Friday, October 31, 2008

Cloaking Around on Halloween

OK - so I'm sitting here with friends. What to blog about?

I've no idea. My Friend with Dreadlocks and a new Tattoo (otherwise known as MFDNT or Mother of Dorothy of Kansas) is on the phone. She is here for co-op, which is casual today because it is HALLOWEEN and that makes us all a little crazy and anxious and over-excited. Anyway, so she is on the phone, trying to talk to me and to whoever she is talking on the phone with, (she has just informed me it is her mother calling to see when Dorothy will be by to trick or treat) simultaneously. She just said, "That sounds like a good plan." And now, "Are you blogging about me? What are you writing about? You cloak-wearing-weird-eyed blogging mamacita...."

Well, she is still talking but it is too fast for me to type. And she's not really saying anything all that interesting. That's because she isn't wearing a cloak. Did I mention that I have a new cloak? I am also on steroids, and that has nothing to do with the fact that I'm wearing a cloak and everything to do with the fact that I can't stay on topic. I am also prone to fits of rage. The steroids are for my allergies. Long story. And boring. Even with a cloak involved.

I love cloaks. People should wear cloaks all year long. They are mysterious and they billow and flow and trail know how Darth Vador looks when he's walking with his entourage and his cloak flowing behind him? I look that cool. Like Darth Vador. Yeah. Only my cloak is red velvet. Red Velvet, I say! Why, why, why didn't I get one of these sooner? Truly. I look really neat. Major understatement. I have been wearing my cloak since I got it. If you feel that your life is becoming a tad monotonous and you need to add some spice - I highly recommend that you purchase a cloak! I am not kidding. It makes unloading the dryer a dramatic affair. I got my cloak at Target. But that was after I saw one in a Honest-to-God Wiccan catalog that came in the mail. How did I get on that mailing list, you ask? I have no idea. I think I am on a lot of lists, not all of them friendly. Back to the witchy catalog - we're talking lots of cool stuff in it! I am so not kidding! And then when I saw a cheapo knock-off cloak at Target, how could I resist? So in about an hour I shall head out with my crew to go trick-or-treating in my groovy new cloak. In tow I shall have 1 zombie, 1 demon, 1 Spiderman, and 1 Sleeping Beauty. Ellie is going to the movies with friends. First time - that one. I shall not be sad, however. You cannot be sad while wearing a cloak. You can just be mysteriously sexy and awesome. Even if the child you gave birth to some sixteen years ago, and who was a little baby cow for her first Halloween, and then a wicked witch, a dinosaur, a princess, a butterfly, a clown, a not going trick-or-treating with you for the very first time. Aahhh....she used to say, "Twick o Tweet"......Okay. Maybe you can cry while wearing a cloak.

On Wednesday we went with our good friends, Wendy-Girl (as in from Peter Pan - don't know why we call her that but we do) and Kevin, and and their ninos, to see Los Lonely Boys in concert. We had such a great time! Jeff and I took Ellie and her friend, John. Here's a pic of Wendy and Me, and then John, Ellie, and Grayson at the Liberty Bar, where we ate before heading to the concert.

