Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Challenge of Delivering a Quality Scout Program

In Boy Scouts, I have served on the Troop Committee as Advancement Chair for two years, with our former Troop in Connecticut. I have been involved in Cub Scout Pack leadership for five years and been a Scout parent for even more years. I have gone through various BSA leadership training courses. I have heard about the ideals and aims of Scouting (the utopian view of the model program that probably doesn't exist anywhere in real life). I have been asked to serve on the Troop Committee in my new Troop. I attended a full day of training this season, and got to meet a lot of local Scout leadership people from the Greater Houston area and hear their stories and struggles.

I've been involved with this Boy Scout Troop for six months, I'm green with this Troop but what I see here is not so different from what I saw in Connecticut. I think things are the same everywhere when you are talking about human nature.

I have volunteered at Cub Day Camp and at Boy Scout residence summer camp. I have been to almost all the Scout meetings held in the last eight years. I've seen a lot of real life Scouting.

In my leadership roles I have been involved with the planning and strategy. I have seen the goal and how it was brought to fruition and how reality doesn't always match up with the plans. (This does not mean one should stop trying, it's just how life happens.) I have seen where the ideals clash with reality. I have seen struggles to bring an ideal high quality program to boys doesn't always pan out. This is a typical "shoot for the stars and be happy you landed on the moon" scenario.

Part of the challenge with the Scouting program is you are working with flawed human adult leadership and you are working with flawed human kids. With Boy Scouting you have a big range of ages from ten year old pipsqueaks to seventeen year old big young men. There is a huge developmental difference between the kid in the second half of fifth grade and the high school senior!

One thing that has surprised me about Boy Scouting is the extent to which adult leadership sometimes gets to know the boy. You see sides of them that maybe their parents don't see. You also sometimes get to know the kids a bit more than you may have imagined if you thought of leadership as just planning and executing meetings. This must be what teachers deal with, but due to teachers being with kids for more hours every single week for a year they are bound to get to know the kids even better and to see both their struggles and their successes.

One of my goals in Scout leadership is to help deliver a quality program. I do not intend or want to be the source of a problem in any kid's life. I am not in this for a power game or to have a position of authority for some kind of personal gain.

Scout leadership positions can be stressful and they can be upsetting emotionally and sometimes heart-wrenching. I can't do things to prevent any negative thing from ever happening, because kids are kids and human nature is human nature, so the interactions with the kids happen even with good adult leadership supervising the activities. You can set up rules for good behavior but you can't guarantee that kids will obey every rule. A less problematic issue is that I can't prevent a kid from being bored sometimes (they have to learn to deal with it).

When delivering a program, you can't make everyone happy all the time. One boy said he thinks there should be no playing with balls in games before the meeting starts then the next kid said he loved the ball playing games. Merit badges have been offered at every meeting for the last few months but a Scout who had been absent complained that not enough merit badges are offered at the meetings. Talk about a disconnect! Another has not camped in seven months but said that he was annoyed that he didn't get some requirements done that are typically accomplished on camping trips. You are darned if you do and darned if you don't, you just can't satisfy everyone, that apparently is not just an adult thing, kids are that way too. That's how it is in life and it's that way with Scouting.

The best that volunteer Scout leaders can do it try to deliver a quality program. There is never perfection in a volunteer-run organization and probably also never one in a for-profit corporaton either. Even a normally flawed program can still be worthwhile and excellent. Nothing is perfect, not the kids, not their parents, nor the adult leaders. We're all imperfect together.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Movie Review by ChristineMM

Movie: The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

My rating: 4 stars = I Like It or Maybe 5? I'm not sure.

The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a British comedy about retired British seniors who go to India to retire in a supposed luxury community for seniors. The place is a wreck, to put it mildly.

I enjoyed this lighthearted comedy which touched on important things such as making the best of a situation, learning to live through struggle and trying to be optimistic and keep a hopeful attitude in the face of uncertainty. Other messages are to live authentically, a sadness for having lived life with a heavy emotional burden which actually did not really exist (let it go), and the idea of starting anew and leaving the familiar or the drudgery behind for things that are less stable but bring one more happiness. There was also a strong message for the native Indian people that the modern ways should be embraced and happiness will follow (that was a rather progressive view).

Frankly it was refreshing to see a comedy film that had people older than 20 or 35 in it. It was a relief to see no signs of plastic surgery on the actors and definately no signs of large breast implants sitting up too high at the level of the armpit. The message was more to be who you are and that includes aging and sagging bodies, wrinkled faces and thick waistlines. I liked the story of how to spend the end of your life and wanting to life fully to the end.

I enjoyed the colors and sights of India. Seeing a movie not set in the United States was a relief.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

God is The Bigger Elvis: Documentary Review

Documentary Movie: God is the Bigger Elvis HBO Documentary Films 2012 Nominee for an Academy Award

Topics: Benedictine Nun, Religion, Hollywood Actress, Connecticut

Dolores Hart was an actress who found quick success in the 1950s after being cast in a movie opposite Elvis Presley. She was cast in other movies after that and was a young and beautiful popular actress at the time. She left it all to move to Bethelhem, Connecticut to become a Benedictine Nun at Regina Laudis Abbey. She has been there for fifty years.

This is an interesting movie which shows the lifestyle and work of these Benedictine Nuns. Why people would leave mainstream society to become a nun is explored yet it is not all peaches and cream as many struggle and question why they are there and if they made the right choice.

Dolores Hart is the central figure in the film and she is now prioress, a top position at the abbey and she seems happy with her life. This is a thought-provoking movie that made me think about the thinking behind a person who chooses to leave mainstream society to live a strict and restrictive lifestyle of service in a religious capacity.

However the most confusing aspect of the story of Dolores Hart was that she was engaged to a man, Don Robinson, and left him to become a nun. Robinson continues to visit her regularly and has never married. He seems to still be in love with her. The two are companions and their relationship boggled my mind and made me feel sad. I wondered why some compromise to be of service to others could not be done while also marrying the man she loved and sharing a life as husband and wife.

This is an interesting film that will make you think. If after watching it you are still curious you can find articles and video interviews by doing a simple internet search with the name Dolores Hart.

This movie is suitable for family viewing in my opinion.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Microplane 40021 Classic Medium Ribbon Two-Way Grater Product Review

Microplane 40021 Classic Medium Ribbon Two-Way Grater


My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

My Summary Statement: Non-slip Handle, Easy to Clean, 3/8 long blades, Two Way Grater, Fast

After using the Microplane 40020 for a few months I decided we needed another with a wider grating ability, so I purchased this Microplane 40021 Classic Medium Ribbon two-way grater. This is sharp and easy to use and as the product title says it grates in both directions so the grating is fast.

I prefer this to our old box style cutter because you hold the non-slip handle with one hand which is sturdier than trying to hold a box cutter down while also grating across. With the Microplane you can point it into a bowl to shred the food or directly grate over the plated food.

It is easy to clean.

The label shows it can be used for chocolate. It is good for cheese also.

