Saturday, August 28, 2010

This Will Not Interest You. Seriously. Unless You Like The Peppers.

The truth is, if you're reading this blog, I don't really think about you all that much. When I write, I'm pretty much mostly thinking about me and whatever it is that's going on in my life or my head or my universe at the moment....and if you've read for any length of time you've probably figured out that that usually means kids, family, unschooling, politics, religion, natural family lifestyle, writing, and the occasional bit of discontent.

I guess some people who read me probably feel this is mostly an unschooling blog - but then again - there are a lot of readers who don't homeschool, much less unschool. And even though I'm not religious....leaning towards total atheism at the moment (that's a nice way of saying I'm an atheist)....many of my readers are religious. And even though I'm a total hard-ass liberal, a few of my readers (and quite a few friends) are conservative. So honestly, people? I don't know why you're here. Unless it's to read about the current state of my mid-life crisis....another recurring and popular theme of the blog.

I hate being such a sterotypical walking cliche' in this, but I am. I am 45. I am listless. I am bored. I am wondering why the heck I never did a lot of the things I wanted to do. I'm wondering why I don't really want to do anything now. My mid-life crisis is fueled by a natural inclination I inclination to resist change. I HATE CHANGE. And everything is changing.

I won't go into everything that's know about the kids getting bigger, one getting ready to leave, yada yada. You know, because I've mentioned it, that I don't like the ways in which I am changing....who's face is that in the mirror? Who's thighs are those? What is my real hair color?

Anyway - so on top of all of this I recently got a little blocked/depressed/disgusted with my current writing project. Since chocolate was unavailable, I did what I always do when I feel kind of yucky.....I sat down to pretend to write while watching about six hours or so of Red Hot Chili Peppers videos. And yes! As Hannah mentioned in a previous blog - they are making a new album! (And if you were wondering, this here's the part that you won't really care about unless I have a few die-hard Chili fans lurking...) And guess what?? It isn't just a rumor. John Frusciante has left the band. This represents change. And I don't like it.

So sorry. This is what the post is about. John Frusciante. It is my blog, after all.

How could he do this to me? During my mid-life crisis and all? This is what he said blabbedy blabbedy blabbedy blab...

"I really love the band and what we did. I understand and value that my work with them means a lot to many people, but I have to follow my interests."

And that right there, folks, is the definition of selfishness. Follow his own interests (insert mocking tone).

So, now to the important stuff. What does this mean for me? I like lots of bands and artists. But the RHCP have been *my* band for a very long time. They've been together over twenty years. They're actually my age (at 40....Frusciante was the band's baby and he's being replaced by Josh Klinghoffer...who is only 30 and thereby contributing to the "I'm older than Dirt" psychological aspect of my mid-life crisis).

I got to see Frusciante play with the RHCP in ummm....2007....I think? The best concert of my life. Seriously. And if I had known it was the last chance I'd have to see them all together? I'd have cried through the entire thing. Instead, I only cried when Fruisciante did his signature solo falsetto thing....while the rest of the band just sat and listened to him....

Personally, I really love it when he does Tiny Dancer or, even better, Emily...">

It seems he left the band a year ago - when they weren't really playing together - but with the recording of the new album it has just become news among those of us who don't sit around reading about this sort of thing all day. People like me....with 5 kids....and lots of activities that do not involve the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Heck, with the exception of By the Way, I can't really even listen to them in the car due to the little people Never Having Heard a Curse Word. Anyway, so excuse me for not knowing that John had left the band. I'm a fan...but not in a scary way.

So that's pretty much it. Everything is changing....and then on top of it John Frusciante has left the Chili Peppers. Officially.

And the world keeps spinning around and I'm off to make homemade playdough for the little people who, like John Fruisciante, are fairly self-involved individuals who feel the need to follow their own interests without the slightest bit of concern for how it might affect my mid-life crisis.
I think I might do something mix playdough colors....or something.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School for the Sardines

Yay! First day of school! We always like to do something fun on the first day of have the pool to ourselves. So this is Jasper's and Jules' official First Day of 1st and 7th Grades (respectively).

