Sunday, October 31, 2010


Our 13 year old neighbor and friend lost her best friend last night. She took her own life.

I can't even imagine what the girl's family is going through - nor our young friend. When I think back to how close my best friend and I were in 8th grade, I am certain that if she had died, it could well have been the end of me too.

The Teen is not taking this well. He and the girl were not close friends, but they did hang out here at the house and at the mall a few times, and I guess he talked to her at school. He spent the day at our neighbor's house with some of her other friends, which was probably a good thing. But once he was home, he wanted to talk and cry and look at pictures and talk some more.

I'm blessed to have a teenage son who wants to talk to me. But it's also not easy. He expects me to have answers when I don't, and he experiences (and expresses) his emotions with such intensity, it overwhelms me sometimes. Especially at midnight on a day that left me feeling sad and drained as it is. I wound up yelling at him when I found him still up, still messing around long after he was supposed to be asleep. And then I felt crappy for yelling.

It's been a long day. Praying for my neighbor and for her friend and their families. So, so sad.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


NaNoWriMo starts in 24 1/2 hours. I decided to give it another go.

If only because struggling with it will give me enough material to get through NaBloPoMo once again.

This time, several of my friends are also giving it a shot - one of whom will be working to finish the novel she started this time last year. It's nice to have that social support when tackling a project like this one. Hoping to get us all together for a few writing nights. Or drinking nights, depending on how it's going!

I had a goal of taking some time to really think about my setting and characters today - to decide who they'll be and what their situation is - but once again, I haven't really had the uninterrupted thinking time needed for that. Good ideas usually come to me when I'm 1) showering or 2) driving - but I spent such a short time in the shower and the car today, and part of the time in the car I had kids talking to me.

I feel bad when I'm lost in the imaginary world I'm trying to create and one of them (very often Middle) decides this is a perfect time to talk to me about something totally mundane. It's sweet that he wishes to connect with me and share his thoughts, but it makes it really hard to think creatively.

And without a (private) notebook to write stuff down, I'll forget the cool ideas I come up with anyway.

I have some serious logistical issues here.

Starting tomorrow at midnight, I want to get an hour or two of writing done after the kids are in bed or before they're up in the morning. Notice I said writing. I don't want to spend that time brainstorming and planning. For some reason, I still seem to think I should be able to do that throughout the day. What I may need to do instead is to set aside a separate block of kid-free time for thinking. And I was hoping not to have to give up a month of reading...

Right now, I have to juggle schoolwork, household management, martial arts, and social time for me and the kids. For one week in November, I will also be working part-time. And I'm going on at least two out-of-state trips. Adding NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo will be a stretch, but it should be an exciting challenge.

We shall see...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Again

Thinking this through:

50,000 words is the NaNoWriMo goal.

That boils down to 1,667 words per day. According to the NaNoWriMo manual, No Plot? No Problem! this could be accomplished in 90-120 minutes per day.

Can I find that much time in my day to sit and write?

Absolutely. No problem.

The hour or two per day of writing isn't the challenge.

The hard part for me is the thinking about it, the daydreaming, the imagining - that needs to take place when I'm not writing, so that I have something to write about when I sit down. Finding the mental and emotional space I need to ruminate over my characters, my story, a particular scene - when I'm driving, doing housework, supervising schoolwork, working out - is just so darn difficult when I'm constantly being interrupted by questions, requests and the general demands for my attention that go along with being together all day with my kids. It's easier to avoid thinking about it completely than to try to think about it and constantly feel thwarted.

When I think back to the time I really felt like I was a Writer - somewhere around middle school - I remember being constantly lost in creative daydreaming, and really enjoying my imagination and the stories and sceanarios it came up with. Of course, I was sitting in class all day, bored out of my skull, with nothing to do but make up great stories and tweak them. What if my character did this? What might happen next? How would the conversation go? What else could happen? Maybe I'll have this happen, and then...

