Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beginnings, Endings, and Fuzzy Middles

Here is the sunset behind our house last night...beautiful and luckily, quite common. It is probably caused by the pollution from the Calaveras Power Plant, but I'd rather not think about that.

Friends and Readers - I have a HUGE favor to ask. Actually, it is more of a challenge. Yes, that’s it! I’m challenging you. Somebody (anybody) please read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Then tell me what it means!

I am a huge fan of Murakami. He is kind of like a Japanese Dean Koontz, only way better (no offense to Koontz). BUT I am often left feeling dazed and confused after reading a Murakami story. And kind of stupid. I think I’ve understood a few of his books. But Kafka on the Shore is a complete mystery to me. A beautiful, intense, freakishly interesting mystery; but an unsolved mystery, nonetheless. I’m sure I’m exposing myself here, and someone is going to say, “Are you kidding? You didn’t understand that book?” At least I hope somebody says that! I am so preoccupied with this book that I am in the process of drawing a flowchart of the various scenes and events, trying to draw a connection between them. There MUST be a connection! I’m sure there is. I know there is. There is, right? I need it to make sense in a bad way.

Maybe reading Murakami books is a metaphor for life. It seems that I am often examining the somewhat disconnected strands of my life, trying to make sense of it all and tie the threads together. Could that be his point? Maybe that is one reason people like to read stories in the first place. At the end, there is an end. Everything is explained. Everything makes sense. In reality, does this really happen all that often?

So anyway, why would I loyally read an author I don’t understand? Well, first of all, he is simply a wonderful writer. Even with the manuscripts being translated from Japanese, a process that most certainly loses some of the subtle nuances of the stories (and he is all about small, slight little hints, nuances, metaphors, and symbolism), the writing is simply beautiful. Once I get to the point of ignoring the running dialogue in my head that has the characters talking in the short, clipped manner of the voice-over actors in the old Japanese movies (somewhere around chapter 6), I just melt into the stories. Most of Murakami’s stories are about consciousness – at least I think they are. Finally, I love reading Murakami for the sheer challenge. With every book I start I think, “Okay – this is the book I’m going to finish and be done with it! I’m going to close this book knowing what happened – what was real and what wasn’t. I’m not going to spend days trying to figure out what it all meant.”

In the beginning it certainly seemed that way with Kafka on the Shore. I truly felt I was turning a corner. Sure, a lot of weird stuff was happening (talking cats, UFO’s, a place sort of like heaven but not quite, and a disturbing Oedipal theme) but it just seemed as if it was all heading somewhere. I started each new chapter believing with all of my heart that it was going to explain the previous chapter, or at least parts of it. But as I crossed the halfway point and the pages on the right side of the book began dwindling down faster than my unending questions, it became apparent to me that the answers were going to be few or none. And I was right. The last page was simply the last page. I mean, it didn’t just “stop”. The quest had ended, journeys had been completed, bad entities had been destroyed…so it was time to end the story. But none of it had been explained for the slower members (including myself) of the reading audience who needed it all tied neatly together with a little bow on top. Sigh. I might have to write my own final chapter, just so I can get some sleep at night. So seriously, read the book and then we’ll all decide what the heck happened!

So let’s see…onto bigger and less satisfying mysteries known as the day to day humdrum of my life. We still have a couple of more weeks before everything starts back up again. This was technically the first week of school for the kids in our area. We celebrated this by going to the pool and having it all to ourselves.

A few years ago Jules reached a milestone by being the first of my children to “not” start pre-school (both Ellie and Joel suffered through this particular and somewhat useless custom). I was very aware on that morning that he was not starting pre-school, which by its very definition does NOT mean “school” but “before” school (hence my confusion over treating it as if it were real school). I rose early and instead of waking Jules and packing him off with his little backpack, I tiptoed into his room and snapped a picture of him dreaming soundly with Little Green Bear. I imagined his many 4-year-old counterparts who were already nervously assembled in Cirlce Time, having crossed over and broken an invisible barrier that probably only a few of them were ready to cross. I tip-toed back out of his room, wanting him to sleep and dream as long as he needed. That is still my goal in homeschooling today - giving my children all the time they need to dream...

How was it that with Ellie and Joel I was so willing to believe that I, who had up until that moment, taught them everything they needed to know, was suddenly ill-prepared to continue singing, reading, playing, and learning with them? Suddenly, that torch had been handed to someone who didn’t know my children at all, because that was the way things were supposed to be, even though that is definitely not the way things had always been.

