Sunday, January 31, 2010

That's Entertainment

They say there's nothing good on TV, anymore. But LOST comes back on this Tuesday. I can't wait!! I'm a Sawyer-Girl. I'm not necessarily proud of it - of my being a beefcake fan and all - but there you have it. So I'm looking forward to Tuesday.

In the meantime, I have found other things on television to entertain me. Like the Republican Gubernatorial Debates, for example. True - I am voting for the Palestinian Flat-Iron Chi Guy - but I'm not an idiot and I know we'll end up with a Republican governor. So I'm rooting for one of them, too. Those of you who know (and love) me have already probably figured out which one. My Conservative friends are muttering under their breaths, "You know she's rooting for that one..." and my Liberal friends are going, "You know she's rooting for that one..." while calling me Benedict Arnold behind my back. Oh well. I have actually read that Benedict Arnold is terribly misunderstood.

I'm only poking fun, here. I don't have to take this too seriously, because as I indicated, my vote doesn't count. I realize that a whole lot of folks are taking this quite seriously and maybe don't think it is so funny - 'cause their votes count and all and they're actually having to consider who is the least of the 3 evils. I'm personally relieved of that responsibility during governor races in Texas. So that frees me up to poke fun.

There is something I adore about all 3 Republican candidates. I love Debra Medina because she is for secession (she now says she isn't officially "for" secession - that her secession comments about a bloody civil war were taken out of context). Anyhoo - like I was sayin' - she is for secession and I personally think secession would be kind of cool. I am all for it, in theory. Also? She called Rick Perry a twitchy, jumpy frat boy. And that was when she really stole my heart. We might not be agreein' on our politics but dangit, she and I could have drinks together and talk about twitchy, jumpy frat boys. And Good Old Boys. She and I are also for the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals. The difference is that I think gay people are individuals and she thinks they're Satan's spawn. In fact, she stated that her beliefs on the gay marriage issue are the result of her religious convictions (she says she is a Born Again Christian). Now doesn't that mean she is applying her religious beliefs to civil liberties issues? Whatever. I adore her -mostly because she just hates the other two (Perry and Hutchison) so dang much.

Which brings me to Rick Perry. I have a thing for twitchy, jumpy frat boys. He's freaking adorable in a "You Old Stinker" way. He has a little George Dubya Bushiness about him - and I will be the first one to say George and I could keep each other rolling on the ground holding our bellies at Happy Hour. Seriously. We'd be good friends if we ever met. That adorable crooked little grin and all. Old Rick does the same little, "Who, me?" look when he's been caught doing something like.....I don't know.....issuing an honest-to-god Executive Order saying that all our Texas daughters have to get vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus. This seemed like a good enough idea. But then it came out that Merck (the company manufacturing the vaccine) has a lobbyist named Michael Toomey, who also happens to have been Perry's former Chief of Staff. There's more on this involving mothers-in-law and Women in Government, but I don't want to bore you with it. My point is, when all this came out, Perry just grinned that adorable Awww Shucks grin and everybody kinda went, "That's okay. Just don't do it again, alright Skipper?"

There are more things I like about Rick Perry. I like the way he wears his little gimme caps in an effort to be one of the ordinary folks. They look good on him. I like him in a cowboy hat, too. I adore the way he brings up the words Lord, God, Jesus, and Pro-Life in strange, disconnected and random ways during regular old conversations about he has Tourette's Syndrome. It is endearing. During the debate, he was asked if he would serve out all 4 years if elected (there have been rumors of higher aspirations than Governor of the Lone Star State) and he replied that he had no idea what God had in store for him. His blessed life is in God's hands. Was the freaking reporter questioning God's judgement? Can you believe that the reporter questioned God's judgement? I sure can't. A choir of angels started singing and a beam of light shone upon Perry's head at that very moment and he was like, "Pro-Life, Baby!!" It was spectacular. I had tears in my eyes.

And finally - we arrive at my Protagonist of this story - Kay Bailey Hutchison. I like her because she is so naive. Even after all those years in Washington! She continues to think that if she just answers the questions in the debate, without praising Jesus and all, she will make sense and people will vote for her. See how disconnected she is from her own home state? Kay - Girlfriend - YOU CANNOT WIN WITHOUT THE HELP OF JESUS. Not here. You and I need to talk. Also? When you try to make Perry look bad by mentioning his cronyism? And he winks into the camera? He wins. As long as Perry is giving favors to friends, people will continue to vote for him in the hopes of becoming his friends. Also? When you talked figures and numbers and dollars? It bored us. Our eyes glazed over. It was more exciting when Medina name-called and Perry prayed out loud. THAT was entertainment. You need to liven it up a little bit. And? We cringed just a little (and audiences do not like to cringe) when you were shown in a video supporting Roe v Wade all those years ago.....and then you made that face after? The one that said, "Holy Cow I'm f*cked"? It made us double-cringe. Work on that. In the meantime, if I weren't a Liberal Democrat voting for the Palestinian? I would totally vote for you. Even if you are a "Washington Insider" who comes from the place where the Bad Black Man lives. I think you're actually pretty smart. I hope that makes you feel better. When you lose.

