Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Dead, the Living, and the Breeding Heart...Sounds a Little Like a Zombie Movie. But it's not.

So I have this thing for cemeteries.

I love cemeteries. Not the sterile, modern cemeteries where all the markers match....I like the ones where every tombstone is different from the next. I REALLY like the old cemeteries where I can wander around looking at the names and dates and imagine what was going on in the world during that person's lifetime.

Cemeteries are the best sources of baby names. Of course, you'd hate to tell your kid you named him Ezra because of some dead guy you never knew, but what the heck, right? After all, I have one kid named after a fictional paleontologist (I was reading Jurassic Park while I was pregnant with her), and one kid named after the Northern Exposure character, Joel Fleishman. That reminds me, by the way; I really need to make up some false circumstances to explain their names. Quick! Give me a really famous true-life scientist or explorer named Ellie!! Find some ancient rabbi named Joel in my family tree! And Jasper??? Named after Jasper Johns. Do I LIKE Jasper Johns? Not really. I saw him mentioned on page something or other in my college Art History class and went, "COOL NAME." Jules? 9-months pregnant and needing a "j" name when I glanced at my coffee table and saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Camille? I just grabbed that one out of thin air. And I am REALLY sorry I didn't name one of my kids Ezra. Because Ezra is a cool name. Dang.

Anyway - back to cemeteries. I'm studying Texas history with my boys. And I'm such a dork. I'm TOTALLY into it. The boys WERE into it, and now they're just kind of finding the situation to be somewhat embarrassing and awkward because I just can't stop talking about it all. They're like, "Oh God! No! Please, NOT get out the butcher paper. You do not need to do a timeline!!" I totally dig timelines. Since we are mostly unschoolers, my kids aren't used to this flurry of activity and they don't quite know what to do with it. Anyway, did you know Canary Islanders came over here to colonize under Spanish land grants? We LIVE on one of the original Spanish land grants!! See how I used TWO exclamation points? I told you I'm excited. Anyway, we visited a Canary Island Cemetery nearby and it was freaking awesome.

It is unmaintained and massively overgrown. The wildflowers sprinkled throughout were just breathtakingly gorgeous. Something about the old monuments in various states of disrepair....being overtaken by the such colorful representatives of new life, was extremely beautiful. I also like seeing the kids playing among the tombstones. Kind of similar imagery, I guess.

The cemetery is sprinkled with seashells. I'm not sure what the significance of this practice is. I'm very interested in finding out. From what I've read, they represent eternal life and they sometimes symbolize baptism of the deceased.

So yeah, spring is sprung. The kids put began planting the garden. Joel was in charge. The rows are somewhat crooked. Joel blamed it on the little guys. I think it is more likely that he simply couldn't see what he was doing. It is usually breezy here - and March blows in like a lion, right? So this is Joel gardening in the gale - hair being even more unruly than usual.

He was a great supervisor. He was really patient with the little guys. Here he is saying, "Dig the hold about this deep, okay?" for like the 100th time.

And here's some of our herd - grazing in the GREEN field. Why am I all-capping GREEN? Because last year it, during the drought, it was nothing but DIRT. It was so ugly. Now? It is soooo soothing to the eyes. The cows sure are happy!

And look! Our first calf of 2010...what a sweetie. I'm so glad he's got all this lovely green clover and grass to roam around in.

We have wildflowers for the first time in 3 years. Rain is amazing! Especially when you're not used to it. How do I describe the fields here? They look like someone took a giant paintbrush and started painting. Our front pasture is bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, buttercups, and other pretties whose names I don't know. The scent that blows in through our windows is so sweet that it gives me a slight headache by the end of the day.

OK - well, wasn't this a lovely and peaceful post? Didn't we all need it after the nastiness on the news?

Speaking of news (no! I shall not speak of it!!) - my dad and I were having a conversation about the Health**** Bill and he casually called me a Bleeding Heart Liberal. This is not a derogatory term in our family, by the way. Anyhoo - I thought he said "Breeding" Heart Liberal. And I thought that was funny. Hilarious in fact. So freaking hilarious that I am seriously wanting that tag for myself. What do you think? I've been Sardine Mama for a couple of years, now. I'm ready for a change. How does Breeding Heart Liberal sound for a blog? Hmmm....pondering that one.

Signing Off as Sardine Mama (possibly for the last time - considerin' a name change)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Read the Labels! AP, Free-Range, and All That Stuff.

