Friday, June 26, 2009

Sardine Mama: The Illustrated Edition

YAY! I told you people I was going to do something crazy to start my Mid-Life Whatever off with an official bang!

This was the look on my face when RICK (shown below), who I JUST MET

Began doing THIS:
To my previously unmarked foot.

Well, maybe some of you guessed in advance what I was planning. Others of you already knew. And some of you didn't believe I'd do it! Well, I did it, baby! And may I act a little macho for a moment? Everyone said (imagine little whiny, naggy sort of voices)..."Oh no! Not the foot! That's HORRIBLE! Painful. That is the worst place, ever! EVER!" P.O.C. folks. (That is short for "piece of cake".)
Every time I brought up my possible tattoo people asked me about my pain threshold. Rick the Tattoo Artist was no exception. I answered him the way I'd answered everyone else, which was that I had no idea. How do you know what your pain threshold is? I've never been tortured, before! All I knew about my breaking point was that it had never been met - but I'd also never been tattooed. This is a hard question to answer. Because you know, until someone has actually attempted to yank out your toenails with a pair of rusty pliers, you're not really sure how many you'd let go before you gave in and spilled the beans.

I've gone through natural childbirth but I couldn't imagine it being a good comparison (it isn't). I've stubbed my toe, but not repeatedly for 2 hours. I was clueless as to how this tattoo business would feel or how I would respond, etc. But I knew other people had foot tattoos and figured I could do it, too. And I was right. Here I am looking all cool and relaxed while Rick turns my foot into a work of art.

I had two partners in crime. This is Kari, formerly known on this blog as "My Friend With Dreadlocks". She is also the girl who hooked me on a particularly poorly written series of vampire porn she is officially my Bad Influence. Who else was going to go with me to a tattoo parlor where everyone says, "Hey Kari!" like she's Norm on Cheers?
This is Kari's tattoo (one of them, anyway)

Kari has not yet had a midlife crisis because she is a youngun'...all I can say is when she does?? Look out. If I'm still alive when it happens I hope she takes me along for some of the ride.

And this is Susan, who is still a tattoo virgin, but did get her ear re-pierced while at the tattoo parlor. I don't know why I thought this was funny, but I did. I was nervously looking through patterns and stuff and she wandered off. I figured she'd gone to the bathroom but Kari says, "I think she's in a piercing room...." Just an ear, though. For now, anyway.

So the actual process felt kind of like what it looked like. It looked like he was drawing on my foot. And so yeah, it felt as if he was drawing really, really hard. Like if someone were to take an ink pen and just run it over your foot again and again....The pain was intermittent. He did a lot of stopping and wiping, changing colors, repositioning my it wasn't this constant thing. It was fun and very exciting to watch it take form and get colored in. Here is after part of it was finished.

I'd actually been considering this for about a year. And I'd been noticing tattoos during this time. I like henna-style tattoos. I'm an earthy girl and I always tend to wear earthy-colored clothes. Rusts, browns, and the occasional green or dark blue. I don't own anything floral; not to wear, not on a piece of furniture, not on the walls. So a brownish-orange henna-style seemed a good fit. Except for one thing. When I see tattoos on other people, the ones that always attract my attention are the bright floral designs. I pondered over this. My friends pondered over this. Rick faked pondering over this. And then I decided to go with what brought me joy to look at - the pretty, bright flowers. So this is what I ended up with and I love it love it love it love it love it!!

