Monday, August 31, 2009

And the Beat Rolls On ...

Thanks so much to my wonderful virtual friend Era, for passing along the Kreativ Blogger award to me. Era is such an insightful and witty blogger; I'm honored. (Maybe now that you're in my neck of the woods, Era, we can actually meet in person.)

So now I must pass along the award! That, of course, is the nicest thing about receiving an award - recognizing those others who put their heart and soul out there for all the world to see.

So here goes ...

To Victoria at Hanging by a Nerve ..., for her honest, no-nonsense, and sometimes poignant outlook. As she says, she doesn't sugarcoat things. "If you want duckies and bunnies, move along." Love that.

To Desiree at So Fawned, for energy and her obvious attachment to her effervescent daughter, rare for a mother so young. We need more young moms like Desiree! (I'm not sure how often she reads my blog, so she may never see this.)

*******

On another note, I am remiss in tagging someone for the "7 Reasons I Am Awesome" list. Perhaps it was such a harrowing personal experience that I hesitated to thrust that torture on someone else.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, see this post.

But if you thought you were off the hook, Hannah, think again. Ha ha, you're it!

I tagged Hannah, who posts at A Quiet Spot, because I'm truly interested in reading her list. She has such a long list of awesomeness, it'll be interesting to see what she chooses.

Reminder: Enter to win a t-shirt!

Today's the last day to enter to win a free homeschooling t-shirt! To get the rules, click on Thursday's post. The drawing will happen tomorrow morning.

Good luck!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Boys. NICUs. Red-heads. High-energy kids. Micro-preemies.

Now teenagers.


Amazing how something so tiny can change your life
so drastically, so brilliantly.
G came into our lives 14 weeks early at 2 lbs, 5 oz.
Due in December, born in August.
The doctors allowed us to lay one finger on him
before they wheeled him into the NICU.
We could only touch him softly, for fear of his skin tearing.
We could see his heart beating beneath his skin.
All five of his fingers could fit inside my size-4 wedding ring.


This is the first day we got to hold him, on Day 7.
I sat holding my little kangaroo for hours at a time, day in and day out.
I watched other parents come and go,
but one of us was always there with our baby.
He burned with fierce determination and tenacity from the very beginning,
a trait that kept him alive then and that continues to serve him well today.


They called him "The Miracle Baby."
Never on a respirator, never on nasal prongs.
He nursed when only 30 weeks, remarkably early.
He was just tiny and needed to grow.
At 34 weeks, still 6 weeks premature, he came home -
eyes wide with wonder.


He continued to amaze us, reading at 18 months.
Here, at 11 months, he's picking out letters from the headlines
while having his cup of joe.


He wholeheartedly welcomed his little sister
when she came along a year and a half later.
They were best buddies - and still are (well, most of the time) -
along with their younger brother.


At two, he hadn't said "Mama" yet.
We wondered if he would ever speak.
But he would sit on the couch with us and read literally for hours at a stretch.
We were heartened by that affinity for words, which alleviated our fears.


At 3, he not only said, "Mama," but also just about anything else he wanted.
With great gusto. Often, and vociferously.


Always driven to succeed, he earned his Black Belt at age 10.
Again, his perseverance rose to the surface.


Still reaching for his goals, he attended the State-level
National Geography Bee for the second time this year.
Next year, he hopes to make it to Nationals, a dream he's had since he was 10.
He studies geography several hours a day.


Soccer, a past love of his.
On to bigger and better things now.


Finally, after playing for six years, he and his team won State.
Great to go out on a high note.


Now, a teenager.
Wow, where did the time go?


How do you adequately say you're grateful for something
that so radically changed your life that your entire being,
your complete world picture,
indeed the very physiology of your brain is changed forever?
For someone for whom you would willingly live for eternity,
die in an instant, and do it all over again?

This parenting gig is shaping me in ways I never imagined.
My children have taught me more than any school,
have guided me more than any teacher, and filled me more than any religion.

Once again, my life is changed, now that I'm the mother of a teenager.
The path before me is clearer than I ever imagined.
I just hope that I can walk it with the integrity and respect that my new teenager,
my daughter, my preteen son, and my dear husband deserve.

I'm grateful.

Happy Birthday, G.

_________________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Does Attachment Parenting Really Work?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Yippee! A Homeschooling T-Shirt Giveaway!!!

The oh-so-great folks at Great Homeschool T-Shirts have generously offered to give one lucky winner a homeschooling t-shirt of their choosing! Yippee!

I recently ordered four t-shirts for my kids and me, and they look terrific. So terrific that I wrote the company to see if they would be willing to give one of my readers a t-shirt, since I loved our shirts so much.

T got this one:
"Beware! I'm an unsocialized homeschooler!"

S and G got this one (in different colors):
"Warning: Unsocialized homeschooler ...
Interact or communicate at your own risk!"

And I got this one: "Warning: Parent of an
unsocialized homeschooler"


So, here are the rules. You can enter by doing one of the following:

1. Add a comment to this post, telling me one thing that you love or hate about homeschooling - or spill an embarrassing story. :) You must be a homeschooler yourself to use this option.

2. Subscribe to my blog by following it or subscribing to my
blog's feed (and letting me know in your comment that you did so).