Well, that's my pathetic political commentary. For now anyway. I'll have more to say when the Democrats get to debate each other. That will be all flat-out crazy and everything. Did I say flat? As in flat iron? Because Farouk Shami, inventor of my flat iron, is seeking the Democratic nomination. Have you seen my hair? Yes? Then you understand my devotion to Shami. I'll let y'all know how he does in the debate. Even though it is going to hurt.

Signing off as the Sardine Mama, Commintin' on the Politikin'

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Embracing Imperfection in the "Good Enough" Club

It all started out with the "Let me drive everywhere! EVERYWHERE!!" and quickly turned into the, "Gas is too expensive. YOU drive." Such is life with a 17-year-old owner of a '94 teal green Cadillac De Ville. Yes, she drives an old-person car. She has a love/hate relationship with it. As her mother, I love it because it is safe. Sigh. I remember my own love/hate relationship with my Chevy Blazer my dad bought as a tank. Anyway, the biggest hazard she faces in her car is being mistaken for a Missing Elderly.

She bought the car with her own hard-earned money with the intention of finally losing the tag-along parents. We live basically in the middle of nowhere so whenever I drive the kids someplace, I tend to stay until they're ready to leave. I know. Wicked.

So did I say hard-earned money? She teaches piano lessons and babysits. And then she doesn't want to part with the money for things like....gas. So I'm back in the driver's seat.

Such was the case last Saturday when my teens wanted to go to The Cove to hear a friend participate in NESA's Battle of the Bands. I was happy to take this gig because I love The Cove and I love the friend and the friend's parents. Off we went. Oh, and I was coming down off of a 2-week solo parenting stint while my husband was out of town - so the idea of getting out with my husband and our oldest kids sounded like F-U-N.

After dropping off the two little'uns at their aunt's (without looking back) we headed to The Cove. Ahhhhh.....with real music playing in the car! REAL music. Not Raffi or the Alphabet Singers. OK - well, before someone outs me on this let me just say that I don't really listen to Raffi or the Alphabet Singers in the car, anymore. I did that with the first 3. With the last two it is more like we try to avoid songs with blatant profanity (the F-Bomb). I know! Horrible! When I think about how my current self would look to my former self - let's just say that my former self would judge my current self to be massively lame in the Mothering-Of-Little'uns department. Because I was HARD CORE with the first 2 and Medium Core with the middle one and more soft core with the last two. I've now descended into the endurance phase of the race, having totally expended insane amounts of energy during the sprinting (Barney/Sesame St/Finger painting/Playgroup) phase.

While I'm thinking of my former self - I feel the need to share a particular memory I often re-visit. Many moons ago - when I was still sprinting - I founded a local MOMS Club chapter. One sunny day we were at the park and I was trying to entice a prospective member I'd met. She was there with her toddler. Through the course of conversation, I learned she also had two older kids. Whatever. I was still sprinting. Anyway, we were talking about television shows and I mentioned (rather enthusiastically) how we didn't allow our kids to watch television because it was just filthy, nasty, horrible smut....or something like that. And the woman just gave me a glance that indicated she was done sprinting and she said (under her breath but I heard her), "I didn't know this was the Good MOMS Club....I need the Bad MOMS Club."

OK - we are still weird about the TV business compared to most people (at least with the little'uns). But not nearly as weird as we used to be. And I certainly don't B-R-A-G about it (anymore). I have since seen this woman now and again and I always want to say somehow that I am now also in the Bad MOMS Club....but I don't ever know how to bring it up. Besides, she won't make eye contact with me.

Anyway, so with Guns n Roses blaring (Joel's IPod got plugged in first) we headed off on our fun night out. We had a GREAT time hanging with some good friends and listening to some teenagers wail on guitars and stuff. And then? Self-doubt intruded into my fantastic night! Rude. And what is it with the self-doubting, lately? It is getting boring, believe me. Anyway, so I was sitting there sipping my wine and visiting with my friends. I looked around the room and realized that most of it was packed with teenagers from ISA and NESA. They were all having a great time. And then I noticed that MY kid was sitting at the table with the grown-ups, chatting away. And her brother was standing in a corner of the room holding his soda. Alone. And suddenly I was like, "Oh my God. We've made a huge mistake with this homeschooling thing! HUGE. My kids have no friends!! Oh Holy Crap they're unsocialized!! What was I thinking? They are RUINED."