On Monday, Jules and Little Green Bear celebrated “not” starting the fifth grade, by dreaming soundly until 10:00 am, at which point they jumped out of bed to spend time with the chickens before scrambling eggs and making a general mess in the kitchen, and then climbing back into bed to spend the rest of the day reading.

Monday would have been Jasper’s first day of pre-school. We celebrated by not noticing it at all. Nice. So, much like Murakami’s characters, we have ended up in a very different place from where we began. And not entirely sure how we got there.

Sardine Mama

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Doing reps reps reps reps reps reps reps reps

I have turned into a once-a-week blogger! Although technically it is still Thursday, so I am one day short of a week since the last post. It has been another really busy week. And it isn't over, yet. Tomorrow is a full day, as well.

Tonight my friend brought her kids over for pizza, as her husband is also out of town. Plus my boys had a friend over, already. So we had a mere 14 children here. Here is a picture of all of these homeschooled kids. I'd like to say it proves that they are socialized, but looking at it, they don't really appear to be. At least half of them also appear to be uncivilized. But the neat thing about homeschooled kids is, they don't know it! So it all works out.

This is what the little kids' room looked like when it was all over. The rest of the house actually managed to stay intact.

We did, at one time, have boys jumping off the roof, boys shooting a bb gun at the cows, little kids rolling each other around in over sized buckets...and a good game of princess dress-up going, too. This was all topped of by a clogged toilet, of course. When my friend left, God love her, she took Jules with her. But she left one of hers here so I'm not sure if I'm ahead, or not. Currently, all is quiet.

I have spent the week collecting more items for our Darfurian families. To learn more about the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan, go to
Anyway, the children of the two families are starting school on Monday. We have them all set with clothes and school supplies. This is completely overwhelming to them because they come from a culture where very few possessions are the norm. And now they have all this "stuff" to keep up with. Talk about a culture shock. We are hoping that one of the families will come out for a visit on Saturday. There are also five kids in that family. But after the pizza party we had tonight - it will be a piece of cake!

Tomorrow I have to take Joel and Jules to our Odyssey party and then tomorrow night I pick Jeff up at the airport! Yay! He needs to come home. We have a burned out fluorescent bulb in the kitchen, a plugged up toilet, a lawn that needs mowing, and a crashed computer. We are really rolling out the welcome wagon!

I have been exercising for 3 WHOLE DAYS. Yes, that is right. I am in the zone. Again. I was in the zone for exactly 5 days the last time, so I'm hoping to break that record. I am doing "Slim in Six" and it is totally kicking my rear.

I probably should have started with the second DVD instead of the third. But I honestly find the second one harder. She moves a lot slower on the second one, hoping people can keep up and learn the steps. But simple physics come into play here and contribute to my finding the third, faster-paced DVD to be the easier choice. When lifting an overweight leg up repeatedly, it is easier to do it quickly than it is to do it slowly. Truly, I need momentum when we're talking about my thighs. The problem is the number of reps. She's doing a few too many for me. And today I counted her reps and confirmed something I have always suspected. The girl is losing count, by God! 24 lifts on the right and like 36 on the left! I was all sweaty and puffing like a woman in labor and looking like I could die at any moment and I was screaming, "Aha! I knew it! I knew she was losing count!" I am not insane! The left leg is being lifted like a zillion times more than the right while she runs her mouth about how empowered I'm going to feel when this is all over! I'm just thinking the whole time, "Shut up and count expletive!" How empowering to realize it wasn't merely a fatigue-induced delusion that the left leg was taking longer than the right.

The girl who leads the video is all long and lean and tight, you know? And in my mind I look like that, too. I picture myself becoming all firm and defined...then I get a glimpse of my reflection in the television and I realize that if I put on much muscle I am going to look like one of the male gymnasts in the Olympics. I am too short and compact to ever look long and lean. I tell myself I don't want to get too buff and look like a garden gnome on steroids so then I feel better about skipping reps. Because, you know, it is a distinct possibility that I will just become too powerful and muscular if I do too many reps.

To prevent myself from becoming unattractively buff, I did take a small nap today during the stomach crunches. What can I say? I was lying down. It happens.