The blades are 3/8 of an inch long.

Disclosure: I purchased this product for our family’s use. For my blog’s full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog’s sidebar.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Attachment Parenting Follow-Up

I am sure you have seen the TIME magazine cover with the three year old boy standing on a stool nursing at his mother's breast. Maybe you haven't seen the article that references Dr. William Sears.

The women involved in the TIME magazine article about attachment parenting tell more in this article at KellyMom.

I am an attachment parenting mother. I feel the close bonds formed in infancy and in the toddler and preschool years and beyond helped our family become what and who we are.

As to extended breastfeeding, I was open to it by the time my firstborn was nearing his first birthday. With my first child the weaning was a combination of what he wanted and my own limits. I nursed him while I was pregnant with my second and due to hormonal changes there is sensitivity and new discomfort so I put some limits on the nursing which seemed reasonable. He weaned at 30 months of age when I was six months pregnant. My second child was very independent and wanted to be in the action of life. He was a fast nurser who didn't want to hang out all day at the breast. He weaned himself at 31 months of age.

I followed my heart with parenting and felt boosted up by the words of Martha Sears R.N. and William Sears M.D. but I was not following some dictate in a non-thinking manner. Not everything that is AP worked for my kids such as my oldest hated the baby sling but liked the Baby Bjorn front pack carrier when we were on errands. I did not use strollers much at all. I did not wear my baby all around the house either. My second hated the Baby Bjorn and liked the sling but again was not held against my body all day long. Both of my kids liked my arms better than the cloth, so they were loved and held and cuddled by me, my husband and their grandparents.

Co-sleeping happened in our family much to my husband's initial resistance yet later it was he who didn't want it to end, which was really surprising. Co-sleeping with my babies and nursing toddlers was the only way I could get a decent night's sleep. I needed good sleep to be in a positive and healthy mental state in the daytime which was necessary to be a good mother to my children. I was not going to do the mainstream sleeping thing if it meant that I was going to be in a rotten mood and exhausted and unhealthy all day long, that makes no common sense. Also, I was not going to be one of those parents who lays down with their kid at night for an hour or two until the kid falls asleep. I didn't want to waste my time with that silliness, where parents acknowledge that their kids can't fall asleep alone so spend their waking hours at night doing part-time co-sleeping.

Attachment parenting and gentle parenting with gentle discipline and open communications helped our family be harmonious and in synch. Our close bond led the way to me not wanting to push my kids off to preschool and to do preschool at home. Homeschooling was something we thought about since before our first was born but the great experiences raising my kids led me to open my mind to really making that a reality.

Between attachment parenting, a tight budget, and mistrust of strangers to care for my children, and our first's child not wanting to separate, we seldom separated from our kids both when they were babies and even later. My husband worked long hours and wanted to be with them as much as possible so he has never looked to push them off into someone else's care on nights and weekends.

Attachment parenting has been a fantastic way of life for our family.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Half Day Homeschool Plan for Last Two Weeks of the Year

It hit me that not only are my kids burned out, but so am I. We have had a long year with the move and all the adjustments. We are right in the middle of the most stressful parts of selling a home and buying a home. Summer vacation is coming soon and then we'll return just in time for a whirlwind move to the new house.

I decided for the last two weeks of the school year we'd do a different schedule. Here it is.

Math: 1 hour a day
Fiction reading: 1 hour a day
Watch 2 real documentaries or serious academic TV shows a day.
Older son will do test prep review and practice for the ACT COMPASS test to see if he can pass it to begin community college.

The rest of the day is for doing whatever they want, Boy Scout meeting and merit badges, and sports practice.

Meanwhile with my new found time I am planning out next year's school year, specifically looking for options for online clasess for my younger son. Once we know what the tenth grader is doing or not doing with community college for the fall I'll know whether to sign him up for online classes or not.

Friday, May 25, 2012

We're a Texting Family Now

I have shared in the past that our family had chosen to not do all the mainstream technological things that it seems most American families are doing. One thing was our resistance to having texting on our mobile phones.
So now we have joined the texting crew.

We resisted due to not wanting to have the additional expense in our budget. We did not want to be intruded upon; I didn't want to be pestered. I didn't want my kids faces shoved into their mobile phones texting instead of having actual verbal discussions with their friends. I didn't want other people's kids interrupting our family life with beeps and blips demanding attention right then and there. I also didn't feel that my kids needed one more distraction from doing something else that was more important.

Now the sport teams and the Boy Scout Troop use texting to do urgent communications. It is getting to where everyone thinks everyone has texting and they think everyone is checking it nonstop.
So we caved in. Lucky for us texting is less expensive now, especially for the family plan, and it is unlimited so no one has to count messages. Good thing because in the fist week my twelve year old sent over 450 texts.

So far my older son at age 14.5 barely uses it. That's also what he does with the mobile phone. And so far the just turned twelve year old is using it nonstop, just as he does with other social networking via Skype, telephone, xBox360 and everything else.

Texting has been convenient for us so far. We are conducting real estate business of buying and selling a home via text messaging, which seems surreal. People that we deal with no longer want to send an email to say something, they text it. It is actually faster and easier to write via text than using an email program. And there is no point to sending people emails if their new way of using it is to read emails once a day only because they look at texts constantly and figure if it's urgent you'd text it.

So far it has not been intrusive to our family, but perhaps it all depends on how others in your social circle use the technology. If you have a bunch of small talking overly-chatty friends you will probably get bombarded by texts, but we're not.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

When Internal Desire Does Not Result in Goals Attained

I was the loosiest-goosiest of radical unschoolers when we began our homeschooling journey, back when my oldest was two and I'd chosen not to enroll him in preschool like the other college educated stay at home mothers I was surrounded by. Back then I believed the unschooling mothers who said their kids buckled down all on their own and got stuff done simply when the kid chose to. I am still waiting for that day to arrive. I see glimpses sometimes but with my oldest at nearly 15 I thought the day would have arrived sooner than this.

I have come to believe that this issue is one of personality not just maturity or related to developmental stages. Don't we all know the youngest of kids who has a huge internal drive to get stuff done? They make things happen even when we think they should be thinking about just playing and enjoying their carefree life. Don't we all know other kids who are motivated by grades and scores and love ranking? They crave it and thrive off of it. Some of those kids memorize statistics of sports teams and athletes for sheer enjoyment and seemingly without effort.

(For in-depth discussion of the different motivators that people have read the book about kids and learning: The Motivation Breakthrough by Richard LaVoie. My book review of that book is here.)

I have also seen the most radical unschoolers abandon homeschooling when the failures started adding up: they entered school when the situation at home was just not working. Then they were in an environment where the pendulum swung to the exact opposite extreme. The family's choice to not have some kind of middle ground in their "home school" with regard to assignments, deadlines, or goals led to their kids having to deal with everything that the parents hated about school that drove them to give homeschooling (unschooling) a try.