3. Send me a (nice, please!) comment off list to
TheEclecticMom@gmail.com. (Nasty comments won't count.)

The drawing will be held Monday, the 31st, so get your entries in! I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner, based on the order in which I receive the comments.

In the meantime, take a look at the great t-shirts at
Great Homeschool T-Shirts. They're having a terrific sale -
ALL t-shirts are only $5.99! Can't beat that! They also sell
tote bags and bumper stickers. Oh! The sale ends September
10th, so hurry.

BTW, I don't have any connection to their company. I'm just appreciative of a company that offers secular options of homeschooling t-shirts, although they have plenty of religious options too.






Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting off the Low Road

The Low Road ... the muck, the mire, the warm and sticky Low Road. We've all been there - whether we admit it or not - getting ourselves stuck in a situation with our children where we've said something or done something out of anger or frustration that we regret.

How do we repair our relationship with our child?

Oh, wait. You're surprised? Did you believe the myth that parents who follow attachment parenting are always patient and cheerful? That they happily follow their children from task to task, with a warm and positive attitude, always accommodating and unflappable? Yeah, right.

Maybe the books make it seem so. Maybe other AP parents make it seem so. I've heard lots of parents be turned off of attachment parenting because they think they're not "AP enough." What a shame!

Let's face it. We all have strengths, and we all have weaknesses. AP parents are not so different from mainstream parents ... we lose our temper, we get snappy, we clench our fists and sometimes - ugh - even yell. For some, any or all of these things happen rarely. For others of us - and well, uh, let's just say that I definitely count myself among these - they happen just a tad bit more than we'd like. Like every day. Like every hour. Or wait, maybe that's just in my head.

I'm not saying that walking the Low Road is okay or that it's appropriate. It's just, well, normal ... at least at times.

And here's a news flash to all the new AP parents out there: every one of those "together," laid-back, calm, and nurturing AP moms that you meet, even those who are legendary among AP circles for their wisdom and BTDT advice ... they've all walked the Low Road. Some have worn ruts in it up to their knees.

But ... and here's the key ... they've survived with their relationship with their children in tact.

How?

There are some simple rules that I follow to get me get off the Low Road and back onto high ground.

First, step away and remove yourself from the trigger. When I've done or said something I regret (like when I've flown off the handle after the 167th time in the last week that I've found the bread sitting out and getting stale), the first thing I do is walk away. I know myself well enough to know that sometimes that feeling of anger - that heat of the moment - feels good (yes, I said it, and most moms won't admit to it). I finally admitted this after years of talking with my oldest about his rages; he told me that it felt powerful to him to be in a rage state, and that confession clicked with me. Not the proudest thing to admit, but once I realized that, it made it easier to remove myself from a place of anger.

Second, when somewhat calmed, apologize. You'll be simply amazed at the power of the words, "I'm sorry." If you think that anger makes you feel powerful, think again. There are few things more powerful than opening yourself up to someone you love, showing your vulnerability, admitting your mistakes, and knowing that they'll forgive you and love you for who you are, not who you want to be. What's more, that apology sets an example, "allowing" your children to be imperfect and lovable in all their imperfections - and allowing them to apologize in the future, even when it's hard.

Third, explain. This goes hand in hand with apologizing. Your kids are probably relieved to see that you've calmed down and apologized, but they still may be wondering what was going on. What was going through your mind? A heartfelt explanation will help them make sense of the confrontation. "I'm so sorry that I blew my stack. I just get angry when yet another loaf of bread ends up stale because it got left out on the table. I shouldn't have yelled, and I apologize."

Fourth, listen. This is crucial. This is your big chance to hear what your kids really think, to see inside their hearts, and to learn their feelings. If you hear, "Why should I put away the bread, when you leave your clothes all over the floor?" then you know that there's a deeper issue than just forgetfulness. If you hear, "I'm sorry I left the bread out. I just forgot again." Then you know your child is trusting you with his honesty.

Listening is my most useful parenting strategy. I can't tell you how many times I've learned things I never would have imagined just by shutting up. On many occasions, what I thought was the real issue wasn't, and if I'd continued my "solution" to the problem, I never would have gotten to the heart of the issue. In my mind, I have to just zip my lips closed and swallow all those helpful retorts. It works wonders. I talked about this a bit in yesterday's post.

When you find yourself on one of those (hopefully few) journeys slogging down the Low Road, know that you can repair your relationship with your child. Admit you're human and thus imperfect, talk with your children, and move on. The only thing you don't want to do is ignore it. Your children will remember your effort at repair, or they'll remember your lack of effort. Which do you want remembered?

___________________
This post is part of the Attachment Parenting Month blog carnival, hosted by Attachment Parenting International. Learn more about how you can stay “Attached at the Heart Through the Years” by visiting API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy What I've Learned As a Parent ...

Thanks to Alyssa for the idea for this post!

Photo by aussiegall from here

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ack! I've been tagged!

I've been tagged.

Oh god, I've been tagged.

"Be strong!" my darling daughter says, hugging, then kissing me on top of my head (and then punching me in the arm while growling).

Era, my virtual friend (and after this, I use the term loosely) tagged me to make a list of "7 Reasons I Am Awesome." That was a month ago, and I've been putting it off. So let's just get this thing over with.

