence in dance is coming back.
  5. She is also finally maturing in her dealings with people.  She had a very rough patch where she decided she was tired of "always" being the one who gave in, and she because the bully.  I understood her frustration because she surrounds herself with fairly string personalities and she felt bowled over a lot of the time.  Still her behavior landed her in hot water with her friends, and I was ready to send her off to boarding school for the way she was treating her sister.  She eventually had an eye opening experience with her friends, and it was a turning point for her.  She is actually the most emotionally stable I have ever seen her.
  6. Our homeschool group is barely hanging on.  I really miss it, but since I feel like I am barely hanging on I can't rescue it.  I have planned nearly all the activities we have done for the past year.  I don't mind doing it, but right now it is too much.  We have book club once a month, so at least we get to see our friends, but I miss seeing them more regularly.  Several of them are joining a co-op, but i just can't bring myself to do it right now.  The next three months are so busy.  So our friends will get together for the co-op, and we will see them even less...
  7. Math is going ok.  The girls are using Teaching Textbooks, and although I am not in love with it, it does the job.  Bear is doing 4th grade which is a bot too easy for her, and Curly is doing 6th grade which is the perfect level for her.  Some days she gets distracts during the problems and makes stupid mistakes like adding instead of subtracting or forgetting her place holder zeros, but none of her mistakes suggest that she doesn't understand all the problems.
  8. Curly finished her online literature class yesterday.  Mostly it was a success.  The last few weeks were spent reading All Creatures Great and Small.  She hated the book, and I have to agree with her.  I will read just about anything, but this was pure torture.  Curly was having a time management problem at the time they started the book.  She had several big projects due at the same time, and she had spent too much time on her new passion (more on that later).  So I had no pity for her when she fell behind in the reading.  She was crying and saying that the book was too hard, and I was sure she was just upset that she was so far behind.  Finally, I picked up the book.  Ugh!!! So I told her I would read it to her.  In truth I read parts of it to her and paraphrased parts.  It is one of the only books I have ever read that I found no redeeming value in.
  9. Curly is a budding filmmaker.  She spends the bulk of her time shooting films and editing them in i-movie.  She taught herself how to use the program, and she is pretty good at it already.  I am so excited to see developing a passion for something.  
  10. The Christmas spirit has not really been in my heart.  I went through all the motions.  I put out the decorations; I shopped for the presents; I wrapped them; I hosted a big family gathering; etc.  Still I have been struggling to get in the mood for it.  Today my Mom is taking the girls and I to the mall to enjoy some people watching.  I want to want to go, but I really don't feel like it.  Still I will put on my game face, and give it the old college try.
So there you have it.  You are caught up.  There is not quite enough good news in there for my tastes, but it is accurate.  Hopefully after today I will have some positive experiences to share.  Or at least some funny stories about crazy Christmas shoppers!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Joys of Winter!

This weekend is a well needed break.  The life we have chosen is sometimes more hectic than I think we can handle.  Bear's gymnastics schedule consumes so much of our time, and this year Curly is dancing nearly as much.  When you add in the constant nagging feeling that I do not do enough with the girls' school it can become unbearable.  So  long weekend like this is really nice.  Bear still has gymnastics on Sunday, but Curly's dance was off yesterday, and Monday we have NOTHING on the calendar.  Yay!!!

So yesterday we started decorating for Christmas.  I tried putting on Christmas music, but I wasn't quite ready for it.  There is another problem.  I LOVE my fall decorations, but I am not in love with my winter stuff.  So every year when I change my stuff out I feel sad about putting away the fall things.  I guess it mirrors my feelings about the seasons.  I have never liked winter, and fall has always been my favorite.  This year will be different.  I am determined to not just tolerate winter, but try to enjoy the special things that only happen in winter!  But first I think I may buy myself a few new winter decorations.  Also, I have to figure out where to put the tree.  I love having it in my front window, but it makes my already dark living room even darker!   I think I do this every year, and every year it ends up in my front window again.  So maybe I just need to add light inside the house...

Anyway, I am determined to enjoy this winter.  I scheduled very little school for the months of Dec. Jan. and Feb.  because I knew we would be busy with dance and gymnastics competitions.  SO that means we can devote ourselves to fun.  In Dec. we will be doing LOTS of crafts.  My hope is that the girls will have homemade gifts to nearly everyone.  Not crappy stuff that will get thrown away, but nice thoughtful gifts that will be treasured.

I leave you with a poem that almost makes winter sound like fun.

A Winter Ride by Amy Lowell
Who shall declare the joy of the running!
Who shall tell of the pleasures of flight!
Springing and spurning the tufts of wild heather,
Sweeping, wide-winged, through the blue dome of light.
Everything mortal has moments immortal,
Swift and God-gifted, immeasurably bright.
So with the stretch of the white road before me,
Shining snowcrystals rainbowed by the sun,
Fields that are white, stained with long, cool, blue shadows,
Strong with the strength of my horse as we run.
Joy in the touch of the wind and the sunlight!
Joy! With the vigorous earth I am one. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let the Festivities Begin...

Today I need to be festive.  Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and I want to get started with a band.  Problem is... I'm just not feeling it.  I am not ready to host.  I didn't actually get my house as clean as I wanted or as much of the prep work done over the past few days because I have been dealing with some health issues for Bear and some girl drama issues for Curly.  My parents won't be here for Thanksgiving, and instead are spending it with my brother's ungrateful family.  Then my cat knocked a glass of cold water on my head this morning to wake me up.   Not a festive alarm.  So how do I recover?  Can I recover?

A few weeks ago I was sitting at Cracker Barrell with my girls and my Mom.  Within my line of sight there were two very old couples at separate tables.  I love to people watch, and so I spent part of my time just watching.  I saw one of the couple playfully teasing each other.  Their conversations were light and warm and relaxed.  The other couple barely spoke at all, but it wasn't the comfortable silence of two people who need no words to communicate.  It was a tense, hard, cold silence broken only by an occasional clank of a fork hitting the plate too hard.  These couples got me thinking about what sort of "old person" I will be.  Will, I have grown to the point that I no longer first see red, and then have t calm myself down?  Will I be able to have compassion for those who haven't found inner peace, or will I be annoyed that they haven't figured it out yet?

This led me to think about who I am now.   Is it who I want to be?  Am I the type of person I would like to be?  The answer is sometimes yes... and sometimes no.  I realize that we are all works in progress, and as such we should be slowly and steadily improving ourselves, but sometimes I get so impatient with myself.  If I know who I want to be, and I know that it is a simple choice to be that person why don't I consistently make that choice?

And so on this festive day, I will make that choice at least for today.  I will be calm and thankful, and I will choose to be festive as well.  We only have so many Thanksgivings (my favorite holiday).  So wasting one would be to deny myself something I love.  Even worse it would be denying my family the best I have to offer.  To help me get happy, I will list some people I am so very THANKFUL for...

My husband and my girls who are my very life force
My parents who have balanced unconditional love with high expectations my whole life
My in-laws who travel here every year to help make memories with my girls
My brother and his family who remind me that there are always different viewpoints
My friend Amy who the very memory of our times makes me smile
My friend Shannon who I am able to be honest with
My friend Kim who is ready with a hug or a pat on the shoulder
My friend Heather who makes me laugh all the time
All the other people I make chat with at the girls activities for helping me pass the time in fun way

I am also thankful for the things I have like a home, a car, my couch... but those things pale in comparison for what I am most thankful for... I am thankful that I have no reason not to be festive.  Sure there are little things that aren't perfect, but I have no real problems!  If that isn't a reason to celebrate I don't know what is.

Happy Thanksgiving! Go Celebrate :-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Review of Dolphin Tale (finally)

Last week we went to see the movie Dolphin Tale and this post has been marinating in my brain for the past week.  I'm not one to wax poetic about movies in general.  Don't get me wrong,  I LOVE movies.  In fact lately, I feel as though I really miss the experience of going to the theater.  However, most movies really don't stick with me.  I think my brain just doesn't commit them to long term memory.  My husband teases me that I can rewatch a movie within months of originally seeing it and still be surprised by the plot. 