I sat down with absolutely nothing of significance to blog about....killed some time on Grilled Cheese Chick's blog and I discovered she is neurotically labeling herself, so I decided to neurotically label myself, too.

Cheesy, it seems, is concerned that she is a Walking Talking Paradox. Well, she didn't actually say that. But one of my hobbies, according to my husband, Jeff, is "making assumptions and reading things into what other people say or fail to say...." I like to point out to him that if it weren't for my imagining he meant more than he actually said - there would be very little substance to our conversations....a good portion of which are made up of manly grunts, umphs, and non-verbal acknowledgements in the form of raised eyebrows. Before I get back to Cheesy (because I do realize I have gone off on a tangent) let me just add that I recently discovered that my personal ring tone on Jeff's phone is the Darth Vader Theme. When I took offense? I was accused of "reading too much into it." This statement was followed by non-verbal cues of grinning and eyebrow raising. Humph. There's my own man-word for you. Read into what you will.

Back to Cheesy. She is trying to distract herself with labeling. She didn't actually say that, of course. I read that between the lines. So she was wondering if she could be an Attachment Parent AND have Free-Range Kids. Her husband concluded that that is exactly what they are and what they have. I am inclined to concur :).

First of all, both Cheesy and I have been at the parenting gig since before either one of these labels were being applied to parenting styles, and our styles are very similar. But, quite frankly, they're somebody else's labels. So they're not going to fit, exactly. But I think the reason these two terms seem paradoxical is because the word "attachment" brings up a very physical image that seems in direct conflict with "free." I'd like to explore a little bit about what these terms really mean.

Attachment....Free Range.....One implies we have children permanently attached to our breasts (which is gross because one of Cheesy's is in college - one of her kids, that is..not one of her breasts; although both of her breasts were once in college) and the other implies our kids are just running around doing whatever the heck they want while Cheesy and I sip our margaritas. do you smother a kid while letting it hop on a subway without you? Duh. You can't. So maybe "attachment" isn't attachment in the physical sense of the word. Aha! I think we're onto something :).

Let's look at Attachment Parenting. Some people (literal thinkers) believe Attachment Parenting is "hard" and requires constant hovering and nurturing and attending. And it is true that most AP parents wear their babies, co-sleep, and breastfeed. So, at least for awhile, there is this strong sense of physical attachment. But the bigger attachment that AP parents strive for is emotional attachment. And you get the emotional attachment by being emotionally responsive to the baby's needs. For me, it was EASIER to wear my baby than push a crying baby in a stroller. But one of my babies LOVED a stroller and so I often pushed him. It was EASIER to bring a baby to my bed than to listen to a baby cry. But one of my babies HATED sleeping with anyone else in the bed - so he slept in a crib. It was EASIER for me to breastfeed on demand than try to stick a crying baby on a schedule (I also don't believe in teaching young children to ignore their own bodies in regards to their physical needs like hunger...) and it was EASIER to breastfeed than it was to prepare and haul bottles around. But one of my babies had a physical problem that made breastfeeding difficult, and so it was EASIER for him to take a bottle. What was EASIER, in each of these cases, was what met the child's needs.

All of my kids have been different in temperament and emotional/physical needs and so I have parented differently for each of my children. Sometimes the parenting looked more "attached" than at other times. And I am still at it - 17 years later - parenting them differently and sometimes in a more "attached" fashion than at other times. Which leads me to the Free-Range business.

I have found that when a child has had his emotional and physical needs met throughout his early years, he seems to need less attachment in his growing years. In short, he wants some space. He's been raised to listen to his needs - and so he wants to eat when he's hungry and doesn't want a lot of interference in determining "what" he should eat. He wants to sleep when he's sleepy and stay up when he's not. He doesn't doubt his ability to find his way "home" to a mom who has always been there to meet his needs, and so he wants to wander around and explore. He hasn't been chastised for making mistakes, so he wants to try a lot of new things. He believes in himself and feels worthwhile and important, so he often doesn't want a lot of help and interference from mom because he's confident he can figure it all out for himself. And the AP mom? Recognizes this need for independence and autonomy and gives her Formerly Attached At The Hip (or boob) Best Friend In The Whole Wide World a little more (or a lot more) FREEDOM. Because she's used to responding to his needs. Even if the emotional response is one of crying quietly at night in the bed where he used to snuggle up against her :). 'Cause that is how it works.