I said to Ellie, "Don't you want to go sit with your friends?" (She knew a ton of the kids there). Her response? Was. "Do you want me to?"

Ugh. "Yes! Go away and stop being weird!"


And so she did. She wandered off and hung out happily with hordes of teenagers.

Now then. If the truth be told, when Ellie was in school (thru 3rd grade) she typically hung out with the teachers. At lunch she would happily sit at the picnic table chatting with her teacher watching "the kids" play. And that was BEFORE she was homeschooled.

But I wasn't thinking about that at the time. I wandered over to Joel and said, "Are you having a good time?"

He looked like he was having a good time. He had a grin on his face and was watching the band. Unlike his sister, he didn't really know many of the kids there, so he was just kind of hanging out.

"I'm having a good time," he said.

"Really?" I said. "Are you sure? You're just standing here alone."

He just looked at me like I was weird. Unlike me, he'd never been indoctrinated into the You Can't Have A Good Time By Yourself Club.

Hmmmm.....I went back to my friends. 'Cause I really can't have a good time by myself. And our little friend, Sarah, won second place as the only acoustic solo act.....she is an awesome singer/songwriter. I enjoyed some wine but, no matter what anybody says, I wasn't drunk. I was just HAPPY. Really. To be out, and all. After 2 weeks of the solo-parenting.

I have a favorite song among Sarah's repertoire, and she didn't sing it in her set. So she sang it to me in the parking lot, later. 'Cause she is cool that way.

And here is actual evidence of Ellie's ability to socialize. She's on the far right.

And here I am socializing - and I am really NOT DRUNK. (By the way - I'm the short, chubby drunk one on the left.)

And here is Joel, having a good time. This picture wasn't taken at The Cove. But it is, in fact, a picture of him having a good time somewhere else. And this is pretty much how he usually looks.

So when the night was over, I was still having the minor doubts. As we got back in our van, Joel commented that he had had a really good time (alone) and Ellie commented that it had been really fun (and she would have felt that way even if she had stayed at the grown-up table). And Jules, who I hadn't really seen much of throughout the evening, began to tell of his escapades on the playground where he had been ganged up on by some little girls who had called him names and flipped him off. WHAT???

This made his brother laugh hysterically. 'Cause he is supportive that way. And then Jules began laughing hysterically. And that was good. That was better than what I had intended to do, which was to talk about it until it took on Enormous Significance and Monumental Importance.

So - thank you Universe, for working in Mysterious Ways. Because as we drove home I was reminded of how really and truly well-rounded and happy my kids are. I was happy that Jules was able to laugh it off because he hasn't endured a lifetime of teasing at the hands of classmates. This group of girls very quickly honed in on the fact that my little Asperger's kid is "different". He was called names and made fun of and he truly didn't see it as a reflection of himself - but rather - he saw it as the girls just being mean. He said he mostly avoided them and continued playing. So, if this kid were in school with his issues, I wonder if it would be the same? Or, would he have internalized the cruelty?

And, if he had been in school....would Joel have been perfectly content and happy to stand inside a room of people he didn't know....enjoying the music and not worrying at all about what others were thinking of him? I haven't made the "perfect" decision in regards to the way I'm raising my kids. But there is no perfect decision. And I do think that I made the best decision for the particular kids I'm raising. Hopefully, my self-doubts will be put to rest, at least for a little while.

Signing off as Sardine Mama - Proud Member of the "Good Enough" Mommy Club.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It Was a Nightmare

So last night I had a nightmare. I'll share that in a moment. First, thanks to everyone who responded (via comments and e-mail) about my homeschooling blahs. You all definitely straightened me out and put me back on the right track! Yesterday, Ellie was curled up reading Homer's Iliad, Joel was reading a non-fiction book called Captured, Jules was collecting earthworms in a jar with help from 2 small assistants and all was right with the Sardine School. I don't doubt that other people who homeschool with more structure or rigor end up with educated kids - but I don't doubt that I will (and have), too.

NOW. Onto the Nightmare.

Oh, wait. First, let me address the man from New Braunfels, TX (lovely little town, by the way) who called into the Diane Rehm show today.....Dude, why did you have to say, "You wine-sipping Liberals?" You would have sounded less ummmm....RIDICULOUS.....if you hadn't name-called with such a really and truly and absolutely unoffensive term. I know you were implying eliteness with it, but it just didn't work. I mean, if you want to come up with a truly offensive term to use in your name-calling - how about....ummm....I don't know....Tea Bagging? Oh, wait. You already came up with that. Never mind, then.