My oldest is the kid who wants things done and who can see the steps to get there but doesn't always do what has to be done to make it happen. This kid sees the work involved and does not always do the right thing to get what he wants. This is a personality thing and I see it in other kids I know, so it's not some defect that only my kid has. I have said before that this type of kid is not a good fit for radical unschooling or just unschooling as it is defined today. The best success stories of cool and impressive unschoolers seem to follow a pattern. They are both curious about things and teach themselves things joyfully, things that they choose to learn about AND they are internally driven and self-disciplined enough to actually get stuff done that needs doing to get what they want. They are able to suck it up and learn the hard boring stuff if it helps them get to some goal they have in life.

Unschoolers often will tell you if the desire is there the kid will just on their own, find a way to do what needs doing to finish out a task or to take the learning to its logical conclusion. These stories are told as if it was all on the teen and as if the parent was completely hands off. I am not always sure the parent is telling the whole truth in their stories.

For example one radical unschooling mother I know who said the same theories that I just shared has a child who was diagnosed with some serious learning disabilities was unable to read textbooks. He had a goal to go to college early and get a certain degree so he could do a certain career. He enrolled as a community college student in a dual credit program (going to college in the high school years and also earning college credit.) The mother told me she was reading aloud the college textbook to him in order for him to learn the content since he could not read it with his own eyes and process it in his mind from printed text. They also found a study manual that the college kids didn't know about which went along with that text and he used that with his mother's direct teaching in order to prepare him to take the tests which he was getting A's on. I would argue though that the student was not executing the plan all on his own, his mother was right by his side helping him every step of the way, nor was he doing independent learning. Thus she was now doing what other homeschoolers did with their kids in elementary school and middle school.

I think this is faulty logic, this idea that if a teen wants to get something done they will move mountains to get it done all on their own. I know a bunch of kids who know who they are and what they want to do but they fail to actually do what it takes to get the job done. They fail on the execution of the project. The desire is there but the willingness to actually do all that has to be done is lacking.

My kids have never been to school so the arguments that some give such as, "My child's time in school taught him to work only for a reward of a grade or a score to reach for and that impeded their ability to develop self-motivation from within." I don't have that situation in my family. There have to be kids in school who are succeeding only thanks to the fact that someone is forcing them to be there and do that work and because they have deadlines for quizzes, tests, and projects.

At nearly 15 I am hearing the same arguments from my older son that he's used his entire life. He wants to start attending community college for certain courses instead of learning them at home or through online classes but he does not want to do review work to brush up for the exam. I thought of having him take the test cold and see what happens but I just found out the testing policy mandates 30 days break in between test retakes. If he fails the first go-round he would have to wait until we're back from the long summer vacation to re-take it which would be right before the semester begins. I truly cannot see him passing in this winging-it fashion with enough time to get into one decent class for the fall, even if he were to pass it on the second attempt.

At first, in February and March I left the door open and gave him assignments to spend an hour each day on test prep but he refused to comply. I had a lot on my plate and chose to not pick that battle to go to war over. He pushed that work off.

The before April 10 (registration opening day) has come and gone and he has not been tested yet. That was a mooshy deadline that was ideal but doubtful, especially given the unplanned for tonsil removal surgery and the recovery time for that.

Fast forward to the end of April. I gave him some sample tests and he scores lower than 70%. He needs practice on basic test taking skills and simple things like actually reading the directions. He thinks he is somehow exempt from reading the boring (short) directions and tries to use common sense but this leads to wrong answers just because he didn't do what they wanted him to do. So once again, I put test prep on his daily schedule which he put as the lowest priority and due to dilly-dallying was put off and fell off the list undone each day.

In the second week of May I sat my son down and explained the timeframes again. Here are the facts, this is what you need to do, then that result you want will happen, so you will do it, right? No. He chooses not to. This defies logic but people tell me this is typical for the teenage mind. The teenage mind thinks they are above the common ways or that others have to abide by that guideline but they can exempt themselves. It makes no sense.

My son still liked the idea of taking the test cold just to avoid spending any time on test prep. I explained the ramifications and that he may not be able to enroll for the fall semester if he does that. Instead of buckling down based on internal drive he took the new stance that he feels he is inadequate and will fail no matter what, so why bother?

So last week I realized it's back to the drawing board, I rewound to our former days of homeschooling where he liked me to be the teacher sitting next to him and guiding the lesson. I sat him down and he worked at English grammar review with me. When taking the tests cold the scores were not adequate but when doing the review first he reached passable grades and sometimes over 90%. With each error I re-taught and reviewed the reasons why the answer was this not that. We spent 2-3 hours a day doing this which was exhausting. I think he and I would have done better by spreading it out one hour a day over longer time but he has left us with no choice but to cram.

Another deadline was put on us two days ago. We were told via email that the last robotics merit badge meeting would be in 48 hours, this was news to us. Since that day was busy with the home inspection and with my younger son's birthday party, going to a movie and out to dinner after we knew that day was shot. I said that left one weekend day to do it, since it would be ideal to use the weekend for Boy Scout work and have Monday be a regular homeschool lesson day. The robotics merit badge work is supposed to be done independently without me as teacher.

Also previously my husband was working with my son on the Personal Management merit badge where you have to shop for something for the family, make a budget and other tasks, taking the family's opinion into consideration. Although I'd made up a mooshy deadline my husband and my son both had failed to meet it when left to their own devices. My son has been working on this merit badge for seven months now (much too long). This must be finished before he can make Eagle rank, so it is not optional but the hard deadline for getting it done is his 18th birthday which is about three years away. My son wants to make Eagle at age 15 so he can spend time doing other pursuits such as more time doing the robotics team and more time training for the rowing team. So yesterday morning, I told my husband that he had to work with our son in get it done that day so it could be signed off the following day.

After church, I told my son to do the Boy Scout work first then when he's done he could do stuff like play the two hours of xBox360 on Sunday thing we allow here. My son refused and said he'd do the video games first. We had a power struggle and I pulled my husband aside to say that the kid was his job today because I can't be homeschool parent-teacher taskmaster Monday-Friday then also be the big taskmaster on the weekends. Stick a fork in me, I'm done. My husband let my son have his way and he played the video games first. He also fooled around on the Internet, Facebook, and the other junk that is a timesuck.

So what happened? Just before bedtime my husband and son finished the work on Personal Management, or so they said. Some work was done on Robotics; I assumed he'd finished it. On Monday morning I looked at the Personal Management write-up and it was full of grammar errors, the same stuff that he's been struggling with on the test prep practice tests. We went over it and he fixed it. I guess that's unschool-ish as it is applying grammar in real life? He had to spend time on Monday morning finishing that up, instead of doing homeschool lessons or doing test prep work.

Then when I thought my son was to start his homeschooling work he was doing something else? Guess what? It was the Robotics merit badge work that has a meeting tonight with the work due. I guess he never did finish that yesterday after all. As I write this it has been three hours and he has just finished that merit badge work. So today we lost three hours of school work time due to his procrastination yesterday and putting play before work as a priority.