And here is a lousy picture of Los Lonely Boys.
Wendy-Girl and I headed off to the bano at one point during the concert and when we got to the back of the concert hall, they started playing Wendy-Girl's favorite song, so of course we had to stop and dance. And we danced really really really really well. Truly. We were awesome. An appreciative guy in a wheelchair gave us a thumbs up. We were dancing and feeling so badly for our teenagers because they couldn't see us dancing and we knew they would have been SO PROUD of us and our dancing. Dang. What is the point of taking teenagers to a concert if you cannot mortify them? Of course, they mostly avoided eye contact, even when we were sitting right next to them. They enjoyed the concert, appreciated the talent on stage, but all of them said it wasn't their kind of music. Had a great time, though! To see how we like to rock in South Texas (or Tejas as we occasionally say) go to and check it out.
Well, we are off to trick-or-treat. You guys just talk amongst yourselves until we return.
We have returned! Man, I love living in a small town for things like Halloween. The kids get to walk the streets going door to door, ending up at the Halloween carnival at the town square. The carnival has games, hayrides, music, and food. Did I mention Moon Bounces? Here is our little friend, Matthew, tackling Jasper.
I have to tell a story here. You know how sometimes you feel like you are being a really lame older parent of your youngest children and then one of your older friends turns out to be lamer and you feel a lot better? I was saying how sad it is that I can remember every Halloween costume Ellie ever wore but can hardly remember any from Camille's and Jasper's toddler years. And so Matthew's mom (she knows who she is) says, "Oh yeah? You see the costume Matthew is wearing? I just bought it for $25. Then I got home and realized it is the exact same costume he wore last year." Ha! I didn't ask her if it was the same size as last year's. You don't kick a dog when its down.
Speaking of being a lame older mother of young children: when Ellie and Joel were little and we saw teenagers in truly frightening costumes I would shield their eyes and glare at the teenagers. Now I have my boys walking around in HORRIFIC costumes, making little kids cry. I figure that I was a totally obnoxious mother of pre-schoolers and now it is my turn to be a totally obnoxious mother of teenagers. I'm going for the full range here. I have lived long enough to think, "Oh for crying out loud, toughen up Cinderella."
Speaking of my little kids, at the very first house Jasper walked to, he shouted "Happy Birthday!" as he held out his bucket. He was super embarrassed because, of course, this received a lot of laughs. He meant to say, "trick-or-treat" but in his excitement just shouted out the first happy salutation that came to mind. It was awhile before he would say anything else, after that. Candy loosened him up, though.
As usual, we began our traditional evening by going across the dirt road to Great Uncle Billy's and Aunt Maxine's farm. Uncle Billy just returned home from a brief stay at the hospital. I am surprised this crew didn't land him back in there! But as you can see, he enjoyed his creepy company. (Neither Jasper's mask or Camille's wig lasted until the first piece of candy.)

Great Aunt Maxine always has something lovely to say, no matter the situation. Here she is saying, "Isn't this the happiest zombie you've ever seen?"

Cousin Joan handed out treats, even to teenagers too cool for costumes.

The next stop was in town. Here is Jules with his favorite grown-up friend, his confidante and superb reflexologist, Anne Marie.
Then we headed to my dad's and my sister's. My sister lives in an adorable old cottage in town. We left our Barack-O-Lantern at her house. We don't get any trick-or-treaters out here on the farm so we always drop off our pumpkins at her house so her trick-or-treaters can enjoy them. This year she might have gotten some "tricks" because of it, though. I haven't asked her, yet. Here is the lantern. Ellie carved it. It is monumentally unimpressive until you light it, then you can't believe it! This is the actual picture Jeff took of the jack-o-lantern.

Our last stop is our favorite haunted house. This lovely old home is always over the top at Halloween. An interesting side about this house is that many years ago, the couple who owned it swore it was haunted. Supposedly, a group of local ladies gathered for a game of bridge (my mom's bridge group) actually saw the ghost. I do not know if the current owners consider the home haunted. They sure do like Halloween, though! Here are pics of their "yard". I had to use the flash so it doesn't actually look as frightening as it was.

Well, tomorrow Ellie performs a piano piece - and then we might go to see some Dia De Las Muertas altar exhibits. Tomorrow night Ellie has some friends coming over to watch Halloween, which was what Jeff and I saw on our very first date! The other kids are going to a costume we have another busy night ahead. And on Sunday we'll be hosting our second "Call for Change" party for Obama. Here are some pics of last week's party. We made calls to Indiana and North Carolina and talked to some really excited Obama supporters - signing them up to hit the sidewalks in their swing states.

Here is Janet - Super Mom. She actually managed to breastfeed, stir-fry chicken, and make calls all at the same time! She made the courageous first call, too.