This is what it looked like the morning after, when I woke up to sneak a quick little frightened peek under the covers to see if I still liked the dang thing. Whew! Big sigh of relief. I am so in love with my foot that I can't stop staring at it. In fact, I have pretty much just been looking at it ever since. Not everyone is lucky enough on morning-afters and this can be applied to various situations where one awakens in bed saying, "oh seemed like such a good idea last night." So this was a triumphant morning after. I am so ridiculously silly crazy happy over this I can't even express it! Don't know why. I'm trying to figure out why this is thrilling me so.
I think it is because I have removed a little barrier. I did a little something that maybe just a few years ago a woman my age wasn't supposed to do. Not a homeschooling mom of five who lives in a small town and who is expected to do things a certain way. Now, I've kind of been breaking some of rules all along, of course. But this was in relation to how I raised my kids. You know, the whole breastfeeding them until they're good and ready to quit, not sending them to school, not using punishments and rewards or forms of discipline, allowing them to express themselves.....all or some of that has raised a few eyebrows, I'm sure, and definitely broke some of the conventional parenting rules. But this tattoo thing has nothing to do with my role as a mom. Nothing at all. And when I think about it, the past 16 years have have been all about being a mom, and a little too little of just being Carol. So yes. Thrilled with the tattoo!

I know what question you're wanting to ask next. And the answer is Yes. I. Am. Planning. To. Get. Another. One.

Time for other news. Just the usual family stuff. I know it all pales in comparison to my marvelous tattoo but here it is:

HOT. Man, we are hot here in Texas. It is almost 6:00 in the evening and it is 102 degrees on my patio. Even for us, it is awful early for it to be this hot. We lost two hens to the heat and two of our baby turkeys. We're trying to keep cool, fresh water out for them; hoping that a couple of ice cold water breaks will help keep their bodies from getting overheated. Let's see....other stuff....

Ellie has spent the week at Baylor University for piano study. We left the house at 6:00 am to drive to Waco to pick her up. OK. That is a lie. We were supposed to leave at 6:00. But the truth is that last night we went to a Bye Bye Boobies party and Jeff drank too many butterscotch nipple shots. He snores on nights when he hasn't had butterscotch nipple shots. I now know that when he has had butterscotch nipple shots he snores even more. So I had in ear plugs. And did I mention that Jeff had had butterscotch nipple shots? As in a few too many? As in dead-to-the-world-sound-asleep at 6:00 am with the alarm going off and me with my ears plugged?

Are you wondering what a Bye Bye Boobies party is? Well, it is what really awesome and cool people do when given some frightening news in the form of "Yes, you have breast cancer." Cool people hang bras all over their house, ask all of their friends to bring over crazy food, most of which is formed into items you'd find in an X-rated bakery or a fetish website devoted to food and breasts, serve lots of alcohol, and celebrate how we human beings are a little bit flesh and a whole lot of other stuff that is way more special.
We had a seriously good time with great people and hopefully did our small part to support our beautiful friend in this journey of learning what cancer is going to teach her about life (to use her own words). Anyway, we stayed at this party longer than we'd intended, of course. Because that is what people do at parties.

But we arrived at Baylor with three whole minutes to spare, slipping into the recital hall in the nick of time. The students were awesome. From the first kid to the last. And the last? Was Ellie. It is always neat to hear her play something we're familiar with after she's had a week of intensive practice with someone new. From the first note we were just astonished. This is the piece where she hits the last note so hard with a finger on her right hand, all the way at the end of the left side of the keyboard, and the follow-through of this forceful punch leaves her looking like she's "swooned" or something. The last time she performed this piece in public she missed the piano! How one misses a large concert grand piano is beyond me. But she missed it entirely and almost fell of the bench. Jeff said, "Man, she threw an air ball." But this time she connected with that dang key and BOOM - she was done and swooning. Massive applause - great way for the recital to end.

I could tell, because I am the mommy, that she was a tired little girl up there. Circles under the eyes...the whole bit. Ellie doesn't really know how to do things in moderation. She sort of has an on switch and an off switch and it was obvious to me that the switch had been on too long. After informing me that she had been told not to play for two days to let the swelling in the muscles of her forearms go down (what???) she pretty much collapsed in the car for the 3 1/2 hour drive home, which was mostly uneventful except for the lunch stop during which Jasper stomped on my foot. The Foot With The Tattoo. It seemed as if it was accidental but I'm not entirely sure because it might have been a payback for the Latch Hook Incident that occurred in the lobby of the recital hall earlier. I was holding Jules' latch hook (you'll read why below) while he was in the bathroom and I went to hug Ellie and Jasper ran into my hand and the hook went a good ways up his nose but came back out with no brain matter attached and so it was all okay except that Jasper was majorly offended and I am suspicious that he was quite possibly harboring a bit of resentment all the way to the Golden Corral where he stomped on my brand new tattoo while waiting for his macaroni and cheese. And although this hurt way more than getting the actual tattoo - I did not kill him.

