Monday, April 30, 2007

Intentions, Reasons, Aims and Goals I Have For Attending This Homeschooling Conference

Here are my intentions, reasons, aims and goals I have for attending the big homeschooling conference last weekend.

1. To be in a room with 2500 other homeschoolers! To feel not alone in this journey. To feel the energy that emanates from everyone. I haven’t had this experience in two years, so I feel overdue.

2. To attend some homeschooling lectures to reinforce that homeschooling is good and right. I’m looking for general topics of encouragement. I am not really looking for topics about how to teach, methods, styles etc.

3. I am thinking about using the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for a writing composition program. That is the main product/book that I need to research while at this conference. I want to attend the vendor lecture they are giving. I want to look at the program and hold it in my hands and figure out what it is. I have been unable to get the gist that I am looking for by reading the IEW website. I have checked the resale prices online and they are not a deep discount. I will purchase this at this conference if it looks worthwhile and do-able for our family.

4. I want to browse to see if I can find a good children’s Bible to purchase.

5. I want to find a nice Bible that I can read. I need to hold these in my hands and look at them. I want a Bible that does not have pages that are translucent.

6. I want to browse around for living books and just see what is around in a very relaxed manner and not necessarily purchase anything because I have so much here that is still unread.

7. I am on a strict budget and need to not over-spend. I need to remember this and to keep myself under control at this conference.

(Note: I wrote this before I attended the conference but was unable to publish it at that time due to problems I'm having with the Blogger site.)

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Almost Garlic Mustard Time Again

Spring is here and where I am in New England, it is nearly time for Garlic Mustard time.

Keep your eyes peeled for this invasive, nasty plant intruder which can harm our forests.

I blogged about it last year, and a picture of it growing in my yard/woods is here.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Getting Ready To Attend Homeschooling Conference

Tonight I am making my plans for a plan of attack for a two day homeschooling conference this weekend. I'll be attending the MassHope Christian Homeschooling Conference.

It has been two years since I attended this huge homeschooling conference. There are usually about 2500 attendees which I find inspirational and energizing--to just see so many homeschoolers all in one place.

Tonight I sat down with a list of the conference speaker sessions and descriptions and prioritized which I want to hear. This time I seem to want to hear one session only per time slot but I have every single time slot filled. That would leave me with just 3.5 hours to shop in the gigantic vendor hall.

Now I will figure out which lectures I might prefer to own. Maybe I will just buy some of the lecture tapes and spend that time shopping instead.

The last thing I am going to do is make a short list of what books and products and curriculum I'd like to look at and which I definately need to buy for this upcoming year. I want to give myself a budget and try to convince myself to stay in control and not to overspend. I am going to list out our homeschooling plans for 2007-2008 then consider what we already own versus what we definately need.

So that is what I am up to tonight.

Great Photo Of Readers

Check out this great photo at Trivium Pursuit.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An Opportunity To Make Money Blogging

This came through my email from BlogTopSites on 4/24/07. Unfortunately I don’t qualify but maybe you do.

There is something aside we wanted to mention. For those that don't know, the parent company of all of this is BloggyNetwork. We do both blog resources (ala BlogFlux) and also blogs. One of our upcoming projects involves local blogging. If you live in a major US city (750k+ people) and want to blog about your city (and get paid for it), please drop us a line at Please note that it has to be a major US city (we will expand with time).

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

2006 Homeschool Blog Award Winners

Here is a link to the list of winners of the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards.

I had been nominated to the category of “Best Current Events, Politics, or Opinions Blog”.

Today I checked to see who won in that category, the winner is Spunky Homeschool—congratulations Spunky!

Spunky stopped blogging in December 2006 and I know she is missed in the homeschooling blogosphere. In light of her nomination, she did publish a blog post on April 10, 2007 that explains a little about why she stopped blogging, mostly by linking to this absolutely fantastic online article which she asks us to read, and I did, and now I urge everyone to read it and to ponder it.

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Displace Me

Did you hear about this event called Displace Me?

I find it interesting because the goal of this exercise is to raise awareness in Americans and to ask the U.S. Government to intervene to take action to help the people of Uganda and to help end their war. What is interesting to me is some Americans don't want the American military getting involved in other country's business. Some of those people criticize our involvement in the Middle East. Yet here is a group that is spreading awareness of the horrible situation in Uganda and calling for U.S. Military intervention. Wow.

Carnival Of Homeschooling Week 69 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 69 was published on April 24, 2007, by Sprittibee.

There are over 30 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Patterns In Blogger Problem

Here is the pattern I notice. If I log onto Blogger and compose inside of the Blogger window, do it quickly and keep the post to a short length, it usually publishes. If I take longer than a certain amount of time to hit the "publish" button, it "times out".

If I compose in Mircosoft Word and copy and paste inside of this window it usually immediately gives the error message that Blogger is no longer connected and I can't publish it.

I am frustrated that I continue to have problems publishing and that Blogger is not discussing this issue as "known problem".

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rhode Island Homeschooling Conference April 28, 2007

Judy Aron blogged yesterday about a FREE homeschooling conference in Rhode Island on April 28, 2007.

I would love to see the documentary by John Taylor Gatto.

For information about this conference check out the blog post by Judy on Consent of the Governed.

I blogged this post in February 2007, about some other area homeschooling conferences.

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Blog Traffic Higher, Go Figure

Well I haven't blogged since last Wednesday due to me continuing to have problems getting my already-written blog entries published. Then I was out of town for three days, and arrived back home late last night.

Yet today I see that last week's blog volume was up. I am usually very steady with 1800 visitors a week. However last week I had 2400 visitors. I wonder why? I publish less and get more visitors. Go figure.

I am going to peek at my Site Meter to see if I can figure this out. I wonder if someone is linking to me or something. Hmmm.

Maybe if Blogger cooperates I can blog about where I went. Plus I have all these other blog entries already written that I'd like to publish....

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Daily Chores Update

Jess, one of my blog readers asked me for an update on my post declaring that I'd be starting daily chores with my kids.

The whole thing basically bombed out. I have no schedule for chores for the kids. I have no schedule for the family to do housecleaning, decluttering or laundry on certain days.

I do have the lessons laid out for the days when we do homeschooling. I basically try to do all the subjects on all the days we do our lessons. Some of our days are spent doing outside classes or doing other things in the real world.

My kids are helping out a lot more and not complaining when my husband or I asks them to do things. They are still helping empty the dishwasher, bringing dirty clothes to the laundry room, hauling clean clothes upstairs for me to fold, and putting away their own folded clothing. They are still helping me clean the house such as dusting, vaccuuming, using the Swiffer, and cleaning the bathrooms with non-harmful cleansers.

I have been pretty good about trying to stay on top of things and not letting the house get to a very over-cluttered state. I'm trying to have us do the cleaning and decluttering on a more frequent basis which actually makes the work takes less time to accomplish.

The last thing I'll say is that I had both kids and myself re-take the learning styles test in "Discover Your Child's Learning Style" and all three of us came out with a horriblly low score in the area of liking schedules and we all scored high with wanting and liking spontaneity. That result gave me a real laugh and made me feel better about what seems to be a failure on my part to make a schedule and keep to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 68 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 68 was published today at Why Homeschool.

There are over 30 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too). I have an entry in this blog carnival.

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Time Flies (Flashback May 2004)

Wow, time does fly.

Here is a flashback to May 2004. This was my older son's first season of Little League. I believe this was my son's first game, his team is in red. When signing up, the coaches were speechless to hear he was doing his first season at age six. Here it is thought to be not just odd but possibly negligent, because most children (boys and girls alike) start playing Little League at age four in my town. It is all about starting early, doing a lot of extracurricular, structured activities starting in babyhood around here: go-go-go, compete-compete-compete, that is the mindset.