Well, I shall call it a night while asking for some doggie prayers. Schnitzel is in the hospital. Things are looking rather uncertain at this point. The boys belong to her and are having a hard time sleeping without her on her pillow in their room. OK. So yes, for certain, you can cry while wearing a cloak. In case you were wondering.
Sardine Mama

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Something Wicked This Way Comes

This time of year we are having a good old time being frightened. We are big Halloween fans in this house. However, it only takes one event to remind us that while we enjoy a good "safe" scare, there are places in the world where "truly horrific" is an everyday and real-life occurance. One of those places would be Darfur, Sudan, where there is a genocide going on. Ellie is an activist working to end the genoicide by raising awareness. She participated in "Tents of Hope" over the weekend. The tents have been decorated by various groups/individuals, and are being displayed all over the country. All of the tents will be brought together for a demonstration at the Mall in Washington, DC in November. Afterwards, the colorful tents will become "home" for many genocide survivors currently living in refugee camps in Chad.

To learn more about what you can do to help go to or

Back on the farm, things are starting to get scary as All Hallow's Eve draws near. The laundry is terrifying (and these are only the baskets currently residing in the living room - they are in every room of the house).
And the little kids' room is spine-chilling....

The big boys' room is shocking....

The walls are sprouting pumpkins held up by painter's tape because Jeff has the last roll of scotch tape and won't tell us where it is....

And here is Joel's scary hair!!!!!!!!!! Agggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! (deep breath) Agggghhhhhhhh!!!

We have had a totally awesome day, today. It was "city day" in that we headed north toward the gray dome in the sky...on many days we can see the pollution hovering above the city from our farm.

This morning I had a brain bleep and couldn't remember if piano began at 10:00 or 10:30. Ellie quickly solved the problem by stating it began at 11:00 DUH. Because Ellie is right 99% of the time, I let my hair down for an additional thirty minutes before loading the kids into the van. Now even though I had an additional thirty minutes to say, "Brush your hair, brush your teeth, get your shoes on, get your music, put on a clean shirt....." I ended up loading crazy-haired, dragon-breathed kids with no shoes and dirty clothes and no music books into the car. I sent two of them back in for shoes, found a pair of sandals in the car for Jasper, and off we went.

On my list of things to do was stop and buy new pants for Jules and Jasper, who were both exposing about 4 inches of ankle. We had a little cool front blow in this morning and they were excited to put on their long pants, as they call them; only they weren't quite long enough. So, just picture this crew of matted hair, dirty shirts, and exposed ankles and tell me that anyone couldn't guess these kids are homeschooled. What can I say? Some days I try harder than others. Ellie is my kid who can sometimes "pass" for a school kid. But she stayed home. We tried to talk her into coming with us but when she quit laughing she calmly said, "No, really, its okay - I have a lot of homework to do." Dang homework. We tried a little while longer to apply peer pressure in getting her to skip class but she is the straight arrow in the bunch. Plus, she ADORES any time she gets away from her sibs.
I was thrilled to discover that we pulled in front of the piano teacher's house 2 minutes early! I am so perfect!!! "Joel," I said. "Take Camille in and then we'll head to the bank while she's playing."
I watched him walk Camille to the porch and inside the house, and then I watched him walk her back out.
"Dana said the lesson is at 11:30," he said.

"Are you sure? I don't think it is at 11:30."

"That is what she said," said Joel.

Well, I would like to say this is an uncommon occurrence, but it isn't. I am often facing doctors' receptionists who tell me politely, "Yes, it is on Wednesday, but that would be next Wednesday."
So only being off by 30 minutes instead of an entire week didn't phase me. But what she had actually said was, "You were supposed to be here at 10:00 - I guess you can come back at 11:30 and I'll fit her in." Joel summarized it the way he does most things. Anyway, Ellie was WRONG. I love it. Man, I really love it.