The plot of Dolphin Tale didn't have any plot twists.  It begins with dolphins in wild swimming free.  There is lots of great ocean imagery which I love.  I swear I could sit and watch ocean documentaries every day. We get introduced to Winter as a curious fun loving juvenile dolphin.  Eventually her curiosity get her tail stuck in a crab trap.  There is a very touching scene when Sawyer, an 11 year old boy, finds her washed up on the beach.  He calls a local marine rescue and the two bond while she heals.  Her tail is badly infected and has to be removed, but Winter leans to swim without it.  Unfortunately, the side to side motion she uses begins to damage her spinal chord.  The rest of the movie is spent trying to get Winter a prosthetic that she doesn't reject.  There is a very scary hurricane too.  Of course it ends happily as most kids' movies do, and it was pretty cheesy.  For some reason it didn't bother me though. The movie could have been like any other kid movie, but there were three things that made it stand apart for me.

There was a wonderful cast of characters in this movie, and it did include Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. both of whom I LOVE, but I was most impressed with the main kid characters.  As I mentioned there is an 11 year old boy named Sawyer.  He is a battling some sadness because his Dad left and didn't come back.  There is a great relationship between him and his cousin who is about to be deployed in the military.  The true magic happens between Sawyer and 11 year old Hazel.  She is the daughter of the main marine rescuer.  The two could not be more different.  He goes to school; she is homeschooled.  He is quiet; she is very talkative.  He is rigid; she is a free spirit.  They do bond over Winter, and because they both know what it is like to lose a parent.  The great thing is that there is never any sexual tension between them.  They interact like kids should interact.  In fact it almost seems that they picked two actors who looked  bit alike to foster a brother sister type bond.  After all the Disney shows and movies that act like all 11 year old are waiting to jump each other's bones.  It was so refreshing to see a movie that showed kids as something other than pre-teens.

The character of Hazel was particularly likable.  They mention, in passing, that she is homeschooled, but never mention it again.  Then they paint a picture of this driven, courageous, creative kind little girl.  She is everything I hope to foster in my own girls.  The whole time whether the audience realizes it or not, the fact that she is a homeschooler is forming positive connections in their brains.  I love that they were so subtle with it.  Sometimes movies are so in your face with the messages that people reject them immediately.  In this case the movie doesn't say, "Homeschooled kids are great!"  Instead it shows you that Hazel is great, and then allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.

For me the best part was that it was an inspirational movie that didn't alienate non-Christians.  I don't believe that a belief in God is necessary for people to do great things.  I think that people are driven to be kind and brave because it feels good, but most times the main characters in inspirational movies turn to God for support.  I have no problem with that, but it was nice to see a movie that allowed the characters to do great things because of human nature instead of the promise of a place in heaven. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There's More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

I was raised by a fairly judgmental mother.  It's funny because now she is so much more open minded that it actually surprises me when she reverts back to her old ways.  As with all people I think I carried some of that self righteousness into adulthood.  When I was a teacher, I was extremely irritated to watch parents make such gigantic mistakes.  It seemed to me that they must not even be trying.  Then I had my own kids...

Curly was a wonderful baby... as long as you never out her down.  So my instinct was to keep holding her.  In truth I held her for at least 3 months straight.  was that the "right" thing to do?  Hmmm well maybe it helped know that she was loves and could trust that someone would always be there for her... Or maybe it kept her from learning to comfort herself, and it is the reason even now at nearly 10 years old she struggles with that skill.

As a baby Bear was a happier baby when she had some space.  So I held her much less.  In her case, since Curly was still only 2 (and I've mentioned how she clung to me) it was good that Bear wasn't a clingy child.  And maybe the space I gave her as an infant allowed her to become the independent child she is today... Or maybe it caused her to question whether anyone else is actually there for her and keeps her from asking for help today.

My point is that in both cases I did my best.  I made the choices I thought were right at the time and hoped for the best.  I came to realize that parenting is not a one size fits all experience.  I look at my cousins and I who were all raised in vastly different ways, and for the most part we all turned out to be good people and good parents ourselves. It is obvious that as long as a child knows he or she is loved and can honestly say that his or her parents did their best they will turn out ok.  So why do people insist there is a "right" way to parent?

The same holds true for homeschooling.  I have tried different ways of homeschooling.  They range from classical to unschooling, and we have found an eclectic mix that fits our family's needs.  I try very hard to not judge other people's methods.  It turned out that classical was far to rigid for my kids.  There weren't enough opportunities for self expression early on, and so we decided to try something else.  Unschooling felt like flying without a parachute to me.  Actually both Curly and I felt lost without a plan.  I have seen unschooling work for people, but I am too much of a control freak to trust on the process.  We all loved the unit study approach but found it difficult to keep up with preparing for each unit.  Finally we tried a balanced approach.  We use fairly traditional methods and materials for math, writing, and spelling.  I look at these things as skill based, and I believe that skills can be taught and need to be practiced regularly.  All the other subjects, art, music, history, science, geography, social studies, etc. we learn through experience.  I try to arrange a rich life with plenty of opportunities to hear, see, smell, taste and touch.  Because these other subjects are knowledge based experiential learning ensures that facts are connected to something real.  In this way they are more likely to stick.

So why am I making a big deal about this now?  Because at much as I try to have a live and let live approach to life I feel judged regularly by unschoolers.  Not as much by the ones I know in real life, but by the ones who's blogs I read.  They act as if the only way to truly embrace life is to be an unschoolers and the rest of us are just sheep.  I have experienced more bigotry from them than from anyone who questions whether homeschooling is a good idea.

My question is why?  As homeschoolers we all struggle with moments of insecurities.  In fact, this applies to us as human beings in general.  So why do we judge others?  Does it make us feel less insecure about our own decisions to bash other people's.  Wouldn't it make more sense to assume that we are all doing the best we can with the information and wisdom we have.  We all chose to step off the beaten path, and follow our own instincts.  We need to remember that there are as many different new trails as there are people to blaze them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's Wrong With the Pubic School?

I've been pondering the state of education lately.  Obviously the system is failing in many ways.  Nearly everyone agrees on that.  Of course, the specifics of how and why it is failing are another matter all together...

Being a former teacher who now homeschools I think I may have a different insight into it.  The simple answer is that school fail because we cannot agree on what they are supposed to be succeeding at.  Each individual, whether it be a school official, teacher, parent or student has his or her own idea of what a successful school would be.

Just ask a group of homeschoolers why they homeschool.  There will be as many different answers as there are people in the group.  Some want to shelter their child from alternative viewpoints.  Some think the schools force kids to conform too much.  Some think it lacks the structure and intensity that children need.  Some believe that kids time is better spent pursuing their own interests.  The list goes on and on.

And so it goes with people discussing the public school.  The school day too long, or maybe too short.  The curriculum is too rigid, or is it too flexible?  Do we test too much or too little?  Does the school get too involved in teaching morality or not involved enough?  Do we spend too much money or too little.  Should we invest more in remedial education or gifted programming?  Why do we have these unanswerable questions?

The news is always comparing us to "other" industrialized nations, and we come up short.  Why?  Let's look at those nations... Korea, Japan, Finland... All ethnically and culturally homogenized countries.  Of course it is easier to meet the needs and wants of similar people than it is to meet the needs and wants of a motley crew of assorted groups cobbled together from years of immigration.   We are doomed to fail from the beginning.  There is no way to keep our diversity and take a one size fits all approach.

So can it be fixed?  Obviously, I don't think it will be fixed any time soon.  That is the true reason I homeschool.  I have no expectations that the public school would meet my wants for my kids.  Until, more opportunities for charter schools are available I think things will continue as they have for decades.  Lots of well meaning passionate people will continue arguing points that are all valid for some students.  The pendulum on each issue will make giant swings from side to side, and no one will emerge entirely satisfied.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School

We started school this week, and so far it is going very well. The girls both seem to like Teaching Textbooks, although it seems pretty light.  We are also doing Math Minutes like they do in public school.  Each day the girls get a page of math facts.  The idea is to finish the sheet in one minute.  They both made the addition goal today.  I added an opening writing prompt to our day too.  Of course Curly Loves it, but Bear is struggling somewhat.  I think that she will get the hang of it quickly.

So that's the school side of things.  In other news, they are trying to change Bear's gymnastics schedule.  We got the fall schedule in late June or early July.  So I figured it was a done deal.  I planned all of our lives around that schedule!  Now, since school started, people are having a hard time with balancing school and gymnastics.  I get it.  I have said from the beginning that I can't imagine Bear going to public school and keeping her hectic gymnastics schedule.  Still I am really irritated that this wasn't discussed a month or more ago. 