Anyway, the two days rule will have to be lifted, as Ellie will be performing the same piece at 3:00 at a Young Pianists Showcase sponsored by the San Antonio International Piano Competition tomorrow afternoon. But I know that after that she will probably sleep for 3 days straight. Then she'll be back at the piano. Because that is the way the girl works. I do not know how I made that kid. Seriously. She is like an alien compared to the rest of us.

And the rest of us? Have also been busy. Just trying to keep the animals alive is enough. Jeff has been working a lot of overtime. Jules has become obsessed with latch hooking. I know that this is not a common obsession among 10-year-old boys but I have never had a common 10-year-old boy, and Jules is no exception. Camille and Jasper have been spending most of their time begging to be taken to the pool. Joel has been on vacation over at Grilled Cheese Chick's Place on the river, only phoning home to ask if he can stay another night. After reading Chick's family blog, I am wondering if this is such a good week for them to be having company? Oh well.
I am signing off as The Newly Illustrated Sardine Mama

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Welcome to the Midway

Don't give up on me! I am still blogging and am going to do so more regularly, again. In fact, this is about to become a very thrilling time to follow my blog because I am going to officially begin my mid-life crisis/journey tomorrow. Up until now? It's been strictly unofficial.

I do not want to tell you too much about tomorrow, but let me just say it involves a guy named Rick.

So yeah. I'm reaching mid-life, as they say. I'll be 45 in December. What does it mean for me? Don't know yet. And I don't feel like I am in any kind of a crisis. But I am definitely taking stock of things. And you know what? I like a lot of what I see going on in my life. For that I feel blessed.

*Marriage - pretty dang good, for the most part. 23 years ago I married my high school sweetheart. He's not perfect but he comes close at times. He's still my best friend. But we have to work harder at being connected. We haven't "drifted apart" as some people do....but we've both become very busy doing things that often don't involve each other. He travels a lot with work - I am busy with the 5 kids. So we actually have to make it a point to fill each other in on what is going on in our lives. And that is kind of new for us - we used to do it without thinking.

*Kids - I guess I'm not surprised that I have children. But I am still surprised that I somehow ended up with five. And I never thought I'd homeschool. So that part of my life surprises me. Daily. I also can't believe I have a kid about to turn 17. I'm proud of them all; you've probably noticed that from reading this here Brag Rag. I'm not a perfect parent, but I can honestly say that I must be doing something right.

*Career - I'm not even sure what this means. I've had "jobs" and I've hated each and every one of them. I hope to never have one, again. I do currently earn some $$ but it doesn't feel like a job. Does that make it a career? I don't know. I write content for websites and stuff. I do a bit of technical writing. I don't do very much of it because I don't have the time. But if I needed to? I think I could support myself with it.

Aspirations and Goals* - Here's where things start going sour on me. I thought I'd have a couple of books written by now. Lamenting about how I haven't written any books has become a full-time occupation that leaves me little time to write. See post below for more on this. Except ignore the part where I supposedly had figured it all out.

Spirituality* - I am in a very good place with this right now. My personal path keeps leading me further and further away from organized religion. I simply do not need any intermediary between myself and Spirit, no matter what the intermediaries might say about it. I was raised without religion, so of course, I felt like I was missing out on something. And when I say "raised without religion" I mean it. We didn't talk about it. It became something mysterious in my mind. It became something other people understood and I didn't. And where I grew up, we were pretty much the only family I knew that didn't go to church.