First, my kids' list of "7 Reasons I Am Awesome" ...

1. I have awesome kids.

2. I have an awesome cup that says, "You can't scare me. I have kids." and a give-away Star Trek glass.

3. I homeschool 3 awesome kids.

4. I'm an awesome multi-tasker: I empty the dishwasher and talk on the phone at the same time.

5. I have an awesome nickname, "Mama-Girl."

6. I hold the awesome family title of "Gross-Out Queen."

7. I play awesome games, like chase the kids, hit like a girl, the arthritic dumb giant, let's scare G, and calling the cat.


Now, for my own, not nearly so entertaining list ...

1. I'm imperfect. I'll gladly admit it to anyone who's dumb enough to stand still and listen. You might argue that that's not a reason to be "awesome," but I beg to differ. I see myself as a shining example of what not to do. Besides, who wants a perfect parent? Think of the pressure!

2. I apologize. Frequently. I make lots of mistakes, including how I parent, and I've gotten really good at apologizing. Again, I see that as setting a glorious example for my kids. Apologizing gracefully is an art, one that I've had plenty of opportunity to perfect. In all seriousness, I'm constantly amazed at how far a heart-felt apology will go when I've done something I regret. My kids are refreshingly forgiving.

3. I listen. Some of my best and most effective parenting moments have been those in which I haven't uttered a word. I'm not quite sure what that says about me, but I do feel that quite a few arguments happen because someone just wants to be heard. I truly try to listen to what my kids have to say. That's been the number one method - by far - of working out problems and disagreements around here.

4. I love to learn and try new things. That's one big reason why we homeschool. I absolutely relish learning something new right alongside my kids, whether it's through reading out loud together, traveling someplace cool, or sitting together while watching and discussing an educational video. I learn so much from - and with - my kids!

5. Closely related to #4, I'm creative and I don't mind getting my hands dirty. I have no problem with letting the kids build a Rube Goldberg machine that spans two stories of the house, scrounge scrap lumber from the garage to build a catapult, or drag out fabric, yarn, and tape to hold an egg-drop contest. I enjoy building, sewing, creating, and inventing (just not cooking). Sometimes these projects stay out for days (or weeks), but this is a kid-friendly house and I don't aspire to be in Architectural Digest.

6. I love being silly and laughing. You'll frequently find me chasing, joking, and just plain playing with the kids. Anything to get a laugh. I didn't win the title "Gross-Out Queen" for nothin'!

7. I love my family with a fire that's frightening. Woe be it to the poor soul who tries to harm one of my children (even if it's another one of my children) - the Mama Bear rages with ferocity. (I guess that's the other meaning of awesome: inspiring awe). I'm fiercely loyal to my children and my husband. There's no place I'd rather be on this earth than surrounded by them. I adore each one of them individually.

All in all, if I'm at all awesome, it's because I'm surrounded by love and joy - and people who allow me to be who I am.

____________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy What We Give Our Kids.

Monday, August 24, 2009

NOT Back to School Party!

While virtually every other child in the state was waking to alarm clocks, scrambling around for their lunchboxes and backpacks, swallowing the butterflies that come with the first day of school, and worrying about their new teachers and old friends, this is what we were doing ...

The annual NBTSP (Not Back To School Party) - my kids are in there somewhere.

And tonight, they're all having sleepovers with friends, because it's not a school night.

As much as they are happy not to have to sit in a classroom, I'm even happier!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Need I say more?


Boomerang, an extreme coaster that all the kids chose to ride, much to my astonishment

Well, I guess I do, so here goes. A few highlights of the day:

No people - the day before the first day of school, tax-free shopping weekend, and 158 degree temperature

No waits - the longest wait we had was about ten minutes to one of the water rides; we walked right up to the turnstiles for the big-ticket coasters

Maturing kids - my previously cautious kids (fear of new things, fear of heights, etc.) tried some of the biggest and scariest rides in the park, including an almost vertical drop of about 15 or 20 stories in a water chute (see a photo here, which I have to provide a link for instead of a photo, since it's copyrighted)

S riding all the extreme roller coasters with her uncle, including one (Goliath) all by her lonesome

G riding one extreme roller coaster and considering another

T exhibiting that he's completely over his fear of heights (see photo link above, for the twisty chute, and this link for the giant water slide)

Time with the kids' aunt and uncle, who gave this outing to them for their birthdays

Goliath, which S rode twice, once by herself

____________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Last Stop ... Terra Cotta Warriors

Photo of Boomerang by racer108 from here
Photo of Goliath by Kaleenxian from here

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Quote for the Day

"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ..."

Last week we received our long-awaited Lego Smart education kit, which consisted of twenty Lego pieces (one of which, of course, is already lost among the detritus around here), along with "challenges" for kids in classrooms to do. I was thrilled to see that the challenges ended up being interesting, entertaining, and creative.



The first challenge: "Build a Duck"

"Instruct students to remove the yellow and red LEGO bricks.... Using only these six bricks, ask students to build a LEGO duck.... have students compare their ducks to other ducks in the room."


The six red and yellow duck bricks.