I am working on the Free Range thing. I'm fine with letting the Little People cook their own meals and crack eggs on the floor and spill milk and stuff. *Before I sound perfect, let me make it known that letting them do this often results in my using language rarely heard in civil circles - I have also been known to occasionally sit inside a puddle of flour and cry while curious butter-eating bakers look on.

I'm fine with letting the Little People say they're not hungry when I really think they should eat. I'm fine with letting them wear non-matching clothes or no clothes at all and doing all sorts of things "wrong" and then learning from it. I'm fine with letting them wander away from me, get filthy, get wet...etc. I'm even fine with saying, "Sure, take the cart back into the grocery store...sure, walk to your aunt's house...ride your bikes to the mailbox..." But I'm not fine with saying, "Ride your bikes to town....or...go swimming alone...." or any number of other things that some Free Range Families do. I'm not saying they shouldn't do them (statistically speaking they're not taking huge risks) but I'm not comfortable letting go quite that much.

Anyway, it is the Medium-Sized and Big-Sized People I want to reign in. I fight it...this constant urge to imagine every horror that could possibly result from teenage driving, or swimming out to the second sandbar, or going places alone, or riding off on a bicycle, or making friends and having relationships outside my own circle of acquaintances. My Rational Mind who knows the odds of this or that happening tends to completely recede to the background so that the Whacko Mind who wants to be best friends with the 911 operator can take front and center. And when the Whacko Mind is in charge I am certain that a kid is five minutes late because she's definitely driven off of a, wait...she's been wait...a large crack opened up in the earth and swallowed her whole. Because these things DO happen...and the parents wonder and wonder what they could have done...But the odds are slim that these things will happen...and people do not thrive while living lives of fear and restriction. But tell that to my Whacko Mind when she's all worked up...My Whacko Mind thinks Free-Range Kids are in Imminent Danger From Everything.

I walk the fine line between wanting my oldest kid to know that the world is her world, she needn't be afraid of it - most people ARE good, or at least not horrible...and wanting her to know that there is such a thing as date rape, that someone could follow her home or hide beside her car in a parking lot....that people do, in fact, get in their cars and drive drunk. It was much easier to just let her sit in a mud puddle or break eggs or wander alone around the "dangers" of our ranch.

I keep coming back to where it all began: Attachment Parenting. She knows she is a worthy and important person who deserves to have her needs met - anyone who doesn't treat her this way is immediately suspect....she knows I've always listened to her and that I've tried my best to be reasonable when she's made a good case for herself - I haven't pulled the "because I said so" she tends to listen to me. I know she trusts herself. She's been allowed to learn from her mistakes. I know she is smart. So yeah, I'm working on the Free Range part. Soon - she'll be off into the world. I don't want to just kick her out of the nest and yell, "Fly!" She needs to have done at least a little fluttering about on her own, first, while the nest is still close enough to crash land in, if need be.

So let's see. What is my official label? I guess it is "Attachment Parent to Quasi-Free-Range Kids." That is as good as I'm going to get - as long as my Rational Mind is bunking with my Whacko Mind, anyway.

Well, this went a lot further than I'd intended. I've no time now to get into identifying my Discipline Style Label or my Homeschooling Style Label. And I'd really wanted to give myself several labels today. I guess the next label will have to wait, though, because we are making cascarones today and I need to get out the food coloring and confetti yada yada yada. I will give you a hint, though. My next post will be, "Sardine Mama's Guide to Permissive Parenting."

Signing Off as a Partially Labeled Sardine Mama

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Contemplations On The Back Forty

This is the path down to our literal "Back Forty." It is where my kids have often been disappearing to, as of late, and it is farther away than my holler can reach. And while it is majorly inconvenient for them to get that far away when I have Things For Them To Do...I am reluctant to fetch them because, quite frankly, this is about the only time of year that they can enjoy roaming around down there. In the fall and winter I am fearful of hunters and in the summer? Too hot.

Right now we're hitting 80's - perfect Spring Break weather (not that my kids know what a spring break is - they just think it is the time of year I won't take them to museums or parks because I refuse to do recreational activities with the masses) but in another month or so it will be so hot that we're letting the chickens out before dawn so they don't bake in their hen house. If this summer is a repeat of last summer (and I really hope it isn't) we're talking days and days of 100+ temps and no rain (or grass) in sight.

So yeah - now is the time for them to disappear down this magical path through the Texas mesquite trees (still haven't budded) and scrub brush and prickly yesterday I headed down the path to meet the kids for a little pasture/tank party.
After walking for a few minutes the path turns into a cow trail.....who can resist one of those? Not me!