My older son is growing like a weed. He has changed so much in his 9th year. That change has happened where he is losing that small, thin little boy look and turning into more of a young man look. It doesn't seem right that it is happening already. His hands are nearly as large as mine. His feet are no longer cute. He used to be smaller framed and on the skinny side. He is filling out now and has defined muscles.

This son did Little League for two seasons then asked to not do it any longer. I am more than happy to not have either of my children in Little League this year for multiple reasons.

Children Can Create Art Out Of Anything

Last week my children shouted to me that I must come see what they did.

Here is what I saw when I entered the bathroom.

My children can find ways to make art out of anything. I loved this sculpture.

I love it!

This is creativity at work. My older son designed it, he likes symmetry (and he realizes that and has talked with me about how he likes to use symmetry in both his artworks and in his LEGO building creations).

Some may think this is weird or silly, but I see this as an example of the creative process at work. I love that my children get these ideas and feel free to run with them instead of being worried that I'd be angry that they did this or that someone may criticize them for doing this, call them weird or odd or some other negative thing.

I snapped the photo immediately. We left it to show my husband who didn't quite know what to think or say, then I had the kids put everything back on the shelves where it came from.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New Photo of Me

Here is a photo of me taken by my younger son last week. It is imperfect but it is the real me. I'm going to use this for the new photo of me on my blog. I am sick of looking at the other photo which was taken six months ago.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More on Children's BMI and Public Schools

I blogged recently about my thoughts on children's BMI being tracked by public schools and about how some schools are reporting the BMI score on the report card as well as school-based programs seeking to help children not be fat.

The Wall Street Journal April 14-15, 2007 edition has a long article on the front page "In Obesity Wars, A New Backlash" A Western town pushed schoolkids to eat right and exercise more. Did it go too far?".

As I read the article a thought popped into my head about the possible cause of the increase in the number of overweight children. Before I share my new idea, the old reasons that most cite are: increased time indoors, increased time in front of TV and playing video games instead of outdoor play, and junk foods. To a lesser extent, larger portions, increased use of high-fat and high-calorie fast foods instead of home cooked family meals are also blamed.

My new thought was about not just the manner of children's play but of these two things. Perhaps the increase in working mothers and the required use of "after school" programs to act as babysitters has prevented outdoor free play such as bike riding, tossing baseballs, running around and swingset play. Additionally the children who wake early to be put into "before school care" so that the parents can get to work on time could leave the children more tired throughout the day. The increase of scheduled activities such as doing Little League baseball at age four instead of just spending hours outside playing and playing very loosely at baseball with the neighbors is to blame. Other extracurricular classes that young children do such as musical instrument lessons, choir, drama, art, and dance or sports, also squeeze out time for free play outdoors.

I have said before that children are playing outdoors unsupervised less than they used to in the past due to the over-hyping by the media of kidnappings of children by strangers. That is still an issue. But I think there is something to this idea that children forced into indoor 'after school care' programs and also the use of several formal extracurricular activities instead of general outdoor free play by groups of neighborhood children in the suburbs could be partially to blame.

I am all for children eating healthy foods in as close to their natural state as possible, and preferably organic as well. Please don't get the impression that I don't care what children (and adults) eat.

Looking back on my own childhood, I ate junk foods, ice cream nearly daily, dessert after lunch, a dessert as an after-school snack and dessert after dinner every night. I ate foods that are not considered junk. I ate candy. I never drank water, instead, drinking Kool Aid, juices, lemonade and sweetened iced tea from a mix. Additionally the foods my mother made from scratch are foods that the experts say are bad--we ate "square meals" with a white potato dish every night, the vegetables were usually canned or frozen (never fresh), we never ate a tossed garden salad. We ate plenty of red meat as well as hot dogs.

I got a ton of exercise by playing outdoor running games and riding my bike. I later swam for fun, for hours on end, in the town's public swimming pool. I spent many hours per day outdoors, unsupervised, playing with the neighborhood kids.

I was also as thin as a rail.

So that is what is on my mind right now.

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Please Work

It is so frustrating to keep trying to publish a blog entry and getting only error messages.

If my blog is lacking a current entry it means that I am still unable to publish them.


Now this one published by all my 'real' blog posts won't publish.

I am a bit frustrated as I have taken the time to write longer blog entries with links and all that jazz yet can't publish them.

Is this God's way of telling me to stop blogging and to spend my time doing different things or something?

Friday, April 13, 2007

You Have Until Midnight Tonight to Vote for the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards

Until midnight tonight you may vote in the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards.

You can only vote for one blog per category. You cannot vote more than once.

As I said before I’ve been nominated. I am not begging for a vote. If you like my blog, vote for me. If you like my blog and don’t feel like voting, that is your choice! Hey, this is America, free choice reigns!

I wrote a list of why I don’t think I’ll win. But I decided not to publish it. I don’t think you want to hear it.

I decided to leave it at this. It is the last day to vote. Know now that I’m saying I won’t win. I truly don’t think I will, and as a result, my feelings won’t be hurt when the winners are announced and my blog isn't on there. (This is not a ploy to beg for votes for me either, I'm just stating my prediction now.)

My past blog entries on this post:
Voting Open for the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards

2006 Homeschool Blog Awards Taking Nominations Now

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Suspect Blogger is Causing Blogger Publishing Problems

This is my fourth day of having major problems trying to blog here at Blogger (blogspot). I have tried probably 30 times each day to publish a simple blog entry, and failed.

I was using Internet Explorer which I've used basically since I first started using a computer. I had a couple different error messages which were all basically saying "unable to connect to Blogger".

I have been all over the net looking for what this could be, as all over the Blogger site. I can't find an outcry of anyone else complaining of suddenly having problems like me. But I did find references that IE was not perfectly compatible with the new Blogger software. So today I changed over to FireFox2 and am trying it.

Well after publishing this blog post and one other, I was unable to edit or make any new posts.

I am backlogged with entries I've written that I am unable to publish.

I have wasted a ton of time trying to figure out what was wrong, incorrectly blaming my own PC or my software.

I emailed Blogger asking what is up and why aren't they sharing the problem? However, so far, no reply and I see nothing on their site that says that they are acknowledging a problem. SIGH.

If this keeps up I will either slow way down on blogging or else may move to another blog host. Ugh.

UPDATE 5/03/07: Check this site to see if it helps you if you are having problems.

KGOY Study Released April 2007 Causes a Buzz

A study released this week reveals what people are calling KGOY: Kids Getting Older Younger and how it relates to an all-time high on spending on young children’s clothing and designer clothing. I heard a story on FoxNews about this and then followed up by reading what I could find on the Internet.

On FoxNews the segment focused on girls, the way eight year old’s are dressing in sexy clothing to emulate Brittany Spears and they showed the Bratz dolls with the bare midriff, high heels, tight shirts, coiffed hair and full makeup.

The woman newscaster was speaking to some other woman (sorry, I didn’t catch who she was). They deduced that “Generation Y” young children seek to emulate teenagers. The teenagers are dressing in certain sexy ways and the younger girls eight and younger seek to dress in what adults consider sexy and way too sexy for children of that age. The woman being interviewed gave her opinion that when young girls dress in sexy ways they are playing dress-up in an innocent way and have no concept of what “sexy” means and that they are not trying to be “sexy” but just to emulate what teenagers and adults in today’s society are wearing and dressing (makeup, hair styles).