I wanted in the club. So I joined the club as an adult. It felt great. I loved it! I joined the Catholic Church and the rituals and traditions and the kneeling and standing and reciting just turned me on. But then one day I looked around and realized that I didn't "believe". And the whole deal seemed to be what I believed. I professed, over and over, that I believed this and that. And while I wasn't necessarily in a state of total disbelief, I wasn't sure what I believed and I knew that my beliefs seemed to fluctuate almost daily. And that didn't seem to be the way it was supposed to work.

I became uncomfortable with a creed-based faith. Then I became EXTREMELY uncomfortable with the blurring of the lines between church and state. Of course, I've never met a priest I didn't immediately adore (ok - maybe 1. make that 2.) and there was the whole kneeling and reciting stuff I loved so it took awhile for me to actually leave the church. The process was painful but exhilarating and looking back, was one of the most fulfilling and enriching times of my life.

Initially, I still considered myself to be a Christian. Because I am a Jesus fan. Big time. Love the guy. He was crazy radical and if you check my immediate circle of friends you will see that I love crazy radical types. I thought that being a Jesus fan made me a Christian. But it doesn't. Because we go back to the belief issues. Was Jesus the son of God? I know that millions of people think so. To me, it sounds unlikely. And I fail to see the importance of this belief. When I read about Jesus he was preaching a message. And the message was about how we are to live our lives and love each other. I'd really rather focus on that aspect of Christianity. And if you focus on that aspect, you see that there is very little difference between the three monotheistic faiths. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all preach the same message, in that respect. Which is cool.

Anyway, I am not a Christian. I have gone back to where I started in that journey. At mid-life, I find that I just kind of went in a circle for a few years. I'm in the process of turning around and going in a new direction, outside of the circle, entirely. Don't want to go around, again. I've gone a bit down the new liking what I see. Maybe I'll share a little about that in another post as long as y'all promise not to get all excited and worked up and defensive. Because the journey is leading me outside of monotheist traditions.

Physical Self* - Definitely needs some work. I am overweight and unhappy about it. Don't tell me how to lose weight. I know how. I just need to do it. I do not like the physical aspect of aging. I am vain. I do not like my gray hair and currently color it. I do not like the wrinkles and the way my face is sagging. I think I need to turn inward on this one. Dealing with the exterior is actually interior work. So a big part of this mid-life journey I'm starting will be about accepting where I am on this path. But still - I FEEL the same as I did when I was 18. It doesn't seem fair that I feel one way and look another. I'm trying to find a new style. I do not want to be a middle-aged woman dressing like a teenager. But I don't know what it means to be middle-aged. I don't know what it is supposed to look like. When I see it, I know what it is NOT supposed to look like. I do not like to see the pierced belly button of a woman my age unless she has a personal trainer. But I'm not ready for sensible, either. I've never been a sensible girl. It seems that at some point, sensible should enter into the mid-life picture? As in sensible shoes? I don't know. Would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Financially* - Well, we are never going to be rich. In fact, we are never going to be comfortable. My husband has a job he likes and that is worth a lot that money can't replace. I left a high-paying job I didn't enjoy to do what I'm doing....raising the kiddos, of which we have too many. We have too little impulse control. We have a lot of fun. But I would like to feel more in control and I think that is also something I'm going to deal with in this mid-life place. We have one who will be starting college in a couple of years.

So yeah. Taking stock. Making plans. Looking both behind and ahead at the same time. I'll never be at this exact same place again. Right in the middle. I'm balancing here for just awhile. I'm considering my options and deciding where to go next. Because with the very first step - time is gonna tilt. But, like everyone else, I'll take that step. Let's just hope I know where I'm going. Then again, the whole blind-forging-ahead-thing has worked pretty well up until now.