We ran a few errands and came back. Camille had her lesson, Dana and I solved all the problems of the world (again) and also talked about writing, and then my crew and I headed to the library.
The library is an early polling location so we had to park and hike. I was thrilled to see so many people voting! Joel and I had five books waiting for us on the hold shelf. He is reading the Warriors series, and going through 2 - 3 books per week. As many of you know, I am reading the Anita Blake Vampire series. I'm about to begin the sixth book and can finally say I see what everybody else sees in them. It took me awhile to bond with the main character and to give a flip about what happens to her. And Hamilton's writing started off kind of shaky in my opinion, the dialogue drove me nuts, and there were even a few problems in tense. But I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. By the fifth book she is a much better writer and I was page-flipping at a furious pace. Not only did I suddenly care what happened to the characters, I had to know what was going to happen next. I mean really, really badly. So I am thrilled to have the next book in my hands - ready to read tonight! There is also promise of a little "action" between Anita and Jean-Claude, the vampire, in this book :). And the books are seeming less ancient - I think we might be getting close to cell phone usage.
Anyway, after the library we headed to Panda Express for lunch. Jasper calls it Panda Abreast. He hasn't ordered breast milk in a restaurant for almost two years, though. He only did it twice, both times were Freudian slips, but they did cause the waitresses to pause to consider how far they'd go for a tip. I figure he'll be off of his breast fixation for a short while before he hits puberty and it comes back in a different form.
We then headed to Target to get Joel his Halloween mask. He is too old for costumes, he says. But he loves the gory, disgusting masks. Target only had "lame masks" so we bought Jules some jeans, snagged a big bag of Halloween candy and headed to Party City. We don't get trick-or-treaters out here on the farm, so we miss the whole tradition of buying several bags of Halloween candy under the guise of it being for the trick-or-treaters - only to run out and buy the last bag on the big night, having eaten all of the previous bags. It is unfair that we don't get to participate in the guilt-free binging on somebody else's candy. So we scarfed our one ceremonial bag in the car on the way to Party City. Party City at Halloween is insane. The masks, costumes, and terrorizing decorations (all of which make noise) are enough to send anybody's senses into overload. Now imagine Jasper, candy wrappers stuck to his high-water jeans and and what is hopefully chocolate melted all over his rear end, running throughout the store on a sugar high while screaming hysterically. It don't get no better than that, folks. Joel considered it a successful splurge - he spent way too much of his own money on the truly outstanding mask.....

....which by the way, scared the crap out of our dog. Ellie had to comfort poor Ranger :).

A quick stop at the feed store to pick up some mash for the chickens rounded out our afternoon. There is nothing in the oven and I'm thinking we're going out for Mexican. We have GOT to stop doing that so often. Some weeks I've got it together better than others.

Let's see.....other frightening things going on in my life? Politics. I will be glad when the election is over and things get back to normal around here. As one of the few liberal families in our conservative Texas town (which we love), we feel like fish out of water every four years. During the last election I was called unpatriotic - this time around I am anti-American. Neither one sounds good - but anti-American sounds more frightening than unpatriotic. I truly cannot stand the language. I am offended at being called anti-American - I love my country and don't want to live anywhere else (although Canada occasionally sounds pretty darn good). But alas, I have been besieged with anti-liberal and anti-Obama e-mails, most of them mass mailings but a few directed at me, personally. I wonder what it would be like to live in fake America, where nobody would flip me off because of my bumper sticker? Oh well, it will all be over soon and I'll go back to being everyone's favorite little crazy liberal, instead of the propaganda target I've become recently. Looking forward to it.

Don't forget to vote! It would be anti-American :).
Sardine Mama

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day by Day, Minute by Minute

AGAIN with the weekly business! Actually, I have gone slightly over a week since my last post. So shall I do the ever-so-popular Week in Review? I think I shall! And lest this make you go slightly slack-faced and sleepy-eyed, let me tell you, my friends (political poke there), you haven't led the week I have led. As Super Sardine Mama, I lead quite the life. I have super powers, you know. And I am Champion of the Weak and Whiny, Dispenser of Wisdom and Cold and Cough Elixir, Protector of the Aging Wiener Dog against the Onslaught of TAPS (tiny agitated person on sugar), universal Interpreter of Grunting Adolescent Boys (I use my impressive telepathic powers for this), Headmistress of the School to Nowhere (another political poke) where nobody, and I mean nobody, is allowed to sleep past noon, Perpetual Supplier of Fresh Rolls of Toilet Paper, and Slayer of the Occasional Household Scorpion by way of shouting "Somebody come here and take care of this!!!".....Ha! I bet NOW you're wanting to read about my week. It is gonna be long, but stick with me. You've got nothing better to do or you wouldn't be wasting time reading blogs :).