My opinion on the clothing issue is that the woman’s statements annoyed me because while the girls might think they are playing at dress up (yet not in imaginative play, it is living it out in real life) the adults know that what they are doing is wearing clothing that is inappropriate for their age. Prepubescent children should not be wearing sexy clothing in my opinion. What is worn is seen by the public and by people who do know what sexy is and innocent children who are not even at the age of puberty yet should not have their bodies on display in a sexy manner. Period. A little girl playing at dress up clothing at home with a boa and high heels is innocent, but wearing sexy clothing in public and to school is a totally different thing altogether.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen little girls exposed and private parts exposed while in public due to the sexy clothing their parents dress them in. I don’t think it is fair to the children who are just trying to play at normal child’s activities to have others see their exposed body parts and private parts. If you want an example, I have seen girls bending over, going down slides, on swing sets, and playing at the playground who are exposed. The low-rider pants which reveal their bare skin when they bend over is a problem. I saw a girl of about age 10 with the top of her jeans many inches below her navel with skin showing which was surprising. I see girls whose miniskirts expose their bodies and others whose skin tight shirts with words across the breast area attract the eye right to the chest area.

Back to the news story…
Toy companies were also to blame. However in the end they focused on and pinpointed (blamed) the parents because it is the parents who control what the kids wear and what toys they own. They said they think children today have parents who are spending more money on both toys and clothes as well as parents who are more lenient and willing to give in to provide whatever their children request. The parents are said to spend more money on children today and to get them whatever they want (versus what the parent likes or thinks is acceptable.) Also today’s children are more likely to speak up and demand what they want, which is different than what former generations were allowed to do, as former generations were not allowed to speak so freely to adults. When our parents said no, it meant no, period. Today’s kids seem to feel they have a right to their opinion, demand things, and most parents take backtalk and other type of discussion and negotiation as normal (that was definitely not allowed in my family when I was a child).

They did not talk for very long. They did not talk about boys.

So parents, it is up to you to set a standard in your home for what you think is right or wrong, period.

Here are some other stories on the web that I found today.

1. Tweens Keep Getting Older Younger
By: Thom Forbes
Published In: USA Today
Publication Date: 4/11/07

2. Retailers try to track preteen trends: Market for girls 8 to 12 years old gets narrower
Publication Date: April 12, 2007
BY Jayne O'Donnell
Published In: USA Today

3. A story about some of the products marketed specifically to tweens
In The Middle
By Travis Whitehead
Publication Date March 28, 2007
Published In: The Monitor

4. An older article that has some good information.
Article: Kids Getting Older Younger
Website: Advertising Educational Foundation
Publication Date 1999

5. An article published by the First Presbyterian Church of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania’s website about the issue viewed with comparisons to Biblical Scripture.
Publication Date: October 20, 2002

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Carnival Of Homeschooling Week 67 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 67 was published on April 10, 2007, by Apollos Academy.

There are over 30 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Visit To The Hospital To See My Grandmother

Having grown up in a suburb of that city, it was drilled into our head that any time we went there, that we should beware. Muggers and rapists were thought to be waiting around every corner, and in parking garages, too. I remember when a woman was raped and murdered in the mall’s parking garage, it was big news at the time. That same garage is where my friends and I used to park when we went shopping there, as teenagers.

Once while working at a doctor’s office I received a frantic phone call from a woman who was not our patient. I will never forget this. She was crying hysterically, saying she had just returned from the city, she was trying to visit her husband, who had been in a car accident, and while on the short walk from her car and the main entrance she was raped by a group of men, and she was also was violated with fallen limbs from a tree. “I saw one man reach down and pick up a stick from the sidewalk. I thought he was going to beat me with it but instead he used it on me…in me…” She begged to come to our office for an examination, saying she never wanted to step foot in a hospital in that city again, even in her time of great need. After I consulted with the doctor, my job was to try to convince her to go back into that city to the Emergency Room as they had the proper training to examine and collect evidence from rape victims. It broke my heart. She was refusing go to there ever again. (I wonder what ever happened and I hope she is alright.).

Can you see how we suburb dwellers feel that a visit to that city can be a life-endangering event? So many of us who are from the suburbs sometimes only venture into that city only when absolutely necessary, such as to visit a patient at the hospital, or to birth our own babies.

Today I am driving up I-95 to get to the hospital. Depending on the time of day this can be quick and easy or it can be long and frustrating. For months now, there has been a ridiculous (no big deal) bump in the road from an ongoing construction project (there is always some kind of big construction project going on in that area). That little bump slows traffic way down at peak times. Invariably there seems to be someone always broken down on the side of the road, not a nuisance to the drivers at all, but the rubber-necking is enough to cause traffic jams that can last for miles. The tractor trailer trucks either drive like they are in the Indy 500 or else they go slow enough to clog the lanes. That strip of highway was rated the most lethal and dangerous strip of road in the entire country.

My years of not driving in rush hour have mellowed me. My status as mother also has me driving slowly on side roads, imagining that a child could step out in front of me at any moment, chasing after a ball or some other such thing. I see the dangers in things now, and I have no desire to be in a car accident, or to accidentally rear-end someone and end up with a neck injury, or something worse. So I leave more space in front of me than I used to. I remember I used to make sure to leave less than the length of one car lest another driver squeeze in front of me, that is the way the commuters drive around here. I just can’t drive like that anymore. Didn’t I hear it takes over 200 feet to stop when driving at 60 miles per hour? What would happen if the space was just ten feet? However this hurts me in the end as the two or three car lengths of space I leave in front of me gets constantly cut into by those passing me on the right. I know they think I’m either a fool or a nuisance. I’m going with the traffic flow, I’m not causing any problems, so I don’t see why they are so upset. And so we jockey for position in the lanes, we’re all feeling claustrophobic and we long to see open road in front of us, or at least the ability to see more than just the back windshield of the vehicle that is directly in front of us.

I exit the highway which conveniently leads directly to the parking garage. I think the $2 per hour is worth the expense compared to the option of driving all around the one way side streets in search of street parking. Parallel parking on a busy city street with a minivan is not easy, either. It is interesting to see where the different family members choose park. Some favor convenience over money, while others are willing to risk their personal safety to save $2 or $4.

I’ve been to the hospital so frequently lately that this fear of the city or the parking garage is dulled if not completely gone. I no longer am confused in the odd parking garage. I walk confidently and quickly, like the employees. I walk like I know where I’m going, because actually I do know where I’m going. Since I’ve been going around either the nurse shift change time or the other employee workday ending time, I think they think that I am one of them, an employee. Their eyes scan me, going up and down sometimes, looking for the employee identification badge, I think. Maybe they are trying to guess what department I work in, based on how I dress. Mostly I stare straight ahead, like a city walker, and that is what probably makes them think I am an employee, a bored drone going into work when I’d rather be doing something else, you know what I mean.

Although it is April, it is colder now than it was for most of the winter; it is in the 30s and low 40s lately. Inside the concrete parking garage, the wind whips. It is an unusual garage, built up and in between two major roads. The traffic is all around us and the noises of the blasting music, the honking horns or the ambulance wails (coming here or exiting the highway to go to the other hospital) pierce the ears.

The employees (and I) walk briskly through the long rows of cars. It is easy to spot the new visitors, as they don’t know where the elevators are, or how to get to the skywalk that connects the garage to the hospital.

In the skywalk everyone is walking fast (as in New York City). If a person is walking slowly, they block up traffic and the others try to walk around them. Usually people don’t make eye contact. This is where a family member might run into the attending physician, where the janitors walk alongside the administrators. It is easy to tell who is who here, a woman in pastel patterned scrubs is probably a nurse, the polished woman in fancy clothes with a lab coat is a doctor. Some talk on their cell phones nonstop. Most never make eye contact. The skywalk is not heated, it is cold and the sounds of the traffic below enter the tunnel and echo while the wind whistles. I look out the clear windows to see people approaching the connector to I-95 and I-91. There is always roadblock. Then I come to the part where the glass is frosted. I got curious once and peeked around the edge to see it is a loading dock, someone must have thought it was not pretty enough for us to look at. The tunnel is not very clean, it is dusty and gritty, and something yellow and crusty is on a pool on the floor, I wonder if it is dried vomit.