No such long stretches of uninterrupted daydreaming time to be found now. No standing in the shallow end, wiggling my toes in the water, testing it out, splashing a little here and there. If I want to ponder a scene, I need to be able to dive in and then dive back out at a moment's notice. And immediately find my spot when I hit the water again.

A notebook would probably help.

I bought one last year, but as soon as I started writing anything substantial in it, I became paranoid that someone would read it. You can password protect a computer file, but it's a bit harder to maintain privacy when working on paper.

I'm also no good at compartmentalizing. When something is on my mind, it's pervasive. And I kind of like it that way, even if it does make it harder to concentrate on what I'm supposed to be concentrating on much of the time. Focus is a skill I still work on - especially during martial arts, where my mind really does need to be completely on what I'm doing - but my lack of focus is also something I accept (and often enjoy) about myself. There's a happy medium between being completely detached from anything not directly in your line of vision and being downright obsessive and living in your thoughts. I may gravitate toward the latter, but that's part of what makes me... me.

In any case, I don't want to let the fact that I can't sit and daydream for hours on end about my story stop me from even trying to write it.

I love this quote - an answer to the question of why artists create:

"If there's a thing, a scene, maybe, an image that you want to see real bad, that you need to see but it doesn't exist in the world around you, at least not in the form you envision, then you create it so you can look at it and have it around, or show it to other people who wouldn't have imagined it because they perceive reality in a more shallow, predictable way. And that's it. That's all an artist does." - Ellen Cherry Charles in Skinny Legs and All

I get that. I like writing stuff down, just to see it written down - even if I'm the only one reading and enjoying it. I like tinkering with it - changing a word or two, adding or deleting a section, taking a conversation in a different direction. It's satisfying.

I'm looking forward to giving it another go. I'll try to find some time this weekend to daydream. It will be nice to open those dusty rooms in my brain, let some light in, and sweep out some of the cobwebs. My NaNoWriMo product might be crap, but those deep recesses of my brain will still benefit.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


... starts in a few days.

The mission is to write a full-length novel in 30 days. There's a website where you can keep track of your progress, connect with an equally nutty community of writers online or locally for support and motivation, and where you can gain prizes and recognition if you manage to finish.

I've tried this twice and have crashed and burned both times.

Will I try it again this November?

Still thinking about it.

One thing I do know - if I do it, it will be with a fresh new book, not the same old teen fiction I keep dusting off. That part intrigues me a bit.

And I really do have the time if I get up early - and give up reading for a month.

But I just got that cool new e-reader...

I don't know. It's only a month. 1700 words per day. Plus the sense of satisfaction it would give me to create (and finish) something of my own would be refreshing.

I have a few more days to think about it. At least I know I can do NaBloPoMo next month.

That's something.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kicking it Into Gear

It's been a productive couple of days. I credit the return to martial arts.

For the last two weeks, I haven't made it to class for one reason or another. I was glad to be giving my elbows a rest, but I didn't realize how much the rest of me missed it - until I started back this week.

I have energy. My mind is clear. We're getting things done that weren't getting done before. I don't feel like I'm constantly in a fog, looking for my brain at the bottom of the coffeepot. My motivation is back. And I'm writing it all down so I'll remember why I don't want to take a break like that again.

I got an Elbow Device that seems to be doing the trick there. I received several compliments on my technique yesterday from a really tough instructor. The martial arts friends were happy to see me. My body looks and feels the way it should. I'm strong and lean and fit and happy.

And that was without adding back kickboxing.


Looking forward to doing that next week.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birthday Weekend

I'm back!

Upset that I broke my daily blogging streak, but hey, it was my Birthday Weekend. And it was busy.

Saturday was spent shopping, cooking, more decluttering, and Book Club - hosted here at my house. I think we had a record turnout - 9 people - and we probably drank a record amount of wine - or at least I did. We had a great time, but that leads me to...

Sunday. Which was spent lying on the couch nibbling crackers, sipping seltzer, hoping my head didn't split open, because it felt like it was going to. A teachable moment for the Teen. Don't drink loads of alcohol. It's Just. Not. Worth it.