So let's get started:
Saturday was our town's festival. Jeff and I have grown up attending this yearly celebration. In fact, it was at this very festival where I stood, aged 14, glancing over at a really cute 16-year-old boy who finally found the courage to come over and talk to me. That night was our first kiss. We still, much to the disgust of our children, kiss on the courthouse steps every year at the festival (well, not last year - we didn't go). I love this picture - Texas flag waving in front of our historic courthouse with the ferris wheel in the background....

And here are my festivalling carnivores.....
And here are Camille and Jasper riding the world's most ridiculously expensive and shortest roller coaster....
On Sunday we entertained friends with an Indian dinner, song, and dance. Not Indian song and dance - just the usual "look at me, look at me, look at me" piano-banging and tutu-wearing that usually occurs whenever unsuspecting and innocent civilians happen upon our sticky web.

On Monday I put on my coaching hat for my Odyssey of the Mind team. I am coaching Joel's and Jules' team. Odyssey of the mind is a creative problem solving competition. They brainstormed on solutions for their problem and this included creating superstitions. There were many superstitions thrown about, including one involving ducks, backs massages, and rubber boots. I know, it sounds disturbing. But the one that really cracked me up was invented by a young man who has seven siblings:
If you hug your mother-in-law at your wedding you will be cursed with FERTILITY.
Obviously, every family has their own answer to, "How are babies made?" This one's is apparently, "Well, son, Daddy danced with Grandma at our wedding and they've been popping out ever since."
Ellie's high school Odyssey team went to the World Finals competition for the past two years. Last year they placed 11th in the entire freaking world! Which is way awesome. And the teams there are from all over the world and there are over 800 of them. It is a truly international experience. This past year it was at the University of Maryland, and the year before it was at Michigan State. This year their team is too busy with other things and decided not to compete. So I thought I only had 2 kids participating instead of the usual 3. But that was before two of my friends went insane. I will get to that in a minute. So every Monday 7 kids aged 9 to 14 are here armed with paint and glue guns. To make things even more fun, all of these children come accompanied by younger siblings (except for one who comes armed with a teenager who likes to use my flat iron to straighten his hair so he looks like Axl Rose).

Anyway, back to the younger siblings. They kind of run wild during the Odyssey meeting. So a couple of the other moms who I thought were fairly normal but apparently are not said, "Why don't we form an Odyssey team with the little kids?"

A little history here: Odyssey allows NO outside assistance from anyone outside the team, including parents and coaches. None. Zilch. Nada. So when you're dealing with the age group that has to be told things like, "Get your hands out of your pants, take the plastic bag off of your head, stop mouthing the door knob....." you can see as how having them formulate and present a solution to an assigned problem without any outside assistance would be a little challenging. So when my friends, whose eyes seemed suddenly brighter and wider in the way that people who have just received electro-shock therapy's eyes look suddenly brighter and wider, suddenly suggested that they should coach the the little kid team, I was slightly surprised. And amused enough to say, "What a great idea! Yes! I think you guys should do that. You go right ahead. Sounds like fun. Really."

So Camille is officially on an Odyssey team. Jasper is not old enough until next year THANK GOD.

Dinner consisted of vegetarian crunchy tacos prepared by mi sexy esposo.
Tuesdays (see how I'm hi-lighting the days of the week for you?) are Dance Days for Camille. This particular Tuesday was especially awesome because dance was cancelled. Looking at the calendar and discovering that I didn't have to locate tights and force little sweaty legs into them while everyone else in the house hysterically searched for the accompanying leotard and ballet shoes in order to earn the promised $1 reward was like finding money in your pocket you didn't know you had. It was as close to a Snow Day as I get here in South Texas. I was suddenly free! Free, I tell you! What to do with that extra time? Learn a foreign language, of course! I am rocking with Rosetta Stone Spanish. Totally rocking. I am so frickin' bilingual! "El gato is duerme." Cool, right? I can point out sleeping cats. Massively impressive. And as a bonus, there is one fine hombre (often eating una manzana or un pan) in the lesson. I am hoping that as we progress, we will advance into the clothing subject and accompanying phrases such as, "El hombre es slowly and tantalizingly removing el shirt-o." A girl can hope.