Well, obviously, we have only one set of "LEGO Smart" bricks (this school is woefully understocked with educational supplies), so we had to get creative right off the bat. We decided to take turns building the duck, then I would take a picture (keeping it secret), and then we'd compare after everyone had had a go at it.

Here are the results:

T's version


S's version (walking)


My version


G's version (curled up)


H's version


T's best friend's duck

When we first started the challenge, I thought, "Good grief, how many possible combinations can there be? Obviously, everyone will have just about the same idea." I couldn't have been more wrong.

I loved all the imagination and creativity! The kids have made more and more ducks. We've been quacking like crazy around here.

Thank you, LEGO company! I'm grateful to you for allowing homeschoolers to participate (especially since the kit was free!), knowing that we actually do think about educational stuff from time to time.

_______________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy "The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tax Free Shopping ... or Taxing Shopping?

I'm not a shopper. I'm too cheap, nothing ever fits, I'm too picky, malls give me headaches, shopping makes my feet hurt, I hate having our country's over-the-top consumerism repeatedly blasting me in the fact all day, and the prices are way over my budget (did I mention that I'm cheap?). I find tax-free shopping to be anything but ... it taxes my patience and my sanity mightily.

But once every year I drag myself out with the other eager shoppers to tackle the stores during tax-free weekend. This is the weekend that the state drops its excessively high sales tax (which we have in place of a state income tax, and I'm not complaining!) for back-to-school shoppers. (Don't tell, but those of us who aren't going back to school take advantage of it too!)

Granted, the sales tax alone isn't high enough to warrant fighting the crowds, since I'd only be saving less than 9%. But lots of stores have large sales to entice people into their lairs, so that's worth it to me once a year to brave the shopping hoards.

So I just now got back home, at almost midnight, because many of the stores have extended hours.

I saw lots of moms with their kids, mostly older kids since that's the areas of the stores that I'm shopping in now. I guess I live in my own little bubble, because I'm constantly amazed at how much parents dislike being around their kids, and vice-versa. The moms were eagerly shopping, looking forward with glee to getting the kids out of their houses all day long starting Monday, and the kids were barely disguising their disgust for having to actually appear in public with their parents, much less to go shopping, because in their parents' presence the kids can no longer pretend that they were hatched or dropped from an alien spacecraft.

S and I spent several hours together this morning, walking from store to store with virtually no success at crossing things off our list, but we joked and kidded around and generally had a great time. The great time had to do with being together in spite of our mission.

I feel so sorry for those kids don't enjoy spending time with their parents, and I feel sorry for those parents who don't enjoy - or even know - their kids. Both sides are really missing out.

Who knows? I may be eating my words in a couple of years when one of my kids goes through that stage, but I certainly hope not. I'm doing everything in my power to make what most people think is inevitable be evitable (yes, it's a word ... I looked it up). Only time will tell.

_______________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy Beyond Babies.

Photo by lu_lu from here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting My Fall "Fix"

"Hi. My name is Camille, and I'm a curriculaholic."

Every fall, I succumb to the siren song of my supplier, Rainbow Resource. I sit for hours, thumbing through 1,358 pages of 8-point type, picking out all the wondrous supplies, curricula, and resources that will spur my children's enthusiasm and "natural love of learning" (I hear they're supposed to have that).

I tag, dog-ear, circle, and list all the items that are essential to our upcoming homeschooling year. Then I tally up the total, and promptly eliminate 90% of it - you know, all the non-essential essential stuff.

I frequently find myself pining over resources that my kids aren't old enough for yet and lamenting the ones that my kids are too old for now. By the time I've skimmed through the entire tome, I have dozens of little plastic stickies poking out from the pages.

Even if I could afford to buy all the goodies that I desire, I wouldn't have enough time in the day to use them all. Ah, if I could buy a bunch of stuff, leave it lying around for the kids to "discover," and let that innate love of learning take over, my life would be easy. I could sit back and watch them expand their minds and explore their desires without my once having to crack the whip or snipe at them to "do something!"

But I can't afford it all, and it's probably a good thing, because then I'd just have to store it.

What does it say about the excitement in my life when I get all jazzed up about poring over pages and pages of teeny type explaining oodles of great stuff - whether it's Japan(Make It Work series ... fabulous, fabulous fabulous!), Milestones in Science(supercool history/science curriculum), or Backyard Ballistics(what kid doesn't love building things that fire projectiles?). I guess it says that I love being a homeschool mom, even when it means that my house is always a wreck, I never get enough sleep, we put 20,000 miles on our car every year, and all our "entertainment funds" go to Rainbow Resource.

Do they have a 12-step program for homeschooling addicts?

_______________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy What We Give Our Kids.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Last Post on the Washer/Dryer Fiasco

(I think I just heard a hearty cheer from all the way over here after you read my post title!)

For those of you who have slogged with me through post after post of my washer/dryer saga, you'll be happy to know that the journey has finally come to an end. We are now the proud parents of two shiny, large overpriced appliances, snugly squeezed into our cozy laundry room.

Notice the lack of wall space on either side - just enough room for a trash can.
Of course, there's ample room behind them for single socks, hangars, coins, Jimmy Hoffa, and Iraq's WMDs.