I managed to recover in time for a lovely birthday dinner prepared by my father, and cake baked by my mother and youngest son. Savageman didn't get back in time for dinner, but he did arrive before I was asleep. Nice having him home again.

And I got a Nook! Which is an e-reader, much like a Kindle, for those of you who are wondering what the heck a Nook is. It's very cool, and I'm very much enjoying being able to read in bed without having to prop open a book with my hand - especially since I've had the Elbow Issue (which I prefer to think of as a Cool Athlete Injury rather than an I'm Getting Old Injury.) In any case, I love my new toy.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent it hiking with the boys, resuming martial arts after a 2 week break, and hanging out with good friends until bedtime. Between that, and the oodles of Facebook birthday wishes I received, I was a happy camper. Feeling very blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Today we were Back To Business. Morning martial arts, lots of schoolwork, and afternoon martial arts. And I bought a tennis elbow cuff which will hopefully aleviate some of the elbow / arm pain. Quitting is not an option - it felt so good to be back.

Time to relax, put my feet up, ice my arm and play with my new toy...


Friday, October 22, 2010

It Was a Nice Essay...

...but he's still grounded.

Everything about his behavior lately has been crying out, I am begging for some firm limits to be set here.

I was happy to oblige.

His telephoned pleas to Savageman in Chicago were fruitless.

Instead of getting to go to the football game without which his life was empty and meaningless and soon to end, we had a long walk, a long talk, ordered a couple of pizzas, and watched a movie together.

I am the Meanest Mom in the Whole World.


Thursday, October 21, 2010


The Teen's English paper on the topic of Sacrifice. He may take it all back when he finds out I posted it on my blog, but what the hell...

The Greatest Sacrifice
by The Teen

The greatest sacrifices I have experienced were when my parents decided to homeschoool me, and to send me to Catholic school. The time and effort it took to homeschool me and my brothers was above and beyond what most parents are willing to do for their children. Sending me to a private school was a large investment in my education, and a large financial sacrifice on their part. The decisions they have made over the years regarding how and where I would learn have not only been an investment in my education, but also in my future.

Since I was little, my parents were very involved in my education. Even though I went to Kindergarten at Saint Joseph’s, for the next six and a half years I was homeschooled, which was a huge undertaking for my parents. When my two brothers finished Kindergarten, they came home as well. Looking back at it, it was one of the best things they could have done for me. I was able to learn the kinds of things I wanted, in the way that worked best for me. I had plenty of free time to read, play music and sports, and to pursue the other activities and interests I liked, while moving at my own pace academically. It was a lot of work for my parents, especially my mom, but they knew it was worth the effort.

Halfway through seventh grade, I started to wonder about what I was missing not being in school. We began talking about the pros and cons of each way of learning, and thinking about what would be best for me at that point. I wanted to try school again, make new friends, and get used to the different atmosphere and routine before high school. After much deliberation, my parents and I decided to end my homeschooling career and I returned to Saint Joe’s. It was an adventure being back in school, but I was ready for a new challenge. For my parents, it was a different sacrifice; this time a financial one.

At the end of my eighth grade year, I knew I wanted to go to Trinity. As the summer progressed, I learned more about the cost of high school. More thought was given to me attending public high school instead of Trinity, where I was sure I belonged. How would our family afford it? What would we have to give up? After much discussion and debate, I was enrolled at Trinity.

In order to send me to Trinity, my parents needed to rearrange things financially. We have always been a one-income family, so that my younger brothers and I could always have one parent at home. With tuition to pay, they needed to put off things that they wanted to spend money on. My mom took a part-time job, which meant time away from my brothers and the house. My dad and grandparents picked up the slack. It was a family effort, but they all helped out because they see my education as a top priority.

I can’t tell you yet what will come of the next three years and six months, but I can tell you that I will most likely be better prepared for college, and life in general, in the future because of their decisions. I can’t thank my parents enough; sometimes I take their sacrifices for granted, but hopefully they know that deep down I always know how much they have done for me. Sending me to Catholic school was the greatest sacrifice I myself have experienced. I owe it to my parents, all their support, their hard work, and of course, all their help.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Four Days

Savageman left for Chicago today. For the next four days, I will be Alone.