Seriously. Your points are better made without name-calling. There are some serious issues to discuss - and you and I might even agree on a few things - but it is hard for me to hear what you're saying if you're calling me a name.

Now for The Nightmare. I woke up so dang upset! Like I couldn't believe how upset. And it was a dream about broccoli theft. Broccoli theft! Doesn't sound terrifying, I know. But what is it they say about dreams? It was SO REAL. I'm thinking this dream is all about my current insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. Or it was just a screwy dream.

In the dream we were at the bowling alley (we had a homeschool bowling fieldtrip today - another terribly un-elitist activity) and I noticed that none of my kids had on socks. I was so mad!! You can't bowl in those nasty shoes without socks. But mostly, I was mad at myself. Because socks are a Big Stupid Issue in this house. Because the kids can never find any. They're either all dirty (they take their shoes off a zillion times a day and then....I don't know....put on CLEAN socks every time they put them back on) or they're clean but haven't been paired or put away and everyone is digging through baskets. This is the cause of us running late about 99% of the time. And whenever I hear, "Mom, do I have any socks?" I REALLY hear, "Mom - you are so lame we don't have any effing socks!! Why can't you just get the dang socks washed and put away? Is it rocket science or what?" I have a sock hangup.

Back to the dream. So I leave the kids and head over to Target to pick up some socks. I'm in a massive hurry because I left my kids standing there barefoot in the bowling alley. Now then, before I'd left the house I had planned on fixing broccoli stuffed shells for dinner....and my broccoli was frozen. (This represents more lameness on my part - my lack of preparedness and being able to plan ahead.) So, of course, I took it out of the freezer and threw it in MY PURSE to thaw. Because people do weird sh*t in dreams. So into Target I go with my frozen broccoli in my purse and I finally find socks and I'm on my way out when a team of employees confronts me. I immediately feel guilty. They check my purse. Inside is the thawing broccoli, several wrapper-free tampons (some jr. high dreams never die), and some other stuff. "Aha!" the store employees say. "You're stealing broccoli! You are a Broccoli Thief!" Now, I knew I wasn't a broccoli thief, but I secretly felt I'd been found out. I felt guilty as hell.

I was taken into an interrogation room with people who were very condescending and accusational and I couldn't convince them that the broccoli was, in fact, my broccoli. "Why is it in your purse?" they asked. And you know what, people? That was a good question. "To thaw," I answered. They didn't believe me.

I became very angry and started making stuff up about how I was the head of this and that and in charge of this organization and that organization and didn't they know who they were dealing with and I look over at the chair and there sits Jules. In the dream this didn't strike me as odd, even though I'd left him back at the bowling alley. And Jules is eating chicken nuggets from McDonald's and people know that we try to eat fairly healthy and don't do McDonald's but there he sat with a freaking Happy Meal on his lap. As if to say, "Things aren't what they seem with us. In secret, she buys us Happy Meals." Anyway, so I'm lying through my teeth about how important I am and Jules raises his finger. Jules doesn't speak unless he is holding his finger up. The finger doesn't go up without the speaking and the speaking doesn't happen without the finger. It is one of his endearing little quirks. So the finger goes up, Jules clears the chicken nugget grease from his throat and says, "Actually, Mom......blah blah blah." Jules starts most sentences with the word "actually". Then he refutes something someone has said. That is pretty much what he calls a normal conversation. And of course, he was refuting all my claims to glory and saying that he didn't, in fact, see me with broccoli in my purse before we had arrived at Target.

"Aha! Your own son won't defend you! You are, indeed, a broccoli thief and a liar!!"

When they finally let me go, there is a huge crowd trying to get out of Target and onto the sidewalk outside where there is some sort of Red Carpet event that has something to do with Latin Boxing. Is there even such a thing as Latin Boxing?

And so all these people were in my way and I was terrified that the bowling alley would close and I wouldn't be able to get my babies out. Also? I had forgotten to pay for the socks. So I had stolen socks resting against the thawing broccoli in my purse.
*Would you believe that this morning we honest-to-God couldn't find any socks for Jasper and I had to stop and buy some on the way to the bowling alley? It was terrifying.

What does this MEAN people? Let me hear it. Also? While I'm asking you guys questions? What would cause this?

What on earth do our apples get brushed with or sprayed with? We usually get organic fujis but I couldn't get any this week and got home with a striped apple. We ate it. Nervously, though.

Finally - how about a recipe? I haven't done that in awhile, have I? After bowling tonight I didn't feel like the broccoli-stuffed shells what with all the emotional and psychological trauma I sustained the previous night. Jules put up his finger and suggested King Ranch Casserole. Sounded good to me.