As a matter of fact, I'm thinking about going to my bedroom, moving two little people out of my spot, and getting horizontal...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sardine Mama

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flown the Coop

Oh man, what a busy week! I can't believe it is already Friday. Even though I was incredibly busy every day, I never actually got around to doing any of the things I had planned on doing. I almost exercised yesterday, though! To encourage me, a friend was going to come over and do it with me. But she called and said she couldn't come, which made me so sad that I sat down and ate a bunch of chips (ok - sad isn't the right word - relieved, maybe?) but then she called back (just as i was licking my fingers) to say she was coming! Who can exercise after a bag of chips? We had a lovely visit, anyway. Maybe next time we will progress to actually watching the exercise of my friends has been watching her Turbo Jam video for years. She puts on her little exercise clothes, gets her bottle of water, and tells her daughter not to bother her while she works out. Then she watches the video. She says she's trying to learn the steps.

I also have the Turbo Jam video but Camille laughs at me while I do it. This is not good for my self-esteem. And Joel walked in on me once and made some comment about being scarred for I'm back to Slim in Six.

Last year at this time I was about 27 pounds lighter. I felt great! I truly need to do it, again. But I just can't get back in the zone. I love the Slim in Six series. Well, actually I hate Slim in Six. But I like the results. You've all seen the Slim in Six infomercial. It looks like more fun than it is, believe me. Yes, I watch infomercials. I also have a juicer, a hair flat iron, and a kickboxing video. Luckily I don't have cable or satellite or any of the things that would bring the Home Shopping Network into my house. Actually, the info-shopping only occurs when I have a newborn. Those are the times I sit on the couch at night watching television (and nursing). Every television purchase can be traced back to a nursing session with one of the kids.

Anyway, Slim in Six works really well. It is just a great routine for both cardio and strength-building. But it is HARD and now I am out of shape and dreading starting up again. Give me some encouraging comments! Like NOW.

Ellie had a great birthday on Tuesday. We took her out for Indian food and then back for cake and THE GIFT. Ranger had previously eaten her iPod and so she was given a new one. At her party, all of her friends had given her iTunes cards so I think she knew something was up. She is looking forward to getting back into some sort of a routine around here. She likes structure. She will be taking two online college courses that begin next week, I believe. She is very upset because she just read that one of her courses will NOT be having a final exam. She's like, "I love final exams!" Poor Ellie. Born to an unschooling mother instead of the headmistress she's longing for...

Before he went out of town Jeff and the boys had a lot of work to do here on the farm/ranch. Are we a farm or a ranch? We raise cattle, but nobody grows any crops, anymore. Jeff says that makes us a ranch, but we have always called it a farm. I digress...again...we have a sick calf that Jeff and Joel are trying to nurse back to health. She just has a bad mama. We all know the kind. She takes off running all over the place and the little thing can't keep up with her. She rarely lets her nurse so now the calf is weak and the mama doesn't have enough milk. Jeff came in and said, "The calf isn't latching on very well - I think she's too weak to suckle effectively." I didn't know whether to call the vet or La Leche League. Anyway, she seems to be doing better after some bottle-feeding, which hasn't caused the dreaded nipple-confusion. We're locking her up with her hard-partying mama at night, and letting the mama graze during the day. We'll see what happens.

We also finished the chicken coop! The chicks were flying all over my patio so obviously didn't need the brooder, anymore.

Look! It is attracting chickens already!

The boys worked into the night - had to rig up a light. Here is the boys' friend, Harlan. We made him earn his keep.

And Joel finishes up the job...

Jasper is frighteningly excited, as usual.

Moving Day!

Peeking in at the little peepers. They are quite cozy in there.

So keep your fingers crossed! Something happened to our last flock. At first we thought it had been the chuppapollo, but everyone knows that he usually just sucks the blood out and leaves the bodies. There wasn't a feather left so the next logical conclusion was, of course, alien abduction. Hence the brand new alien-proof coop. Our unfortunate last flock was in a pen with a lean-to with nests. Now we are locking them up at night. Of course, if the aliens use their transport beams I'm not sure the coop will be secure enough. I guess we will find out. Haven't had a crop circle in awhile so maybe they have moved on...
Sardine Mama

Monday, August 11, 2008

My End of Summer

I am feeling quite restless. Summer is coming to an end. And even though I am 43 and am not going to be starting school in a couple of weeks, nor are any of my children, I still have that same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I always had as a child, when summer's end was nearing. What is it that is causing this empty, gurgling feeling? Well, when I was a kid my mom would have chalked it up to a fear of the unknown. And that was certainly true, when I was a child. While my friends could hardly wait to wear their new clothes and show off their new lunch boxes - my mind would race with worry over ever minor detail...where would I be dropped off? where would I sit? where was my class? Yuck!