Other than the boys, that is.

I will have four days to run the house, parent the kids, spend my time - just the way I want.

This is usually the time that I would throw myself into a project - a big, messy project - just to assert my freedom and independence. I get a sudden burst of energy knowing that I only have a limited time to accomplish all the things I want to do without him saying, "Why are you doing that?" "Where are you going to put that?" and of course, "You didn't move anything of mine, did you?" At the very least, I should go poke through his CD collection.


Maybe I'll start that tomorrow. Tonight, I just miss my hubby. He drives me nuts sometimes, but the thought of four days without him - and the thought of going to bed alone with my book and no one to snuggle with or rub my legs while we read - makes me sad and lonely.

I may not overhaul the garage this week, but I am letting the cat sleep in our room.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Indigo Girls ROCKED!

Some highlights:

Opening band was Coyote Grace - they were very good, and they joined in later also.

The Indigo Girls opened with Love of Our Life from Poseidon and the Bitter Bug.

They were very friendly and down-to-earth. Amy spent the earlier part of today biking on the Rail Trail in York, while Emily hung out downtown in a coffeeshop.

They changed guitars after every song. (Or switched to banjo or mandolin.) Certainly one way to keep everything perfectly tuned...

They sounded just as good in concert as on their CDs. And they did the fun stuff like getting the audience to sing with them. I loved singing along with them in person - it was surreal.

Other faves that they played tonight: Power of Two, Watershed, Run, Get out the Map, Everything in Its Own Time, Shame on You, It's Alright, Ozilline, Fleet of Hope, Nashville, Kid Fears, Gone Again, Yield, Heartache for Everyone, Pendulum Swinger, Sugar Tongue, Second Time Around, and two or three other songs not in my collection.

They ended with Galileo, but ended the encore with Closer to Fine.

Which is how I'm feeling right about now.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm turning 41 a week from tomorrow. 40 was pretty darn good - and I'm aiming to make 41 even better. Starting with this, my Birthday Week!!!!!

I'm kicking off Birthday Week by going to see my favorite band in concert Tuesday night. Yes, I'm talking about the Indigo Girls.


I started listening to the Indigo Girls my senior year of college, circa 1991. Savageman's roommate brought home this cool new thing called a Compact Disc. It looked like a miniature, silver LP, and he put it in his cool new CD player and made me a cassette. "Closer to Fine" had a little skip at the beginning of it on my copy, but that was okay with me. I listened to that cassette thousands of times, sang along with it in she shower (sometimes Emily's part, sometimes Amy's). It was my favorite music through my 5 years of grad school - the one album I kept coming back to whenever I wanted something familiar to sing along with.

Some people want a wide variety of music in their lives - I'm content to stay with what's comfortable and familiar and soothing and singable. (I'm loyal like that.)

Last year, I was digging through Savageman's extensive CD collection and couldn't believe my eyes when I came across - MORE Indigo Girls! I didn't even know he had them. I immediately claimed them for my own and began stocking my car with their music. What we didn't have, I ordered, until I had the whole collection. For the last year or so, that's what we've been playing in the car when we want commercial-free music.

One thing I really like is that each of their albums is completely different from the others. And within each one, there is a nice mix of different flavors, so there's really something for every mood. Happy, sad, angsty, hopeful, strong, angry, sweet, gentle, religious, rebellious... No matter how I'm feeling on a given car-ride, there's an album that will speak to my mood or lift me up. As a result, I haven't tired of the 10 CDs I've been driving around with for the past year or so, or needed to look for something new. I love them all, (although Nomads, Indians & Saints is probably my favorite.)

I am proud to say that my boys know more Indigo Girls lyrics than 99.9% of boys their age on the entire planet. Sure, they change the words sometimes to be silly, but ask them any song, and they'll know it. Middle and I have had some really interesting in-depth conversations about what different songs are about. Poetry is not a favorite subject of his, so when he wants to talk about symbolism in a song's lyrics, I jump at the opportunity.