King Ranch Casserole is a favorite among south Texans. The King Ranch is bigger than Rhode Island. My husband's car once broke down in the middle of it (a major highway runs through it) and he had to walk miles in a storm before being picked up by the Border Patrol (no cell phone coverage). Anyway - according to Homesick Texan, there is no link between the casserole and the King Ranch that anyone can find. Whatever. It is good comfort food. My version, of course, contains no meat - however, the original is made with chicken. Also? I did say comfort food but I also should have said convenience food. We're talking cans, baby. This is not as healthy a dish as I usually cook up around here - using processed soups and such - but it is both convenient and comforting. A person need comforting after a horrifying broccoli dream. If you want a healthier (but not vegetarian) version, it is easy to do and Homesick Texan did it here.

So here is Sardine Mama's Version of Vegetarian King Ranch Casserole

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of black beans
1 can of chick peas
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of RoTel chilis and tomatoes
1 can of corn
2 cans of (gulp) Cream of Mushroom soup
18 corn tortillas
3 Tbl of chili powder
3 tsp of cumin
1 tsp salt
A handful of shredded cheddar

First of all, rev up your can opener. I know. I said it was a recipe of convenience. Next, put a very light layer of soup on the bottom of a casserole dish. Next, saute onions and garlic in olive oil or butter, adding the chili powder, cumin, beans, and corn after the onions begin to get translucent. Stir it up until the mixture is warm and the corn is starting to brown a bit, then add it to the rest of the soup. Stir in the RoTel and salt. Spread 6 corn tortillas in the bottom of the casserole dish and spoon 1/3 of the bean/soup mixture on top. Repeat, ending the last layer with the bean/soup mixture. Cover with a liberal amount of cheese and bake in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes. Yum!

Signing off as the non-Broccoli thief Mama

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Start Reading This Unless You Have Absolutely Nothing Better To Do

First of all - this is how the birthday celebrations went. Camille's First Ever Sleepover was monumentally successful. Who had the most fun? Jasper. Here they are having a toilet paper fight.

And here is Camille opening her special gift from her Daddy - the 5th Nancy Drew book!! They read these together every night. Nancy Drew is Camille's personal guide to White Privilege. I mean, what American girl doesn't want a convertible and a dad who is a lawyer and a housekeeper who is thrilled to death to cook, iron, and polish and a college boyfriend who invites her to sleep over at the Fraternity House and not for sex, either, because this fraternity house is more like a luxury hotel run by monks? What can I say? I was more of a Hardy Boys girl.

And here is Jules's party. He had a Nerf Gun Battle. Which is funny because we are the local Pacifist family. We have a sign to prove it.

I have not begun 2010 with any real resolve. Most days I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. So this is going to be a wonderfully uplifting post - one about how basically I feel I am failing in several areas of my life.

Before I begin, let me just say that anything and everything in my life pales in comparison to Actual Human Suffering....and I am massively aware of this. Haiti comes to mind. And stays there....those poor, poor people. Also, and this, too, pales in comparison to Haiti - my BCF (Best Conservative Friend) has a very sick little one who just got out of the hospital and now seems to be relapsing a bit - might have another trip back to the hospital. So prayers (if you're so inclined) all the way around, or thoughts (if you're so inclined), or positive imagery/energy (if you're so inclined) or you can just send money - to Haiti - but probably my friend would appreciate some, too.

Now Back To Me:

What the heck was I thinking? All those previous posts about how easy it is? LIES. All lies. Seriously. I was talking about my oldest kid - the one who learned to read at 3 and has been taking college classes since 9th grade and who gets up at the crack of dawn to do I have no idea what but it gets her great scores on the SAT so who cares? SHE is easy to homeschool. We basically unschool our youngsters, and I TOTALLY believe in late starts for the kids who aren't hankering for an early start (I believe in early starts for them) - but, lately I have felt the need for more structure. I read other blogs, lots of articles, talk to lots of homeschoolers and I begin to get that nagging little we-should-be-doing-more feeling. So I tried to do more. Jasper, who would technically be in kindergarten, began rather enthusiastically back in September and also quit school entirely, back in September. After gluing beans onto a "B" he sighed, threw his head down on the table and said, "I quit." He meant it. Any attempts since then to bring him back to beans, crayons, glue, or anything of that nature results in, "I said I quit school!! Remember!?!" Yes, I remember. And honestly, I don't care whether or not the kid glues beans onto a "B". Really. There isn't a huge job market for that in this economy, anyway. But I see the pictures on other blogs of kids his age using manipulatives and making finger puppets and in addition to making me want to throw up, it also makes me jealous.