I saw their bikes first (look to the right) and then some tiny figures waving to me from the other side of the pond. See them way over there?

I set up a little spot under a Not Terribly Shady mesquite tree....called them over for a mid-afternoon Texas Tea.

Jasper heard all those dang frogs but just couldn't catch any! Man - they were LOUD. There are some big boys in there for sure. No tadpoles, yet.

Anyone care for some Roobios tea? We also had sandwiches, fruit, yogurt and kippered herring ('cause we are weird that way).

What is Jasper thinking about with that little scowl? Who knows. That is a wound under his nose, by the way...not something worse....little stick injury from earlier in the week. You might also check out his bangs - he cut them, himself. He initially denied doing it until I told him it looked rather nice and then he just beamed and said, "I did a very careful job!"

And look at this all you Charlotte Mason-y types! Jules is drawing in his nature journal. SO THERE.

Camille picked flowers for Ranger's hair but couldn't figure out how to get them to stay behind his ear....
It was a perfectly lovely Afternoon Tea....or Pasture Party....or whatever you want to call it. I missed my two big kids, however. Ellie was at an art festival, Joel was sleeping in after having stayed up all night at a friend's house (playing poker). That is getting to be my theme....Missing The Big Kids.

Half the time I'm missing them in advance because I am constantly anticipating the Big Exit. Ellie's Big Exit is coming up soon....she is in 11th grade. Initially she was going to stick close-ish to home, but now she's talking east coast conservatories :(. I tell her I can't believe she'll be leaving me and she's like, "Gosh, Mom! You make it sound like I'm breaking up with you! I'm not LEAVING YOU. I'm just LEAVING."

"Will you miss me?" I ask.

She smiles. I know she'll miss me. But she's so excited at the prospect of her new life taking off that she can't fathom the possibility that she will. She's a terribly independent kid.

I find myself to be quite paradoxical, at the moment. I'm constantly feeling the need for my two youngest (8 and almost 6) to GET OFF OF ME. They are both very physically affectionate kids and since there has been no forced separation through school - they are still very "attached" and I mean that both in the emotional sense and in the stuck-to-me-like-magnets sense. So on the one hand I'm needing some serious personal space from my two Cling-ons, while desperately wanting to reel in my two big kids.....force them on my lap and the whole bit....even though they are both bigger than I am.

Joel is a hugger. If I hold out my arms he comes straight to me, bends over ('cause he has to do that now) and gives me a big, strong hug. Ellie is more of a If You Insist Half-Hugger sort.

Where is Jules in all of this? Where he has always been. Right in the middle. He is my little orbiter - he just orbits around - in and out - always a tad bit on the outskirts. Some of this is birth order and the fact that, unlike the other four, he doesn't have anyone within two years of his age. Some of it is Asperger's. He's pretty fluid, though. At times he enjoys being a follower. At other times, he really digs being the leader. And in his position he has opportunities to be both on a regular basis.

Parenthood is a strange path. In the beginning, the child is literally part of you...enveloped in a womb. This was a comfortable part of the path for me - both physically and emotionally. Pregnancy? Totally dug it. Then there is the part where the child starts moving around and kicking a little and you get this small inkling that maybe this thing isn't actually a part of your body - it seems to be doing stuff on its own. Then the labor and birth comes....exciting and painful....the first separation. But gratifying. The baby continues to surprise you by reminding you it isn't "yours" like your foot is "yours" and like you thought it was "yours" when it was in "your" womb. This is an odd realization. And it is followed by more separations. More little losses....but each one replaced by a gain. Still....those little losses.....they all leave a little mark, don't they?

Every first is also a last. The first time to do one thing often signifies the last time to do something else. Something you'll miss. But always - the child is there; entertaining you with whatever is "next" and so you don't mind the losses so much. Sometimes you don't even realize there's been a loss and you find yourself wondering, "When was the last time she held my hand? When was it that he switched to showers from bubble baths? When did she stop calling me into her room at night?"

Little losses all adding up to the Big One. They grow up.

If their needs have been met for attachment and love and guidance, they head off with seemingly little regard for all that they're leaving behind. Because that is what they're supposed to do. They're supposed to always be looking ahead, forging forth, heading off and moving on. The looking back? The mourning of lazy childhood days of summers past? That is left for me.

I think I'll stop tossing the little ones off of my lap. Stop chasing the big ones. Just let everybody be where they're supposed to be; including myself.