In the meantime, I'm going to allow myself a few follies. The first one happens tomorrow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moving Past the Block and Other Goings-On

Long time no see! We've been really busy here on the farm. This time last year I was drowning in tomatoes. This year it is corn. So today, the kids and I will be blanching, icing, and freezing tons and tons and tons of corn. We also have too much zucchini, even though I only have two plants. And because I'm not always good about harvesting, one of our zucchinis is the size of a watermelon. Not to worry, though. I have a zucchini chocolate cake recipe that I will share with you at the bottom of the post. My kids just had some for breakfast :).

We enjoyed a nice, relaxing weekend. Too relaxing, in fact. We had a ton to do and didn't do it. Ellie just returned from the TMTA Piano Finals in Houston. She received an Honorable Mention. I think she was a little disappointed but the competition was fierce and I think to receive an Honorable Mention (means she placed in the top 5 in the big old state of Texas) is amazing. I'm super proud.

I had intended on taking her to Houston, myself. I was, in fact, very much looking forward to it. It was going to be a mini-vacation for me. You know, 3 1/2 hours in the car with Ellie plugged into her Ipod....nice and quiet. That would have been followed by a 2-night stay (and 2 nights eating out) in a hotel with pretty much nothing to do (she actually competed in the hotel) but watch TV and read and I'm making myself sad, again. Sigh. Anyway, the reason I couldn't go is because Camille had her big dance recital and I needed to be here for her dress rehearsal and I couldn't risk the possibility of missing her recital if we didn't get home from Houston in time. So Jeff (you remember Jeff...he is the guy who travels and stays in hotels and eats out constantly) got to go.

But I am glad I didn't miss the opportunity to be with Camille on her big night. She loves to dance. In fact, she's going to be starting at a new ballet school in the fall. She wants to dance on pointe and her current teacher switches the big girls to jazz....Camille wants up on tippy toes when she's older. Here she is with her friends. She is second from left on the bottom row - my little ballerina in the wrinkly leotard with the drooping, crooked tutu and the pleased look on her little face.

And here she is with friends Emma and Ara.

My weekend included attending a Rite of Passage for Janet, a friend turning 30. It was a really great day at a really great place for a really great woman. The event was held on property owned by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. This place is amazing. It is a sanctuary of peace nestled right in the heart of the bustling Medical Center Area. You're driving in the middle of a noisy, congested city....turn down a little road and them BOOM - peace, quiet, beauty. Awesome. Much of it is still under construction. For example, they're building a labyrinth! I cannot WAIT to walk the labyrinth! One of the nuns, Sister Alice, teaches Tai Chi there. I plan to try to attend that weekly. It is a drive into the city - but dang it - I drive the kids into SA for all kinds of about driving myself in? Anyway, this place was a private residence with a mansion and a couple of other homes, plus a pool and pool house set next to a very large pond surrounded by trees. So we enjoyed a lovely breakfast, some fluid body movement exercises, and then a water blessing ceremony. We also took turns affirming Janet, which was beautiful and moving. She is a really fantastic person who strives to live an authentic life. She is curious and always seeking answers to all sorts of questions other people often don't think to ask.

Almost two years ago (can it be that long ago?) Ellie and her friend, Juliana, enjoyed a Rite of Passage when they turned 15. I'm considering writing a book about it - to encourage other mothers and daughters to celebrate womanhood in a meaningful and ritualistic way. I feel that so often our celebrations of passages are commercialized to the point of losing all meaning.

I had just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd's book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and was very interested in this idea of creating rituals. Ellie and I particularly liked one ritual that Sue undertook herself, and that is a naming ritual where you remember all the women from whom you've descended and say their names like this: I am Carol, the daughter of Jimmie Louise, the daughter of Eva Mae, the daughter of Mary.....So we did that - all of the women in the circle, and then Ellie and Juliana did it and took their places in the circle among us. This is Ellie during the Naming Ceremony.

We also came up with a Wisdom Ritual, whereby each guest met with the girls in a little shrine to share some womanly wisdom. A drop of water was added to the girls' cups with each visitation. At the end, the girls emerged and drank from their cups, accepting the wisdom of their sisters.