Camille is doing okay - she's just started to read (2nd grade) and she's doing okay in math. That is really all I do with her and it takes about 30 minutes. But I feel like we should be doing projects and art and cooking and art flash cards and all of those things I see other people doing....but the truth is that I haven't the time and she hasn't the inclination.

The Boys are where I'm spending my homeschooling efforts right now. Unlike their sister, they haven't magically absorbed things like spelling, grammar, and vocabulary simply from reading. They can neither one spell very well. However, I am recognizing the value of a late start for things like grammar. Joel, age 15, is picking it up very easily. Jules, 12, isn't so interested. So part of me is saying, "Just wait until he's 15." And that makes sense. Except that then I get the little worried bug starting in so I force him to do grammar worksheets that are really not having any effect that I can see.

Jules is in 6th grade doing 7th grade math, Joel's doing algebra.....THANK YOU TEACHING TEXTBOOKS!! Math is covered. Even in our house.

We are enjoying read-aloud history lessons with lots of discussion - we always love history. Big Time. But we don't do it enough. Our lives are busy. We don't have a time that is just for school because we can't. Ellie has piano students coming in and out, we have Odyssey kids here twice a week, we're off to ballet, piano, tae kwon do, guitar pretty much every day of the week. We're prone to taking off to go here or there because it sounds like "school" is often in the car, or in the evenings before bed, or in the summer months. I just don't feel like I've ever gotten a handle on a routine. It was easier when I just had little kids. Now we just have So Much To Do Seemingly All The Time.

Yet, I know they're learning. And I'm learning right along with them - so I have to question whether or not they'd be learning any more if they were in school all day. I mean, I was in school all day, you know? And yet I constantly say, "Wow! I didn't know that!" when we're learning together. But still - can this be all there is to it? Reading books together, talking, watching videos when we have the time? Looking at my boys and listening to them talk, I know that the answer is "yes". But looking through curriculum catalogs and flipping through textbooks makes me doubt myself. We're not taking tests. They're not writing essays. They can, however, hold very intelligent conversations with adults about almost anything. And they are curious about virtually everything. So.....

So what am I worried about, right? Well - science - for one. Again - I am happy with the late start approach. Other than watching NOVA and other educational shows, reading books and magazines for pleasure, talking, exploring, and observing - they've done no "real" science. But Joel is in high school now and he needs "real" science. And I am having a very hard time finding anything for a homeschooled boy that doesn't contain Creationism or Intelligent Design as viable scientific theories. Almost all of the homeschool science curricula available are Young Earth and that doesn't fit in with our worldview. I'm not dogging people who believe in YE or choose to teach it to their kids, (in fact - I think that the Texas Board of Education fits into that category), I'm just saying that we don't want to go that route and are having a hard time finding another path. Ellie started High School Biology via a college textbook - but Joel really isn't ready for that depth of investigation. I just need your Average Joe High School Biology Textbook and I can't freaking find one!! Sigh.

But that hasn't stopped me from buying lots of other books. Lots. And lots. And they mostly sit around screaming at me. I hate it when books scream at me. Books, in general, are not very nice when they're screaming. "Hey! Remember when you bought me? You were going to use me to teach geography! What - you think they're just going to pick that stuff up from general living and traveling and talking and learning? How far do you think that is going to get them? Hey, Baby - I have TIMELINES in here. Honest to God TIMELINES. And right here next to me? Is the Shakespeare stuff you bought. And the Poetry. And War and Peace is sitting over there saying he knew you were never gonna read him. And the Idiots Guide to Homeschooling is snickering. Honestly Woman - have you no pride?" Then they all start laughing and talking about me behind my back. Stupid books.

Also speaking of books.....I'm trying to write one. Stupid, I know. Nothing starts up my negative self-talk like sitting down to work on the book. I know it will never get published. It will probably never get finished. If, by some miracle, it does get both finished and published, it will never sell. Then I'll never get published, again. Then all the books in the house will start laughing at me again and they won't let my book join in any real book games. And speaking of Real Books - I'm reading Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel and it has totally depressed me and encouraged my negative self-talk.

The book I'm writing is fiction - classified as either MG or Very YA. Why am I writing fiction? Because I tend to undermine my own success, that's why. I had an agent talk to me about writing a parenting book - she wanted an outline and proposal within 90 days - so of course I responded sensibly by taking a nap for year and then waking up to write fiction. Also? I had a paying gig as a columnist. It was going well. So I quit. Also? I was blogging for a major newspaper. That was going well. Except for the fact that they constantly had to bug me for posts. And that made me sleepy. And every time I sat down to blog for them I ended up here OR working on the Novel That Will Never Be Published.