It was four weeks ago today that my old dear machine spun its last song, and I found this washer with a gorgeous gouge on the top that allowed me to purchase it for half off. If you read the Saturday Quote for the Day from July 25th and Sunday's Gratitude Post from about 3 weeks later, you'll realize that we've been waiting for four whole dadgum weeks to get this thing installed.

Well, yesterday they finally showed up. Granted, they were two hours late, but I'm not complaining. They were here! I had the blasted shipping bolts in my hands! It was actually going to happen!

You know the first thing they said? "We don't need the shipping bolts."

Aw, dang.

_____________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy The Great Machine Uprising.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gearing up for "School"




Today's attempt at hands-on learning.
A sort-of shinai and a bamboo, duct-taped, "sword"
(and I use the term loosely).


Our weekly co-op starts in a few weeks, so I'm starting to plan my class. This semester I'm teaching "Arms and Armor," a look at weapons through history. I got, shall we say, stuck with this class, because my classes didn't make.

I offered Full-Contact Grammar (an active grammar class using props, charades, and other games) and Milestones in Science (a science-through-history class where kids learn about innovations by re-creating the original experiments). They didn't get enough votes to be offered, and I was seriously bummed - so bummed that I might have to offer a little science class outside the co-op to do Milestones.

I shouldn't say that I was "stuck" with "Arms and Armor," because I actually was going to offer that very class ... just for a much older age. It wasn't the class I got stuck with, it was the age. The kids are, um, young and, ahem, energetic, and ack!, mostly boys between the ages of four and seven. So how do I plan to keep seven young boys enthralled for an hour?

Weapons.

Weapons that they get to make.

Weapons that they get to make to beat each other up with.

S and T trying out their new weapons of mashed instruction.

My plan for the first week is to let them make a shinai, a practice bamboo kendo sword. I'll send home instructions for making a samurai sword, helmet, and armor - or maybe I'll have enough energy to do the shinai and the armor or helmet! Who knows? Stranger things have happened.


Here's our shinai prototype.
What would homeschoolers do without duct tape?

(Shhh! Don't tell, but I plan to work in a little geography along with the history and the weapons making.)


This is what a real shinai looks like.

______________
If you liked this post, you might enjoy The Mock Day.

Photo of shinai by Diego Martin from here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Great Machine Uprising

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The machines are rebelling.

And they're communicating.

First, it was H's car. At the beginning of the year it suffered yet another leak. Granted, it was over ten years old, but it had been a much-loved member of our family ever since we'd bought it from H's parents many years before. We sighed, having known for some time that our love affair was coming to an end. We opted to use the government's financial incentives to bite the bullet and get a new car.

Next - seemingly unrelated - it was our cherished Vita-Mix, our workhorse, practically a member of the family. VM was there for us every morning, smoothie after smoothie, breakfast after breakfast. He'd even been outfitted with the latest in ice-blade apparel.

But he started voicing his rebellion some months ago. We ignored him. We blithely mixed on, pretending not to hear his cries and pretending not to smell his acrid belches.

Then, one day a couple of months ago, he gave up with a shriek, spewing black dust all over the counter and wheezing in defiance. We tried to resuscitate him, plying him with a new blade, but to no avail. He mocked us.

Oh, the betrayal. After all these mornings with him, having him share in our daily morning repast.

Little did we know that he was a conspirator.

Next on the list, three weeks ago ... the washer. Our trusty, die-hard washer. We didn't connect it with the other two. We were naive.

We assumed the washer was simply a matter of geriatrics. Much like our dogs, she had aged gracefully and was enjoying her golden years. Sometimes she would forget, perhaps suffering from a touch of senility, and wash forever, not realizing that at some point she needed to drain, spin, and rinse. On one occasion I woke in the morning to clothes - now all the same shade of dingy gray - that had been agitating all night and that had reached almost the boiling point.

When one day she simply refused to awake, we realized that she had gone to that great recycling center in the sky. Again we sighed, at first not realizing what I now have come to suspect ... that we are in the midst of a conspiracy. Yes, a conspiracy!

The refrigerator was next, just last week. I feared the worst when I walked in from outside and found water dripping from the freezer.

Our highly rated Kenmore, barely six years old and containing a compressor that on average lasts twenty years, bit the dust. In retrospect, I remember hearing something that sounded remarkably like "Hahahahahah!" coming from underneath the front. Was the fridge laughing, knowing that we'd have to cough up $800 to replace the compressor? Was it snickering, knowing that we'd have to eat Freezer Stew for a week, much to the delight of my children? Or was it tittering, simply knowing that it had pulled a fast one on the more highly evolved species who is utterly at the whim of our lowly appliances? I'll never know. Perhaps it was all three.

As my dear husband, clutched in the grip of grief and panic (well, not really, but it sounds good), said, "Why do our appliances hate us?"

We were just beginning to grasp that our once-trusted and much-loved appliances had actually turned into scheming, conniving accomplices in a diabolical plan instigated by our 1996 Voyager.

Now, much to my horror, I learn that it is not confined to only our home! My friend Raji has suffered at the hands of the Great Machine Uprising as well! How unsuspecting and accepting she is. Her microwave gave up the ghost - and did it when she had company visiting! Oh, the humanity!