Come on Jules, don't you wish you were sitting in the 3rd period of the day...going over classroom rules? Again? In case you didn't catch them in the first two periods?

And here's Camille's first day of 3rd grade. She went over the edge backwards in scuba form.

Joel's first day as a sophomore. Joel is the reason we homeschool. If it weren't for his disastrous pre-k, kinder, and 1st grade years....well...I'd be sitting in a freaking car line right now. Thank you, Joel! One more way in which your unique way of interpreting the world has been a blessing for us! Joel is dyslexic, with auditory and expressive language processing disorders. He's also brilliant, thank you very much....and I can't imagine what a day would be like without him, his humor, and his sunny disposition. Or his hair :). I wonder, if we had left him in school to tough it out....would he have begun to live up to the Bad Boy/Dumb Boy/ Inappropriate Use of Humor Boy/ Uncooperative Boy image the teachers had established for him? You know, until he believed it himself? Lucky for him - I DIDN'T BELIEVE IT. And lucky for all of us.

Here he is about to attack his brother....they wrestle endlessly, even though Joel is twice the size of Jules. The pool echoed with the sounds of Big Man Laughter and Yelling from Joel (his voice is SO LOW....lower than his dad's, even) and the beautifully hoarse laughter of a boy on the edge of metamorphosis. Jules' voice sounds more and more different every day.
Joel and I did some goal-setting today, on his first day of school. He's registered for an American Sign Language Course to fulfill the foreign language requirements - at the suggestion of his speech therapist, who felt that maybe his inability to master his own native tongue might be an indicator in how he would do in say....French or Spanish (although Joel says he can't imagine it would be much different - he says he's used to not knowing what people are saying to him). He wants to cover college bases, even though we're neither one sure college will be in his future. I'm really not sure the college environment is set up for him to succeed...memorizing is hard for him....really hard for him....what he wants to do is write story board scripts for television shows (think along the lines of Beavis and Butt-head, Family Guy, Spongebob and you get the idea). He would be great at that...he is a walking non-stop comedy show. He and his friend, Ian, have a little show thing they do on the computer that is funny in an Inappropriate Use of Humor way....that's on his official kindergarten record, by the way, "inappropriate use of humor" or maybe it is just "inappropriate behavior." Maybe he was the only one who saw the humor. Anyway, there are places in our world for the inappropriate use of humor. If you don't believe me, ask Will Farrell. A rich and successful guy who I'm betting had a distastrous year in 1st grade.
Here Joel is being inappropriately funny.....or maybe just inappropriate, depending on your view of things. I told him he looked like an ugly girl with his long, wet hair. He lifted up his arm to flash a hairy pit and said, "An ugly European girl!" Sheesh. And please, European girls, we don't think you're ugly. And also please, to my American sisters who forgo the razor...we don't think you're ugly either. He just likes to be funny that way. To each his or her own pits....that's what we always say.
This was Ellie's first day of her senior year. She actually did school work. Here she is trying to memorize the US History Study Guide for the SAT II Subject Test. She had also finished her calculus and biology and put in 2 hours at the piano....overachiever. She's applying at two conservatories (Eastman and Oberlin) and then at the music schools of some Texas universities. It will all depend on who offers the most $$$.
Jules will do some 7th grade math and he's asked to take a look at his biology book again. Other than that, we'll go wherever his interests take us. He's also still working on cursive writing - that is so much easier for him than printing. I wonder, if he were in school, would he be this happy? He's a self-confident kid with a group of loyal buddies. That is pretty much the pot of gold at the end of the Asperger's Rainbow.