And speaking of Here - On Sardines - I've lost a follower. I have no idea who I offended. Either a Conservative Republican or a Buddhist - based on my previous post. And it is hard to offend both Conservatives and Buddhists in one post so in a way, I guess I should congratulate myself. But the truth is - I have a little problem in that I want everyone to like me. Ellie tries to cheer me up by saying, "Everyone likes you, Mom! Except for the people who don't."

You'll also notice that, in addition to a follower, I've lost my ads. That's because BlogHer wanted me to make some very minor changes to my blog in order to be in compliance with ad agreements and that made me sleepy; resulting in another nap and no compliance, whatsoever, on my part. What am I going to do without the $25/year I earned annually in ad clicks? Because, you know, I could have totally saved it up for 10 years and ended up with $250 of money that I did absolutely nothing to earn. But contemplating that? Also makes me sleepy. Thinking about money makes me sleepy.

Have you picked up on a theme here? All I really want to do is tell stories. The rest of it makes me sleepy. I've told other people stories my entire life. Usually, they've been true or partly true or mostly true but prone to embellishment. Usually, they're funny. But the stories I've always told myself....and I do mean ALWAYS because I've been spinning stories in my head since I was a baby......are all about fictional places, fictional people, a fictional ME. And letting them out where other people can see them is really really hard and requires a huge amount of self-confidence that I cannot seem to muster. It is a little bit like taking off all of your clothes and standing in the middle of a crowded room. People would say, "Wow. That's what she looks like without supportive undergarments??? Yikes!" Well, I'm afraid that when people peep at my fictional world it will be just like that. In the non-fiction I let people see - I always make sure to wear my undergarments. Fiction isn't like that. Fiction is going full-on commando. Fiction is what you think about quietly when nobody else in the room has a clue as to what's going on in your head. And writing it down and asking people to read it - friends, critique groups, publishers and like standing naked. Non-fiction is not really all that revealing - even when I'm writing about myself and my family, you only see what I want you to see. Fiction is TOTALLY revealing.

Okay - well - that was intense. Let me stop crying and move onto some other area of failure. I'm still talking books, though. In the failure category - books are a big theme for me. Here is my shameful confession: We are missing 2 library books. As in, totally missing. We cannot find them anywhere. Anywhere. People say, "You'll find them! Where could they be?" Well, people, we have lost REALLY BIG THINGS in this house - never to be seen, again. What are the odds I'm going to find two little books? And the replacement values are astronomical and one of the books is out of print. This is REALLY bothering me. I just know everybody at the library is talking about how irresponsible we are. Any psychics out there who can tell me where my books might be?

Well, I'm off to go about floundering through the rest of my day.
Sardine Mama

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Into the Home Stretch Marks

I'm in the home stretch. The big boxes are sitting in my living room - awaiting all of the holiday decorations - to mark this marvelous fact (although I had a really really really wonderful holiday season). Christmas is over, New Year's is over, our 24th wedding anniversary is over. Today one of my babies is having a birthday. Tomorrow another one of my babies is having a birthday. Poor planning on my part. Anyway, them I'm done with the celebrating for awhile.....nothing brings down the celebratin' like being tired of the celebratin'.

Jules was supposed to have his gigantic Birthday Nerf Gun Battle today but it turns out The Republicans Are Right and THERE IS NO FREAKING GLOBAL WARMING. I know! What a relief! They've been sayin' it all along. Stupid socialist scientists. Anyway - so today is very very very cold and worse, very very very windy. Howling windy. Seriously. It sounds like a tornado. And this is not good for Nerf Gun Battles. So it has been rescheduled for Saturday (are you seeing this facebook friends? 'cause i know i set up an event with the wrong date, time, year, basically everything....DO NOT COME TO MY HOUSE TODAY I WILL NOT LET YOU IN).

I plan for the party to go smoothly because I have learned from a master. 9 Texans started the whole Nerf Battle Business (or rather, her kid did) and she runs it like a pro. In short, the kids are not allowed in the house and she means business. And really - you DO NOT WANT masses of stinky adolescent boys in your house. Because of the stinky part. And the loud part. And the messy part. And the knocking over the furniture part. So she guards her door with a large kitchen utensil and they can basically come inside if they really really need to pee and won't do it outside. Hostess of the Freaking Year...I LOVE her!! And that is my plan for Saturday. Also for Saturday? Misery. Pure misery. 'Cause Camille is having a sleepover Friday night and that will make for a miserable Saturday but at least she will be somewhere else being miserable because she has ANOTHER birthday party to go to and I plan to just drop her off all cranky and nasty.