I look up toward the hospital itself. The building is ugly. This wing has blue panels on the sides. I know which floor is my grandmother’s. I count up and find her floor. Her room is on the other side though. I think of what it looks like inside those walls, and think how from the outside a person could never know what goes on in there. The psych ward used to be on the top floor. I wonder if that is still what is up in that room? I’m not sure. I’m glad I’m not in there and that no one I know is in there!

At the mouth of the skywalk a sign warns us that we are being monitored by surveillance cameras. A big map of the hospital is there, no one ever looks at it. Everyone seems to know where they are going. A man sits on a folding chair on the sidewalk, selling bouquets of flowers for less than they cost in the hospital gift shop. I imagine he must be cold, and I hope he is making money although I’ve never seen him make a sale. There is always a patient standing right in this area, it is as far away from the hospital as you can get and not break the rules. Today there is a middle aged male patient in need of a shave standing in scrub pants and a hospital gown with a winter coat on top. smoking, since they no longer allow smoking inside the hospital building. The back of his pants is soiled with a small amount feces, I am both disgusted by this and saddened by it. I don’t think he realizes it. An elderly woman in hospital garb with blankets all around her is being pushed in a wheelchair. That must be her daughter with her, taking her for a walk.

I keep walking toward the front doors. A man is sitting on a bench, staring ahead, at what, I don’t know. The nurse in front of me takes a gum wrapper and throws it in the general direction of the trash can. It misses and lands on the sidewalk, she doesn’t even notice. More employees in scrubs exit the hospital doors, chatting loudly and laughing, probably glad to be free for the day. A patient is being discharged, and an employee is helping her into the passenger seat of a door of a car, while the relative, perhaps her daughter, stays behind the wheel.

I use the revolving door, it is the one fun thing about this hospital, I think, so why not use it? I like also how I can just keep on walking and not pause to swing the open door, just walk and push it and keep going without missing a beat.

I go right to the desk to request my visitor’s pass. One visitor is in front of me getting their pass. As usual, female employee doesn’t even make eye contact or greet me. I state the last name, after a few seconds am asked for the first name, I give it, then she gives me the pass. She asks if I need directions, I say I don’t, then I thank her and go on my way. I shove the pass in my magazine, not even bothering to glance at it. I take the magazine in case I get stuck in the family waiting room if they are doing a procedure on my grandmother.

The security guard doesn’t even look at me when I pass. I wonder what types of situations he actually does help with, or if his presence is more symbolic. Ahead of me is a big lobby with lots of seating. Oddly enough, the Indian people are here again. For the last three visits there has been a large group of Indian people in that same seating area. They all know each other and are chatting and are very relaxed, too relaxed it seems, for people hanging out at a hospital. On Easter there had to be 25 of them there, taking up every seat in that area and spilling over to the surrounding areas. At this point I assume they must be from a large family and they are taking turns visiting the patient while the others are basically hanging out there all day. No matter what time of the day I go, there has been at least a dozen of them there. I find this strange, interesting and wonderful all at the same time. Whoever the patient is, is lucky, as they have such a large circle of support around them, happy people who will spend hours and hours sitting in a hospital lobby. I am tempted to ask them if my assumption is correct but I thought it would be in poor taste, so I keep my mouth shut.

There are only a few others in the area. They look bored or unhappy. A couple of black male employees are standing to the side, in their scrubs with their i.d. tags showing. They laugh and chat. For them being at the hospital is a part of their life, it is not connected with pain and suffering of a loved one as it is for me. Other employees are pushing carts, going someplace to do some kind of work. The entrance to the cafeteria is close by, and some visitors and employees are briskly walking toward it.

I head down the hallway. A sign apologizes for the appearance during the renovations. Actually that temporary wall looks nice and I don’t think there is anything to apologize about. There is pro-hospital propaganda lining the permanent walls. A timeline of the hospital’s history in pictures and words is one display. Another is comprised of a huge color photograph of a hospital employee, stating their name and their job and telling how much they love working there. They are all smiling and look so proud to be working there. There is grouping of perhaps six of these posters along one wall.

Now I am at the bank of elevators and punch the button to go up. Others gather behind me as we patiently wait. When the doors open, doctors and nurses and two visitors come out, with their colored visitor passes in hand. As I enter the elevator I smell coffee. I look down and see a large puddle of it on the floor and think, “That’s an injury or a lawsuit waiting to happen”.

The elevator makes it way up, stopping at various floors to let employees and visitors on and off. I finally get off on the floor. I have been here so much I don’t look around too much. I see that the conference room in that lobby is dark and empty, that is where the residents meet with the attending physicians; a schedule of meeting times is on the door.

I open the door to the wing and walk in. The first thing I notice is the heat and the stuffiness. I can’t identify one smell, what is making this place smell this way, but it doesn’t smell good. What this place needs is some good fresh air or at least an air cleaning sytem! And itt is always so hot in here. I glance at the desk. The administrative assistant (or whatever they call them in this hospital) is wearing street clothes and staring at a computer. I see two nurses or PCAs in the hall. It seems all the staff members avoid eye contact as much as possible. I walk directly to my grandmother’s room and see her sitting on the chair. She smiles and is happy to have a visitor. I can see the loneliness on her face.

As I enter the room I see her roommate has been discharged. The curtains that can divide them is open, but that TV is still blaring. I go turn it off and my grandmother thanks me. I survey the situation. My eyes scan to see what is happening here. A used glove lies on the floor next to the trash can. Scraps from packages that held bandages are on the floor and the table. One bottle of Ensure is open with a straw in it, an unopened bottle sits nearby. Little tubes and bottles of ointments and medications litter the table. More of the same is on the nightstand.

Unable to see clearly due to her blindness in one eye and a severe cataract in the other, she has not attempted to learn to use the television’s remote control. And today she is sitting in the big recliner chair, which is good, but she sits silently and has no entertainment to help her pass the time. Unable to see who is walking down the hall, she doesn’t even have for something to look at. Her bed is the one on the interior of the room, so she doesn’t have the window or its light to keep her company. But today, since the other patient has been discharged I open the curtain wide and let the sunlight in. I am glad it is sunny and that the other bed is vacant so that she can enjoy it. But before I can ask how she likes the sun, my grandmother says that it is dark and cloudy and isn’t that a shame? I correct her and say that to the contrary the sun is out and the sky is blue. She is surprised that her eyes are deceiving her in this way.

I ask if she has eaten her prunes today and she says no, but she’d like to. I ask if she’d like some fresh water or ice and she says she prefers the water warm and the (old) water in the plastic pitcher is just fine. I try to decide whether I should refresh her water because I think it is a better thing or whether I should do what she says she wants so that she can have her way. Today I follow her lead and leave the older water for her.

I head down the hall to the patient refrigerator and take out the jar of prunes that my father retrieved from her kitchen cabinet and brought to her. The only problem is after it sat in the room for 48 hours, I was the only one who offered to open it for her and to get it ready for her to eat. I grab a fresh cup from the counter and take it back to the room. My grandmother says at home she likes to put cream on top of the prunes, but in lieu of that she asks for some of the vanilla flavored Ensure in with it. I ask her how many she wants (trying to give her at least a tiny bit of control in this otherwise powerless and vulnerable state), and I dole out five as per her request. Taking a clean spoon that someone left on her tray after lunch (thank goodness), I hand it to her to eat. While she eats I straighten up the place, throwing away plastic wrappers and other trash clutter. I can’t just sit there and leave what is pure trash laying around. I ask her if she has everything she needs and I rearrange the stuff on the table so that she can reach what she needs to.