But why am I feeling so restless now? What am I afraid of? Of course, when I was a kid, once it all started (school), I was fine. And then my favorite season would slowly emerge from the anxiety. Fall would change the unknown from something frightening into something exciting - I don't know why. Fall just always seemed so full of endless possibilities, awakenings, stirrings... anticipation of good things to come.

Fall is still my favorite season. As soon as the first breeze kicks in and the leaves start falling I get all of those feelings rushing in. I want to start cooking, making things, reading things, going places and having fun. Yet I cling to summer. And I have the empty, grumbling stomach thing going - trimmed with anxiety and uncertainty. But why?

I think I have figured it out. Any minute my end of summer will emerge from her bedroom. She is still sleeping, after a busy and exhausting weekend that included a birthday party full of teenagers.

Ellie is my end of summer.

Tomorrow she turns 16.

All of these changes are coming. The carefree summer that seemed so endless at its beginning, is coming to an end. It has slipped through my fingers. I would like to go back to the beginning of summer and do all of the things I had planned on doing, but didn't get around to. I'd like to go and re-live the bad days, and make them happy. I know I wouldn't waste a minute if I could only do it all again. But of course, I can't. And the season is petering out, slipping away from me....childhood summer slinking into the past.

The end of summer feels like a loss. Something new will take its place - but I'm not sure what it will be like. Where will I go? What will I do? Who will I be, when summer is over?

Ellie does not share my melancholy mood. If she is mourning her disappearing childhood, I see no signs. She is looking forward to everything coming up. She doesn't have new clothes or a lunchbox - but she has herself and all of her endless possibilities. She's looking forward to every day. And I am grateful for that, but also filled with anxiety over every little unknown thing.

So I'll just keep holding on tight to summer, while trusting that when fall comes, the anxiety will disappear. It will be replaced by the thrill of endless possibilities.

Tomorrow she turns 16...

Sardine Mama

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sardine School spotted at Aquarium

The book reviews were so much fun! I am awaiting a box from Amazon as we speak. I ordered a few books based on the comments posted. I normally get books at the library but here lately, I have been having a rather lazy summer. I am only venturing out when it is absolutely necessary. If my sole reason for leaving the farm is to drive to the library I'd just rather not do it. I have the Prime Shipping with Amazon (which means it is free after a yearly subscription fee) and the books usually come the next day. Patience is not a virtue of mine. Nor is moderation. Or delayed gratification.... But I did practice some restraint just today! I was online to purchase Tom Petty tickets. The only seats left, of course (did I mention procrastination as being among my many lovely traits?), were really bad. I was going to get them anyway and the whole shooting match was going to cost over $200. But then I decided not to do it. Yay for me! I think. I'll probably end up wishing I had bought them. In fact, I sort of already am :(.

We impulsively (did I mention impulsive behavior earlier?) accompanied Jeff to Corpus Christi on Monday. We had seen so little of him over the past 3 weeks and he only had to be gone for one night so we just packed up and went with him! He had to work, of course, but we did at least get to eat dinner with him and enjoy the ride up and back in the car. Did I say "enjoy the ride up and back in the car?" Out loud? Here is a short video of what that was like. The deal with the boys is typical and not very interesting - but what was funny to me was watching Ellie during it all. Check her out. Hilarious. She was actually way funnier before I started taping. Once I started taping she looked more amused and less miserable. Initially, she just looked miserable. Jules is taking a pounding but it looks worse than it is. He is laughing. This is standard fare for the boys, I'm afraid. So much for peaceful sibling relationships.

Bless his heart, here he is trying to watch TV in the room while Jasper attacks him.

We enjoyed the aquarium. We have a family membership just for occasions like this - where we can come spend the day there while Jeff works. We try not to visit during summer; preferring the times when school is in session and the crowds are minimal. During those times the kids get lots of attention from the staff and volunteers, and they have a clear shot of everything they want to see and for as long as they want. So this was a bit more frustrating, but we had a great time, nonetheless.

Here is Camille posing outside of the aquarium. "Oooh, Mommy! Get a picture of me smelling the pretty flower!"

Jules is a sea turtle fanatic so we wanted to check out the new turtle habitat, which is much improved if you are a turtle. Definitely bigger - not necessarily easier to see, though. But we vote for the comfort of the turtles over the gawkers.

He does seem to have a somewhat mystical connection. His favorite turtle (can't remember his name) spent several minutes just staring at him. They just sat quite happily, the two of them, enjoying each other's company. Jules' dream is to participate in the egg hatchings where volunteers try to help the hatchlings make it to the ocean - maybe this year will be the year.