These are all examples of how even when some teens want a goal fulfilled they choose to take actions that prevent them from meeting the goal. They are their own worst enemy. Some people, maybe even most people, actually need deadlines to make things happen. I have seen this time and again with my son. When no deadline exists we have ended up with a lot of unfinished or half-done projects. Why do some people feel assignments and deadlines are evil or the enemy? I don't get it. Maybe those are the uber internally driven people who get more done left to their own devices than they get done if they are being bossed around to jump through hoops by external parties?

You may still say, "If it's worth doing it will get done -- they will figure it out if it is worth doing." I would disagree. I think this is a personality thing and despite experiencing the natural consequences of failure time after time the lesson seems to not be learned. Some people, after repeated failures, develop poor self-esteem and just stop trying when they actually are capable people who just needed more development with self-discipline. Some people need deadlines and they need the pressure of either being closely supervised or pressure of fear of not meeting a deadline in order to shift their mind to buckle down and exert self-discipline. How many triathlon participants would do that hardcore training if there was no race to prepare for? Hardly any, I bet. The external motivator, the triathlon or the college application deadline is what pushes a person to make the time and put in the work that we'd prefer to put off and do something easier or fun instead.

It is hard when you see your child wanting to fulfill a goal but seeming to not be able to get their all on their own. It is hard to watch kids make mistakes over and over. I have done that in the past and sometimes things are righted but sometimes they are not.

The negative consequences of not getting certain things done are elevated by the time kids are in the high school years. I am not willing to step back and be a passive parent and let my kids fail their way down a path that will have lifelong negative ramifications but on the other hand I'm not a helicopter parent who steps in and does the work for my kid just so they can get it all done either. This is a messy process that involves letting our kids make mistake after mistake and living with failure and disappointment but other times requires more parental intervention with the gentlest pushing that one can get away with in order to help our kids reach their goals.

This is another example of how parenting and homeschooling are both messy processes. Good parents try to help the best we can. We don't neglect our kids and let them flounder and fail all the time yet we are not helicopter parents who do everything for our kids in an effort to save them from ever failing. Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is the area where kids learn to do what they have to do in order to get to the places they want to be and where they learn do take control of the process themselves and to get things done mostly under their own guidance. Deadlines are not always the enemy; they are sometimes the motivator to make the time and to make the right choices to get stuff done.

Update: Shortly before going to the Boy Scout meeting where the merit badges were going to be reviewed and hopefully approved my son said he felt excited and great about having finished them. Once the procrastination was over and whatever negativity he felt was in the past he felt a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Impossible to Judge Love of My Husband to Love of My Children

I just read a blog post where a mother declares she loves her husband more than she loves her kids. This was a reaction to this study that talks about mother love and enjoying spending time with our children.

I don't think I could say who I love more: my husband or my kids, as the two things are apples and oranges. I can't compare motherly love and the dedication I have given my kids as a full time mother and homeschool parent-teacher to what I feel as romantic love and 20+ years of friendship and companionship with my husband. Two different things that can't be weighed against each other, nor should they. It is not a contest.

I love and respect my husband for who he is: an adult man. What I like about him, his character, his word and deed, cannot be compared to our sons. I have mothered the challenging infant who needed to be held a lot, my heart pained when his cries could not be soothed (until I linked foods in my diet that affected him through my breastmilk and then eliminated them). Seeing my four year old get knocked off his bike and dislocating his elbow and fracturing his little arm made my heart hurt and ache. I wished I could heal him with the power of my love, but he needed an orthopedic surgeon's skills, x-ray guidance for the dislocation and a plaster cast and time to let his body repair itself, all I could do was nurture him through the healing process. Watching my kids struggle and feeling heartache is nothing like consoling my husband as he told me he'd lost his job due to corporate downsizing.

Sometimes the love and the energy I have poured into mothering and homeschooling has sapped the spark from my marriage, it just isn't the same as when we were carefree, problem-less, single and in the dating phase of our relationship. But other times job loss, sadness over the slow dying of a close relative and mourning the death of friends and family was soul-draining: I had little to give except to those who demanded it the most on a minute by minute basis (my children). However now that my kids are teens and preteens my relationship with my kids is less draining and I am no longer being pulled in three directions every single moment of the day and I have energy left over for what feels like an indulgence: nurturing my romantic relationship with my spouse.

Last June I flew to Houston, alone, to meet my husband who was already down here working. Our task was to look for locations to move to, where we thought we'd like to buy a house and then to find a rental home in the same vicinity. As soon as I arrived, it felt like it was just us. You see since the kids arrived we had not ever taken a vacation away from our kids.

In a small guest house of a friend it was like we were on our honeymoon again. I enjoyed the feeling of being completely free of mothering duties except if you want to consider that I was there to do a serious and important task as a mother: find a safe and decent rental home for our family to live in which was a decent enough space to homeschool in that had plentiful extra-curricular activities for them to do.

We were carefree on that long weekend. My husband showed me his new office and I met his co-workers. We went out to dinner and tried the best Vietnamese food in the area. We had a fancy dinner with his co-worker and his wife. I was over-stimulated by Houston and its difference in comparison to my lifelong home of Connecticut and it defiantly was not Cape Cod or Maine, both of those places I consider to be my home away from home, the places are a part of me. I took photos and soaked in the strong sunshine and was continually surprised by the high heat and humidity. All of my senses were on overload.

On that weekend I had my first glimpse of what it would be like when our kids were both away at college. I was reminded again of what it is like to be just us, just a couple. I realized then how much my life had changed since becoming a mother and how I missed that simpler feeling of just dealing with me and my husband. Wow, that felt easy.

Who do I love more: my husband or my kids? I can't answer the question, they are two different kinds of love. The relationships have different needs. The mother/child relationship changes gradually every single day from the time they are born, it is ever-evolving and it unfolds in the moment. Thanks to homeschooling I'm with my kids nearly constantly, even an hour or two being dropped off at some class or sport practice still involves driving to and from and it's not long enough to really feel free.

The relationship of parent and dependent child can't be compared to the relationship of two adults who are unique and able to be independent but who have chosen to become one through marriage. My husband and I are independent yet dependent; we are partners who have chosen to share our lives together for the long term. It's a mature relationship with a strong foundation. We vowed to remain together through sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and so far we have both followed through on that promise.

I love my sons and I love my husband. No one should judge whether they think who I love more, it's none of anyone else's business. I give all the love I can to my husband and to each of my kids. If someone feels they're not getting enough they'll have to settle and realize I'm giving all I have and that will have to be good enough.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What Really Matters Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying

Author: Karen M. Wyatt, M.D.

Publication: Select Books, 2012

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

My Summary Statement: Fantastic Book Which Lives Up to Its Title – Inspiring – Heartwarming

While working as a hospice physician, Wyatt repeatedly saw the dying struggling with the same seven issues. Realizing the struggle then choosing to let it go or to choose to forgive allowed the patients to move on and release old pain which helped them open their heart and find peace before letting go and passing away. She then realized that the living (including herself) hold onto negativity in their lives due to these same issues and she wrote this book to help the living learn from stories of the dying and make changes now so that we can be free and live more joyfully while alive and well. Also processing through these lessons while dying helps the person let go and pass on peacefully.