I've never seen these two live, but many of my friends have, and they say it was a great experience. Very excited...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walk In the Woods

I spent most of today reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Every time I read it, I laugh out loud - and develop an overwhelming urge to get out and hike the AT.

Of course, according to Bryson, Pennsylvania is the absolute worst place to hike on the AT. Meanwhile, Virginia - Roanoke, Harper's Ferry, Shenandoah, Front Royal - is the best place. Living in Blacksburg for 5 years, I was happily familiar with much of this territory, and am suddenly eager to hike it.

This time of year would be especially beautiful.

I have the time, I'm fit and healthy, I have all the equipment sitting in my garage, ready to go.

What I lack is a second adult to make the trip with me.

I wonder if Katz is available....

Friday, October 15, 2010

16 Years

It's our anniversary.

16 years ago, we got married. "Seems like longer," was the comment Savageman made today.

Seriously. That's because we were together for 6 years before we got married - making it a total of 22 years. More than half of our lives.


Neither of us remembers much about life before we met. We know each other's stories, habits, and idiosyncrasies. There are things we like, and things we wish we could change about each other.

We've learned to give each other space. That has taken some degree of confidence and maturity - and faith - on both of our parts.

We're a work in progress, but most of the time, we're in a comfortable space with each other. After this many years together, we realize there's a natural ebb and flow to this and sometimes it's better to relax and go with it than to fight it or try to make it into something else.

He's my best friend and I'm grateful for him, for our kids, and for what we have together, flaws and all.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ow, My Arms!

Today I started a week of twice-daily Aleve for my elbows.

This is really pissing me off.

They've been hurting for a month or two now. I know it's from martial arts - punching and pushups in particular - but the overwhelming benefits of martial arts for my body and my sanity far outweigh a little elbow ache.

Don't they?

My elbows and forearms beg to differ.

You know how, when you wake up with an ache or a pain, you deal with it that day, figuring it will be better by tomorrow, or at least within a few days? And you go about your day, feeling it, but not being really bothered by it because you know it's only temporary?

This is no longer that. They hurt every day. I cringe when I reach for the jug of milk or stick my hand in the washing machine to pull the clothes out. Or when I hear the words "Single straight punch!" or "Push-up position!" in class.

So I'm doing a week of Aleve and trying to be gentle with them. Hoping I won't have to seek medical attention or need physical therapy or (gulp) cortisone injections. And I DON'T want to quit martial arts!

Poor, poor elbows! I'm sorry I've been so mean to you...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Organic Chemistry

... is why I dumped my biology major in my Freshman year of college and switched my focus to bioethics, then physiological psychology. Neither of which required me to take organic chemistry. Which was fine with me.

I also got away without taking it in my 5 years of graduate school.

But tonight... I just finished several hours of immersing myself in ionic and covalent bonds, polymers, oxidation / reduction reactions, the ATP cycle, phospholipids, nucleic acids... relearning all that fun stuff as I helped the Teen cram for his Big Biology Test tomorrow.

The fact that he left that amount of material for the night before the test would be infuriating, had I not had the distant memory of doing that kind of thing myself at one point in my youth.

But now we (hopefully) both know all about this stuff, from the structure of an atom to the structure of a strand of DNA. Ask us anything!

Hopefully it was overkill - but you never know. Mainly, I want him to learn 1) the steps involved in integrating lecture notes with the text into a single study outline and 2) the fact that studying - really studying something - takes time. There are no shortcuts. You do it until you know it, not until you feel like you have a vague idea about it, but have a stronger desire to dump it and go to bed.

Meanwhile, I'm wiped out. I already knew a lot of this stuff, and it was still way too much material to try to absorb in one night.

Taking a novel upstairs and heading for a hot bath and my bed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Food Rules

My friends and I have all been reading and talking about the books of Michael Pollan. It's been quite an eye-opening experience.