I am not a flexible person.  I know that, and I do try to work on it.  In this case I don't think  am being unreasonable though.  Still it looks like it is going to happen, so I may as well get used to it.  I am just really hoping that they don't schedule it for Sunday.  That is our family time.  I really don't want to give them up for gymnastics!

I am also bummed because I had the option of going out with friends for a ghost tour on Saturday, but I had to decline.  Sunday morning I have to help my Dad run the car show he does every year.  I really hate that thing, but he doesn't ask for anything and so I can't say no.  We actually do the pictures.  John is the photographer, and I take car of the computer side of things.  It's not really that big of a deal, but I get nervous about it every year.

Ok so that's a quick update.  This weekend will be crazy so I probably won't blog again until early next week.  It's getting close to Sept. so I will update you on my resolutions again.  I know you can't wait :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Being a Parent is...

Being a parent is...

The hardest thing I have ever done.
Being a taxi driver, chef, cleaning lady and counselor.
The most important thing to me right now.
Unbelievably time consuming.
Constant second guessing.
Hard on my social life.
Hard on my love life.
The best part of my day.
The worst part of my day.
The biggest blow to my self confidence.
Self inflicted punishment.
Something I could not live without.
Not what I expected.
Utter choas.
The most rewarding thing I have ever done.

I just need to remember that every day :-)

My kids aren't perfect, but neither am I.  Hopefully we can all give each other the benefit of the doubt that we are doing our best!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Extreme Parenting

As I mentioned before Curly Q. is going through some horrible times.  Part of me knows it is mostly normal tween hormonal crap; I see many of her friends going through the same things.  Part of me wants to take up corporeal punishment or send her off to military school.  Always before I could count on her intelligence to help her see futility in being too argumentative, but lately even that doesn't help her.

It started about 6 months ago with eye rolling and grunting when she didn't like what was being said.  I tried to deal with that, but I guess I was so surprised to see her standing up for herself that I didn't do too much to squelch it.  I guess I chalked it up to freedom of expression, and didn't worry too much about it.  Later I started to see her getting a bit physical with her sister.  She would grab things from her or push her out of the way.  I see other siblings behave that way, so once again I wasn't too worried.  Obviously I disciplined her for it, but I didn't see it as a bigger problem.  Finally came the outright defiance.  It is pretty new, but it has me scrambling as to what to do now.

Curly Q. has always been an empathetic kid.  She never would intentionally harm someone, and if she accidentally even hurt someone's feelings she would apologize immediately.  She would stress over anyone who was down or upset.  She took blame upon herself when it wasn't hers to take.  I worried sometimes that she was too eager to take the blame.

Recently, however, she refuses to admit to any wrong doing.  I've tried to talk to her about it in regards to situations that do not involve me, and all she will say is, "I didn't do anything wrong."  Even when I tried to point out things that I know she understands are wrong, she will only admit to responding to someone else's wrongdoing.

It makes it impossible to discipline her.  I am not an authoritarian parent.  I discipline only to educate my kids.  I see my job as someone to help them grow into the best person they can be.  That won't work the kids don't understand what they did wrong, and why it was wrong.  So what do I do next?

So far I have tried positive parenting.  I try to notice all the good things she does.  I know she appreciates that, but it didn't seem to shape her behavior.  Next I tried punishments.  She loves her laptop so I tried taking that away.  That worked while the punishments were in place, but I didn't feel like it made any long term change in her attitude.  I feel like I need to do something radical...

So this morning, after she got completely mad at me about something, then refused to admit that she had been disrespectful I decided to ignore her.  Not totally, but as I explained it to her, I have no expectations for her so she should have no expectations of me.  When I made lunch I didn't make any for her.  When I brought the laundry up for folding, I put hers in the chair in her room and let her know they were there. 

At first she didn't even notice, but then she asked if I was mad at her.  I told her no, but that I was tired of doing all these things for someone with so little respect for me.  Tonight I will send her an e-mail.  In it I will try to explain the lesson I am hoping she will learn from this.  I have no idea if this will work any better than the other things I have tried, but I have to keep trying!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Have A Dream...

I have a dream of the perfect homeschool group for Curly Q.  I also have a dream of the perfect homeschool group for Bear.  They are nothing alike!  This makes our homeschool journey so much more difficult.

That was the initial opening to this post, but as I lined out the "perfect groups" I realized that they could be aligned more than I realized. Here's what I came up with...

  1. Our perfect group needs more members.  Both my kids, and in fact all the kids currently in our group, would benefit from a larger circle.  It would give everyone more opportunities to try different things, and it would keep any one person from feeling left out. I also believe that it would give each child more opportunities to be leaders.  I know that sounds counter intuitive, but because there are more people to follow more people can lead.  Also, because I think they would benefit from being divided into younger and older groups we need more people to fill in those group. 
  2. Our perfect group would have a discussion group for middle school kids.  Ideally there would be a group of at least 10 diverse kids aged 10+ ish.  They could spend time talking about books, philosophical lessons such as those from this book,  and even decision making lessons like these. In this way the kids would have a place to bounce around all those ideas that are crammed into their little heads.  They can have opportunities to view the world from other people's vantage points.  We would have to have a similar group for the younger set with more age appropriate topics and materials. 
  3. Our group would have lots of opportunities for sharing.  Anything that the kids had been working on art, writing, special collections, monologues, music, etc.  The kids would become a great support place.  Also, having a place to "show off" is a great motivator.  Creating for the sake of creating is nice, but pats on the back make it that much better.
  4. The group would regularly take on charity projects.  These would decided upon by the whole group.  Once again, the more opportunities for the kids to see other types of people the better.  I know my kids have benefited greatly from the few times they have volunteered.
  5. We would have a nice mix of educational and recreational field trips.  This way the group can satisfy their need for knowledge and their need for socializing.  Some days we will visit a museum.  Some days we will visit a playground or even the mall.
So there's the utopian ideal.  Could it work? If so, how?

The biggest problem as far as I can see is the biggest problem I have in the world.  Time is limited!  I would love to say that one day per week could be field trip day and one day could be meeting day, but no one can devote two days a week to this (even if it was their perfect group too).  So that leaves it to one day per week...

 So, what if we alternated one week is discussion/sharing and the next is a field trip.  Charity projects could be discussed during the sharing sessions, and we would have to schedule them separately.  We would need one person to run each age group, and there would be 2-4 age groups (preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school).  I know many people don't like the idea of age division, and I don't think that the boundries should be set in stone.  I do think that each age group can be customized to the needs of it's members better if their interests are at similar levels. 

So what do you think?  Could it work?  Is it a pipe dream?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011-2012 School Year

I am nearly ready for school now.  I have been diligently compiling materials for both girls, and all of us are getting excited.  Last year, we took it a bit easy, and I think we are all ready for a bit more structure.  Here's the outline of the plan:

  • Math -- Teaching Textbooks 6
  • Spelling -- Basic Cozy Spelling from
  • Grammar -- Lessons compiled from a McGraw Hill Workbook for 5-6 grade
  • Literature -- Online version of Lightning Literature 7
  • Math -- Teaching Textbooks 4
  • Spelling -- Sequential Spelling
  • Grammar -- Lessons compiled from several 3rd grade workbooks
  • Reading -- 15 minutes reading aloud (to me) every day 
I also had the girls make a list of things they were curious about.  We will work on using the inquiry model to find the answers to those questions.  We will be taking lots of field trips, too.  I also have two big books of science experiments and a bog book of art projects that they can pull out whenever the mood strikes them. Of course Curly will be dancing and Bear will be doing gymnastics.  We also stumbled into a twice a month cooking class.

So that is the plan for now.  I am going to try to strike a balance between structure and freedom.  We seems to swing from extreme to extreme. So, hopefully this can be the year we get it right!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


The other day I inadvertently got involved in a conversation with a couple other moms about the gifted program at their school.  It sounds like a wonderful program, very similar to how we homeschool, lots of projects and field trips...

It led to a discussion of the quirks of gifted kids.  I don't talk a lot about my kids giftedness because I think such a label just alienated people, but it was so interesting to "compare notes" with these other parents about the idiosyncrasies that always come with being a couple standard deviations away from the norm.  I was a profoundly gifted kid, and I remember how difficult it was until high school because I had no intellectual peers.  There were definitely other smart kids, probably even gifted kids, but they didn't have the same oddness that profoundly gifted kids seem to possess.