The book centers on addressing each of the seven lessons: suffering (embrace your difficulties), love (let your heart be broken), forgiveness (hold no resentments), paradise (dwell in the present moment), surrender (let go of expectations), and impermanence (face your fear).  Each of these lessons, if learned, will bring peace into your daily life and will make your time on Earth more joyful.

Every chapter contains stories of patients that Dr. Wyatt worked with. These are moving and nearly all brought tears to my eyes. The inclusion of these stories helps illustrate the point. I found some of the stories so tragic and “big” that it made my own struggles pale in comparison. This made me think, “If they can forgive for what happened to them, then I can forgive also.”

I found the book engaging and interesting to read; it was never boring.

The overall point of living, Wyatt feels and explains gradually through the book which culminates at the end, is to become more spiritual and to live our lives with purpose, living in the moment and appreciating life while we are healthy and alive.

This is not a religious book per se, it is highly spiritual. There are quotes from Jesus Christ and a few references to The Bible but there are quotes from other religions so it is not a purely Christian book (and may not be Christian enough for some people's tastes). It seemed to me that there was a little of every religion in there, including some Zen quotes about living in the moment and some famous philosophical quotes from around the globe and going back thousands of years.

A couple of times there were references that seemed a bit too new-age-y to me such as saying that peaceful dying people had a glow around them which seemed to me to reference auras, but who am I to judge? Dr. Wyatt has been around more dying people than I have, maybe some of them do radiate energy that is visible to the naked eye.

I urge everyone to read it with an open mind and see what you can learn from it. I learned some things and it made me think about some other things so I found it worthwhile reading. I found this book enlightening and it also echoed what I have already learned from being around elderly and dying people, and what I’ve seen while sitting vigil at the bedside of dying relatives. I appreciated this book and feel the world would be a better place if people read it and applied these lessons to their lives.

This would also make a good book discussion group book since there is a lot to talk about.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publishing agency for the purpose of reviewing it on my blog. I was not paid to write this review. For my blog’s full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog’s sidebar.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cutting Rhythms Book Review by ChristineMM

My Star Rating: 4 stars out of 5 = I Like It

Summary Statement: Describes a Hard to Articulate Intuitive Process - Impressive - Not for Amateurs

My intention with this book, which I'd not seen in my hands before ordering it, was to read it and use it with my young teen and preteen sons who were fooling around with making amateur movies and who wanted to learn more about editing. They were serious with their intention so I'd call them "serious beginners".

As soon as I began reading the book I realized this book is a serious book for filmmaking students or professional filmmakers. This was over our heads and my family was not the appropriate audience for this.

I have read other books by Focal Point Press and some have been fine for serious beginners and others have been niche books for those seeking a career in or who already have a career in the field. This book I feel is not for serious beginners.

I am a process oriented amateur artist and amateur photographer so I appreciate books about process. In order to describe one's process a person must make the discussion personal as they are telling their viewpoint and their experience, the two are enmeshed. I find that process oriented or right brained creative people can still read a personal viewpoint process book and learn things or start to think about things they want to do, even if what they personally wind up doing is not just copying what that person does. The other type of book that the more left brained people prefer is one that lays out a procedure in steps to follow, this is not that kind of book.

I was impressed with the undertaking of this book, the attempt to put into words how to find a good rhythm and to try to do something that relies so much on intuition. Even though I was not the appropriate audience for this book I still rate it 4 stars = I Like It because the book is full of inspiration and discusses an important topic. I recommend this book for filmmaking students but not for amateurs.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the Vine program for the purpose of publishing a review on For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Incase Neoprene Sleeve for iPad

Product Name: Incase Neoprene Sleeve for iPad (Black) Model number: CL57475

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Thick Protection – Large and Wide Enough to Handle an iPad with a Smart Case or Shell Case on It

I wanted a thick cover for my iPad3 to protect it while in transit. This incase neoprene sleeve is lined with a soft fiber and it is thicker than other brand’s products that I compared side by side while in a retail store. This is a nice thick case.

A second great feature is that it is tall and wide enough to handle an iPad with a smart case or a shell cover on it.

The third good thing about the case is it is a zip top, it’s not open at the top.

My model is CL57475 and comes with a so-called stand. It is a flexible piece of plastic with two notches in it that you bend. The stand is kind of a joke. I tossed mine aside and am rating the product only on the neoprene case which I rate 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It.

Disclosure: I bought this item. For my blog's full disclosure statement see the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Signs of Pot Smoking Found at Church

I dropped my son off at the church for his robotics merit badge meeting which was being held an hour before the Boy Scout Court of Honor. I had time to kill. After tidying up the minivan and gathering the trash from a 400+ mile roadtrip done in three days to get to my son's sport regional competition, I decided to take a walk.

The church has an outdoor sanctuary which was built by a Boy Scout as an Eagle Scout project. I learned of it from the pastor preaching on Scout Sunday earlier this year but had never seen it. I was curious back then but it was always dark at meeting time so I'd not had a chance to see it yet.

Arriving on the scene I saw a wooden crucifix and wooden benches surrounded on all sides by tall pine trees. The forest floor was covered with pine needles and the air was fresh. Different birds sang their songs and I wished once again that I could identify all the birds by their call alone. Maybe someday I'll teach myself all that I need to know to be able to do that.  I looked around and spotted just one bird flittering from branch to branch, but I didn't know what it was, that bird doesn't live in New England.

In the midst of this beauty, my eyes were drawn to manmade litter on the ground. At once I idenfied things that I'd heard the police officer disuss at the PTA sponsored lecture for parents and teens about teens risky behaviors of drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, abusing prescription drugs, and sex, which I attended last fall. Specificially I saw evidence that the spot had been used for pot smoking. (Double click to enlarge if you want to see the details.)

On the ground was a cloth pouch that the officer said was commonly used to store the weed and small smoking hardware. The pouch is easily is closed up and can fit in a pocket. The kids had torched part of it (probably out of boredom while high) so it was useless and they left it there.

There was a box of cigarettes all torn up as if someone was bored and had nothing better to do.

There was a porton of a soda can that had been cut with a metal cutter that could be fashioned into a bong of sorts, why else would someone cut an aluminum can up like that? We'd been told that simply by crushing a soda can you could fashion an easy bong, so I'm not sure why they bothered to cut one up, since it is so easy to cut yourself accidentially while dealing with sharp aluminum.

I also saw sections of PVC pipe that were broken up (probably by whacking them on the wooden pews). Lest you think I have an active imagination, I could not come up with a logical explanation for why multiple PVC pipes that were just over a foot long would be laying around a forest floor. So I investigated online and indeed found a tutorial for making a bong from the very same kind of PVC pipe that I found in the sanctuary. I laughed at this comment and don't know if it is true. "Just so everyone knows, PVC doesn’t withstand high temperatures at all, its vaporization point is around 130 degrees F and smoke is far hotter than that. You will possibly get cancer if you smoke out of this." I bet these kids are living in the moment and none are thinking about preserving their youthful good health.