Beware, all you appliance owners! You may at first be lulled into a state of exuberance at the idea of justifying the purchase of a shiny, new appliance. But be not fooled. Those dastardly machines are engineering a wicked method of shirking their duties!

Mark my words ... this is not the end.

But we may be able to be stave off further destruction. Keep doors between appliances closed to mitigate the gossiping and planning. Whisper little sweet nothings into their vents. Caress them lovingly. And give them some time off.

Most of all, watch ... listen ... and be very afraid.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday's Gratitude Post

Shipping bolts! Woohoo! Shipping bolts!

I never knew I could be so thrilled about the existence of shipping bolts. But here I am, with four shiny, new, long, gorgeous bolts, each sheathed in lustrous white plastic, crowned with a sleek black plastic collar, and topped with a dazzling crimson jewel ... all biding their time on the top of my new washer. Waiting. Waiting for the knights in the delivery truck to come install our washer.

Yes, our washer that was new three weeks ago. Our washer that was supposed to be installed three weeks ago. Our washer that generated a different kind of gratitude post about patience.

So tomorrow is The Big Day! The installation guys are supposed to come and install this brand spankin' new washer that (fortunately, thanks to my godlike husband) has been working but is not installed on its pedestal.

I'm also grateful that I'll get that danged pedestal out of the garage, where I've been convinced it was going to get slammed into by one of our cars. And I'm grateful that the washer and dryer will be up so I don't have to sit on a chair and climb in to get the clothes, and that they'll be in their rightful positions ... not in the aisle where we have to squeeze past them to get from the garage to the rest of the house.

Yippee!

If this post makes no sense to you, please see the Saturday Quote of the Day from, oh, about three weeks ago. Not that I'm impatient or anything.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Quote for the Day

"Don't let your washing machine talk to your other appliances."
--my mother, who is strangely prophetic

Friday, August 14, 2009

More from The Bitter Homeschooler

Another great article from the editor of Secular Homeschooling magazine, this one from Issue #7, the first to be published in the new bimonthly format.



The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

by The Bitter Homeschooler, from Secular Homeschooling, Issue #7, July 2009

There are plenty of people who will tell you the cons of homeschooling. People who have never homeschooled, never plan to, and are terrified of the very idea of that kind of autonomy will be more than happy to tell you everything that could possibly go wrong with homeschooling: your kids won’t learn what they need to; your kids won’t learn anything at all; your kids will learn plenty but they won’t get into college; your kids will learn and will be accepted by a wonderful university, but won’t be able to afford to go because you won’t have any money because you spent all that time homeschooling them instead of selling your soul to the corporate devil; your kids will learn and will go to college, but will be bizarre asocial freaks who are only good at things like retaining information and writing original papers because they have no idea how to relate to their fellow human beings.

People who actually homeschool will be very happy to tell you the pros of homeschooling. No getting up at an ungodly hour to get the kids dressed, fed, and on the bus by another ungodly hour! Hanging out in your pajamas all morning if you feel like it! Plenty of time for life-skill lessons and baking homemade bread together (mmmm)! Going to museums, parks, and public pools whenever you feel like it, instead of on loud, crowded weekends and holidays! Taking a week off when you need to or want to or just because!

But have you noticed how hard it is to find someone who will give you the pros and the cons? You know, together? The anti-homeschooling brigade doesn’t know the good stuff; homeschoolers don’t want to scare you off with any hint of difficulty, and anyway we’re so sick of all the criticism we have to field from civilians that many of us are in Persistent Cheerleading Mode when it comes to the subject of homeschooling.

Well, sigh no more, ladies and gents. Your very own Bitter Homeschooler is here to help. And so, without further ado, here are:

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

Pro: Your kids won’t be bringing home lovely new words they learned from that adorable little sailor every classroom has at least one of.

Con: You will either have to make an appointment to go out and get some good swearing done, or resign yourself to never being able to ask your children with a straight face, “Where did you learn that word?” You know and they know that they learned it last week, when you accidentally slammed your hand in that drawer and didn’t get your lips shut quite fast enough and you got to enjoy the kind of “teachable moment” your homeschooling books never mentioned.

Pro: Unlike kids who are either at school or doing homework all day, your kids have the time and opportunity to learn the work that goes into running a household. If your local educational authority requires you to keep records, you can record time spent teaching them how to do laundry and other important household tasks under the heading of Social Studies, Health, or Life Skills.

Con: Your kids are not idiots, and don’t want to clean any more than you do. If you get tired of arguing and decide to just do the chores yourself one day, you’ll learn the joy of attempting to clean a house when it’s full of people being creative all over it.

Pro: You and your family have lots of time to just be together. You get to learn who your children really are: their interests, passions, hopes, and dreams. You’re all about family togetherness.

Con #1: It’s really easy for that other kind of togetherness to fly out the window, if you get our drift. And that’s if you already have a partner. If you’re single and think it might be nice to have a date once in a while — well, best of luck with that one.
Con #2: Shutting the door when you enter the bathroom will become a distant, wistful memory.

Pro: Your child’s social life will be just fine — better than ever, if you have the schoolyard jungle to compare it to. You’re right there to keep a sharp eye out for bullying and other problems. You can guide your little ones through successful conflict resolution by teaching them skills they’ll actually be able to use as adults.

Con: Wait — didn’t you used to have a social life?