Here is a picture of Ellie being serenaded in the shrine, which is lit up here by my flash but in actuality, was dimly lit with candles. Dana played the mandolin and Sarah the guitar. Earlier in the evening Sarah sang a song she wrote for the girls, and during the Wisdom Ceremony we all sat around the fire while Dana played a flute off in the distance....

A friend who lives in India and is a devotee of Amma the Hugging Saint, sent ashes blessed by Amma. She asked that they be applied to the 3rd Eye Chakra for Wisdom. After everyone was blessed in this way, Ellie poured the remaining ashes into the fire so that they could rejoin the earthly elements.

It was a great night. Joel is turning 15 this summer. He is reluctant to undergo a rite but I think it is because he imagines it being the one his sister undertook (which would be weird). So I need to talk to him about what he might like to create for himself as a way of marking and celebrating all of the changes he has gone through in the past year. He literally is like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Physically, he has changed so much. And spiritually and emotionally he has matured into a totally different person. But I think he is afraid someone is going to put a wreath of flowers on his head :). Anyway, so yes, a Rite of Passage book is possibly in the works.

And speaking of writing a book, this month makes it a full year that I have been blocked. And I think I might be beginning to understand the cause of the block (another nice thing that resulted from Janet's Rite of Passage!)

The book I want to write is about parenting against the mainstream mentality. I even had an agent waiting for an outline and proposal. But the words just won't come. There is an actual physical sensation that comes over me, right in the center of my chest, when I attempt to write the first word. And I think it is because of all the things I do, parenting is the most important. Being a mother has changed my life. It has, in many ways, defined who I am at this point in time. I have had my most shining moments...been my very a parent. I have also experienced my lowest most shameful and painful a parent. The simple fact is that I am not always a good person. I am sometimes a horribly impatient, angry, frustrated, and selfish person. And my kids have all experienced this side of me. Especially when they're small. (I know a lot of women who find small children to be easy and teenagers to be especially difficult - but I am the opposite.) So - how on earth could I write a book on parenting when I have failed so miserably at it at certain times....often on a daily basis, even? I need to explore this. I haven't wanted to, because it is going to be painful. But I need to. And I need to do something else. I need to talk to my kids about it. In a sense, I want their permission to write this book. I need some affirmation from the people I love and know the best. I need forgiveness. I need their blessings. I need to know that the good has outweighed the bad and that I have something to share with other parents that will be worthwhile and not written in a state of utter hypocrisy. So it seems that, if I write this book, it will include a confessional for my readers, too. My readers would need to know who I am and who I hope to be...what my failures have been and my victories, too. To not share my vulnerabilities and failures would be to proclaim myself an all-knowing expert. And the book, itself, is about trusting yourself to be the expert on your relationships with your children...and not being swayed by the opinions of parenting, education, and medical "experts" telling you how to give birth, discipline, teach, and communicate with your children. I am not in the expert camp. Which is probably pretty obvious :).

So yeah. After all about that zucchini cake recipe? Got it from my friend, Susan. Don't know where she got it.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar (I omitted this)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup oil
Cream the above and then add:

3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup of buttermilk**
Stir to mix.
Sift into a bowl: (I didn't sift)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
2 t baking soda
4 T cocoa
Stir the above in and add:
3 (6 inch) zucchini, grated
1/2 - 1 cup of chocolate chips (I omitted this)
Stir until blended. Pour into a greased and floured 9 X 13 pan, bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
**I left out the white sugar by accident, and didn't have any chocolate chips. The cake was sweet, but not too sweet. In fact, it made a great breakfast cake. Also, I was out of buttermilk. You can make your own buttermilk by adding a teaspoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sit for a few minutes. It works great.


Sardine Mama

Monday, June 1, 2009

Out of League in Ivy League?