From where I'm sitting I can hardly see my own path ahead. But I'm sure it's there. Wonder where it will lead? I can't imagine walking it without little feet scampering after me. But then again, there was a time I couldn't imagine walking it WITH little feet scampering after me. Amazing, huh?

Signing Off as a Sardine Mama of Increasingly Bigger and Bigger Fishies

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gifted and Talented at WHAT?

So we're back from Austin....although the spaceship, robot, and monkey ears are still in my car and will probably remain there until hell freezes over or the next Odyssey meeting happens, whichever comes first. The next Odyssey meeting is next week - so I'm betting on next week.

The Regional Tournament was great! And Jasper didn't throw up one time even though he threatened to constantly.....because of course, he got sick as soon as we hit Austin. Kept it all under control, though. Jeff kind of took care of him and kept him busy while I ran around trying to watch 4 of our kids in 3 different competitions and get my own team set up and in one place and sort of making eye contact with me on occasion as I tried to get them to focus on their props, costumes, vehicle, etc. A bolt flew off as they wheeled their vehicle through the door and into the gym and I was like, "crap." But it didn't slow them down. They were missing one team member who'd suffered a seizure the night before....and Ellie....who is all heart....said, "Oh great! Now I have to be the monkey!!" So she was the monkey :). She also knocked their parrot off the tree at one point and the beak fell off....maybe she hit it with her BIG MONKEY TAIL. Anyway - they did awesome and wowed the judges with their human-powered vehicle.

As far as I know, we were the only homeschoolers. Our elementary team was A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E. They did not place, however. Their long term scores were pretty dang high so I'm thinking they tanked in the spontaneous portion (for those of you who don't know what the heck I'm talking about....don't sweat it.....I promise this post doesn't just relate to Odyssey of the mind).

Anyway - I was so freaking proud of them. They were a hodge-podge little group (as are all of our homeschool teams) - meaning they were all ages. Odyssey has the teams compete at the grade level of the oldest kid on the team - so we had an elementary team that also had itty bitties on of them was my own little itty bitty - up there doin' the baby talk business that she is so fond of, and acting her little heart out.

I am a talker and I do a lot of socializing at these events (even though I am a homeschooler) and I have learned that many of the schools that participate in our region are sending students from their Gifted and Talented Programs - or at least giving those programs first dibs. This is unfortunate. Because according to the Odyssey of the Mind program guide:

"It's important to recognize that all students can benefit from participation in Odyssey of the Mind, and that performance in the classroom does not directly correlate with success in the program."

Our elementary team had a little one with spina bifida - she has challenges in all areas of her life - and would never be in a "GT" class. And she was the creative leader of our team! She made her own strawberry costume....out of straws. In her words, "Because it is a STRAWberry - get it? Get it?" Big Humongous Grin. Yes, we get it. You are freaking awesome. If that wasn't enough, she also added bears...cause of the "berry"....get it? Get it?

Our middle school team had two boys with Asperger's (one of them mine) who would never be in GT, either - even though they're both ridiculously smart - they would be pretty big nuisances in the classroom. Thank God Jules's classroom is a big ranch :). Anyway - they were one kid short of a full team - still participated - came in first (out of ahem...1 team) and were exceptionally happy. They did an amazing job - had to build a human-powered vehicle. Since they placed ahem...FIRST out of exactly 1 team...they will be going on to the State Tournament in Houston so I can't tell you anything about their skit except that Jules was a fantastic Mr. Spock. This is a boy-dream-team (1 girl on the team - poor thing) and they had elements of both Lord of the Rings AND Star Trek. Superman makes an appearance, too.....yeah....a homeschooled boys' team for sure. At least it wasn't my kid wearing his underwear on the outside of his clothes this was someone else's kid. Jules already did his underwear time; wearing Thomas the Tank briefs over his jeans as "Hades, God of the Underwear."

The high school team (the one I coached) came in 1st out of ahem....2 teams :). It seems that in our region it is mostly elementary teams competing - the bigger the kids the more "stuff" they have to do and the less time they have for this sort of thing. Anyway - they are aiming for the World Tournament - some of them have gone, before. So they are a fairly serious team. My son - the one with Language Processing Disorder and Other Stuff We Haven't Officially Diagnosed - drives their vehicle and plays Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also not a GT kid.