Pro: Being a homeschooler can be a proud thing. More and more, the mainstream population is learning what homeschooling really is. You practically can’t open your car door without smacking some newspaper or magazine article about homeschooled kids being admitted to (or graduating from) top-notch universities, routinely out-scoring their schooled peers on standardized tests, winning spelling and geography bees, going into business for themselves in their teens, and just generally overachieving all over the place. And people are getting increasingly dissatisfied with schools — the bullying, the hours of homework every night, the low test scores, the teaching to the test. These days, you’re pretty likely to get a positive response from strangers who learn that you homeschool. And if you don’t, you have plenty of ammo to lob back.

Con: Exactly because homeschoolers are still in the minority and do often make the news with all their fabulousness, you’re going to be seen as A Homeschooler. It’s so much fun to be representative, especially on those days when the kids are feeling sulky about being out on an errand instead of home with their beloved computer games (and aren’t keeping their feelings to themselves), your eleven-year-old genuinely and audibly has no idea what the change will be if you give the cashier a dollar for that 89-cent purchase, and your nine-year-old asks with bright-eyed curiosity who those weird-looking guys are on the Presidents’ Day Sale flyer. Sometimes it’s best to just call it a snow day and call it a day.

Pro: No gloppy cafeteria food for your kids. No vending machine junk, no peer pressure to eat nothing but caffeine, sugar, and grease. You can feed your children wholesome food — and you know exactly what they’re eating.

Con: They know exactly what you’re eating. Keeping the good chocolate to yourself is next to impossible. (Our advice: hide it behind all that stuff you bought with such good intentions at the last homeschooling convention.)

Pro: Your principles, morality, ethics, and ideas about appropriate behavior have a really good chance of becoming your children’s, too. Your kids aren’t being fed the idea that their peer group is the arbiter of standards. You have the chance to model the kind of behavior and philosophy you want them to learn, and you’ve got plenty of time in which to do that.

Con: They don’t just pick up the good stuff. Even when they don’t look like they’re watching and listening, they are. Hard as you try to hold it together, one of these homeschooling days you’ll look down and realize that that’s exactly what you look (and sound) like when you’re in a snit. And you won’t be looking in a mirror. Except of course metaphorically.

Pro: You’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your children’s education. They can go at a pace appropriate to their wishes and needs rather than to a state-imposed idea of what should be learned when. You can enjoy child-led learning, if that’s what suits you. You can hunker down with some good old-fashioned basics, if that’s what your family likes and needs.

Con: There’s no school system, classroom, or teacher to fall back on or blame. You know exactly what your kids do and don’t know — especially what they don’t. And not only do you get to worry about it — you’d do that even if they were in school — you get to feel guilty with a side of panic.

Pro: No one’s telling you what to do. It’s all you.

Con: No one’s telling you what to do. It’s all you.

Good luck!

___________________

If you liked this post, you might enjoy "The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Difficulties of Attachment Parenting

Being an AP parent to one child is hard.

Being an AP parent to two children is even harder, and sometimes seems damned near impossible, because what worked with the first doesn't work with the second.

Being an AP parent to three children is easy, because by then you've given up trying to be the perfect parent, or even some distant resemblance to that parent you were sure you'd be, and you're just happy if your kid isn't crusty, smelly, or hungry. (Just kidding. It's still hard.)

Seriously, one of the hardest things for me about being attached is finding time to myself to recharge. I'm an introvert, and my alone-time is a necessity for my sanity (or at least what's left of it). But having one, two, or three children hanging on you every minute of every day and night is truly exhausting.

I honestly believe that the only AP parent who finds parenting a breeze has a doormat for a child. And if you're truly a parent who is conscious of the needs and desires of her child, then he/she can't possibly grow up to be a doormat!

Another terribly difficult thing about being AP to more than one child is that each child is different, and you have to relearn parenting with each one. What works with the first child probably won't work with the next, and what works with the third will be something completely different from either of the two previous things.

My children couldn't be more different. It's taken me years to learn how each of their brains works, and thus how to parent each of them effectively. And believe you me, it's tough sometimes trying to come up with something in one situation that works for all of them.

My "rule follower" is lost and distressed unless he has clear boundaries and guidelines to follow. My "free spirit" digs in her heels if I try to lay down the law with her. And my "life of the party" gets totally bent out of shape if I don't let him be completely independent - at least, that is, until he wants to be velcroed to my side.

If all this is discouraging, don't let it be. Attachment parenting - which basically means being respectful of your children and staying close to them - is worth it. If you're still not sure that it's worth all the effort over the long haul, read yesterday's post.

This post was actually a post that I wrote over four years ago, when G was 8 and T was 4. Funny, it's all still true. Fortunately, I now have the extra years to look back on it and say, "Whew! That was hard! But it was worth it." So many parents think that being an attached to young children is easy, while being attached to older kids is hard. But oh, man, these days life is so much easier.

_______________
If you enjoyed this post, you might like What I've Learned As a Parent.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Does attachment parenting really work?



Does attachment parenting work, especially in the long run?

I hear this question and similar ones constantly.

"What happens when my kids get older?"

"I understand attachment parenting when my kids are young. But how will I know that my child won't be a mama's boy? Or so held fast by my apron strings that he won't leave home? Won't want to get married?"