In the introduction to Food Rules: An eater's manual, Pollan puts forth two facts that are essential to understanding the relationship between diet and health, as well as the seven words that sum up his philosophy of healthy nutrition:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Here are the two facts:


People who eat a Western diet (processed foods and meat, added fat and sugar, & refined grains instead of fruits, veggies & whole grains) suffer from Western diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease & cancer).


Populations eating traditional diets don't suffer from these chronic diseases. Interestingly enough, these traditional diets vary widely, from ones high in fat (Inuit who eat mostly blubber), high in carbs (Central American Indians who eat mostly maize & beans) to high in protein (African tribesmen who eat mainly meat & milk products).

Based on these two facts, Pollan suggests that there is no single ideal human diet - our species has wonderfully adapted itself to a wide range of foods and diets over the centuries - except for one - the highly processed, more technological Western diet, which reliably makes people sick.

On the other side of the coin, people who get off the Western diet see dramatic improvements in their health. I've seen this myself over the last year, when I redoubled my efforts to eat (and when possible, serve my family) Real Food.

This means I shop the perimeter of the store. Produce, meat, dairy. (Okay - and pizza.) Hardly anything else comes into the house these days. Nothing with more than a few ingredients, nothing too far removed from its natural state. If the kids want a treat, they make it out of real stuff. These days, we Eat food. Coffee, organic milk, organic eggs, avocado, honeycrisp apples, cheese, organic yogurt, fruit, greens, fresh salsa, whole-grain tortillas, (preferably) organic meat, and chocolate. We drink water or natural seltzer. Sometimes wine. :-)

Regarding the Not too much portion of the seven words - my theory is that, when you're eating real food, it satisfies you better than when you're eating processed garbage.

I'm thinking my family could be better about Mostly plants. Not that we eat a lot of meat either. It's actually a pretty even plant / animal product mix around here, but I could push the veggies a little more. (Usually I sneak them into homemade soup or egg dishes.) I'll join a CSA next year and work on that.

Looking forward to sitting down tonight with Food Rules, which contains 64 guidelines such as:

"Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry."

"Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup."

"Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients."

"Eat only foods that will eventually rot."

"Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks."

"Have a glass of wine with dinner." :-)

"Spend as much time enjoying a meal as it took to prepare it."

"Treat treats as treats."

While I read tonight, I'm having a homemade treat. And a glass of wine.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Paint is Done

Little Savage with his buddy playing in the old family room with the dark wood all around.

New family room with white wood and Lemongrass walls. Now if only we could replace the carpet and furniture...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bright Spot?

I briefly touched base tonight with a friend I've been missing.

A year ago this weekend, we were drinking and laughing and having the time of our lives together, making all kinds of crazy plans for the next decade or so, feeling invincible as a couple of teenagers and enjoying a much-needed break from the reality of our lives as wives and mothers.

Quite a contrast with this year. Neither of us are happy campers tonight.

How much could I use a night like that right now....


Saturday, October 09, 2010

I Don't Want To Talk About It

Or write about it, for that matter.

It's a shit sandwich right now and I'm stuck with it. We make our beds, and complaining about them doesn't change anything.


Friday, October 08, 2010

Lifelong Learning

I met a fascinating older man today who told me that, if given the opportunity, he would continue to take classes throughout his entire life. Like me, he homeschooled his 3 boys and is hoping that he was able to pass his love and enthusiasm for learning on to them. Having experienced his infectious enthusiasm myself, I don't doubt that he was successful in doing this.

The attitude that learning is a lifelong process, not something we just do during structured schooltime, is caught, not taught.

This is absolutely not to say that families who choose school for their kids can't or don't do this also. The decision to turn off the TV and video games, to take the kids outside or to the library, to encourage them to work at a sport or an instrument, to spend time learning a new skill or craft together and to provide the space and materials they need for it - is by no means limited to homeschoolers. We just have to work a little harder on it because we have them all day long.