When Curly Q. was very little she asked bizarre questions all the time.  As she grew those questions became fewer and farther between.  It happened so gradually that I almost didn't notice.  I always knew she was very smart.  She began talking unbelievably early.  She read early.  She had an over developed sense of empathy practically from birth.  These are all signs of "giftedness."  I thought that because we homeschooled she would not have the same struggles that I had as a child.  I blamed all my problems on a public school system that is not cut out to deal with people like me.

As it turns out I was wrong.  Curly Q. has been going through normal tween bouts of hormones.  She has trouble controlling her emotions; sadness, happiness and anger all come pouring out of her at regular intervals.  During one of her crying spells, she admitted that she had purposely been editing herself so that she didn't seem weird with her friends.  She then rattled of a laundry list of weird questions she had.  As I lay in her bed with her I felt like crying too.  I remembered what it was like to feel so different.

Curly gets along with everyone.  Her natural empathy makes her a great friend, but sometimes I am not sure she gets what she needs from her friendships.  Her best friends spend all their time discussing boys (like "normal" girls do), and although she is beginning to notice boys they are not her focus.  She belongs to two different book clubs, but she feels the other members never want to read the same kind of things she does.  She enjoys some of the same activities, but for different reasons.

Anyway, it was so nice to talk to these other moms about the social issues that arise for their gifted kids.  We talked about how they all make power point or keynote presentations for fun.  We talked about the lists that litter their bedrooms.  We talked about how much more comfortable they seemed with adults.  We even talked about the strange collections they have.  It was so nice to know that there are others.  As it turns out Curly will be dancing with one of the other girls we were discussing, and I am so excited for her.  I know that she will eventually find her niche.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dance Moms

Have you seen the new show on Lifetime called "Dance Moms"?  Curly's dance coach was talking about it when we were volunteering together last week.  It is a reality show about the Abby Lee dance company.  Specifically they follow around the elite group of girls that are Curly's age.  Let me start by saying that a couple of these girls are phenomenal dancers.  They have better technique than some seasoned dancers.  Since it is reality tv there has to be drama of course.  The owner/teacher is portrayed as a authoritarian, money hungry, abusive bitch who practices blatant favoritism.  They have sound bites of her saying things that should never be said to a child.  For me the bigger villains are the moms.  These women all bring their daughters to dance seven days a week for six hours a day.  They allow them to be torn down.  These girls are from 6 to 13 years old!  Still after seeing the things I have seen in both dance and gymnastics I know enough to be skeptical.  There are five families.  One of the moms used to be a dancer at the same studio.  I fee so bad for her kids because the older daughter who is 13 does not want to dance any more.  She wants to be a teenager and go to the mall with her friends.  She wants to be a cheerleader.  Her younger daughter has to work especially hard because she doesn't seen to pick up choreography very quickly, but the coach makes no allowances for that.  That mom is so busy creating drama and being jealous of the "best" dancer that she doesn't even notice what her kids need, let alone help them get it.  Another mom is clearly an alcoholic.  Her daughter is as good of a dancer as the "best" dancer, bus her mom is constantly causing problems for her at the studio.  One mom is a busy working mom, but seems to be the least dramatic; another mom is the owner of another studio, but brings her six year old to hone in on the success at Abby Lee.  She is obviously an attention whore, but her daughter is not anywhere near the caliber of all the other dancers in the group.  So really all those moms are fairly unlikable characters.  Then there is Maddie and Mackenzie's mom.  I can't decide how much to dislike her.  Her older daughter is the best on the group.  Her younger daughter holds her own despite being the youngest by far.  They never show her kids complaining about coming to dance.  They truly seem to want to be there.  So even though it is excessive they want it.  Would I do any different?

I have been working on our fall schedule.  Bear will only be doing gymnastics because it is 12 hours per week.  We have had to rearrange our entire daily routine because she won't be finishing gymnastics until 8:30 and she used to go to bed at 8:30.  I have considered allowing her to take some type of music lesson if she is interested... Curly is back to dancing full time now.  Her Dance Team practices two days a week, but that is all performance based.  So I insisted she take technique classes also.  I would have been happy with one hour and a half ballet class a week, but of course at her level all the studios insist on ballet twice a week.  She will also take guitar if I can find a place that works with our schedule.  She had to give up theater for now, because it just doesn't fit into our times...

So am I any better than these psycho moms on the show?  I'd like to think so because both my kids know that although I am proud of their accomplishments at dance and gymnastics, I have many other reasons to be proud of them.  Also, I never coerce them to do anything.  The closest thing was insisting on a technique class for Curly's dance, but she didn't really complain about that.  Still sometimes I have a nagging suspicion that we could be as happy, if not happier, without all these activities.  Of course then I worry that some day they would come to me and complain that I didn't support their dreams and they could have been Olympic gymnasts or prima ballerinas if only I had encouraged them...

Thursday, August 11, 2011


It's been a long time since I posted.  There's an explanation for it, but it sounds strange.  I found out people were reading my blog, and it gave me writer's block.  I know that sounds terribly stupid, but it is true.  It's not that I don't want people reading my stuff.  I do... but every time I realize that a new person that I know reads my blog this happens.

I think I start considering that person in each of my posts.  What will this sound like to him or her, etc.?  It ends up stifling me, and I can't write anything.  In the past I have gone months without writing after gaining a new reader, but this time I am determined to get back on the horse and start writing now. 

So what have we been up to for the past couple weeks.  Well, last weekend we had some of our oldest friends over for a BBQ.   My husband has been friends with the Dad of one family since he was in fifth grade, ans I have known him since college.  We watched his relationship grown, and eventually we stood up in their wedding.  We became friends with the other couple right after college.  They came to our wedding; we went to their wedding.  We were together through our first pregnancies.  In fact we had dinner with them the night before my water broke.  Now, both families  live a couple hours from us.  This means that literally we see them once a year.  John gets together with the guys a few more times per year, but not much.  When we see them I have a great time, and it reminds me how much I miss them.  We always make plans to meetup halfway, but it never happens.  It makes me sad for a bit.

In truth though I feel like there is never enough time to get together with local friends, let alone people who live far away.  On the one hand I feel bad that I haven't seen my best friends from college for nearly two years, but it is just as bad that I have been trying to plan a get together with a local family all summer, and we can't come up with a night that works for all of us.  It seems that everyone we know is every bit as busy as us.  I guess that just makes it more special when we do get together.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Leadership Potential

I have never considered myself a leader.  I don't like the idea of me trying to convince anyone what should happen.  It is so contrary to my own belief system to say, "This is the right choice."  I have always believed that any path can be the "right" one if you commit to it fully.  I am not a leader, but I am a person who others count on to get things done.  If you have a project, you can bet that I will see it through.  In many cases "getting the job done" requires me to be a leader.  The problem is that sometimes it feels like I am herding butterflies.

Part of the problem is that I often associate with people who are not conformists.  Homeschoolers, atheists, free thinkers all pride themselves on sharing my philosophy that we all must choose our own path.  Unfortunately that makes many of them flighty and unreliable.  For example, when I plan activities for my homechool group I often have no idea who is coming until the day before.  Even then often the guest list has changed multiple times.  I know that inflexibility is something I struggle with, but dealing with homeschoolers feels like trial by fire.

The other type of person that I seem to deal with is the "senator".  This term was coined by a friend to describe someone who wants to seem like the leader, but in actuality does little of the real work and instead suggests a project then delegates the work.  He was speaking about one person, but as I thought about it, I realized that in all the groups I am part of there is someone like this.  Most of the time I have no problem with it, since I don't really want the label of leader anyway, but on occasion it annoys me.

It is especially bothersome when the senator suggests things that I know I am not capable or motivated to complete.  Then I get irritated because I know that I cannot suggest a different path at that point without getting in a battle for leadership.  I don't want to be in that battle, but I also don't like where we are going, and that it terribly frustrating...

So as in all aspects of life I have to make a decision about who I am going to be.  If I want to have control I have to be willing to take it.  If I don't want to be a leader then I have to be willing to allow someone else to lead...

For the time being I will just leave with this quote:

"People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. . . The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives."
~Theodore Roosevelt

I am sure that I will never choose to be a boss, but I might be able to be a leader.

Monday, July 25, 2011


So the past couple weeks have been insanely busy.  First the girls both had theater camp.  It's just a program through our park district run by the wonderful lady.  The purpose of the program is to give everyone a chance to be on stage.  Curly has been doing programs with her for several years, but it was Bear's first time.  They both did well and had a great time although I think Curly has outgrown the program to some extent. 