"I understand about breast-feeding and co-sleeping and holding my kids close to me when they're young. But what happens when they go to kindergarten and elementary school? And what happens when they begin to play at other kids' homes, or hang out with friends, or go on dates and I'm not around?"

"How will I know that all this energy that I've put into attachment parenting will pay off in the long run?" That's the question, isn't it?

Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a impossibly small boy who screamed. He entered life at just over two pounds and fought from the first day. At two, he didn't talk. He didn't say "Mama." He toddled through life from day to day scared. He was terrified of the word no. He fought change desperately. Anything new, he hated.

He thrived on routine and consistency, and every day he had meltdowns. Not tantrums. Not 15-minute venting sessions. He had full-blown meltdowns, several times a day, sometimes as long as an hour and a half. He fought the world, because it was out of his control. His parents thought that there was a good chance that he would never leave home. Never go to college. Never get married.

They held him close, nurtured him, loved him, and did all the normal attachment parenting things: breast-feeding, cosleeping, responding to cries ... walking through the wee hours of the morning because he hated to be rocked and holding him while he screamed. Not knowing what the future would hold, but hoping for the best. Was it possible that his parents were causing him to be even more dependent on them than he already was? Was it possible that by not pushing him out of the nest and forcing independence he would never become independent? They didn't know. All they knew was that their little boy, their beautiful child, needed love and respect for who he was.

Fast forward almost thirteen years. That boy, once so tiny and clingy and desperate, today boarded a plane to Tennessee on his own with only his best friend by his side. In three days he'll return home again on his own - this time without even a best friend for company. This same boy - indeed, the beginnings of a man - is planning on hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail in two months and has been invited by an ambassador program to spend three weeks next summer in Europe, and he's planning on attending, with total strangers and with his parents across an ocean.

Does attachment parenting work? I can't say for sure that this child blossomed because of attachment parenting, because of being held and respected and loved unconditionally for who he was, for not being put down when he cried, and for not being ignored when he called out to his parents.

What I can say is that this child has exceeded by far every expectation of his parents, his doctors, and therapists. Today he is confident and self-assured and brilliant and just plain fun to be around. He loves to live, has great plans for the future, and has dreams he plans to fulfill. He talks about college, his future wife and family, and his plans for his life.

One thing I know for sure is that having his personality respected and his needs fulfilled when he was young certainly couldn't have hurt him. Having parents who responded to his needs has helped shape him into the person he is today, vibrant and full of life.

Were we, his parents, responsible for who he is? Certainly not. The credit goes fully to him. I simply like to believe that we gave him the best possible opportunity to develop and thrive. Had he been raised by parents who spank and humiliate and punish, he might well have turned out a very different person with a broken spirit. I'm glad we'll never know.

Does attachment parenting work? We're living proof.


____________

If you liked this post, you might enjoy Great Expectations.



Monday, August 10, 2009

First Stop ... The Sultry Big Easy

Ahh, New Orleans in August. I've always loved New Orleans, even in the dead heat of summer.

There's something magical about the old part of the city, whether it's the history, the easy-going nature of the locals, or the food. Yes, the food; that has to be a big part of it.

Lunch on Jackson Square, right before the skies opened up.
We ate with rain pouring down around our table, where we were nice and dry.

We enjoyed rain every day, even if it just added to the humidity. I pretended that it must be raining in Austin if it was raining where we were. (Don't correct my mistake, please.)

We did lots of the tourist stuff, which I've never done before, including taking one of the carriage rides around the French Quarter. My excuse was that the tour guide would give us historical snippets of that section of the city, so I could write it off as a homeschooling expense. Instead, the tour guide just pointed out the best places to shop! I guess he just caters to what tourists want, even if they say they don't. (And I figure he got a kick-back, or at least a few free beers from the shopkeepers. haha) He did throw in a couple of interesting anecdotes, but it just left me wanting more.

The kids in the carriage, at the tail end of the rain. That's Sugar Daddy in the lead.

One thing that made a big impression on the kids was the size of the Mississippi. It's one of those things that you have to experience to grasp. G mentioned how easy it was to picture Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on a raft floating down the great river. I, for one, wouldn't want to find myself in the middle of all that water on a pile of sticks.

Of course, G the geography whiz had to point out the this was nowhere near Missouri. And he also offered great tidbits, like we were standing near the deepest point of the river.

They were amazed at the size of the barges on the river, a few of which you can see in the distant distance.

One thing that we did that made an impression on me, and I hope the kids, was visit the Ninth Ward. I wanted them to see why we spent time volunteering to help strangers after Katrina; to experience first-hand a house once filled with a family, now boarded up or wiped down to the slab; to see the rebirth of a community that had been brought to its knees. We were impressed by the care and love put into the houses that were being rebuilt, how they exhibited a freshness that surprised me. I also was saddened to see the lasting marks on the houses - all these years later - made by the searchers. Most with "0" under the X, but some with "1" or "2." We talked about what those numbers meant, and what the rescue must have been like and the sheer number of buildings that had to be searched. Those images will stick with me. I hope that just a bit more compassion found its way into my kids' hearts during that drive.



Photo of house by infrogmation from here