So what is it with the G/T Business? Gifted and Talented at...........what, exactly? Gifted with art? Talented at acting? Gifted with flexible joints? What? What does it freaking MEAN to be gifted and talented? And more so - what does it freaking mean to NOT be gifted and talented? Because if there is a Gifted and Talented program and you're not in it....the assumption is that you're not gifted or talented. Now the schools will say, "No! That's not we mean! Every child is gifted and every child is talented blah blah blah....." Ok - well then - people?? You need to call your little program something else. Call it the Good Test-Takers Club - or the Smart Kids Club - or the Exclusive We Get To Go On The Best Field Trips Club....or I don't really know....just STOP calling if Gifted and Talented and then not letting everyone in after saying everyone is gifted and talented. That's like saying, "We're all created equal only some of us are more equal than others."

Now I know that these programs vary from school to school - so I am only commenting on my own personal experience with G/T if you feel that your school's G/T program is the cat's meow - good for you - but it is not my experience that G/T programs offer anything that wouldn't benefit ANY kid.

Before you think I'm just cranky due to the fact that I have dumb kids who couldn't get into the G/T program...let me just say that I have had a kid in the G/T program. And it didn't serve her. The G/T teacher in primary was awesome fun. She did great things with the kids. And Ellie hated every bit of it. (Ellie went to school thru 3rd grade.) Ellie did not want to make puppets, talk endlessly about cultural stories from around the world, or learn group participation skills. She wanted to stop going so slow. She is a fast learner. All she wanted was to "do the next thing" - whatever that happened to be - and not have to do it, again. She never missed a spelling she didn't want to write them all out five times each. She learned her multiplication tables in about five she didn't want to write them all out every morning and then do a timed test (where she never missed one). She didn't want to sit and listen to other kids read aloud a book she had completed while she was waiting for the other kids to get their books opened to the right page. She didn't want to read for 15 minutes and write a paragraph about The Boxcar Kids when she could have been finishing up Little Women. She was surly and bored out of her mind and her twice a week trip to the G/T classroom to work on puppets did nothing to address her boredom.

Now my son who went to school thru 1st grade? Was not even tested for the G/T program. In first grade, he still wasn't reading, he couldn't count to 100, and his alphabet recitation included H,I,J,K, jalapeno cheese....because he just didn't "get it" that those letters represented sounds. In fact, he didn't get that for a very long time. He was the class clown, the class troublemaker, the kid who went for extra help every day. And the funny part is that he would have LOVED the G/T activities. Puppet-making? Right up his alley. Story-telling? Even better - (that is what he wants to do when he grows up). Group participation? He is the most cooperative kid on the planet. He is fifteen, now. When we left the school he had very low self-esteem and the teachers, quite frankly, saw him as a difficult kid because he just couldn't learn. He basically sat in the classroom bored and doing things bored little boys do. Which, understandably, irritated his teachers. And now? He is amazing. He's creative beyond belief, smart, accomplished, and a motivated worker. That is how pretty much anyone would describe him. But he would never be in a Gifted and Talented program. He and many many many others who are just like him. And in some schools, those kids are not participating on Odyssey teams because those teams are reserved for the kids who will do well at the tournaments...based on how well they do at school. Unfortunately, that is not what Odyssey is about.

We know a Down Syndrome boy who has been to the Odyssey of the Mind World Tournament twice. He was not placed on an Odyssey team through his school - but through a Boys and Girls Club. My son - won an Odyssey Ranatra Fusca Award for Extreme Creativity last year. And he would never have been on his school's Odyssey team. Which would have been a shame, obviously. So those schools who are sending their good test-takers? Are missing out on some fabulous opportunities to really show off at the tournament. But that is not really the unfortunate part of it. The unfortunate part of it is that there are some really amazing kids who are missing out on opportunities to show off at the tournament.

So if you are wanting something to do....something creative that involves children....I encourage you to look into Odyssey of the Mind. Gather the class clowns you know, the quiet little thinkers, the kid who tends to sit back and watch, the one who bounces off the walls, the angry one and the happy one.....throw them all together with lots of encouragement and glue sticks and paint....take them to an Odyssey tournament - and watch some magic happen. Seriously, do it. You'll be glad you did. Want to read something inspirational from my Cheesy Chick friend in regards to HER non-G/T teams? Go HERE. And if you want to see the elementary team being all adorably adorable you can go HERE.

So what is your G/T experience?

Signing Off as the both amazingly Gifted AND Talented Sardine Mama

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Too PC and Beautiful for 1889

Look what I got! A fellow mama blogger over at Mournful Cry of the Laundry gave it to me. Sweet! At the end of today's post I'll award it to three other bloggers I think are beautiful. Thanks, Laundry Mom!!