Today is the first day of June, which is very exciting because it means I get to flip a page on my Orlando Bloom calendar. May was cute, I haven't taken a sneak peek at June (at my age I have to cherish life's little surprises wherever I can find them), but I'm betting that it will be easy on the eyes.

June also means that school is almost out in our area, and all the local kids are breathing big sighs of relief. So there are parties to attend and graduation invitations to respond to with appropriate gifts. And this has led me to thinking about all of the graduation gifts I have given throughout the years. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind giving graduation gifts. Of all the gifts we are required to give and receive according to our cultural traditions, graduation gifts are the most meaningful, in my opinion. I mean, this is a kid who is leaving the nest. This is the moment that all of the everything led up to. Pretty momentous. I remember my own graduation in 1983. I remember the sad feeling that accompanied my exit from the school that had been my home for twelve years. I knew every inch of that school and it was mine. Likewise, the friends who had made up my entire world were now all going to fly off in different directions. It was definitely a sad/happy time.

Here is a pic of me at my high school graduation party, thrown in our neighborhood. Yes, my hair is pink. Yes, I am wearing awesome black, leather pants. Yes, I am sitting on a bathtub full of BEER. The drinkin' age was 18 and parents in those days (this party was thrown by a group of adults) were not as freaked out about being sued and stuff. Different times. Anyway, I still remember what the invitation said, and it was embarassing. My best friend knew about the invitations, her mom asked for her opinion about them, and My BFF recognized the potential for embarassment and said, "Oh yeah. These look great." So. The invitations for the punk/nerd party were thus:

Be Ye Punk or Be Ye Nerd
Dress Either Way But Be Absurd
There's a Real Cool Gal (there's a word that hasn't been used since the 40's)
She's a Fox (just how I want to be identified by my best friend's mother)
We Just Heard That Carol Rocks! (okay, I did rock)

So, for several weeks thereafter, I heard "Hey! There's a real cool gal!" and "What a fox!"

While I'm embarassing myself - let me post a pic of me in my prom dress. As Napolean Dynamite would say, I had puffy sleaves. In fact, if you google puffy sleaves - this picture turns up. They are the Grand Puff Diddy of Sleaves. God, but I LOVED that dress! The sweet boy next to me is Jeff - prom date turned husband.
And this picture? Just epitomizes the 80's. 18. It was all downhill from there. I would post a current picture now, but it would be humiliating. And if you think I haven't had enough humiliation in my life you can refer to the above party invitation.

So yeah, I don't mind buying gifts for my kids' friends, or my friends' children. Like I said, momentous occasion and all that. I still remember some of the gifts I received. In our little town, the seniors picked out items at local stores. The stores set the items on display with the students' names on them, and then people came in and paid for a portion of the gift or the entire gift. It was a nice way for the townsfolk to wish the kids well if they so chose. And in fact, many of the kind people here literally went and put down a few dollars on every single gift displayed, whether they knew the child, or not. (Couldn't do this today - the school has grown too large.)My friends and I all set out pairs of Kaepa tennis shoes (not very sentimental but it was a rage at the time). I also set out a little Jon Hart overnight bag that my friend's mother bought me and that I still carry to this day. Twister beads were very in. My parents bought me a turquoise strand and a gold strand. My history teacher bought me a little pewter guardian angel. I also remember getting a set of beach towels...

My own kids do not go to school. They are all thriving and doing really well. They're happy. As for graduation? We'll do something for them when the time comes (should they want to). When I was a kid my little Jewish grandmother used to say, "I hope I live long enough to see you graduate from school...." So now my dad says, "I hope I live long enough to see my grandkids not graduate from school..." So I'm thinking an un-graduation will be in order for our un-schooled kids.