And oh Camille! Now this kid? I could drop off on the street, point her in the general direction of the nearest school, and off she'd go and be just fine. She's not easily bored, nor is she easily overwhelmed. She's never met another kid she didn't like. She notices what other people are wearing (this is a recessive homeschool gene) - she likes popular music. Nail polish is her best friend. But it just so happens that she has so many homeschooled friends and activities, she's never expressed an interest in school. I wonder what I would do if she did? One of my friends took her little one to school the request of the previously homeschooled little one, herself. Brave little girl and brave mama!

This is Jasper's first day of first grade. The school has no idea that it dodged a bullet.

Happy First Day of School to You and Yours - no matter where it took place!
Signing Off as the Head Administrator of the School of Sardines

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

I think I mentioned a few blogs ago that we went to the beach. It was massively windy and the Gulf of Mexico was rough. The water was the color of chocolate milk. It was exhausting for the grown-ups, but the little to medium-sized people enjoyed the heck out of it.

Last week we loaded up the bus, grabbed the 5 kids and the grandpa, hooked up the can, and went to the beach, again. And look at it now. Same beach, same Gulf of Mexico. Same kids and everything. If I were a better writer, or if I were in the mood, I guess I would get all blabby about how this is life...sometimes stormy and sometimes calm. But I'm not, and I'm not. So....
We stay at an RV "resort" that is really quite nice. Great pools and clean bathrooms and showers and a boardwalk to the beach.

But this is a Texas beach - so yeah - we share the sand dunes with a herd of cattle. They grazed about 10 feet behind our camper among the sea oats covering the dunes. You can see some rather lovely beach homes in the background. Our little people think nothing of having a herd graze directly behind their sleeping heads...that is pretty much how they go to sleep every night, anyway.

I mentioned there's a boardwalk, and if we were normal people we would just walk over it to get to the beach. But we're not. We have to take way too much stuff for that. So we load up the bus, exit out of the park, drive down the highway to a beach access road, enter the beach, and drive back down in the direction we came from to get to the boardwalk so if anyone has to use the bathroom they can quickly walk back to the trailer. I know....silly. But you see all the stuff right? We're talking 8 chairs, an ice chest, an EZ Up (whoever thought up that name for the shade tent thing we put up was freaking HILARIOUS), boogie boards, skimmer boards, sand castle building paraphernalia, twenty or so can see the impossibility of our casually strolling to the beach. In our defense, most of the people who stay at this park own irritating little golf carts that they buzz around on (sporting Confederate flags).

The writing on the rear windshield? Is left over from the World Odyssey trip to Michigan we took in MAY. I asked Joel to clean it off and he almost did. So that's where we are with that....And below is the cataclysmically difficult to set up EZ Up. That's where the lower class hangs out....Sad, really, that they are reduced to huddling beneath it...

And this is where I sit. Although I wish I had a picture of what it looked like 10 minutes after this. The 3 youngest dragged their seats over and we had some togetherness....sheesh...that is how they operate. They do the same thing at home. I'm always like, "Dudes, we have 3,000 sq feet in this house so why do you always have to be in the same one as me?" What can I say? They adore me.

When they weren't showing their love for me by asking for food or beverages....they were working on their sand castle. Jules had drawn up blueprints the night before, so they had a plan.

Massive impressive and all.

The architects.

Me - I told you it was red. It is hard to believe all those little brown bodies somehow got assigned to me, isn't it? I am definitely the palest person in our party.

I'm thinking this might be the fewest words I've ever posted. That's your reward for getting through the last post!
Signing Off as a Sandy Sardine Mama

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deaths, Births, and Other Random Happenings

We've had a whirlwind of a week. (Disclaimer - this is one of my long ones....but there are lots of pics at the end!! I want to hear how many of you make it all the way to the end. Yes, that's a dare.)

First and foremost, I must mention that our beloved dog, Schnitzel, died. Actually, I feel it is misleading to say she "died" because that would imply that she fell off a cliff, or stepped on a landmine, or succumbed to some horrible illness. In actuality, we had her put down and I feel horrible about it.