So party at my house on Friday and party at my house on Saturday and then no more stinkin' parties until March. The parties at our place have become less and less extravagant over the years. To think that we actually hosted a pony party for a 2-year-old once. With real ponies. And a little homemade cowboy outfit. And the little stinker doesn't even remember it (he's 15, now). All I remember was a lot of trouble, a lot of money, and that Joel took a bite out of his Fresh-From-A-Bakery-And-Not-A-Cake-Mix birthday cake and said, "Good chicken."

2010: So what? Honestly - all of my unfinished business has just carried over from 2009. 2010 would only be exciting if someone said, "Clean slate! All that stuff you started in 2009 and wish you hadn't is officially erased!! Ta-Da!!" Procrastination would work in my favor if things went that way.

Things don't go that way. And today I have taken care of a couple of things on my to-do list that have to do with things I started last year and wish I hadn't. First up involves Odyssey of the Mind. I registered the Odyssey of the Mind team for the regional tournament!! Cyber-High-Five me. This is NOT a big deal by the way, the registration process. It takes less than 5 minutes. And I dread it each and every year and do it at the last possible second but this year I did it an ENTIRE DAY before the official deadline.

Also, I filled out the financial part of the From The Top scholarship form for Ellie. The rest of it is supposed to be filled out by her high school guidance counselor in order to rank her on the awesomeness scale that goes from something like Fairly Awesome to Rocking Awesome. Well, Ellie has no guidance counselor. She's homeschooled. And it feels weird for me to write about her rocking awesomeness but it also would be weird for me not to. Like, if your own mom doesn't think you're rocking awesome, who does?? I think I will get some other people to fill out this part in addition to my filling it out, which isn't part of the procedure and will thereby probably disqualify her. See how I do these things to myself? Anyway, so yes - she is auditioning for From the Top and you can click on this link to hear her rocking awesomeness for yourself if you don't want to take the mama's word for it because who would?

The other big thing I did was packaged up Christmas gifts for mailing. I'm not going to say anything obvious here and I'd prefer you didn't, either.

Let's see....what else to blog about before signing off? Oh yeah. It seems homeschooling has been in the news. I hate it when that happens. A few recent child-abusers have been homeschoolers. A FEW. But that makes it newsworthy because if they didn't homeschool their kids they certainly wouldn't be abusing them because they would be scared someone would notice....that is why, my friends, there are no abused kids in school. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. School has saved them!! All kids should be in school because of this!! In fact, I propose that babies should be removed from their mothers' arms in the hospital and enrolled in school immediately because that is what is necessary to make the whole School Saves Kids From Abuse Stupid Argument make any sense!!

Truly - if we want to outlaw homeschooling based on this issue - we would have to also outlaw keeping babies at home instead of in daycare centers. Because child abuse also happens before school age. That is where the whole Shaken Baby Syndrome comes in - BEFORE SCHOOL AGE. Child abuse is awful. Some people can't handle parenthood - humongous, sad, tragic, and horrible issue of massive proportions, this abuse thing. But homeschooling has nothing to do with it. Some people homeschool. Some people lock their kids in the basement and call it homeschooling. It isn't. And one has nothing to do with the other.

Also? There is a woman named Robin West who published a paper about the harms of homeschooling in Philosophy and Public Policy Quarterly. She is being wrung through the wringer in the old blogosphere about basically every single thing she wrote. I won't do the same but if you want to read some of it you can check out my blog roll, specifically, Milton Gaither hits it with this post. Dr. West makes those of us who swing left look like idiots....sigh. And while you're checking out my blog roll you might want to consider writing something for Freedom to Learn - Peter Gray is seeking some homeschoolers / unschoolers to write about their experiences.

Also also? As you look at my blog roll you will probably notice (as most people have) that I link to a few atheists and also to a few spiritual / religious types. That's how I roll. I like opinionated people. I like excitable people. I like people who are living lives of integrity and who are trying to figure out who they are and what they believe and why they feel this way or the other. This has caused some confusion as to whether I am an atheist homeschooler, a religious homeschooler, a secular homeschooler, or just your typical run-of-the-mill crazy homeschooler.......people want to put me in a little box. Well people, I want nothing better than to jump in a box but I've never found one that fits. If I ever do, I promise to blog about it.

Speaking of such things - I live in a very small and very rural and very conservative Texas town and would you believe that there is a Dharma Center opening up??? Seriously!! Do you freaking believe it?? The Buddhists are coming to town. Which is PROOF, my friends, that the world is indeed, going to hell in a handbasket.

Don't forget to check out the awesomeness of my kid here.

Signing off as a Uncharacteristically Frigidly Chilly Southern Sardine Mama