This past week Curly has another theater camp.  The camp was a 45 minute drive from our house which presented a challenge just in getting her there.  Bear still had physical therapy and gymnastics, and so, even with my Mom's help, I spent the week feeling like a taxi driver.  I put over 600 miles on my car in one week.  That is CRAZY.

As for the camp... It was put on by Christian Youth Theater.  Yeah, I know that doesn't sound like us.  I was a bit wary, and John didn't like the idea at all.  However, CYT puts on some of the best children's productions.  Curly is interested in doing more theater, ang so I figured this would be a good litmus test without a long commitment.  As it turns out I am glad we went that route.  Before the first day I talked to Curly about what to do when the "religious stuff" went on.  I likened it to going to dinner at someone's house.  When they serve you a meal that seems "weird"; you are polite and respectful.  Likewise when the group starts to pray you bow your head and keep quiet.  I told her that they may even have church services.  I really thought I had my bases covered...

The first day when I picked her up Curly was really upset.  Apparently what was listed as "team time" on the brochure was actually a brainwashing session.  Now I have no problem with my kids learning about all kinds of belief systems.  How else will they develop their own beliefs.  The problem was that the conversation revolved around convincing non-believers to become Christians, and equating paganism to satanism.  The huge quantity of misinformation given in one short hour was staggering. 

So I spent the rest of Monday trying to explain away the damage without condeming Christianity.  See that's the problem I always have.  Even though I am not a Christian, I think everyone should be able to come to their own conclusion.  I don't think there is a right and wrong way to believe.  I think people who feel better with God in their life should have him there. Unfortunately many other people on every side of the religion issue don't agree with me.  They spend their time calling each other names and judging each other.  The discussion on Monday was a very personal example for Curly, and I had to make sure that it wasn't typical of all Christians.  In the end we ended up discussing things that wouldn't have come up in any other way. So I guess it was a good thing.

Also, as it turns out the leader of "team talk" on Monday was just an overzealous teenager.  The talks for the rest of the week were more respectful and tolerant.  There was still a lot of praying and pointing to the sky.  They still told the kids to practice their lines every night because Jesus wants them to, and I overheard a mother tell her son to not stand on the couch in the waiting room because God picked it out himself.  But overall, it was an ok experience.  We have no plans to send Curly to anything else run by CYT, but we did survive this one.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bad Dream

I just woke up from a terrible dream.  I have always had very graphic dreams.  As a kid, at least once a month I would wake up screaming.  It would take my parents forever to calm me down.  Sinc emany of these were recurring nightmares I can still remember them. The one I had most often was my kindergarten teacher with no head.  It was weird because even within the dream I knew it wan't possible because she was still teaching, but she shouldn't have a voice...  Even though my rational mind knew, I still woke up terrified for years and years from that one.

Sometimes my dreams although cryptic seem to have a small glimmer of truth to them.  For example, while I was pregnant with Curly I kept having this dream that she was born the size of Thumbelina.  She was perfect in every way, but she was tiny.  As it turns out that wasn't all that far fetched.  She was born very small, but perfect...

Since I became an adult I don't have nightmares very often.  Even when I do they tend to be tragic more than terrifying.  I have had a few scary dreams about the kids getting hurt or lost, but overall my bad dreams are just overwhelmingly sad.

Such was the case with this last one.  I don't want to go into detail, but I was sobbing in the dream, and I woke up sobbing into my pillow.  It was a terrible way to wake up.  Sometimes after these dreams the "feeling" lasts all day.  I don't want that and don't have time for that today.  So how about a quick thankful list to put me in a better mood...

  1. I am thankful that Bear seems to be back on track with gymnastics.  Last week seems liek a small hiccup now.
  2. I am thankful that Curly found her new dance team.  I really think she will get what she has been searching for from this group.
  3. I am thankful for the 3 1/2 hours I get to myself while the girls are in camp today.
  4. I am thankful John gets his bonus and raise in less than a week.
  5. I am thankful for google calendar.  Without it I would never get anyone where they needed to be.
  6. Speaking of that, I am thankful for my van.  It is a nicer vehicle than I needed, but considering how much time I spend as a chauffeur it is really nice!!!
  7. I am thankful for the beautiful weather we have been having.
  8. I am thankful that my family is healthy.
  9. I am thankful for Bear's physical therapist who is teaching me all kinds of interesting things while she is helping Bear recover.
  10. Lastly, I am thankful that it was only a bad dream!!!
I remember my mom saying that when I was a kid, and it never gave me much comfort.  In this case it really does.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pack Mentality

Apparently, at Bear's gym, her level and their families are regarded as a pack who will stick together no matter what.  My first instinct was, "So true!"  If by sticking together you mean sticking up for each other, supporting each other, helping each other strive for the best, etc.  then yes I think those sentiments are what make our girls such a great team.  In fact I have never personally been involved with such a TEAM.

Of course the word pack was used in the context of us making decisions as a group.  Anyone who knows me knows that I don't do that.  I'm flexible and have no problem compromising when necessary, but I do not make decisions just to follow the crowd... or do I?

Bear's team was offered an extra day of practice each week for the rest of the summer.  It would cost $75 total for 4 weeks.  Not too bad of a deal, but Bear has been struggling with burnout.  As much as I would like to get her into that damn gym to work on that stupid kip (more on that later), I know it isn't what is right for her right now.  From the beginning I said that to the "pack".  As it turns out most of them felt the same way, but what if they hadn't?  I know that if it turned out that most of them were planning on doing the extra day I would have seriously considered it even knowing that it was too much for Bear.

Why would I do that?  Why would I allow myself to be swayed into a decision that I know in my heart is the wrong one?  Hmmm... it may be pack mentality, or more accurately herd mentality.  I think of myself as immune to such nonsense, but I guess I am not as cool as I thought especially with regards to my kids.  I told myself that she should do it is because I didn't want her to fall behind the others.  If they were practicing the extra day and she was not, she might end up progressing slower than the rest... The truth is, I was really worried about her being left out.  If they are all together for the extra day and she was missing,  she would be less a member of the pack.

It really feels weird to be in this position.  I pride myself on not being a follower.  I chose to homeschool even though it sometimes makes me feel like an outsider.  I am not a Christian even though within the homeschool community many more opportunities would be open to me if I was.  Even some of my good friends do not understand how my decisions to let my kids do such time intensive competitive sports meshes with our homeschool philosophy, and so I feel somewhat judged.  In all these cases I feel no pressure to change my decisions because others don't agree with or understand them.  So why would I allow myself to be led in this case?

I think that her team is something very special.  I see such potential for greatness and it is hard to imagine not wanting to be a part of that.  Of course being a part of something great should not mean losing yourself... I'll keep working on that :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Just Keep Swimming...

I finally have my pool going.  I mean it has been running on and off for the past month, but then the pump died, or rather was in the process of suffering a slow painful death.  So I ordered a new pump, added the salt for the saltwater system, killed the algae that was making it a strange greenish gray color and now we are good to go... Well as soon as I buy a handle for the vacuum that seems to disappear over the winter, and buy the stuff that reduces cloudiness, and add some more water, and...

It seems that all the things we have added to our lives become bigger responsibilities than we expect when we get them.  Obviously I knew that a pool was work, but I thought once you got it running you could enjoy it and check the chemicals every few days.  I didn't factor in the work required when something goes wrong. And of course things do go wrong.

My house is not that big, and yet it seems as if I am always cleaning or fixing something.  It's partially my fault for taking on the project of my grandparent's house, but even my friends who bought new houses have lots of maintenance issues.  Also, we got this house when I was in my mid twenties, so we have lived here for 12 years.  We did a bunch of repairs to the house then, but of course I didn't really know what I was doing so some of them were cheap shotted.  Also, it was 12 years ago so even the things that were done well need to be updated.

Sometimes, I dream of having a little condo where I can pay a set fee and they take care of everything.  Hell, maybe I can even have a cleaning lady come in every week to scrub the toilet and sink.  I wonder what that would cost.  Surely it would be less than what we spend maintaining this place...