People tell me not to feel badly, that it was a long time coming, etc...but I still do. It was a long time coming, she literally had one foot (or 2 feet) in the grave for the past 18 months or so. And I thought it would happen naturally. I wanted it to happen naturally. I'm that way about things of this nature, and I include birth in this category - you know - entrances and exits should happen naturally, without pitocin to bring on birth or whatever it is they inject to bring about death.

I know we picked the humane route - you know - intellectually I get that. But still. Why couldn't she have just passed peacefully in the night? For quite some time she'd had no control over her bowels, she couldn't hear at all (seemed to be completely deaf) and the cloudiness of her eyes indicated she couldn't see very well, either. Her back legs didn't always work - but her tail did - and she wagged it often, which I took to be an indicator that she was still enjoying life and enjoying being in our family.

She was basically the boys' dog - liked to hang with them and sleep with them and they adored her. When she could still hear, she was completely bilingual - as I swear she understood English. "Schnitzel!" I would say. "Where are the boys?" And you know what? She would take me right to them, little straight tail serving as a spotter flag for me to follow as she pounced off through the tall grass to lead me straight to where they would be hiding in the cattle pens, or behind the dam of the tank, or the tractor shed....they were always hiding.

Until the past few months, she never entered our home without being invited in - we joked she was like a vampire. But lately, she just barrelled on in, not being able to tell whether she'd been invited, or not.

She was viciously protective in the way that small dogs often are, and she would nose out a rat, mouse, or snake with lightening speed - and show it no mercy.

Yet, she was capable of incredible tenderness. When they were small, she would tediously pick sticker burs out of the boys' laces, with her teeth. She did this after observing them trying to pull the stickers out.

We're not sure how old she was, exactly. Before we moved to the farm, when we were still coming out on weekends and ripping out doors and painting walls and replacing windows...back when Joel had just turned 2 and Ellie 4...she showed up one afternoon while Jeff was sanding cabinet doors in the shed. He tried to chase her off - people were (and still are dammit) constantly dumping dogs out here. "Shoo!" he said. "Get on out of here, dog." She did, but being somewhat vindictive in nature, she grabbed Joel's sippy cup, first. Took off in a big hurry with it, too.

"Dog!" Jeff yelled. "Bring that %^@# thing back here!" She stopped in her tracks. She turned around and walked back with her little head hanging and dropped the cup obediently at Jeff's feet, sat down, and looked him in the eye. "Well now," he said. "That's a good girl." A few hours later, he was referring to her as "our dog." That was about 14 years ago.

The endless coughing started about 2 weeks ago, along with some major stumbling around, and then finally, some bleeding and vomiting. Sigh. How do you know when it's time? People say you just do, but the truth is, I'm still not sure I knew. I'm still not sure it was time.

Our vet came by the house (he's used to making house calls for cattle) and put her down pretty much in the same spot she's pictured in above. **I know this is an inappropriate time for me to point this out, but I feel it is necessary to let you know that we have ripped up that awful vinyl floor in the picture - it had come with the house and it stuck around for a horribly long time.

Anyway, back to Schnitzel. We were all with her. I'd like to say it was peaceful and lovely. But the truth is, it was kind of like every other death I've mom's, my brother's...painful and uncomfortable and not like in the movies. She cried and whimpered when he administered the sedative - she always hated shots. And after she was asleep he gave her the next injection, and she passed quickly. But I hate that she cried, I hate that she tried to get out of her bed, I hate that everyone knew what was up except for her. I hate that she couldn't hear our voices, and that she probably wasn't all that impressed by the fact that we did it in her own bed in her own house...not enough to forgive us, anyway.

Jasper cried for a solid 30 minutes afterwards. I had to give him cake (I'm that kind of mom), which he ate while crying, and then he finally calmed down in the bath.