I find a visitor’s chair and pull it close, close enough so I think she can actually see me. Now I take a better look around the room. I see that the i.v. pole is now empty and I look down to her arm to see that indeed there are no tubes attached to it. I ask how the pain is, the pain in her back from her gnarled spine which inflames the sciatic nerve. I see that her legs are not swollen, and I wonder how the healing is going underneath those bandages. As usual there is talk of the status of the bowl movements. Elderly people seem to be very concerned around the state of their bowels (dare I say, obsessed?). Their regularity or irregularity is a big part of their life, and I don’t yet understand why that is so important but I know I dread ever finding out.

We sit and talk and I try to steer the conversation to positive things rather than focusing on the bad. Rather than talking of what is going well or bad with her treatment or her progress, or what may happen to her in the future, I bring up old stories of the past that will make her happy. We have been talking about how we celebrate Easter and other holidays, of good times that my grandmother helped facilitate.

I am happy that today her mood is better and she speaks of the hope of returning home. Although she is definitely being admitted to a nursing home from here, technically it is rehab and there is a glimmer of hope that she might return to live on her own again before she dies. While last week she begged to be admitted to a nursing home with notions of being tenderly cared for, kept pain-free and comfortable her until her death, today she says she longs to be back in her own home, where she won’t be bothered by other patients and where she can sit in her own chair, use her own remote control and watch television, use her bathroom, have her own phone that she can operate easily, and where she can use her own toilet not the bedpan. The reliance on staff members for even the most basic things has gotten to her after nine days in the hospital and she has had enough. The reality is that she does not have an acute, life-threatening medical condition nor does she have a terminal illness. The problems she has right now are things that some people can live with for many years with ongoing, outpatient treatment, if managed correctly by the health care professionals and if the patient is compliant with the treatment.

My grandmother complains that she thinks her medication is late. A staff member comes in. They never say who they are or what their job is (nurse, doctor, meal deliverer, etc.) and that is frustrating for both the patient and for the family members. My grandmother asks this one for pain medication, stating they are late to give it to her. She says she is a PCA. Since the PCA is tending to something, I take the opportunity to ask what PCA stands for. It is a Patient Care Associate and it is basically a nurse’s aid that also draws blood. She says she wants to become an R.N. and will return to school for that degree after her baby is born. When she stands upright I notice her belly and estimate that she’s about seven months pregnant with her first baby. She had that belly type where it looks like a big ball but if you didn’t see her belly you’d not realize she was pregnant. I tell her that it is good to do one thing at a time and she agrees. However the PCA doesn’t give medication and she says that the nurse just came on and that it would be a while. However I note that the nurse came on 70 minutes ago, to me “just” would mean less than ten or fifteen minutes, but hospital time is different than real-world time, apparently.

After a while the nurse comes. My grandmother is happy because she says this nurse is one of the good nurses. The medication is handed to her quickly and she takes it, mixing it with Jell-O and swallowing it down. I can’t imagine taking a pill that way but if that is what she wants, fine.

After more conversation, I tell her that I need to get going as I have a Cub Scout meeting to lead and attend. I’m not able to spend very long there today. I know what she needs most of all is companionship and some conversation so I feel guilty for staying less than one hour. She thanks me for coming and I tell her I’ll see her tomorrow.

As I walk down the hall, it is business as usual. Some patients in their gowns are walking around. Another visitor has just arrived and is walking in. The staff at the desk are doing their thing. One is talking about how they spent Easter.

I leave the wing and press the button for the elevator. It comes quickly and I get on. As always people are coming and going, all different shapes and sizes of people, people from all walks of life, from all ethnic groups can be seen in this one minute walk from the elevator to the street.

This time I am in the skywalk with a couple of visitors. Employees walk toward me. The horns honk below, the cars pile up at the red light waiting for permission to go forward and to blast onto the highway connector. They want to escape from the city, I know how they feel.

As I walk to the car I am saddened to think of my grandmother being in this state, so old, so dependent and in need of care. She lived close to us before I married and left town. She, and my now deceased grandfather and great-grandmother were a regular part of my life throughout my entire childhood. I was with them at least twice a week, if not three times. We spent all of our holidays together. My brother rand I were the light of their lives, being their only grandchildren. There was no family politics or competition as my father was an only child.

I remember going to her house every Sunday night. We’d eat frozen, sweetened strawberries out of the carton, or fresh orange segments that we’d dip into a little pile of sugar. We always did the same thing, watched channel 7, to see some animal show (what was it called, The Wide, Wide World of Wilderness or something like that?), followed by Disney’s show. I’m not sure if Lawrence Welk was on that night also or did we watch that with them at other times? I can’t recall. My grandfather, grandmother and great-grandmother all had their assigned seats, each in their own armchair. But when we visited we often were allowed to sit in the chair belonging to my grandmother or grandfather.

Things were different after my grandfather died of Cancer; it wasn’t the same, the dynamic in the house shifted. Then a few years later my great-grandmother died of Cancer. For the first time ever my grandmother was living alone. A stray cat from the neighborhood birthed kittens under her porch and she took them in. They became the focus of her love and attention, and a source of joy and company. (The day she was admitted to the hospital the last two were put to sleep, so they are all gone now, having lived 17 years!) Back then, in 1990, I was in my early 20s, and was busy with working and supporting myself, I wasn’t a little girl anymore. That was nearly twenty years ago. Still, things would be different for her. My grandmother never knew she’d live this long, all alone.

My grandmother has been in my life for so long. It is a blessing to know one’s grandparents for so long. Believe me, it was not all sweetness and light. My grandmother is stubborn and opinionated and tells it like it is. We have not always seen eye to eye. Her critical and judgmental nature sometimes drove me away from her for periods of time, as a self-preservation technique on my part. But as an adult I’ve gotten to know her in different ways than what I thought of her when I was little, or when I was a teenager. I am now able to not focus on just her flaws and to be angry with her for having them. I can see beyond them to separate her actions from who she is as a person. I can see the bigger picture. I forgive her for the things I don’t like about her and I now lover her unconditionally.

I also have seen the changes happen, slowly, from a person being completely independent to slowly becoming more and more dependent on others in the family and within the community. I am sad to realize the loneliness that can set in. This makes me think about my own future. What will happen to me? Will I live longer than my husband? Will I live long enough to see my children marry? Will I ever know my grandchildren? Will I have great-grandchildren like she does? As I am helping my own grandmother, someday will my own grandchildren be helping me? It doesn’t seem possible that it could ever happen.

I have 48 years to go until I am my grandmother’s age. She is still with us at age 88. Will I still be here at 88? Would I want to be? What shape will my body be in? What ailments will I have? Will I be in pain? Will I be dependent on others? When I see people in poor health I often wonder what it would be like if that were me. I’m not in physical shape but last week I began a daily walking routine. Now more than ever I think it is time to take care of not just my children but to take care of me and my body with more attention than I’ve given it lately.

Some people fear death and dying. I don’t fear death itself. I am worried though, of the living that happens before death finally comes. What will it be like? Will I be in a nursing home? What will they be like in 50 years? Will they be better or worse? Will our system be changed in some way to make the last years of people’s lives better than the way they are now? Frankly the notion of living in a nursing home someday or suffering for years before death comes seems so horrible that I’d not worry of accidental death from a car accident, plane crash or some other unexpected but quick death.

But it is not my time to die now and it is not something I should be thinking about. As I enter my car I think of what has been happening at home in my absence. I am grateful that my husband has been shifting around his plans and his schedule to make time for me to visit my grandmother. As I accommodate him with the care of his parents so he is accommodating me with my grandmother. We do what we have to do, there is no complaining, there are no strings attached, no complaints or guilt trips given about the house needing cleaning, or that I hadn’t planned the dinner meal before I left.