I was so worn out after all of the tongue-rolling that I fell asleep later that evening while watching the debate. The last thing I heard was McCain pointing out that Obama had still not apologized for Congressman John Lewis's warning that the McCain/Palin campaign was "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" by having Palin act like a cheerleader at rallies where people were calling for the assassination of Obama. Obama should apologize for that. Truly. McCain had every right to be outraged; not by the shouts of "Kill him!" but by Obama's refusal to refute Lewis's statement. Makes sense to me. And actually, he did refute part of it, I believe. Dinner was salmon patty burgers - a favorito around here.

On Wednesdays I took the boys to Tae Kwon Do. I sit in the car for 1 and 1/2 hours for this. And there is an hour's worth of driving to add to it. Every other Wednesday this routine is complicated by Camille's girl scout meeting, as well. It all works out, somehow, thanks to a little help from my friends. And the boys get proper instruction in how to use actual weapons, as opposed to just beating each other over the head with common, ordinary sticks found in the yard. Now they use official martial arts poles. My dad, bless him, comes on Wednesdays to get Ellie to schlep her up to the far side of the city for her piano lessons (about an hour's drive). They usually go out to dinner afterward so on Wednesdays we often eat MEAT. However, on this particular evening I didn't happen to own any meat so I made a pan of green cheese enchiladas and a pan of red chili enchiladas.
Thursday found me heading into the city to take Camille to her piano lesson, different teacher and different location from Ellie's lesson. Ellie also teaches piano, but not to her sister, of course. Why? Because she informed me she might end up killing her. Who am I to argue with that? Piano lessons involve more waiting on my part. While I wait, Jasper becomes increasingly bored and this is never a good thing. So far, all of the piano teacher's cats and plants are still alive.

After the lesson we headed to the library, or biblioteca, as we bilingual people like to say. I checked out the fifth book in the Anita Blake series by Laurel Hamilton. STILL no vampire porn. And I am still irritated by her dialogue. But I keep reading in the hopes of eventually getting to the good stuff.

Then we were off to Whole Foods for some groceries and lunch, where we ran into our favorite baby-wearing mom, Janet. She had one on her back and one wrapped around each leg. Her little guys are so calm. The oldest of her 3 children is like, 3. And they were just calmly sitting there. She was not frantically dancing up and down and back and forth trying to keep the baby on her back from squirming and crying - she was SITTING and he was just hanging out back there. Nobody was under the table, knocking over chairs, spilling soup, or throwing balled-up napkins. It fascinated me. Truly.
Since Jeff was working late the kiddos were triumphantly served frozen fish sticks. It isn't as if Jeff demands dinner and so in his absence I am "allowed" to serve fish sticks. But he and I don't eat fishsticks (OK - so I ate a few) and so sometimes when he's gone I just eat a Weight Watcher's dinner (along with the fishsticks) and serve the kids some junk, much to their delight.
On Friday I woke up early to make palak paneer because our homeschool co-op was sharing an Indian meal. There was a tiny little problem. I couldn't get out of bed. My back hurt something awful. I do not normally have back problems, so this is kind of new. I threw down 4 Advil and got out a heating pad. After 30 minutes or so I was able to get up and prepare the food with the help of the kids, and get packed up to go to co-op. But my back still really hurt. Co-op was fun, the meal was absolutely delicious, and I got to rest a little, too, thanks to my friends.
I was looking forward to coming home to my heating pad but Jeff called to say he was going to be working late, again. Ellie was off to babysit for a friend, the boys were heading to a friend's house to spend the night, and that left me alone with the two unmanageables who were jumping on my bed and sending my back into spasms. When they weren't jumping on the bed they were asking for food and drink. I kept complying with these requests because I have extensive experience with the whole, "Never mind, Mommy, we'll get it ourselves" fiasco.
I ended up calling my sister who came and brought me dinner and took the little ones with her. My sister is sometimes referred to as Lucy, as in short for Lucifer. But yesterday she was truly my angel.