I miss the sound of her nails scratching across the tile in what had become a familiar drunkenly gait. But I don't miss the poo and the vomit and the coughing. Some people say we should have done it, sooner. Before the pooing and the vomiting and the coughing became so bad. But I think the fear that I might have been doing it for my own convenience (I admit to being very tired of cleaning up the messes) kept me from doing so.

Anyway. Schnitzel was simply the best dog ever. I don't know what else to say. She is buried under the oak tree with the three swings hanging from it, next to Moonshine, the goat we loved for many years (he thought he was a dog) and Buddy the cat and various rodent-type animals.

The kids are a lot younger here. Moonshine used to do battle with the swings - head butting them as they "attacked" him. He would sleep on our front porch and those horns poking up, showing just through my front window, cut an imposing form, let me tell you.

Camille and Jasper made a lovely stepping stone to place on Schnitzel's grave.

OK - that was a total bummer of a beginning of a post. On to the other things that happened last week - because life is like that. Camille participated in an Intensive Dance Workshop all week - had an absolute blast. Here she is with her adorable jazz teacher.

And here is Ellie with her godfather and my best friend. He's from New Orleans...has the accent and the whole bit. I'll tell you how he came to be my best friend in some other post. Anyway - he held her when she was born, and he still babies the heck out of her now.

Ellie celebrated her birthday with a trip to the beach with friends...and then they decided to head to The Cove the next night. The Cove is a restaurant, bar, car wash, and laundromat. They serve all natural food that is locally grown. They have great bands and a good selection of beer. Jeff was in heaven at El's birthday celebration because the guy on the right? Represents Miller Beer and pushes a line of Belgian ale that Jeff loves. There were 3 beer guys there, and they adopted Jeff and he got free beer all night. Jeff was giddy. He had new friends and the new friends had free beer. It was a deep and meaningful relationship in the way that most one night stands are deep and meaningful relationships....Jeff woke up the next morning unable to remember their names - but he had a smile on his face. I hope the beer boys don't feel used because Jeff is really hoping for another hookup.

This is my foot under the table. Yes, I still take pics of my tattoo. I can stop anytime I want.

Here's El with her best friend, Juliana.

Here's Joel with Alyssa. Joel had refused, for several frames, to make a normal face for me to go along with the one sweet Alyssa was sporting. Finally, he got serious and smiled like a normal person and look what sweet Alyssa did? So, if you know Joel, you see the attraction.

This is Harlan - not mine, but somewhat of a Permanent Fixture.

Here's Jules. He's having a good time and this is actually his Happy Face. He had a good night, and didn't get into a gang fight like last time (it wasn't his fault - the 3rd grade girls picked on him first).

The band was a good group of kids - Ellen and the Degenerates. They were tight and even did a Fleet Foxes cover, which is hard to do...and they sounded great.

Ellie with her Auntie.

Jasper with an actual soda. He is protecting it....savoring it....and even enjoyed a refill. "It's all natural!!!" he screamed hysterically when I told him he couldn't have more. "It's all natural!!!" It is - no dyes and no high fructose corn syrup - but sugar is sugar and it is like smack to Jasper. He just can't handle it.

Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention to how many refills Jules had, and Joel says it was somewhere around 10 - and I'm totally not exaggerating when I say that Jules did not go to bed until 10:00 THE NEXT MORNING. I don't know if it is the Asperger's or just another way in which Jules is lucky - but he can't handle stimulants.

I'd like to say that this wasn't the second time in one week that I took my kids to a bar, but that would be a lie. The previous weekend, we hit the Riverwalk with The Godfatha, and ended up at Durdy Nellie's in the middle of the afternoon (which is why they let us bring the kids in). Durdy Nellie's is a tavern - a pub - an Irish bar with a piano guy who plays and sings badly and everyone joins in and it is all great fun. It was loud, there were peanuts on the floor, and I yelled at the kids, "What do you want to drink?" To which Joel replied, "bourbon" and jules replied "whiskey" and they both got sodas. Camille and Jasper, who recognized they were in a bar immediately, shouted "Shirley Temples!!" because Shirley Temples are special and they are how we get the kids to sit and be happy while we hang out in a bar in the middle of the afternoon. As for me? A margarita and a couple of shots of Patron. Oh, and did I mention that we also had my dad and Lee's mom? Who also partook of the spirits.