OK - so if you read yesterday's lame post you've been waiting in anticipatory excitement for today's hopefully less lame post. And the topic? Children's literature. Specifically - the value of really really really old children's literature. As in, should I read this because it is old and someone says I should read it so my kids will be exposed to it even if I think it is awful??

I'm not talking Little House on the Prairie. We LOVE that series. I still remember my teacher reading it to me in 2nd grade....along with Charlotte's Web and all of those other wonderful classics. No - I'm not talking about those. We're going back to 1889 - to Fairy Tales. Why are we going back to Fairy Tales told in 1889? Because I had another moment of self-doubt, that's why. And when I am enjoying self-doubt....(I can't help it - I do occasionally enjoy my suffering - I'm half Jewish)....I like to visit homeschooling curriculum websites. It is kind of like rubbing your tongue on a mouth blister repeatedly to see if it still hurts.....visiting curriculum websites is how I make sure I still suck at homeschooling. *I have some awesomely educated kids, by the way. It's just that I seemingly had nothing to do with it. It seems I only suck at the parental-involvement aspect of it - obviously an unnecessary aspect of it if you ask my kids....but anyway - this is about me enjoying my inadequacies, not about how well they're doing.

So - yes - I was looking at the Charlotte Mason-ish websites 'cause those are my faves. Specifically, I was looking at a secular-ish website 'cause they are so rare and I like exotic and unusual things. And I clicked on "2nd grade" and then I clicked on the "History" tab and the "Literature" tab. And then? I clicked on "1st grade" because, quite frankly, we really didn't DO 1st grade and how can you just start off with 2nd grade and THAT, my friends - is why the 15-year-old overwhelms me. Try starting off on the "9th grade" tab and then deciding that really you should start off on the "1st grade" tab with a boy who is shaving and over a foot taller than you and honest HONESTLY saying to yourself, "I think we could do all this in a year and catch up...." See if that doesn't make you want to just take a nap.

Anyway - so back to the 8-year-old. She recently went from a non-reading 8-year-old to a reading-above-grade-level 8-year-old. That is what my kids do. All those Step Into Reading books? Have never been read here. We have them. Lots of them. But they're not interesting enough to want to sit and listen to someone else read them, and my kids never seem to have a self-beginner reading stage......They simply go from me reading to them until they're however old, to them picking up an age-appropriate book and reading to themselves. Yes - we did Phonics Pathways....and she still can't do a page out of that book in under 30 minutes and without crying. Give her a Nancy Drew book, however, and she reads it cover to cover and quickly. (I hate Nancy Drew and her maid and her lawyer father and her convertible and her white privilege, by the way. But Camille is all Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys right now.)

The 8-year-old is mostly read to by her father and her older siblings because that just seems to be how it works out around here. I get busy eating on the bon bons and all. But it isn't exactly high-quality fiction, for the most part, that she's having read to her. She DOES love King Arthur, though (and that is my gig) so I have read various King Arthur books/stories. That is kind of our little thing. And on the Charlotte Mason-ish website they had books listed for her grade that seemed very King Arthur-ish and I was all excited and put some on hold at the library, now that we are allowed back in the library. Because I simply cannot wait to sprinkle 30 or so library books throughout my home, they can sink into the abyss. Anyway - we went yesterday and picked some up. Because God knows I want a classically trained child instead of an unclassically trained one. I'm classy that way.

The first book? The Blue Fairy Book, an edition edited by Andrew Lang, the first edition of which was printed in 1889. OK. I know what fairy tales are. They are dark and frightening and ghastly, for the most part. I KNOW that. But this book is for first graders. So I don't know what I expected, but I didn't expect this. Let me give you a little synopsis of the first story, "The Bronze Ring."

King wants to marry off 16-year-old daughter to son of one of his rich ministers. Daughter wants to marry son of poor gardener. King sends both men off on a journey - the one who returns first will marry the daughter. Of course, one goes off with lots of money on a fine horse, one goes with no money and a nasty horse (although the princess snuck him some jewels). Rich son passes a beggar woman and refuses to give her anything. Poor boy passes beggar woman and gives her a ride on his horse and all of his jewels.

*At this point I'm reading happily and thinking, here's our little lesson! The old woman is really a queen or something and he's going to be rewarded for his generosity. That would have been a nice lesson, wouldn't it? That wasn't the lesson, though.