I was totally alone for 3 hours and didn't know what to do with myself. Since I was confined to my bed I ended up playing Scramble on Facebook the entire time. I keep coming in fourth. I cannot beat my own kid. Stupid smart kids.
Yesterday, in addition to being physically painful, was also a little emotionally painful for me. It was the fifth anniversary of my mom's death. What to say about that? Where to start? I miss my mom. I feel her around me so much right now. Is it because October is the month of her passing? Or is it because the veil really does thin this time of year? I don't know. But I appreciate the feeling of closeness I have with her. I am increasingly amazed by her ability to continue to communicate with me. For instance, awhile back I was driving Ellie over to my dad's house. I was feeling very blue. I felt, at the time, that Ellie was slipping away from me. She was espousing ideas and beliefs that were not my own - painfully reminding me that she was her own person and would someday be no more mine than anyone else's child. I do not like to let go of things that are "mine". My dad noticed I was kind of blue. I tried to explain to him what I was blue about but I could tell he didn't get it. Male minds are not tuned into the subtle nuances of mothers letting go of daughters. I felt the need to talk to my mom - which is a frustrating need since she is dead. I walked back to the bedroom and for some reason, opened the drawers of my mom's desk. I don't know why. I wasn't snooping - just trying to find her, I guess. I needed to touch her things. Inside the drawer I found a little journal. My mom kept a journal? I hadn't known about that. It was mostly empty, except for two entries. The date was October 30, 1990 - two years before Ellie was born. Glued to one of the pages was a copy of this, by Kilil Gibran:
Your children are not
your children.
They are the sons and daughters
of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you;
And though they are with you
yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love
but not your thoughts,
for they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies
but not their souls.
For their souls dwell
in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit,
not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not
to make them like you.
for life goes not backward
nor tarries with yesterday.

What was my mom going through that made her thoughtfully cut this out and paste it in her journal? Was it about me? I would have been around 25 at the time - it is hard to think it was. Was she somehow driven to paste it in the book and leave it in the drawer, waiting for me to find it 17 years later? Was she speaking to me of a granddaughter she had not yet met at a time when she could no longer speak? All I know is that it was exactly what I needed to hear. Mom was always good that way. And it reminded me that we never really lose our daughters or mothers - even death does not separate us. Thanks, Mom. I miss you.

Sardine Mama

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who's Teaching Who(m)?

Today is Friday and that is homeschool co-op day for our family and 3 others. Co-op is one of those things that I don't enjoy getting ready for but enjoy immensely once it happens. Co-op definitely doesn't resemble any kind of a real school but there is a whole lotta learnin' going on.

The medium-sized kids had a great time in Ancient History, today. They have worked their way up from Mesopotamia to the Aryans of India and the Mauryan Empire of India.....and on into the empire of Shi Huangdi of Ancient China! Shi really held their attention. Not so much because of The Great Wall of China (which they were fairly interested in) but because of his tomb, which Joel and Harlan had already learned about. From Nova or the History Channel, you say? No. From The Mummy. They also referenced several Indiana Jones movies for some of their scholarly thought. Anyway, so Shi Huangdi is the emperor of the last Mummy movie, where they found his tomb and his thousands of clay soldiers....and then fought their way to the Water of Eternal Life. Here are Keziah, Joel and Harlan doing some map work.

And here is Jules doing his. Yes, he is under the glass coffee table. He likes to lie under it with his book or paper up on top. Then he can just rest and relax while reading through the glass without having to actually hold anything up or open with his arms. Ingenious. I do think he might have some trouble in a traditional classroom, though.
Speaking of traditional classrooms, let's move on to the Chemistry Lab where the high schoolers are doing unsupervised experiments. Our cluttered counters serve as lab tables, of course, which is occasionally handy if you find yourself in need of some coffee, chips....

or the occasional tequila shot (as seen behind Ellie's area of calculating and recording). Sticking with that theme, here is Galen using a margarita shaker for the experiment. Here is the experiment. I would describe it for you but this is not my area of expertise. I was doing the Mummy Lecture. *Okay, Ellie just told me they were calculating the rate of displacement of water by dividing the amount of water displaced by the time it took to displace it.
I am going to stick with The Mummy.