Before I leave I call him on my cell phone to let him know I’m on my way. I hear what he has been doing with our kids and back at home I realize all is well and it is business as usual. While I’ve been dealing with these emotions and seeing the pain and suffering that goes on in the hospital, my children are innocent and na├»ve, playing and having fun with their father at home.

Rush hour is pretty much over and I make my way home without much angst. I just want to get there and so I hedge a bit over the speed limit but try not to go so fast as to put myself or anyone else at danger, or to attract the attention of a state trooper who would issue a ticket. All this life happening outside those hospital walls is happening all around me. No matter what is happening in there and with those patients, everyone else is out here and going about their usual business.

When I get home my boys shout in happiness that I’m home and they run to me and hug me. If I was not trying so hard to wall in my sadness about my grandmother, I may just have shed a tear of joy. I tell myself to not dwell on the negativity, but to try to enjoy these moments with my family as this is what I will have to look back on in the days when they are grown and living apart from me and when I am old and limited in my movement. I tell myself to focus on the good things and to try to enjoy life today as this is the time for making the memories I’ll treasure in the future.

So that is a glimpse of what I have been dealing with and thinking about in the last couple of weeks. Due to this busy-ness I’ve not been blogging as much about homeschooling or current events or general parenting issues. It is hard enough sometimes to get through the day and I don’t always have time to blog lately. Then again, like today, writing this and blogging it has been a form of therapy for me, something I needed to do and it has helped me process the feelings and thoughts. Putting this out to the world is a way to lighten the load I feel, moving the thoughts from my mind into cyberspace and out to anyone who is interested in reading them.

P.S. I had a visit planned for this evening to visit my grandmother at the hospital. This afternoon we’ve been making calls about seeing what nursing homes are available for when she is ready for discharge. We didn’t know when she would be medically ready for discharge. I was directly involved in this “finding a nursing home” process today and was praying about this and thinking about her all afternoon. While loading this for publication to Blogger I phoned my grandmother and she said that she got the news a half hour ago, that this afternoon she is being transferred to the nursing home that she wanted to go to! They are preparing her for transport now. I didn’t know if she would receive a bed in that nursing home or not, and I never imagined the discharge would happen today! So tonight a new chapter in this situation begins and it looks like my experience with making visits to that hospital to see my grandmother is over. She also just told me that her goal is to be rehabilitated enough so that she can go back to living independently in her own home again. I can’t wait to see what unfolds next, I hope it is all good!

Update: I wrote this yesterday but was unable to publish it yesterday due to problems with my PC. She actually was postponed for transfer until some time today, so that is the family news.

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Virus On My Computer

Well my PC had a virus. I don't know how this Trojan Dowloader HT creeped in as my anti-virus software had deflected it many times per day in the last couple of weeks. One weird thing is did to me was not allow me to publish blog entries.

I just downloaded the free trial of Ad Aware and ran that program to see if that would remove the problem.

Let's see if this can get published.

Update: It works. I can blog. Hooray! Stay tuned for some blog entries.

Second update: I can't get any other new blog entry to publish. I don't know what is going on but at this point I suspect it is a problem with Blogger. I am completely miffed. I have four blog entries to publish that I can't. Groan.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Voting Open for the 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards

Nominations for the belated 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards is closed, the announcement is here.

The nominee list is here.

Voting is open for the belated 2006 Homeschool Blog Awards. Voting will be closed on April 13, 2007 at midnight.

You may go here to vote if you would like to participate!

I was nominated in the category of Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Since it is Easter, I thought it fitting to share these two pieces that my children created last month.

At church the children were offered the use of art and craft materials and were challenged to come up with their own interpretation of what they think of when they think of Jesus. They were not allowed to depict Jesus himself in the artwork. They had to do 95% or more of the work. The art was then displayed in the lobby of the church as part of a children's art display.

My younger son aged 6.5 chose to depict an image of "Me Praying To God" .

He sketched the image on scrap paper first. He then sketched onto the heavy paper and then he filled it in with colors using acrylic paints. He did all the work himself with just a few prompts from me to "fill in that white speck left over there" or "try that brush with the flat side to do the edge of the hill with".

Sorry for the odd shape of this but I cropped out my son's face to protect his privacy.


My older son aged 9.5 did this acrylic painting on stretched canvas. The title is "The Light of God: People are in the darkness praying to God and the light of God shines down onto them". (He made that up 100% on his own, I could not have thought of that myself to be honest.)

He first sketched on scrap paper. He then tried it in full scale on large paper. Then he sketched it onto the canvas with pencil. It was painted with cheap acrylic craft paints. I thought the gold should look more gold, so I had him do a top coat of gold with a fluid acrylic in gold from Golden (brand).

Both of my children won blue ribbons for their efforts. I chose to mention this since you can see it in the photos, not to brag. While none had a number on it, I figured out that blue is actually second place. I am glad they both got the same award as if my younger son got a lower rank he would have been upset (he is very competitive and wants to be equal at least to his brother). Neither child has figured out yet what color goes with what ranking and that is fine with me. Both are proud they won a ribbon (even though every child won a ribbon of some kind). Thinking of the concept was a creative endeavor and it was a good exercise for their mind. They had fun doing the artwork and they felt good about the art being on display for all to see so all of that is what matters (not what ranking they received).


The other day, the children and I decorated these Easter eggs which is a family tradition.

So from our family to yours, Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Kids Edition of “An Inconvenient Truth” Being Released This Week

On April 10, 2007 a children’s edition of “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore will be released by Viking Juvenile in both paperback and hardcover formats. The publisher states this is written for children in grades 5-8.

John Peters of The Library Journal did a book review which is featured on Amazon. Here are a couple of sentences that I feel are good explanations of what to expect.

“…cuts the page count by about a third but preserves the original's cogent message and many of its striking visuals.”

“O'Connor rephrases Gore's arguments in briefer, simpler language without compromising their flow, plainly intending to disturb readers rather than frighten them.”

Note: The review references O’Connor but no one by that name is credited on Amazon as authoring the book and it is not on the cover. I am unsure and unable to verify if O’Connor was the writer who revised the book (sorry).

As of today there are no customer reviews of either format of this book on Amazon (since it was not yet published). I noted though that three times this book has been tagged as propaganda!

If you like this message and the book that Gore wrote for adults then you may be happy that this book was revised for children.

If you don’t like Gore’s message and don’t like the book then you may not be happy to know this is being published. I can imagine that what will happen is that this book will be recommended by teachers in public school as reading material or maybe even used as a required resource in some classrooms. It seems to me that global warming and saving the environment are two strong issues that are already taught in the public schools so that is why I suspect this. Some parents have voiced opinions that they feel that sometimes public schools push one agenda or have bias on certain topics taught and don't always provide a "fair and balanced" overview (which I think can be a problem with public schools or actually any kind of school for that matter). We homeschoolers also have our biases and I am sure that some homeschooling families are intentionally teaching their children their own biases and views and that to do so is considered a "pro" of homeschooling while anyone with an opposing view may think it is a "con" of homeschooling!

So if you don’t like the book it may bother you to suspect that the book may be used in public school classrooms. If you child attends public school then, they may be exposed to this book.

I don’t have an opinion on the adult version or the children’s version of the book as I have read neither. I have heard both praise and criticism for the adult version of the book. And I can’t review the books either as I have not read them. Lastly, I know very little about global warming and surely not enough to be able to read Gore’s books and be able to compare what he writes to facts or studies that have been published. Even if I were to read these books I’d have no basis for being able to compare and contrast information, to sort out what is opinion vs. fact, or to know what studies were considered “good” and which might be “problematic”. I fear that if I read this book and nothing else I may be exposing myself to biased information or that I’d be so ignorant on the topic that I might get so wrapped up in the emotion (the fear) and I’d probably believe every word he wrote without question (and that is not a good thing when one wants to read critically which is what should be done when writing a book review). I don’t want to just rely on what other tells me whether they are family or friends, I like to research a topic on my own, if I choose to study it, and then come to my own conclusions.