There were also dessert processed food wrappers around, evidence of fulfilling their pot-induced munchies.

After this disappointing find I turned my mind back to nature and worship. I sat there alone and said a prayer for the lost and confused kids and teens who used that sacred place to get high as an escape from reality.

I heard the call of a red-tailed hawk overhead which reminded me of Connecticut. Sunlight filtered through the trees and its rays shone over the crucifix. At the edge of the woods, the sun backlit a wildflower and some dandelion seed heads so they seemed to glow. All I could think about was that life is good.

It saddens me to realize that some kids just don't know how good an ordinary life is yet. I hope they figure it out someday and don't ruin their health or have problems related to doing stupid things while under the influence of drugs before they realize how great their lives were, even when sober.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Boot Cast Troubles

When my older son visited the orthopedic surgeon on day five after his injury (the first time they would see him) he was placed in a removable boot cast for three weeks.

The boot cast is huge and uncomfortable. It is larger than his foot length so simple walking up stairs and moving around is clumsy and tricky. He has been tripping and stumbling, which can't be good.

The boot cast is two inches taller than his other leg while in a shoe. My son is walking weird as it is popping back in a terrible way. My son wonders if his knee or hip will go out of alignment. Days later the coach told my son the boot cast wrecked her daughter's hip for months since she had walked out of alignment for so long. Why are orthopedists using boot casts to fix one problem if they create another medical problem?

Also due to the teenage brain, my son is rebelling against the boot cast. We are having daily power struggle battles over him wearing it. He says it hurts, it is uncomfortable, and he wants to go without it. He says his ankle has no pain except when the orthopedist squeezes and pushes on it in certain areas and somehow feels his lack of pain during typical movement means he does not really have any problem that needs fixing. This is the logic of the teenage mind at work.

I am wondering why orthopedists stopped using plaster casts? You can't argue with parents about a plaster cast. You can't slack off with a plaster cast. You can't mis-use a plaster cast. Yes, the casts are heavy and they can itch and feel hot and can even start to smell. You can't swim with them and showering is hard. But at least you won't wreck your knee or hip and there is no fighting with parents every day about compliance.

A friend told me that last month her son also aged 14 was put in a boot cast after hurting his ankle on a trampoline. The boy refused to comply and he went without wearing it. At the two week follow-up he was found to have ligament damage. He is now on restricted movement for six weeks and may need corrective surgery. Would not have using a plaster cast prevented that problem from happening?

Orthopedists you may make a higher profit on selling a $110 piece of durable medical equipment and it may use less of your time but perhaps non-compliant, power-struggling stage teenage boys are not the population to use these on. Also since your Hippocratic oath asks you to "do no harm" have you considered the problems when the boot cast causes knee and hip injuries due to mis-alignment? Just wondering.

The more that kids do sports at young ages and in a more serious manner than when their parents were kids, the more sports injuries kids are getting. We need to seriously look at how kids are being treated by the medical profession and ask if the current fad treatments are always right and best.

CobraCo Vintage Copper Fire Pit Product Review

CobraCo FTCOPVINT-C Vintage Copper Fire Pit My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It My Summary Statement: Gorgeous to Look At – Love It Our kids have been begging for a fire pit but to be honest some I’ve seen on the market are hideous. This copper fire pit is gorgeous with his hammered appearance, and its patina will change over time, as it oxidizes, to that lovely green shade. The legs are decorative which also dresses it up. It looks good even when not in use. The fire pit took about ten minutes to put together, it was easy to do. Unlike some other fire pits on the market this has a top with a screen that is supposed to help reduce flying sparks. It has a vinyl top to use to keep rainwater out when not in use. Using sand in the bottom gives it weight and helps ensure it won't blow over in the wind. We love this fire pit for both its function and its appearance. As to the MSRP cost, it reflects today’s high cost of copper. Disclosure: I received one of this product from's Vine program for the purpose of reviewing it on their website. See my blog's full disclosure statement for more information.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Use Your Words Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers

Author: Kate Hopper

Publication: Viva Editions, 2012

My Star Rating: 5 stars out of 5: I Love It

My Summary Statement: Loved It  -- An Empowering Book -- A Writing Workshop for Mothering Memoir in Book Format

I loved this book and am happy to have read it as it finally addresses the topic of mothers writing about their lives. Formerly all I could find on the market about women writing was feminist or general about being a woman, and either absent of addressing motherhood or was anti-motherhood, or was more politically charged, which was not what I personally was looking for. This book is not Pollyanna or saccharine though,  as it does address the challenges of motherhood and includes some emotional, gut-wrenching stories. Hopper encourages us to write of our experiences: whatever they are. Unlike other books there is NOT the impression that "if you went through X experience then you deserve to write about it but if you are leading perhaps a more ordinary life then you are not worthy". Hopper knows the ordinary can be deserving, but whatever it is you have to say , if you want to write about it, you should.

Hopper has been teaching writing workshops for over a decade. In this book she tackles one topic per chapter. After addressing the general ideas she shares samples of other people's writing (and sometimes her own) and then a discussion ensues, very similar to what happens in her workshops. She shares viewpoints of some of her students as well as writing as teacher so as a reader I felt that I was participating in a workshop rather than just reading words on a page.  At the end of each chapter are a few writing exercises to get us to practice and experiment with what we just learned about.

Some of the topics are general writing topics but tailored to writing memoir (or creative nonfiction as she prefers to call it), such as chapters on voice and writing with humor. Other chapters cover topics such as writing about difficult topics. Some covers issues such as what we should think about when choosing to write about our families, spouses (“partners”), and our children. Near the end of the book she tackles blogging and the idea of moving from blogging to publishing the work as a book.

I enjoyed Hopper’s writing style and the way the book was arranged. I learned some new things about writing that would help me move my writing from where it is to become something better, since I just keep writing off the top of my head without knowing how or what or why I should try to do something different. I think I’ve hit a plateau with winging it and that it’s time that I address some of my weak spots. The book helped me realize what my weak spots are and I’ve learned about some options open to me that I should try.

I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It and recommend it to any mother who wants to write about her mothering journey who needs some help getting started as well as anyone looking to push their writing to the next level.  Between the short 200 page length and Hopper’s colloquial and non-intimidating writing style I found the book enjoyable, and easy to read, and empowering.

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this book by for the Vine program. See my blog’s full disclosure near the top of my blog’s sidebar.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We Toured the New Devon Energy Building

Our family had a tour of the new (and still under construction) Devon Energy building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This is now the tallest skyscraper in the city and cost to build it is said to be $800 million. It is amazing.

I was proud of my kids for being well-mannered and well-behaved as they conducted themselves properly while on the tour and while being introduced to the company's top executives.