Apparently, one of the results of the experiment was a really bad odor.

Juliana is like, "Don't look at me." She records their observations.

The little kids worked through a story with Tangrams, and observed bean sprouts begun two weeks, before. Seeds are the science theme.

The high schoolers also spent time debating and analyzing another Great Work, Adam Smith's, Concerning the Division of Labor. This is my favorite part of co-op. The teens continuously amaze me with their insight and wisdom. A demonstration of this would be 15-year-old Galen's final opinion in his summation. He writes, "Although Smith made some erroneous points, having lived a long time ago, and as such not having available to him all of the resources we convenience ourselves with today, the core of his argument is solid. Man is far more likely to obey his self love than benevolence. But I choose to look at this as a blessing rather than a curse, because you can always trust a human to do what's in his best interest, and his best interest can be controlled. If he were truly benevolent, there would be no predicting his actions, and as such, no way to control them. In this way, we can guarantee that each man will pursue his own unique talents that he loves, out of his own self love. And since no two men are identical, each will have skills unique to himself; thus, each skill will be continued, and man will live on."

OK, folks, I get to read stuff like this every Friday and then sit and talk about it for an hour!! None of my grownup friends are interested in doing this :). So I get my intellectual fix from a group of teens, who continue to amaze me, fill me with hope, and make me feel humbly unworthy of "leading" them. Who is leading and who is following? It is not often obvious.
In addition, all 3 groups of kids do Spanish with Michele. Today she laughed and taught her way through a "very aggressive" as she stated, game of Spanish Candyland. Thanks to Michele, Jasper could count in Spanish way before English. You know, because somebody bothered to teach him.....
During lunch we do some cultural studies. Right now we are learning about India, and that means next week our four families will be sharing an Indian feast! Hooray! Today we learned a little about Hinduism, which we found fascinating. I had bought a little statue of what I thought was the god, Shiva, at Ross (for $4.99).

Today there was some confusion while we tried to decide if it is Shiva or Purusha, the first man, according to the Creation Story. We decided it was Purusha but I have since discovered it is, indeed, Shiva. He is entwined with a female in an erotic stance and there are little humans in each of his hands, under his feet, descending from the union of the two figures' shapes. During the identification confusion my friend (said friend has dreadlocks in case some of you are trying to figure out which friend) suggested that the statue was Jeff and me - "ya know, kids coming out everywhere." Anyway, I will try and learn more about this particular depiction of Shiva.

Hinduism has its own trinity - the 3 gods of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, associated with the creation, preservation, and destruction and re-creation that is thought to happen eternally.
We read several Hindu sayings from the Usborne Encyclopedia of Religions. We really loved several:

Real happiness of heart cannot be attained without giving up the ideas of "I" and "Mine". Tulsidas

I have now come to a stage of realization in which I see that God is walking in every human form and manifesting Himself alike through the sage and the sinner, the virtuous and the vicious. Therefore, when I meet different people I say to myself, "God in the form of the saint, God in the form of the sinner, God in the form of the righteous, God in the form of the unrighteous." Ramakrishna

And finally,

Earth has enough for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed. Mahatma Gandhi

So, it was another day at co-op and another day of education for myself. How lucky I am to still be actively learning and growing every single day - and in such wonderful company (my kids and friends).
Jasper was not in the mood to participate in co-op today. Well, usually he is not in the mood to participate. But it is rare that he is behind the scenes being quiet. Today he was quiet. I thought maybe he was getting sick, but he doesn't seem to be. He was busy doing stuff like this.

He said he was getting ready for a date. With his sister. Where to begin? Which is more disturbing? His choice of attire or his choice of a date? So many issues, so little time....of course, before you think he is too disturbed, let me say that a date to Jasper, consists of "date nights" within our family, where each kid goes out alone with one half of the parental unit, or with their grandpa or aunt. Since Jasper's next date is scheduled to be with me, we're going to focus on fashion for a few days.
Have an awesome weekend!
Sardine Mama