We also visited our favorite menacing shark, and of course communed with the dolphins, who I feel horribly sorry for. I do not think dolphins should be trained or kept in captivity. Needless to say, our family doesn't do Sea World. I don't judge people who enjoy it, but we just cannot enjoy the commercialism and profit at these poor animals' expense. People love to watch these intelligent creatures exhibit trained behavior for some reason. On our last trip to the aquarium, we were walking with a throng of people to the dolphin exhibit area. You have to walk by the open bay to get to the exhibit. Out in the bay, just in front of us, jumped two wild dolphins. They were spectacular! (and free) Anyway, I start yelling like an idiot, "Look! Real dolphins! Real dolphins!" and pointing out into the bay. OK - so the word "wild" was escaping me at the moment. But would you believe that nobody looked? Not one person! They just shoved on past me so they could see the trained dolphins jump on cue and retrieve little hoops. I often think we must be the only creatures on earth who believe our own natural habitat is something to be watched on the Nature Channel, rather than experienced as part of our own survival.

Our chicks are getting big bird feathers and losing their down. They are now flying out of the brooder and it is time to move them to the coop. I took this picture yesterday and I swear they are much bigger today!

Tomorrow is Ellie's birthday party. She will be 16 on Tuesday! As an added birthday gift - all of her sibs are off to spend the night with Jules' godparents - a big treat for them but a bigger treat for Ellie. So she can enjoy her time with her friends without the little ones ambushing them. She's expecting about 10 friends to help her celebrate. Her cake says, "So...Do you grow flowers?" There is a story behind that and I will share it tomorrow. I shouldn't be blogging, I should be working. Oh! And I will also blog about unschooling. Practicing the philosophy is getting quite interesting, lately.

Sardine Mama

Friday, August 1, 2008

Books (and Week) in Review!

Let me hear what you've been reading! I've been reading a lot, lately. In fact, this is what our coffee table looked like (no kidding) until last weekend when I cleaned it off for company. Jeff and I are opposites in that he prefers to read no-nonsense non-fiction stuff, and I am usually found with my nose in a great novel. But lately, I've been reading quite a bit of non-fiction.

The arrival of our new chicks finds me consulting a book on raising chickens.

And I'm still crawling through Steve Solomon's "Gardening when it counts..Growing Food in Hard Times". It is more than your average gardening book and is being read by many who are in the "life as we know it is about to come to an end" club. I must admit that although I am by no means a full-fledged member of that club, I do think that we have turned a corner and our lives on the planet are about to change dramatically.

I'm also reading "Writer Mama..How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids." It is taking me forever to get through this book because I have five kids and a writing career :). If I had thought of it, I'd have written the book, myself.

And I'm reading "Messages from Spirit, the Extraordinary Power of Oracles, Omens, and Signs". Yes, it is psychic mumbo jumbo and I love it! Very uplifting read.

As for my fiction book, I have currently put down "Drowning Ruth". I just couldn't get into the characters enough to care what happens to them. Plus, I think I have figured it all out, anyway. I think Ruth's mother tried to drown her, not her aunt. Am I right? Let me hear from someone who has read it.

My other fiction book I'm reading is my second time around. Ellie started reading Haruki Murakami's "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World." I began flipping through it and the first thing I knew, I was reading it word for word. Again. People in the U.S. either love or hate Murakami, although the average American probably thinks he is something you find on a sushi bar. He is stranger than Stephen King. He is the most popular author in Japan, but apparently things get lost in translation into English, or Americans just aren't used to such bizarre plots that are never fully explained. We like all the answers and when you get to the end of a Murakami book you're like, "Huh? What was up with that?" But the private thoughts and expressions of his characters just suck you in. You just automatically like them. His observations on human nature are priceless. Pick up a Murakami book if you've never read him. He has a book of short stories called, "The Elephant Vanishes". That would be a good place to start. Ellie, so far, is thrilled with Murakami. "He's just so weird!" she says. That is the highest compliment Ellie can bestow on a person. She is going to add him to her list of 100 favorite people along with Bob Dylan, Mother Teresa, and Barack Obama :). There are, of course, many more people on her list, I just can't happen to think of any at this hour. Those three stand out because there are pictures of them on her door.

Finally, I just finished John Gatto's, "Dumbing Us Down". I can't believe that as an unschooler, I've never read this, before. But I haven't. He paints a very bleak picture of institutionalized schooling that I relate to, but don't totally buy into. For all its faults, there are still some pretty amazing kids coming out of our schools, and lots of kids who are amazingly well-rounded and grounded. I do think that it is often in spite of what schools do, not because of them. But I think you could also say the same thing about many homeschooled kids.