So if you want to buy this book you can pre-order it now from Amazon and get it at a discount. (Today the discount is at 32%.)

Paperback ISBN-10 0670062723

Hardcover ISBN-10 0670062715

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Read Most of “Bird by Bird”, Comparing to “Chapter After Chapter”

While looking online for good books about the craft of writing I kept seeing the title “Bird by Bird” by Ann Lamott come up. I read rave reviews on Amazon for the book and as of today the sales rank is 577 which is pretty darned good! I was tempted to buy it but held off due to a tight budget. Then while borrowing a different book from my library the librarian suggested I read “Bird by Bird”. She said that a nearby college uses it as mandatory reading in some of the writing classes. So I thought, “That is it, I guess I should read it if so many love the book!”. Later, I was able to borrow the book from my public library. Yesterday I returned it having read ¾ of the book.

At the time I began reading it I was half way through “Chapter by Chapter” by Heather Sellers. I paused my reading of it just to take a break from it, I plan to finish it this upcoming week.

I had read in reviews also that “Chapter After Chapter” (published in December 2006) was being compared to “Bird by Bird” (published in 1995). It is true, they are similar but they are different.

First I feel that “Bird” speaks directly to writers of fiction novels. There are chapters devoted to things like character development and plot which can only apply to writing fiction novels. The book does not completely translate to being applicable for other kinds of writing such as the nonfiction genre for adults. Also there is not much there that also translates to writing for children unless you are writing longer works for the young adult genre. The book reads just a tad more stiff or shall I say “professional” than if a friend was speaking to you. It is much more colloquial than other books on the market, though, and perhaps this is why it seemed so different and wonderful when it was published in 1995.

In comparison, “Chapter by Chapter” seems to be longer. It is even more colloquial than “Bird by Bird” and very much reads like a friend is talking to you including a few words of profanity here and there for emphasis. For some reason I felt that the book was easier to read and had more spark in it which compelled me to keep reading, it is hard to put a finger on why but that is how I feel but that is my impression. I felt that “Chapter” has more general encouragement and information which could apply, for example, to writers of nonfiction and memoir, and also to children’s book writers. The other information about personal drive and determination could also speak to writers of magazine articles. One other thing that is different is that “Chapter” focuses more on getting published and how hard it is to finish a book and the time and determination it takes, as a reality check, while I didn’t get that same impression from “Bird”. Lastly overall I think “Chapter” has more details. For example “Bird” advises to join or start a writer’s group but “Chapter” tells even more details such as some of the up’s and down’s or pitfalls that can happen in writer’s groups so you can have a head’s up. Another example is in “Bird” it is advised that writers attend writing conferences and get critiqued by other new writers but in “Chapter” the author says there is a downside from taking criticism from unpublished writers who may be poor at their craft—do you see the difference? I do! And I think Sellers is right!

“Bird by Bird” is divided into large sections. I read all of Part One which is the entire first half of the book, and I read some chapters from the rest of the book and skimmed others. I felt I had enough and returned it before the due date.

As I said, I am not quite done with “Chapter” but plan to return to finish reading that next. Overall I personally prefer “Chapter” and since that was so good I plan to also read “Page After Page” written by Sellers, and see exactly what that is about and what it has to say.

Please know that I mean no offense to Ann Lamott or to “Bird by Bird”. From what others say it seems to be a book that broke new ground in 1995 and seems to still be selling well and is being used in college courses. But if you have read “Bird by Bird” and loved it I’d encourage to you to consider reading “Chapter After Chapter” and see what you think of it and if it gives you more information and more encouragement, if that is what you desire.

I blogged previously about “Chapter After Chapter”, here, if you’d like to read more of my thoughts on it.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Little House Books Being Changed by the Publisher

Today someone asked me a question about a lecture tape I was listening to of Grace Llewellyn and Susannah Sheffer called “Taking Charge of Education…” which was recorded by Holt Associates before Growing Without Schooling ceased publication and before their book store “Holt Associates” sold their inventory to Fun books. I went to see if Fun Books was still selling this lecture tape (they aren’t from what I see), and I accidentally stumbled upon an announcement by Fun Books about the Little House book series.

This was awful to read. I felt sad when I read this part:

"The publisher of the Little House on the Prairie series has decided to repackage the paperback editions in order to keep them "relevant to a new generation." The revamped books will replace the beloved covers by Garth Williams with photographic covers, and remove the inside art.."

Then I read this part and am horrified. Yes, horrified.

"Unfortunately, the other Little House books that tell the stories of Laura's family (Martha, Charlotte, Caroline and Rose) are also being changed. They will be abridged and, in some cases, more than 200 pages have been cut from the original edition. They will also have photographic covers. The unabridged editions, which are the ones we carry, will be allowed to go out of print by the publisher. Some already are.

Apparently, the changes are to counter the notion that the Little House books are old-fashioned historical books and today's young readers will view the new editions as adventure books. Personally, we like the books just the way they are and find plenty of adventure in history!"

This is awful! Simply awful!

I am beside myself about this.

I am very upset that the wonderful Garth Williams illustrations are no longer going to appear in the original series.

I am angry that they are dumbing down the other, newer books to abridge them and to shorten them for “today’s readers”. I am unsure if the old/original versions will remain in print or not. If they are going to be in print then that is fine. If the original books are NOT going to be in print then I would be angered by that.

I understand that the content of these books appeals to an audience of children aged 3-10. From my understanding these books are written on about a fourth grade reading level for independent reading.

I imagine then that what they are saying is that girls in grades three or four are unable to read these books as is and therefore they are going to great pains to abridge the books to make them an easier reading level. That would be yet another indication that the reading ability of today’s children is sinking lower and lower.

I blogged in the past about the re-labeling of easy reader books, to make books that were a level 2 now be called a level 3, for example, shifting the reading level so that today’s children will be expected to read EASIER materials at a certain age or grade.

Anyway if you want the old versions of the Little House books with the Garth Williams illustrations, you’d better hurry up and get them. Fun Books sells some as does Amazon. The other books which are about the other women in the family: Martha, Charlotte, Caroline and Rose are available in limited quantity from Fun Books and Amazon has some also.

Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The original series of nine (sometimes sold in a boxed set of paperbacks)

Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Farmer Boy
On the Banks of Plum Creek
By the Shores of Silver Lake
The Long Winter
Little Town on the Prairie
These Happy Golden Years
The First Four Years

A Little House Christmas, out of print

West From Home

The Martha Years

Little House in the Highlands

Far Side of the Loch

Down to the Bonny Glen

Beyond the Heather Hills

The Charlotte Years

Little House By Boston Bay

On Tide Mill Lane

The Road From Roxbury

Across the Puddingstone Dam

The Caroline Years

Little House in Brookfield

Little Town at the Crossroads

Little Clearing in the woods

On top of Concord Hill

Across the Rolling River

Little City By the Lake

A Little House of their own

The Rose Years

Little House on Rocky Ridge

Little Farm in the Ozarks

In the land of the Big Red Apple

On the other side of the hill

Little Town in the Ozarks

New Dawn on Rocky Ridge

On the banks of the bayou

Bachelor Girl

Other Little House related books

The Little House Cookbook

My Book of Little House Paper Dolls (Illustrations similar to Garth Williams)

My Little House Crafts Book

My Research On This Matter
I have spent quite a bit of time doing research tonight to verify the information provided by Fun Books. The original publisher of the Little House series was Harper Collins. Some are now published by Scholastic. I have not been able to find a press release or anything on the publishers sites to verify the information about the changing illustrations.

I do see on Amazon already that the new photo cover version of the Little House original series is available and also that there is NO illustrator listed.