So the old lady turns out to be a witch - and she tells him that the local king is sick and willing to reward anyone who can cure him. She tells him how to cure the king - so he can ask for a certain reward (the bronze ring). The first thing he has to do? KILL THREE DOGS AND BURN THEM TO ASHES. He does. *now this kind of put a strange look on Camille's little face...mommy doesn't usually read her books where dogs get killed and burned to ashes. The next thing he has to do? Is BOIL THE KING ALIVE UNTIL HIS FLESH SEPARATES FROM THE BONES. *I tried to read this with a cheerful little edge in my voice - how ridiculous is that? Then? Lay out the king's bones and pour the dead dogs' ashes over the bones and the king will come back to life as a grateful 20-year-old. He did. He gave the boy the bronze ring - which would grant him whatever he wanted. So he wanted an awesome boat with silken sails and a golden hull. Then he ran into the other candidate on The Gruesome Bachelorette Show and he had blown all of his he asked the ring to give him a nasty old boat manned by "sailors infirm and shall have lost a leg, another an arm, the third shall be a hunchback, another lame or club-footed or blind, and most of them shall be ugly and covered with scars....." *It is obvious to me that we don't need to talk about the lesson this teaches....Oy vey.

It turns out that the gardener's son marries the princess...but only through trickery and making himself appear to be something he isn't. And then? His luck runs out. Now THIS could be a lesson - you know - don't use the trickery and all - be yourself yada yada yada. But this was not the lesson. The lesson? Don't trust a Jew. That's right, folks. A Jew steals the ring and turns the boy's beautiful ship into an old nasty ship with a crew of "hideous negroes." *I caught myself before I actually read that part out loud.

In the end the guy gets his ring back, resumes his illusionary self as that is apparently necessary in order to remain happily married and the story ended with, "The next day the Jew, tied to the tail of a savage mule loaded with nuts, was broken into as many pieces as there were nuts upon the mule's back." * I DID NOT READ THIS

Now then - I looked on Amazon - read the reviews - desperately hoping that there were going to be other parents shocked and confused and wondering if this was appropriate reading material for a 1st grader and THEY ALL LOVED IT. One woman who is in her 70's said these were the glorious stories she heard in her youth - not the watered-down Disney versions - and these wonderful things were meant to teach today's youth (who are horribly lacking in morals, I'm sure) some LESSONS.

Anybody care to take at stab at explaining the moral/lesson of this story? You know, other than the blatant anti-Semitic lesson? Seriously, I want to hear your thoughts on this. Because I am obviously missing something.

Quite honestly, I'm not sure that the lessons taught to certain generations are necessarily those that I want taught to my children. A lot of the things they accepted as being moral - in fact - simply are not moral. Segregation, class thanks. And as for the "you can't sugar-coat everything" argument.......I don't think our kids are growing up in a sugar-coated world. War, terrorism, earthquakes, genocide......these guys are post 9/11 youngsters. Maybe they didn't survive the Depression - but they haven't led charmed lives, either. I don't think anyone gets a pass in that way - not in this earthly realm. And if they did? I still don't think they need to hear the gruesome "lessons" in this story.

Let me hear it! What do you think? Obviously - there are many who would disagree with me because this book is seriously popular with classical homeschoolers.

Now for my Awards. I give the Beautiful Blogger Award to:
*Green and Crunchy because we made her banana ice cream for breakfast this morning and how awesome is that?

*Shaggy Boys because she is coaching FOUR ODYSSEY TEAMS and I love crazy people.

*Nine (+) Texans because she is preggers and pregnant women are drop-dead gorgeous.

I could happily give this award to many more awesome women but, I'm off to supervise Odyssey rehearsal, instead. Just two more days until we leave for the tournament!

Signing Off as a Horribly Too PC for 1889 Sardine Mama

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lamest Post Ever

Well, I just sat down to blog. I have a Big Topic, too. But it was just pointed out to me that it is Tuesday. And it is almost 7:00 pm. On a Tuesday. So I'm so sorry to have to do this but American Idol comes on in 2 minutes. Halfway through it I will switch to LOST. And this is the only night I EVER watch TV. I'm not even sure these shows are good seeing as how I've nothing to compare them to. But I look forward to them. And I have a sick 8-year-old who is waiting to curl up next to me and watch the girls sing tonight (I don't let them watch the auditions, by the way - the little people, that is - because I don't think they should be entertained by people being made fun of) and then I have two teenagers who love to yell throughout LOST that it is stupid and ridiculous and awful and they're never watching it again....I cherish traditions.

So yeah - My Big Topic will have to wait.