But of course that won't be happening any time soon.  Can you imagine the complaints from the neighbors about how noisy we are.  Bear is constantly tumbling around the house, Curly is practicing her tween door slamming, and of course there are the endless screaming matches.  Yeah, I think we would be kicked out in record time.  So for now I guess I will have to follow the immortal words of Dory in Finding Nemo and "Just keep swimming, swimming swimming..."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Update on My Resolutions

So the halfway mark of the year has come and gone.  I meant to evaluate my progress on my on my resolutions for the year, but time got away from me, but today is as good a day as any so here goes...

1. Nurture my family relationships
* More field trips I have made this a priority and am making good progress
* Delegate more Haven't even tried this yet
* More one on one time with each of my family members Need to keep working on this one

2. Nurture my soul
* Slow down Need to keep working on this one
* Practice thankfulness Even when I don't post about this, I do feel it, so mission accomplished :-)
* Meditation  Haven't even tried this yet

3.Nurture my relationship with the world
* Write more  Definitely met this goal
* Volunteer regularly Haven't even tried this yet
* Reduce clutter I have been working on this but it is a slow painstaking process

4. Nurture my body
* Serve at least one vegetarian meal per week Haven't even tried this yet
* Start a maintainable exercise program I have tried this one several times, and I am still trying
* Spend at least 10 minutes outside each day This is easily met right now... talk to me in January!

So it appears that I have fully met 4 of my goals.  I need to keep working on 4 of my goals, and I have 4 I haven't even tried.  I think the plan for now is to work on the vegetarian meals for the rest of the summer.  I will also continue to try to reduce clutter, spend more individual time with each family member, exercise, and slow down.  Hopefully by the end of summer I can say I have made significant progress on all of those.  Then in the fall I can attack a few more new goals.

Maybe she's just constipated ;-)

You know the show Two and A Half Men?  I don't usually watch it, but on occasion when it comes on after the evening news I see reruns of it.  Well, one of the few episodes I have seen has the following plot...

The kid, who is probably 8 or 9 in this episode, is acting all mopey.  He sulks around the house.  He doesn't want to talk to anyone.  He doesn't seem to take pleasure in any of his favorite activities.  The Dad and the Uncle are worried sick.  They start by trying to convince him to talk about what is bugging him.  Then they try to give him extra attention and do things to cheer him up.  The eventually take him to a shrink because they are so worried.  Finally the housekeeper steps in. The kid is back to himself the very next day.  What could she have done to solve the problem that eluded everyone else in such a short time??? She gave him prune juice.  Apparently the kid was just stopped up and not feeling great.

I bring this up because I have this habit of reading too much into both my kids' moods.  Bear has been having some difficulties at gymnastics recently.  I found out on Thursday that she has been phantom pains that keep her from completing practice.  My initial response was to expect some big dramatic reason for it. I started considering these big changes.  My mind goes overboard.  It is too much for her.  She is so much younger than the other kids that she feels out of place.  Her heel injury has made it where she is in constant pain and can't keep up...

As it turns out she is just a normal kid.  She figured out that she can miss the stuff she doesn't like by faking an injury.  So that's what she has been doing.  So no need to take her to a shrink :-)  She just needs to be reminded that choosing to be a competitive athlete includes choosing to do ALL the work, not just the fun part.

I did, however, come up with some ideas that I think will be good for her anyway.  I think that at the ripe old age of 7 she has already tied her identity to being a gymnast.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I think she needs to be reminded that she is more than a gymnast. That way when it does become to much for her, she won't be lost trying to figure out who she it without gymnastics.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


As usual time is giving me trouble.  This summer has been as far from what I wanted it to be as possible.  From the time we got back from Florida I have felt like I was rushing to beat the clock.  I feel late all the time.  I know this is stupid because nothing we do is so all fire important that I need to get worked up about it, but after having a little taste of what I want summer to be this past weekend I can really feel what I am missing.

 I had a weird dream last night.  I dreamt about my best friend from high school.  We met up by chance at a mall, and although we hadn't really spoken much in the past 15 years, it felt like old times.  It was wonderful and amazing.

Part of what I have been missing this summer is having that close friendship.  I really wanted to spend long leisurely afternoons on the deck with friends, just hanging out.  But we are all so wrapped up in their own lives, that can't happen.  It sucks because the obligations we have towards gymnastics, dance, etc. take precedence over the fun stuff we want to do so that eventually we are forced to make choices between things when we want to do them all.  It can be very frustrating.

I know recently I have been having problems because I am tired of choosing between things I want to do.  Our calendar is so full of things that I helped schedule, but most of them aren't for me.  Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to have their dreams.  Still I feel like their dreams are sacrificing the lifestyle I want for our family.

So yesterday I went crazy. Simply by luck Curly had to be pulled out of one of her dance classes.  I decided to take a break from Bear's private lessons.  I decided that I need to schedule the things I want just like I do for their activities.  So today when I get to sit on the deck and visit with a good friend we're going to plan for more leisurely afternoons because right now THAT is MY dream.

*** Today I am thankful for good friends***

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I sometimes feel like I spend every day thinking, "I just have to make it through this day (or week or months), and then things will calm down."  I know in my heart that life wasn't meant to be endured, but some days it feels really hard to remember.

This week I am a single parent.  John is out of town.  My brother and his family are in town.  Curly had a big audition for a dance team.  We had to finish up standardized testing.  Bear had all her regular gymnastics, plus physical therapy, PLUS a private lesson.  My Mom needs helps with their big party that is on Saturday...  It is overwhelming... There aren't enough hours in the day...

So yesterday, I ended up telling a white lie.  I said that Curly was sick (which is true), btu it wasn't the reason we didn't go.  I just couldn't be everywhere at the same time.  We were supposed to get together with our homeschooling group, and I canceled at the last minute.  I hate it when people do that!!! Add to that the fact that I HATE to lie, I feel pretty crummy... I just couldn't figure out how to make it work.  My sister in law decided at the last minute that they were coming over for the day.  The will only get to see their cousins one more time at the big party on Saturday.  Curly was crying because she wanted to see everyone.  Finally I had to choose.  Sadly I didn't choose the one I wanted to do.  So I ended up sitting on the deck listening to her talk, and talk and talk...

Today we were invited over to a friends house, but that isn't going to happen either.  First I have to clean up the giant mess left by my niece, nephew and sister in law.  I have no idea how 3 people can make such a mess in one day, but they did. Then Bear has gymnastics, Curly has dance... I need a break... And a glass of wine...

On a good note I think that the dance program that Curly tried out for could be a great fit for her.  The girls who are in it are serious about dance, but it isn't their whole lives.  She is really hoping to make the elite team because she has a friend on that team.  I think she has a good chance of making it.  The only downside is that the practices are on Saturdays.  Of course since we homeschool and John has plenty of vacation days we can always make trips on Sunday/Monday.

Friday, June 24, 2011

You Say it's Your Birthday...

Yesterday I turned 39 years old.  I have nothing against birthdays.  I am not one to dread the passing of each year, but the past few years I haven't really felt like celebrating on my birthday either.  This year was no exception.  I had already gotten my big birthday presents.  My new camera was such a big expense that it counted for Mother's Day and my birthday. My parents surprised me by doing a bunch of landscaping work at my house while we were gone to Disney.  So I knew I wouldn't be getting any big presents on the day.  Still, my girls each gave me a homemade present.  Curly Q gave me a picture collage and Bear gave me a picture frame she had decorated.  They were both extremely thoughtful gifts.  Of course, as is birthday tradition in our house, they served me breakfast in bed.

After breakfast we went about our usual day.  We did a little school; Bear had to go to physical therapy, and then Curly Q and I went to the shop to have lunch with my Mom.  My Mom likes to do birthdays and so she had planned a little luncheon party with yummy food including strawberry shortcake for dessert.  It was a nice lunch.

After that there were more errands to run.  We picked up Bear from gymnastics, and then I has to stop at the dreaded Walmart for a couple things.  Although I nearly had a panic attack from the crowds of children and fat people on scooters in the frozen food aisle, we made it out relatively unscathed (at least for a Walmart trip).

For dinner I decided I felt like staying home.  I commissioned my dear husband to get food from our favorite Thai restaurant.  Of course I had forgotten that the main road to it was closed.  So he had to go around the world to get there and back.  He finally made it home at 7:15.  Sadly it looks as though they have changed owners, and the food was ok, but nowhere near as great as it had been.  I got to finish up with coconut cream pie and "So You Think You Can Dance." 