My kids loved the building and were fascinated by many of its features. My older son has always been interested in building and he sees the beauty in the aesthetics of architecture so he was especially excited to see the building. He loves modern urban buildings and skyscrapers. I always wondered if he would desire to be an architect but he keeps holding onto engineering, for now at least.

Here are some photos that I took with my iPhone that I further altered digitally using the iPhone app Instagram from inside the building and taken of the building while in the city.

 Standing in the lobby looking up

Standing in the lobby, looking up you can see the floors above wrapping around the circular lobby.

This is the center of the round lobby seen from the second floor.

This is the floor at the very center of the lobby.

Dichromatic glass art installation, many floors high, with many of these side by side. It is opposite a wall of glass so the light plays fantastically on the dicromatic glass. As you walk down the hall the panels change color as you move past. It is hard to photograph and hard to describe. Gorgeous.

As the sun was setting, I snapped this while driving past.

Another view as the sun was setting snapped from a moving car.

In the early morning as we drove to the regatta, this was our view of the
thick clouds and skyline of Oklahoma City.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You Heard It Here First

Here is my January 2010 blog post where I share frustration as a homeschool conference attendee that the sessions are too lifestyle oriented and not education or learning focused.

My Issue with Christian Homeschool Conferences and Magazines

Here is a recent blog post by Susan Wise Bauer, co-author of The Well Trained Mind, where she shares her decision to not speak at homeschool conferences in the year 2013 due to increasing pressures from conference organizers.

"I love to teach; I love to help parents and teachers teach. That’s part of what I do. But conferences seem, increasingly, less focused in education and more on lifestyle: whether that’s back-to-the-earth, drop-out-of-the-system, or build-God’s-kingdom-through-home-schooling. Check out the workshop offerings at your nearest conference, and look at the percentages: how many of the workshops are dedicated to teaching and learning? and how many focus on parenting, marriage issues, family dynamics, church matters, theology, bread-baking, organic gardening…?"

"But in the past few years, I have been asked, by multiple different conference organizers, to promise to NOT talk about certain theories, or certain types of education; to give any appearance of endorsing certain organizations, life choices, or philosophies; to swear I won’t bring certain books for my book table; to mention certain words. None of which, I should say, have anything to do with what I normally talk about: grammar, history, writing, reading, learning. I have been told that I am not welcome, in some cases, because I talk too much about the psychology of learning, and not about the Bible. Or because I have a theological degree and am obviously pushing a Christian agenda. Because my “professional associations,” however loose, are too liberal, or too secular, or too Christian.

And many of the conferences that put these restrictions on me don’t advertise themselves as “A Conference on Education For People Who Hope To Follow X Philosophy of Life.” They present themselves as “The Official State Home Education Organization For Your State!” or “The Only Education Conference You Should Attend if You Teach Your Kids!” or…"
from One More Update About Future Plans

I have been helped in the past by listening to audio recordings of Susan Wise Bauer recorded at far-away conferences. I have not had the chance to hear her speak in person in the past, the drives were too long.

I just learned she's speaking IN MY OWN TOWN in the summer of 2012. I hope I am here to hear her in person before it's too late. I guess I'll have to schedule my summer vacation around the upcoming homeschool conference!

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Older Son Fractured His Ankle

Yet another reason why I am not writing long blog posts is that at his last practice before the regional rowing championships, my older son broke his ankle while doing warm-up's playing soccer at rowing practice. He just rolled his dominant leg's ankle to a 90 degree angle and heard a snap. After this he was in dire pain but rowed anyway. He reported, "It hurt for the first ten minutes then stopped hurting after that so I just kept rowing."

That night he begged to go to the ER and it was swollen mildly with a bruise. It is just a hairline fracture which is good to know. However we had to hear a zillion legal disclaimers that the ER doctor could not clear him medically to row at the regional championships. We got home at 1:30 a.m. -- a long night!

The downside to being part of a small rowing club is that there are not enough bodies to cover the races should one rower drop out. Thus if my son did not row he would have prevented his quad and double from competing. This fact bothered him more that the loss of his own ability to row.

We were told to consult with an orthopedist ASAP but no one would grant an urgent appointment for such a minor issue until the Monday after the event ended. (I understand why but that doesn't help our situation.)

My son was pissed (the use of the word is justified). I saw a new maturity in his angst over messing up the race for his boatmates and he demanded to be allowed to race with the fracture. A year ago he would have been happy for resting on a couch watching TV all day. My husband was behind this 100%. I feared the ankle may worsen but the pain was with rotation not forward and backward movement so we figured it was okay. I told the coach and we went forward with rest, ibuprofen, using the air cast and crutches and drove the 400 miles north to the regatta. I insisted he not lift boats so as to not do weight-bearing that may worsen the fracture. I prayed that it would not worsen at the competition.

This is the season's last event and practice is over after this. It was kind of a crappy way to end the season.

At the race my son sat bow in a boat the club just purchased that he'd rowed just one time a few days earlier, before the practice. That requires the use of THAT FOOT to steer the boat. These are details about rowing that I do not know, and different boats had that feature disengaged, as it is not necessary to steer the boat for a straight sprint race. Well what happened was the foot had to move side to side, the movement he could not do, and that is one reason they did not perform as they usually do. The group has been performing well otherwise. They got a bad start and someone crabbed. As proof of just bad circumstances two of the other rowers in that boat won the gold in the region that weekend so they are capable rowers. Bad things, mistakes or problems happen to all rowers at some point and that is what helps the competitors have an edge. It was just a rough thing to deal with. This was the race which qualified the varsity rowers for nationals. My son is not varsity, this is his first year competing.

Well the official rowing season is over for everyone except those who have qualified for nationals.

What a way to end the season.

And now that the racing is over we're headed to the orthopedist for a consult.

By the way at this point the ankle is almost completely normal feeling, my son says. Kids heal quickly, I hear from other parents and the ER doc.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Busy Looking for a Texas House to Buy

Another reason for the skimpy blogging lately is I am spending a lot of time shopping to buy a house in Texas. I have gone on showings on four of the last seven days.

It is a seller's market in my town and it is just crazy with activity. The sales have jumped up in the last one month. Houses in our price range are getting sometimes three and four bids on the same day. The priced right homes in great condition are being snapped up in days one, two, or three. Some are going for full asking or over asking price.

We have had to resort to looking at locations that are farther away (adding twenty minute drives each way to my husband's job and adding more time to me driving the kids to various activities or to go shopping). We have had to resort to pondering about buying a fixer-upper.

In the end I think we will wind up spending more than we thought in order to get a closer location and a move-in condition home so we can avoid big house renovation projects. I just can't handle large projects like that while homeschooling my kids and doing everything else I choose to or need to do. The downside though is less houses are available in that range, but the upside is that they are not always moving as quickly as the lower priced houses.

The first home we loved but disliked the location was sold two days after we started debating about being so far west. I hoped the next one I fell in love with would not go so fast.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Going East for the Summer

I'm not quite ready to nail the dates down yet, especially now with houses in flux. However it looks like my sons and I will drive back East for seven or eight weeks this summer.