But even beyond the encouragement of their efforts are the benefits that come from children seeing their parents continue to learn new things, long after they've left school. Watching adults try (and sometimes struggle with) a sport, an instrument, a hobby, or seeing them experimenting with a new cuisine, reading a variety of books and magazines, taking on new challenges... shows them that learning isn't just the "work" they have to do for school to get a good grade and move on - it is what gives their lives meaning and flavor and makes them interesting people - both to others, and to themselves.

I realize my limitations as a homeschooling parent. I don't know everything; I can't teach them everything; eventually they will need more than what I can give them and I will be glad to send them off to learn it. But the one thing I can try to teach them - indirectly - is that learning new things is the essence of a fulfilling life.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Homeschooling Daze

Today I heard that Little was recently discussing the fact that he is homeschooled with one of his friends at the Teen's soccer game. According to my reputable source, he said something along the lines of, "Homeschooling is great! Most of the time, I get away with doing no work at all!"


I don't really know how to feel about this.

At first, it made me angry because 1) this was his impression of what we do and why we do it (and why I gave up a potentially satisfying and lucrative career, opened myself to the scorn and ridicule of peers and family members, and opted to take responsibility for something 99% of Americans gladly outsource to less irritable individuals) and 2) I was embarrassed he was telling people that.

Immediately upon hearing this tidbit of information, I sat him down at a table for something like an hour of nothing but handwriting practice.

But when he came to me and showed me the lovely work he had done in his handwriting book, and later the perfect 3 digit addition - with regrouping, no less - and when he later sat down and read two books to me that he couldn't read a month ago - it occurred to me that, whether he thinks he's doing work or not, there's actually a lot of learning going on, both here, and when he works with Grandma at her house.

Do they spend a lot of time trying to avoid getting down to actual book learning? Absolutely. But when some real learning happens, it's pretty meaty stuff. Today we delved into Augustus Caesar and the difference between Rome under an Emperor vs. a Republic, vs. a Monarchy. We discussed why the people liked Augustus and why this period was called the Pax Romana. Later, we joined up with Middle and went over his Chemistry together, where we're learning about the structure of atoms, covalent vs. ionic bonds, and the periodic table of elements. Little might not have understood all of that, but it was a fun introduction to it for him - it will seem somewhat familiar the next time he sees it.

None of this felt like work for either of us - it was like reading a story about Rome and talking about it together, and sneaking a peek at his big brother's science book. And it was kind of cool knowing I was getting him to learn stuff without him even realizing it or thinking of it as "work."

Overall, I think his little comment turned my attention to the fact that, when you're homeschooling, quality matters more than quantity. If they can learn a concept without hours of worksheets or busywork, wonderful. If they can't learn something when presented with it the traditional way, you have the freedom to explore other ways, or even put it aside and try again when they've matured a bit. And most importantly, there's the learning that happens when they don't think they're learning.

He thinks he's pretty clever, sneaking off to make pancakes when he's supposed to be getting ready to sit down and do math, but what he doesn't see is what I do see - and that's him - reading a recipe, measuring ingredients, observing safety rules, being aware of how much heat and time is needed, pouring and flipping carefully, arranging and presenting his finished product, and (hopefully) cleaning up his mess. All of which, at this stage in his life, are pretty cool skills to be developing.

He may think he's getting away without work or learning, but I know better. ;-D

***** And the worst homeschool-work-avoidance-offender is currently getting all A's in High School, including in his Honors classes. Which is all very reassuring when I think back to the days I worried he would grow up unmotivated and illiterate.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


It's 10:22, the children are in bed or reading upstairs, the house is picked up and Savageman and I are putting on a movie.

This is ever so much better.

Thank you, Savageman!


Tuesday, October 05, 2010


My kids stay up too late.

Savageman enjoys unwinding with a crossword puzzle or surfing the web in the evening.

These two facts add up to a great deal of frustration for me, the sole remaining parent, who usually has been parenting all day, (minus the hour or two I spend kicking and punching at martial arts.)

Would I like to sit, relax, and surf the web or do a crossword puzzle or (gasp!) read a book for a little while to unwind before bed?