Durdy Nellie's is where Jeff took Lee on the night Ellie was born (to celebrate) so it seemed fitting that we all ended up back there 18 years, later. Kind of touching in a drunken sort of way. Ellie wasn't with us, she was with her friends somewhere else. We called her to tell her it was time to come home and we heard her say as she was hanging up, "Oh god, they're in some kind of bar..."
Here she is with Cody at the Cove the day after her 18th birthday. They're cute.

Here she is suffering while Jeff and Cody engage in some sort of boring technical conversation about boring technology.

Here is Juliana, leaning across the table to converse with my dad.

And this is officially The Cutest Couple Ever. We'll be hitting 25 years of marriage in January.

Here's my dad with Miss Joyce, Lee's mom from New Orleans. She was my mom's best friend from before I was born. Her husband, Paul, passed shortly after my mom. See that face? She has two. In addition to the one shown above, there is the one where she is hysterically laughing with tears streaming down her face while stomping both feet and slapping her hands on her knees. She goes from one to the other without warning, but you get used to it after awhile. We love her love her love her.

And here's Dad with Wendy-girl. Her husband couldn't come and he is KILLING HIMSELF over it because Jeff told him all about the free beer.

Here are the newlyweds, still slumming with the teens and the old people.

The Three Muskateers ride again!

Grayson (Wendy-girl's son), Ellie, and Cody.

This pic has nothing to do with El's birthday, just one I've been meaning to post. This is her quintet group. Or maybe that's redundant. Maybe I'm just supposed to say quintet. Don't you love that lime green dress on that sweet little redhead?

Now I've started with the random pics and I can't seem to stop. Here are our all natural turkeys. Woot! Yes, we will eat them.

Here is one of our all-natural cows. Yes, we will eat it. (Well, Ellie won't.)

This is our untrusty tractor.

And THIS is what was left of the hay bale after the firefighters put out the fire and broke up the remaining hay.

Which leads me to the firetruck story. Joel was mowing...see what a great job he was doing? And he decided to mow around the hay bales and he got the mower wedged up against one because he got too close and the mower backfired or something and the hay caught on fire. Joel tried to secretly put it out for awhile but then it went up in an inferno and he ran in screaming like a girl. See how green everything is? If the hay had caught on fire last summer....during the endless drought...we'd have simply lost everything, including our house. No doubt about that. But it wasn't and we didn't and it made a good story instead of a tragic one.

Finally, here's a haunting picture. Since you asked for it and all. Actually, I think it was somewhat of a tie between the haunting and the haybale fire, as far as requests for pictures. It was exciting...just like that time Al Gore beat George W in the was really really close...too close to call....something like 3 to I compromised.

Remember that scene in the Sixth Sense where she turns around and all the cabinet doors are open? Scary, right? Okay, well, that happens to me ALL THE TIME. See? See the pic? That means my house is haunted. It must be. The alternative is too frightening and chilling to consider, you know....that my kids could actually be That Lazy as to not even Freaking Close A Cabinet Door. Or, that maybe they're pod people. Or zombies. Or completely brainless. So I'm going with the haunted angle. Sorry, I know that was a letdown. (Actually - I DO have haunting stories....ghost stories and this house and my sister's house where an Actual Ghost has Actually Been Spotted by Actual People Who I Know.) Maybe I will talk about that next?
As of now, it is time for me to go jump back into my life, which has been carrying on quite happily without me for the past few minutes or so.
Signing Off as a Schnitzel-less Sardine Mama :(.