As an unschooling family, we are making several adjustments in the way we do things as the kids get older. Ellie is doing a lot of "school" right now. She is preparing for college entry, and the college she wants to attend has really high standards for entrance. So she is finishing up geometry through a math program called, "Teaching Textbooks" which I LOVE. And she's reading American history, practicing writing for the essay portion of the SAT (she's taking the PSAT in the fall), and doing an honors chemistry class in co-op, as well as, Spanish. So she is practically a school kid! The neat part is that she is truly doing it on her own. I have very little to do with it. Add to that her piano practice and she has a pretty full schedule. In the fall she will take two courses through community college, US History and Freshman Composition.

Joel has tried to do some structured learning this year, but his heart hasn't been in it. He's tried a few things and quickly abandoned them. He is concerned about coming up to grade level in math - but not really putting the effort in. He also does "Teaching Textbooks" but is just about half way through the 7th grade year. But he is really maturing and growing a lot right now; taking on many new responsibilities in the household and on the farm - and actually learning a lot through the computer games he plays. And he has read more this year than anytime before, and has read some very high-quality books. He's also become interested again in his art, and he is a talented manga artist and cartoonist, although when I take the time to read the cartoons he posts on his door, I usually have to tell him to take them down due to the bathroom humor content.

Jules tried his hand at math and writing and quickly grew bored. But he gets it out now and again. Like Joel, he has read a ton this year. Overall, this has been the happiest year I can remember for him. He has just genuinely been a really happy kid, and in the past he has mostly been high-strung and somewhat difficult.

So, lots going on with the 3 big kids! The two little ones are busy doing the hard work of children; exploring their world and their relationships within it through play. Without my interference Jasper has learned to count in English and Spanish, knows his alphabet, and is starting to take an interest in writing letters.

Camille is learning to read in spite of my attempts to help her. I have quit trying to help her and she has made great strides. She writes sentences constantly, saying, "And what comes next?" as together we painfully spell out sentences letter by letter, with Camille being totally unconcerned with the length and complexity of the sentences. It is pretty mind-numbing work for me, however.
I think maybe my next post will be about the philosophy behind unschooling and how it works? Anybody want to hear about that?

Now let's get to day-to-day technicalities. I haven't posted much this week because I was trudging through another week without Jeff, and doing it while working on three writing assignments for the advertising firm. I actually had to get dressed up and go into the city for meetings. The kids were like, "You're going to WORK?" Oh man, but I couldn't do it everyday.
Today I got the three big kids off to a small weekend spiritual retreat. It is very unstructured and in a lovely setting. I do have some concerns, though. For one thing, the children were told to bring a song, poem, or quote to share. Joel and Jules chose two songs they know. Jules will proudly perform, "Stick a Banana in Your Ear". Joel has chosen "The Fish Stick Song." I must admit that these two pieces probably do a pretty accurate job of representing where the boys are in their spiritual journeys. Joel, who has yet to memorize multiplication facts, had no trouble memorizing something like 23 rap stanzas to the Fish Stick Song. He came out earlier today to seek my opinion on a certain passage in the song.

"Mom. I think there might be something inappropriate in the Fish Stick Song."
"Sing it for me, " I said.

Joel sings, "Girls with big boobs, come sit on my lap." Then he looks earnestly at me, awaiting my opinion on the matter. After picking myself up off of the floor, I expressed to him that a good many campers and all of the adults at the retreat would consider it both inappropriate and offensive.

"Hmmm," he said. "I'll have to switch some words around."

At this point Ellie looked at me and informed me that Joel will probably now sing, "Girls with big laps come sit on my boobs." Unfortunately, she might be right. This could very well be the first and last time the boys are invited to attend the Celebration Circle Children's Retreat. We have never been evicted from a retreat, before. Other events, sure. But a retreat would be a first.

Ellie is prepared to quote Thoreau, of course. She said she plans to spend her time sketching, hiking, reading, working on the Darfur project, and enthusiastically refusing to participate in group activities. That's my girl. She turns 16 in just a few days. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT.
Tomorrow I will post pics of the chicks. They are looking more and more like chickens every day!
I want to see a ton of comments about what you've all be reading and what you think about it. I don't care who you are or what you consider a good read. If you're reading cereal boxes, which ones? Can I get at least 10 or 15 of you to respond? What's on your nightstands and coffee tables?