Which leads me to a topic to discuss. I know, it has taken me awhile to arrive at my topic, but this is how I work. Anyway, in the San Antonio paper there was an article about a young man who has just been accepted to Yale. And he had been homeschooled. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, so what? Homeschooled kids get accepted to every single Ivy League school every single year yada yada yada. And you would be right. But this story is different. This kid graduated or un-graduated or whatever you want to call it, from Home School only to find that he, along with the vast majority of public and private school kids who apply to Yale, did not get accepted. And many people, unfamiliar with homeschooling, will come away from the article with the idea that he did not get accepted because he was homeschooled and homeschooled kids aren't getting adequate educations. They'll think to themselves that homeschooling does not work if you want to get your kid into Ivy League.

Uhhhh....actually? This is so not the case. In fact, Stanford says that although its population of homeschooled grads is small, they actually tend to get accepted at a higher rate than the school kids. So. Homeschooling does and can work if your goal is Ivy League. Howeffa, here is the kicker. Most good schools are looking for kids who have been exposed to many ideas. They want kids who are (here is your buzzword for the day) well-rounded. And not just in a varsity volleyball and yearbook editor way. They want kids who are passionate, who have pursued interests with zeal and gusto, and who are eager to hear about new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking, new possibilities for creating a future that is better than what we've got going right now. They want kids who are going to contribute something to their student population.

The young man who had graduated from Home School definitely was a go-getter. He definitely had a curious mind and was out to make a change in the world. I know this because when he didn't get into Yale? He didn't quit. In fact, he enrolled himself in a local prep school (at the age of 18) as a Sophomore. He was so impressive in his quest for knowledge and an education that the community at St. Mary's Hall (the prep school) did everything they could to accommodate him (Yay St. Mary's Hall!!) He graduated in two years (not four) and at the age of 20, was just accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. Sounds like a great kid. But why, you might ask, did he have to do this? Well, the article stated that his homeschool education had been a religious one. And there you have it.

Although something like 83% of homeschooling parents homeschool for religious reasons, Harvard says that the homeschoolers they accept, typically do not fall into this category. Why? What is wrong with religion? Nothing. In fact, you can study religion and theology at all of the Ivy League schools; where you will be exposed to ALL religions, to the origins and nature of religion, to the philosophy behind're going to question religion in order to study it.

That is not how religion is taught in religious home schools. In my experience, most people who homeschool for religious reasons (and this does not include religious people who happen to homeschool) do so in order to protect their children from new ideas and foreign philosophies. They don't want their kids to question (which is the single most important component of any education); they want them to bend their wills and accept on faith. So you can see how if you raise a kid this way, and you've truly done your job, you end up with a kid who basically knows very little about differing ideas, philosophies and opinions. And if they do know of these things, the exposure has been so that they might learn how to refute these differing ideas, philosophies, and opinions. This does not fall into the category of well-rounded, according to higher learning institutions.

In my experience, this works out fine for most of these families because their goals rarely include sending their kids into the secular world of higher education. There are many religiously fundamental colleges and Bible schools that cater to this type of education and many of these young people end up in those institutions where their ideas are enforced and their convictions deepened. But occasionally you get the little wild hair who says, "I want to see what's out there. I want to go to Yale." And then he does whatever it takes to get himself there. Which is way impressive. Some might say he has had a calling. In fact, I would like to buy this young man a pair of Kaepas.

Oh, and before I end, let me add this thought that I just had. Let's assume that this kid had received NO valuable education whatsoever, in his entire 12 years of homeschooling (which is obviously not so). He STILL crammed it all into two years. And that is pretty much my mantra. Wait until they're old enough to reason, old enough to understand the necessity of learning the information, or until they're at least slightly interested in it, and whoala! The kid learns. An early start doesn't give anyone an advantage in a real education. It just ensures that they will hear the same things over and over again, year after year, until they either a) learn it or b) quit listening.

Read the article about this young man and his journey to Yale here.

So this is an enthusiastic Sardine Mama saying, Go Class of 2009! You Rock! (That is what we used to say in 1983). Now go out and save the planet so I can take a nap secure in the knowledge that you are now on duty. Awesome! (We said that in the 80's, too). Rocking Awesome! (even better)