So all in all it was a good day.  I felt a bit blaise the whole day in part due to the crummy weather, but I got lots of great birthday wishes and the people who I care about most did their best to show me they love me too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I got to babysit my cousin's baby girl today.  It's funny because I have never had an affinity for babies.  I was never the one to ask to hold someone else's baby.  In fact when I was desperate to have a child it wasn't the baby stage I was longing for.  Having a baby was just the necessary evil of having  child.  If adoption had been an easier or cheaper option i probably would have skipped having a baby all together.

Once I had Q-bert I was shocked at the immense love I felt for her immediately.  Even though she was still basically a living piece of luggage I was hooked.  Now every time I hold a baby it reminds me of that time, and I get to relive that feeling.

So having Charlotte today felt like a gift.  It help that she is one of the easiest babies I have ever seen.  I had her for over 6 hours and the only time she cried was when she bumped her head on the entertainment center when she was flirting with her own reflection.  Even then she cried for just a moment and was amazingly easy to calm down.  The girls enjoyed having the baby around too.  They were next to her most of the day.  I couldn't believe that Charlotte tolerated all the attention.

Of course I know that borrowing someone else's baby is nothing like having one of your own day in and day out.  But for one day it was fun to pretend.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


One of the blogs I read gently cited a study showing that kids who are raised without being allowed to fail turn out to be miserable adults. Of course this is a no brainer, but that doesn't mean that it is easy to watch your child struggle.

For example, Q-Bert is currently participating in an all-star play. It truly was an honor to be asked to be in the play. Out of 150 or so kids only 25 were asked to be in the all stars. Still she was very disappointed in the role she was assigned, and in fact many tears were shed the day she found out. I didn't tell her not to cry. It was ok to be disappointed... even mad. Watching her experience those emotions was hard for me. I gave her a few extra hugs, but I didn't encourage her to wallow in the negative emotions. I also didn't coddle her or spend a lot of energy trying to help her through it. I mentioned that many kids would have liked to get into the all star play and didn't, and I told her that part of doing things like theater was learning to deal with not getting the part you wanted (or not getting a part at all). By the next day she had worked her way through the anger and had accepted the part she was given.

Of course during the competitive season of gymnastics Bear had multiple opportunities to feel disappointed. Early in the season she was still learning the routines because she had only been put on the team a couple months earlier. Her teammates were experiencing early successes at meets and Bear wasn't. I know it was difficult for her, but She struggled through it and was that much better for it. At state she missed first place by .025. That isn't much, but it had big consequences. She didn't get to attend the state awards banquet. She doesn't get her picture in the lobby of the gym. She didn't get a crown. All these things could have been really upsetting for her, and I do think she was frustrated by it. Still she is managing to turn that frustration into motivation for next season.

I don't think my kids are exceptional when it comes to dealing with failure. Quite the opposite in fact. They both cried when they didn't know the answer to a problem on their standardized tests. I do think that I am helping them understand that failure is a part of trying anything worthwhile. I would rather help them make excuses. It would be easier to do that, but that wouldn't prepare them for a lifetime of job interviews and dates. When we step in to "save" our child from failure I wonder who we are really doing I it for.

Monday, June 20, 2011


It's been a whole month since I posted.  Between getting ready for our trip, going on our trip, and recovering from our trip the month has flown by.  I have had many things to say, but I just haven't taken the time to say them.  So this posted will be a catch-up of sorts.  Some of the things I say will need a full post of their own at a later date, but for now I am just going to get going...

Disney was hot and crowded.  We have always visited in January when the crowds are low, and so are the crowd levels.  In June it is 90+, and although the crowds are in no way at their peak, they were much bigger than I am used to.  Still it was a fun trip.  The group of people we went with seemed to understand that you should have some time together and some time apart.  One day I was feeling a bit burnt out on the whole thing so our family ventured out on our own to one of our favorite places in Disney, Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club resort.  We ordered the kids the kitchen sink and enjoyed Disney "our way" for a while.

The competition was less impressive than I expected.  We did get to meet Nastia Liukin, but she seemed like she had been signing autographs all day (which she had).  She was pleasant, but not terribly personable.  They only had three age groups when almost every other competition we have gone to had four.  That put Bear in the same age group as girls nearly two years older than her.  She still held her own, but she would have places 1st or 2nd on nearly everything if the age groups were divided normally.  As it was she got 6th all around which is amazing when you remember that this was Nationals.  Her team got 1st and the bragging rights that go with being National Champions!

We have been diligently getting ready for Q-bert's dance recital.  She did a fabulous job, and in fact her tap number was one of the highlights of the show.  They were so in sync and the routine was so entertaining.  I think that is one thing we all noticed about the show in general.  It was very entertaining.  It seems like this studio made a show to entertain an audience whereas her last studio made a show to show-off what the dancers knew.  I think that really reflects a difference in studio philosophies.  I don't have the actual dance pictures, but here is a picture of Q-bert getting ready to go in before the show.

So now we are to today.  We are starting school again today.  The girls are going to be working on multiplication and a unit study of water.  They both really wanted to go back to doing unit studies, and truth be told, I think they are the most fun too.  They are A LOT of work for me though.  So considering how busy we are,  I am not sure I will be able to keep it moving forward.  I did find a bunch of nice unit studies at Curr-Click that were made by Teacher Created Resources.  They are literature based, but have hands on science, creative writing, and art projects.  So they provide a great start.

I was hoping this week would be more laid back, but between Bear's physical therapy appointments for her Sever's and her gymnastics our schedule is already quite full.  Kali has practice for her All-Star play; I am also watching my cousin's baby on Wednesday (which is a ton of fun) which is another commitment.  Also, although I didn't blog about it, I am trying to meet my resolution to take more field trips.  So far we have gone to the Museum of Science and Industry

and Brookfield Zoo

We also went bowling, but I didn't get pictures.  This week we are supposed to go to Magiquest too.  Oh and I need to finish opening our pool...

So as you can see, things are not slowing down, but hopefully I am making having fun a bigger priority!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A reason for my anxiety...

My whole life I have had a storage connection to other people's emotion. More times than not I am able to tell you how and what people are feeling.I don't think of it as a creepy Ghostwhisperer thing. It's more of a Mentalist kind of thing. That is to say that I don't think I am psychic just perceptive. I have q feeling Curly got a bit of that too, but that is a different post...

The reason I mention it is that I may have figured out the reason for my anxiety. My brother was given an initial diagnosis of MS yesterday. They still have to rule out Lyme disease, but the doctors really think it is Multiple Sclerosis. He's been having focus problems for a while now, and to be honest I was worried about him. However, I really that someone was poisoning him. His household has been having some big problems, and so I truly thought his symptoms were related to that. I even encouraged him to get a tox screen done when I was there in January.

If it is MS I am worried for his younger children. They are the same ages as my two kids, and he is their most involved parent. He is also very active with his family. He is outdoorsy. It seems so unfair that someone as axtive as he is would get a disease like MS. I wonder if they will even consider moving closer to us so that they have a support system. I am not sure whether it would be a good idea or not...

Well, I am rambling now because there is too much rattling around in my brain. He I supposed to have some more tests done today. I will update when I know more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekly Update

My last post was a bit of a downer, and I guess I haven't posted since because I am not sure how to follow it up. 

I did take Bear to the specialist, and her recommendations were exactly what my gut told me to do.  Bear can continue to train with slight modifications, but after nationals she needs a real break.  Plus she will need some physical therapy sessions to help her deal with the Sever's Disease.  The worst news is that she will probably continue to have bouts of Sever's for the rest of her childhood.  So it is very possible this pain will be recurring.  It just means that if Bear wants to be a gymnast she will have to be diligent at doing stretching and strength exercises every day.

Curly Q. did her play this week.  She actually performed it twice.  The first performance was the "regular" one associated with her class.  She did well, but it was the first time she had a singing solo.  She was SO nervous about it, that I think she looked a bit stiff throughout the whole play.  As for the solo it went well.  I have hear her sing it better than she did that night, but I was so proud of her for not letting  her nerves get he best of her.  The second performance was a benefit for Breast Cancer.  Curly Q. played a different part, and so there was no solo to worry about.  Without the added pressure she really let loose, and she looked GREAT!  It was fun to see her hamming it up.  I hope she can continue to loosen up and show how much she enjoys performing.