Public school lets out on May 31 in my town in Texas. We started homeschooling right around August 15 if I recall. It's been a long year.

We plan to visit our family and stay some nights at my mother-in-law's house.

We plan to spend weeks in Cape Cod at her vacation home. I have invited some friends to spend time there but so far everyone is so busy with various child-centered enrichment activities that it has been hard to nail down.

I was hoping to go to Maine for the first time in a few years, the first vacation there since my grandmother's passing. The family homestead stands empty but fully functional so we planned to stay there. My aunt has invited us to spend time at her electricity-free off-the-grid cabin "camp" in a village that is only accessible by long drive then boat or seaplane.

My sons are spending a week at Boy Scout residence camp with their former Troop. I have been invited to be an adult volunteer leader that week, which will be my third time going. The fantastic leaders are more than aquaintences and I miss them and look forward to seeing them again.

My older son wants to attend a week-long rowing camp in Boston which will require me staying in a hotel for four nights. I need to get that application in the mail today, and see if he is accepted or not.

However how all of this jives with selling a house and buying a house makes all this planning difficult to say the least.

My husband will stay in Texas working except for perhaps a week that he'll fly in for a week's vacation and to visit relatives.

Due to us leaving, my son is missing a few weeks of his leadership responsibilities for the Boy Scout Troop. They are missing summer camp with the new Troop. My older son can't do off-season robotics competitions and activities. My younger son can't do the summer lacrosse clinics and scrimmages.

My kids begged for this long trip back home to see family, friends, and places they miss. However I anticipate this will be the last time. My kids want to keep doing the things they love and to be with new friends in our new home. They want to turn the clock back and be with friends from Connecticut also. It is hard to do everything they want if they have one foot in Connecticut and one foot in Texas. Their hearts are torn. This is all part of the letting go and moving on process. I think they are doing very well and handling the transition just fine.

I anticipate that the summer of 2013 will be busy with Texas-centered activities and maybe even dealing with a girlfiend. I bet we'll go East for two weeks max and will happily spend the rest of the time in The Lone Star State, our new home.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Busy Selling My Connecticut House

Please excuse the atypical sporadic blogging. There is just too much going on here.

One good thing is that for the last two-plus weeks we have been dealing with things relating to selling our house. This is a after dealing in late March and early April with tasks related to getting a staging company caretaker tenant moved in.

Hopefully soon we will be in the stage that has the deal locked down. I am learning each state is different regarding buying houses and the timelines, the fastness or slowness, and the hoops are all different. And apparently after the real estate crisis, things were made even worse, with more steps and more requirements, so the whole process is more dragged out and an even bigger pain in the caboose.

I am overjoyed that the house is selling but it's not a done deal yet so I am still on pins and needles.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Some Homeschoolers Lack Comparison

There is a problem that some always-homeschooled kids have that I have never seen written about by others. I've mentioned it here and there, and it's discussed in person sometimes.

This problem has reared its ugly head in our home yet again. I thought we had slayed the dragon.

The problem is the kids lack comparison to other students. I am talking about the child's perception of self, not talking about a homeschool mom comparing what their kids are doing in comparison to schooled kids.

Homeschooled kids are unable to assess where they stand, how they fit in, how they measure up against their peers. I underscore this is most applicable to always-homeschooled kids.

Those of us who have shirked a lot of testing and assessment, or who have actively sought to not rank and rate our kids based on test scores may find it kicks us in the butt when our kids display negative self-esteem. I never tried to insulate my kids from disappointment by not testing them weekly in every subject but I just thought the method of expose, memorize in short-term memory, test, see score, and move on, then forget the info, was just stupid.

Without a basis for comparison, kids who may fall prey to this situation think that any struggle they have to learn is a sign of a defect or low intelligence. One of my sons thought that his struggle was uncommon when in fact it is common indeed.

My older son recently went on a rant that he feels he is stupid at anything and everything. This kid just finished Algebra I in five months by doing two hours a day and he did just fine. This kid has medals for competing in his sport. This kid has medals for his robotics team and has learned a fair amount about robotics in the about 200 hours he has put in in the last five months. I reminded him of the gold medals he won every single year in grades 6-8 for Science Olympiad for events he worked hard to compete in.

He has silly notions like doing math on paper is for dumb kids. He can do most all of it in his head, including Algebra I. He does not realize the natural talent in his ability to do mental math.

Last week this kid revealed that he was under some strange impression that every single fact he has ever read or heard in his entire life, he thought, should be in his long-term memory for each access to pull up at any given moment. He said that he felt his inability to do such a thing was proof that he was stupid. He thought that because he forgot some things in Algebra I already which he hasn't looked at for months, that he was dumb. I showed him the A grades on the assignments and he brushed it aside saying that what good was a grade if he forgot it already.

I had to sit down and explain the school game way of doing things. You are exposed to information; you crank out some assignments and are tested. They write down the test score and you move on. So long as you don't fail, you are done with it. You move on and on and you forget much of what you ever were exposed to. That is normal for a brain for that type of school learning.

My son's response was that was a ridiculous idea and a stupid idea, and how could schools do that to kids and call it learning? I said that is just the way it is.

We have had other conversations about learning and school and education and career preparation. We had discussed how some jobs require a certain college degree but what you learn in college may not ever be used on the job, or just some small portion of it. We become experts at what we spend most of our time doing and the truth is that what people do for careers or jobs seldom is what they learned in high school or any school or college. We also may become experts at some hobby that is fun for us to do in our free time. What we use often or care most about or feel excited about also sticks better in our minds.

I am very surprised that this child of mine who seems to not be the type to constantly compare himself to other people is struggling with low self-esteem due to feelings of not measuring up to others. He is making this up in his own head and it is maddening to me. It makes no common sense (and I told him so) because he does have some grades and even medals for competitions to show that something he did was deemed very good or even one of the top three in a statewide or regional competition.

I have never overly praised my kids or said they did some fantastic thing when all they were doing was typical average stuff. I give compliments and tell them I love them all the time, and I give them unconditional love. I am trying not to blame myself for my son's illogical self-perception.

I can't help but ask myself if I put my son into school would it be helpful for him to see what other kids are like, how other kids struggle, how even smart kids have to actually put forth effort to learn the hard stuff or what is not their natural talent or interest area, to see someone who truly has a low IQ, or to observe a capable kid who just doesn't put forth effort fail tests and assignments?

Sometimes these challenges come out of the blue when we least expect it. I am seldom ready for such discussions when they come from left field. I just try my best to talk about it at the time. Later after I ponder on it awhile I may have new insights and I'll initiate another discussion. This one really threw me for a loop though, because it left me questioning whether keeping my kids out of school really was a good idea, and also whether they have had too much of an alternative education that somehow backfired and resulted in a low self-esteem when it was meant to inspire and to instill a love of what I consider to be a deeper true learning experience than what I consider to be the mainstream path of "the school game".