So if you want to know which books is which, the original Little House series with the photo covers have no interior illustrations and they are the ones which were stripped of the Garth Williams illustrations.

If you see an Internet site selling a book from an original series, look to see if you can verify that they are the old editions if you see that Garth Williams is clearly listed as the illustrator and you can see his hand drawn illustrations on the cover also. (I see some of those still available on Amazon.)

Information from Melissa Wiley
Through the Carnival of Homeschooling, last year, I began reading a homeschooling mother’s blog and after reading it a few times did it dawn on me that she was the author of some of the sequels in the Little House series. I realized it when I saw some of the books in the sidebar and realized they were authored by her! She now maintains two blogs, one that seems to focus on her family and homeschooling which is now over at ClubMom and her blog “Here in the Bonny Glen” focuses more on her writing career. I just checked her blog Here in the Bonny Glen and do see that in March 2007 she blogged on the topic and cleared up some of the confusion. Here is that entry.

To clarify two things that I was specifically interested in, I will quote a part of her entry:

Are Laura Ingalls Wilder's books being abridged?
No, only the Martha, Charlotte, Caroline, and Rose books are being abridged.
I want to buy the original, unabridged editions of your Martha and Charlotte books. How can I be sure that's what I'm getting?
The new, abridged editions will have photo covers. The unabridged editions have the painted covers that appear in my sidebar.

I now see also that back on February 8, 2007 she spoke of this big change. I highly recommend that you read that post.

Here is one part that actually brought a tear to my eye.

The abridged editions of my books and the Caroline and Rose books will be released with new covers this summer. They are significantly shorter; in some cases more than a hundred pages have been cut from the original edition.
In light of these changes, I have decided not to continue writing Martha and Charlotte books. Although it is indeed strange to know that I will not tell the rest of their stories (especially the story of Martha and Lew's romance, for which I have been sowing seeds since the first books), I do not think it is such a bad thing to end my part of the story with Beyond the Heather Hills and Across the Puddingstone Dam.

Then on February 10th, she posted and stated she had received an outpouring of feedback

Here is one part:

One important point is that HarperCollins doesn't think of the abridgements as dumbed-down. I do, and that I am strongly opposed to the dumbing-down of children's literature must be obvious from my decision to walk away from a series of books that has been my heart's work for the past decade.

Then she goes on to say…

But as I said, while I see the abridgement as dumbing-down, I must say in all fairness that I don't believe my publishers see it that way at all. They see this as an opportunity to bring the books to a younger audience, a way to keep the series in print. The decision was presented to me with excitement and enthusiasm; I really think they were surprised that I was dismayed by it.

I bear them no ill will; indeed, I shall be sorry not to be working with my wonderful HarperCollins editor anymore. She is a gem. I simply disagree, quite gravely, with this publishing decision. I do think children deserve the very best books we can give them. The books I wrote, the books that were carefully and lovingly edited by not one, but two top-notch editors (the great Alix Reid, who edited all eight of my novels, not to mention Newbery winner Ella Enchanted, has since left the publishing world for other pursuits), are, I truly believe, literature of high quality. And I don't think they are too hard, or too long, for young readers. I have heard from too many enthusiastic young readers to believe otherwise.

If you are interested in this topic (which you must be if you have read this far!), I urge you to read the whole blog post. I’d quote the whole thing but it would not be right. Melissa Wiley makes some good points about book publishing as a business and business decisions. She mentions twaddle vs. good books and shares her family’s interesting book buying decision tree.

The comments sections of these posts have lots of opinions, check them out also.

My Concluding Thoughts
As I conclude this entry I was thinking, “Why does this bother me so much?” The reason is that I care about books, I care deeply about high-quality literature being available for children. I know that great books can change a person, whether that person is a child or an adult.

To know that great books are being edited and dumbed down for a less-literate population is highly disturbing to me. Well we could look at this from two perspectives. Either the book will be read by the same aged child but it will now be an easier reading level (dumbing down the book or also shall we say expecting less of the reader/student/child), or the book will be pushed down to younger children with an appropriate reading level. However to put the original books out of print and to only represent the abridged versions (some are over 100 pages shorter), is a shame as doing so would alter the story greatly. Something is being lost, we can't pretend that nothing is being lost. Anytime that is done (such as the conversion of a great book to a movie), something good is gone.

One example of a living book that was changed to convert it to a movie is “The Railway Children”. I watched the movie with my children yesterday, after having read the book aloud to them. A lot of empathy and emotion was lost in translation but the scenery was pretty and the actors were good but the story was slimmed down to the point where some things were confused and others were emotion-less, and to me, to lose the emotional link and empathy with the characters takes away from the story.

Getting back to the pushing down of the story to younger children, I have also this to say. I wonder if the publishers think that children in fourth grade would not be interested in the content of those books, perhaps they think children want more modern stories, meaning, the "problem novels" or the books with sassy characters. I cite for example, the popularity of "Because of Winn Dixie" with fourth graders. One time I went to vote in an election and that brought me to my town's elementary school. A huge display was on the wall where each child stated their favorite book and their age and grade. I was surprised that nearly every fourth grader said "Because of Winn Dixie". This was before the movie came out. That sparked my curiosity enough for me to read the book myself. The book is full of problems and odd ones at that, things not typically experienced by girls of that age, at least not all of those problems on one child at the same time! I was surprised that children in fourth grade were reading it when other great books are out there that are a bit more interesting and not focused on problems.

I now think that some teachers are mandating that the fourth graders read the book and therefore when the student is asked what their favorite book is they pick from the limited number they've read. Last month a parent from a nearby town said that the public school assigned that book as a class project to read one chapter per week for third grade, again in fourth grade, and again in fifth grade. The father was miffed at why the same exact book was to be read in each of those grades. His son was bored to death, he said, as he could read way more than one chapter per week, that was too dragged out, and reading it once was enough. The boy had, on his own, already read all the Harry Potter books and all of the Lord of the Rings books and was looking for more books of that depth and length. This father felt that public school was way too easy for his son and was right on the cusp of pulling him out to homeschool him.

Back to Little House...
To lose the wonderful illustrations is a shame also—I wish ALL the editions of the Little House books still had the original illustrations. I see the removal of the cute and wholesome illustrations of Garth Williams as a deliberate act to not show wholesome illustrations to girls (and boys)---probably based on the notion that what children of that age prefer is something more realistic (like a photo) or something non-cute, perhaps the publisher envisions something more sophisticated. Specifically in the case of the original series, to have NO illustrations inside is just saying that they don’t like the way something about them looks, while they may say “too old fashioned” is that not what real life HISTORICAL stories are—old fashioned??

However historical autobiographical books and historical fiction cannot and should not be modernized. This is in a way, hiding innocent and child-like illustrations from children who are really children and who deserve child-like illustrations. And the fact of the matter is this is HISTORICAL information, this is set in former times and the illustrations SHOULD represent what things looked like back then! Let the books set in modern times reflect modern content and have modern illustrations. Let the stories set over one hundred years ago have appropriate illustrations.

I am upset about these changes and frankly none of it makes sense to me. The publishing industry seems to have some things all wrong if you ask me.

Here are the books written by Melissa Wiley, I think I got all of them!

Others in the series not written by Laura Ingalls Wilder are being edited also, not just Melissa Wiley's. I won't post those direct links right now due to time constraints (it takes a long time to make all these links).

Other Research

These sites about the series did not address this exact issue, but I am mentioning them in case you want to know more about this series.

Wikipedia entry: Little House on the Prairie

Wikipedia entry: Garth Williams

Harper Collins website, Garth Williams page (has a nice photo of him!)

more Garth Williams biographical information

To purchase original art at $3200 per piece, see here

Other books published by Random House featuring Garth Williams illustrations

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