Hmmmmm.... let me think....

Well, the answer doesn't really matter anyway, because I don't often get that chance. Homework needs to be checked, French needs to be reviewed, reluctant children need to be sent to bed, arguing and excuses for why they are not yet in bed need to be shut down, (sometimes repeatedly), last minute items need to be washed or gathered for school the next day, the kitchen needs to be cleaned up, lost items need to be found.... you get the picture.

Not much work for two actively engaged parents, but for one, trying to juggle all these things alone, after she's been doing it most of the day?

It sucks.

I told everyone that I was Off Duty tonight at 10:50. It is now 11:50 and I still hear the Teen upstairs messing around. This is what happens when Internetman - I mean Savageman - is put in charge.

Something's got to change around here...

Monday, October 04, 2010

Black Tape

Tonight I came home from martial arts class with something new: two little pieces of black electrical tape on the ends of my Orange Belt.

This may not seem like a big deal, but those two little pieces of tape actually represent 6 months of hard work, probably close to 200 hours of classes, conditioning, and practice outside of class; sore muscles and joints, raw knuckles, broken toes.

Oh, and the belt test itself, which was no picnic.

What else do they mean to me? The fact that I have stuck with this sport for a year and three months now, am at my ideal weight (which I haven't seen since grad school, before kids, when I spent my summers hiking and canoeing and spelunking) and, at 40, am in the best mental and physical shape of my life.

Not to mention the fact that I am now confident that I can disable an attacker, should I ever meet up with one. Or impress Savageman with the Grab-My-Wrist game.

I've made many incredible women friends through this experience. There is something about the relationships built there that makes them absolutely unique. We see each other at our best and our worst - at both our strongest and our most vulnerable. We have to trust each other in potentially dangerous maneuvers, and we commiserate and support each other and celebrate our successes together both in the changing room and over drinks outside of class. The women who already have their black belts are always more than happy to take the extra time to encourage and help when someone is struggling with a new skill. No one is made to feel inadequate - the message is always one of "We were all where you are once. You'll get it if you keep trying."

What a great lesson for life - not only for when you're the learner, but also for when you're the teacher.

My new Orange / Stripe belt is in my gym bag, packed and ready for two more classes tomorrow.

I test for Yellow in December.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


"A lesson learned,
a loving God
and things in their own time:
In nothing more do I trust

-Indigo Girls

Good homily along these lines today at Church regarding deal-making with God, feeling like we've done what we should, we've put in the work, and how we feel we deserve to have what we want in return - and how it just doesn't work that way. Sometimes there's a reason the answer is "no" or "not yet" and we have to trust and look beyond what we want to see how the greater good might be served.

Which isn't always easy, of course.

And some days, I just don't want to put forth the effort to figure it out.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


Had a great time at a great party with several old and lots of new friends. I'm very blessed, and probably very impaired, as there were lots of jalapeno margaritas to be consumed, in addition to many varieties of pepper dishes. I brought browines made with cinnamon and minced chili peppers from my garden, which seemed to go over pretty well.

All in all, it was a good night.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Peaceful Space

One of my nearest and dearest friends invited me to her lovely, spacious, cheery home today for lunch and soap-making fun.

I farmed out Little to the grandparents to do schoolwork and play with his also-homeschooled best friend who lives next door to them.

I farmed out Middle to his also-homeschooled friend for science and Boy Scout badge fun.

And of course, the Teen was at school and soccer.

I was free! FREE!

It was like a day at the spa - yummy, healthy food, pleasant surroundings, a fun craft, lots of good feminine energy and nurturing. It was just what I needed, and she seemed to enjoy it as well.

The kids returned from their individual outings happy and refreshed, and I came home to my own not-perfect-but-pretty-clean home equally happy and refreshed, ready to tackle the organizing homeschool supplies project I have planned for this weekend.

Feeling grateful tonight for my friends and family and for the opportunity to take a breather and get my head together.

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to do nothing productive for a little while.