I am in planning mode right now.  I don't know why, but every May I am ready to start planning things.  I think I am sick of the stuff we have been doing, and I am ready to move on to new stuff.  I was trying to convince the girls to try a pre packaged curriculum.  I had been looking into Oak Meadow, and it looked really good to me.  Unfortunately the girls both really want to go back to unit studies.  I can't blame them.  Unit studies are more fun than anything else we have tried.  The problem is that they are a lot of work to plan.  Even the unit studies that you buy involve a lot of gathering of materials.  Still, I feel like this year we haven't done a lot of school, and what we have done wouldn't be classified as "fun".  I think the problem is that I wanted to be more unschooly, but I just don't have the faith in it that I would need.  So we spent the year alternating between me letting them do what they wanted and me panicking that they haven't done anything.  I don't judge those who can make unschooling work for their family, but I know that I am not one of them.

So as I said I am trying to plan summer.  I have decided to start right in on next year's homeschool stuff after our Florida trip.  When we get back we actually have a week to get back into the swing of things.  Then we have a week of testing.  After that we can do two three week sessions over the summer.  We will break them up to accommodate summer camps, etc. Then we will take a month off from mid August until mid September.  And another break from mid December til mid January.  I really think that schedule is a nice balance between schooling year round and taking a long break.  Plus we usually end up taking breaks at those times anyway.  So if they are built into our schedule I don't have to feel guilty about it.

I have also been working on our summer schedule in terms of other stuff.  I feel like if we don't make a point to see friends during the summer we don't see them at all.  Bear's gymnastics schedule is intense for summer, and it really kind of dominates everything we do at this point.  She will have practice Mon, Tues and Thursday afternoons.  Curly will have dance on Thursday nights.  So Thursdays are pretty much shot.  I figure John can have friends over on Thursdays since we won't be around.  Also, on either Monday or Tuesday (probably Tuesday) one of Curly's friends will spend the afternoon with us while Bear and the other girl's sister are at gymnastics.  We also have to fit guitar lessons in for Curly Q.  That leaves Wed. and Fri. free.  My hope is that we will do fun trips on Friday, and have friends over on Wednesday.  We can still do school in the mornings too!  It sounds like the perfect plan.  Of course I know things won't go according to plan because they never do, but it looks nice on paper

So there you have it.  When I get anxious I plan.  I know it sounds crazy (maybe it is).  The mere act of making the plan is soothing because it feels active as opposed to passive.  So I guess in that way I am feeling better.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Do you remember that feeling of being in trouble that you had as a kid?  That jumpy feeling in your stomach.  Not quite nausea, but butterflies. 

I have had boughts of this type of anxiety throughout my life like everyone else.  As a child I worried about school stuff and friend stuff.  As a college student I worried about grades, scholarships, boyfriends, etc.  Early in my marriage I worried about the compromises I felt I was making.  Later I worried I wouldn't get pregnant.  I now have worries about parenting, money, home maintenance, etc.

These kind of worried are what everyone deals with.  They come into my mind and then leave fairly quickly like a bee flitting from one flower to the next.  I know that everyone who reads this can think of a half dozen such worries. 

It seems that I have been having a different sort of worry for the past few months.  This worry feels different.  Instead of a butterfly this worry feels like a rock.  It comes on suddenly, and when it happens I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me.  Sometimes it is related to things grounded in reality like money troubles, but sometimes it is related to things that there is no real reason to even consider like whether I may get skin cancer.  I worry about big things like whether global warming will destroy the earth during my kids lifetime and small things like whether the price of gas will make me unable to go anywhere.

One of the problems with this type of worry is that since I know it is irrational I don't trust my instincts.  I have always had great instincts, but lately I can't be sure if a concern is real or not.  For example, Bear's heel pain.  I waver between thinking it is no big deal to thinking it is a gymnastics ending injury.  What is real?  John says it's no big deal; that an injury like that will take a while to mend.  Her coach recommended a sports medicine doctor.  I don't know what to think.  It is keeping me awake at night.

I think all this anxiety is related to menopause.  I know I am pretty young for it, but my Mom started having symptoms when she was about my age.  Another worry I have is that I will have serious symptoms with menopause.  One of my Mom's sisters basically went crazy when she was gong through the change.  She is fine now, but she had a few rough years.  Another of her sisters fell into a depression that she never surfaced from.  I know that I should go to the doctor, and I will go in June. 

Until then I am thankful that i have surrounded myself with people who help calm my fears as opposed to fanning the flames of them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Slow Down....

It's May now, and I have been trying to decided what resolution to work towards.  I would like to work on slowing down, but I am not sure I can do it.  I'm not even sure I know how to do it.  It seems so vague.  When I wrote it what I meant was enjoy the trip as opposed to sprinting towards the finish line.  I have a habit of putting blinders on like a race horse and running like hell to finish things.  It makes me a very efficient person, but I also miss things. 

I am constantly feeling like time is my enemy.  Even the other resolutions I have made so far all involve time.  Time for writing, time for exercising, time for reducing clutter, time to spend with each member of my family.  Some days I feel like I am behind before I get out of bed.  Today, for example, I was up at 6:00 because I started to think of all the things I needed to accomplish.  I need to take Bear around to my Dad's business friends to fundraise; I need to do school with the girls; I need to make a deposit into the fundraising account; I need to clean the kitchen; I need to blog; I need to take the kids to their afternoon activities; I need to wash the girls bedding; I need to vacuum; I need to take flyers about our pizza fundraiser to the pizza place...  The list could go on and on.  As I look back on it I realize that many of these things are not actually "needs".  Some of them are promises that I would feel bad if I didn't keep.  The cleaning tasks don't seem like they should be "needs", but I have been me long enough to realize that I function so much better in a clean space.  So while in a purely objective sense I know that these are not things I need to do.  I do feel they are all necessary.

So if I choose to slow down, how do I do that?  I have no idea.  All my other resolutions have very concrete plans of action.  This one is more vague.  For this month I will do my best to stop and smell the roses.  This blog will help me track how I am doing.

Alabama's song I'm in a hurry can be my anthem...
I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really got to do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead!

Every American who was alive when the towers fell remembers it vividly.  I have trouble remembering almost everything, but that moment is engraved in my mind.  We had just bought my Jeep, and I needed to take it back to the dealership for something.  John and I got up early that morning and heard the news in the car on the way to the dealership.  After we dropped off the car we went to breakfast at a local Greek restaurant.  They had a tv on in the corner, and every single person was glued to it.  As we watched the tragedy I remember being shocked by the stillness in that restaurant.  There were 50+ people in the place, and yet no one spoke. 

I was pregnant at the time with Curly Q.  As I watched I feared what kind of world I was bringing a child into.  Even though it was not rational to take it this far I feared that it could be the beginning of the end.  On the outside I was the voice of reason reminding people that around the world there are many people who live with much more severe daily threats than we were experiencing, but inside I felt my own naivety crumbling.  Over all,  I think it is a good thing to look at the world with open eyes, but the transformation was so abrupt!   Very shortly I started to have difficulties with my pregnancy.  I was put on bedrest and eventually Curly Q. came 2 months early.  I often wonder whether the stress of 9-11 contributed to it.  Maybe it had nothing to do with it, but I have heard that there was a spike in the number of premature births after 9-11. 

The experience still affects me emotionally.  Just writing about it brings tears to my eyes.  It's hard to believe that it can still feel so raw nearly 10 years later.  I do think the timing in my life made it more stressful for me.  Becoming a parent seems like a right of passage that catapults us from self centered kids into responsible adults, and who wanted to be the responsible ones in that situation.

So I am glad to hear that the threat from Osama Bin Laden is gone.  He was not only responsible for the World Trade Center, but also many more atrocities across the globe.  He continued to spout bigotry and bring hate into the world because of his own small mindedness.  So I think it is ok to be glad he is dead, but I worry about just how excited some people are. 

I firmly believe that when you put negative energy out into the world, you get it back.  Does celebrating the death of someone constitute negative energy.  The comments about how people hope he suffered, and the things people are saying to do with his body are definitely negative energy.  I worry in a somewhat spiritual sense what that is doing to them, but I worry more in a physical sense what their behavior is doing for our reputation in the world.  We already have a PR problem.  Many people around the world think Americans are crass and barbaric.  Will our behavior after Bin Laden's death prove them right or can we rise above it.  Can we celebrate the hard work of our soldiers without coming across as savagely cruel.  Can we be happy for those who have been saved from his tyranny and still keep our humanity?  I'd like to think so...