Monday, October 24, 2011

Boys Gone Wild...And Taking My Heart With Them

The boys have been watching one of those shows where people are dumped out into the middle of nowhere and immediately begin eating all kinds of disgusting stuff.  It inspired them.

Yesterday morning they woke up.  Do you want to know what the weird words are in that sentence?  Morning and Woke.  They do not usually stir before midday unless they absolutely have to.

"Why are you up?" I asked as I was leaving to take Camille to ballet.  I knew something was going on.

"We're going to be outside all day," they said.  "We have things to do."

They often spend huge chunks of time outside - well, they do if it isn't triple digit temps, anyway.  Which it kind of was All Summer Long due to the Natural Warming Trend that has Nothing To Do With Us.   (We will resist Global Warming and All Science-Based Evidence in the same way we resist The Highly Suspicious Metric System because We Are Americans and that's What We Do!!)  Where was I?  Oh yes, the boys....headed outside...up early...Camille and I headed off to ballet...

The cast of the Nutcracker was being photographed for the programs - hence my trip back into the city on a Freaking Sunday.  I get really irked by Sunday activities. Anyway - the girls were told to wear light make-up for the photo shoot - Camille put on a little lip gloss.  What else does she need?  If she didn't look just like her brothers and sister I would swear this kid had been switched at birth.  It's like I had no part in the deal whatsoever - they all look like their dad - and he doesn't need much make-up, either.  This is not her natural smile, by the way.  She and Jules both have the same Fake Camera Smile and we have tried but we can't get rid of it. 

Look at those graceful arms!  And I've noticed that she often stands with her feet in first position while making a sandwich or mouthing off to one of her brothers.  (Pardon our mess - Homeschool Co-op is in full swing and meets in our home - maps on walls - chairs against walls - sewing machines on the floor...mummifying chicken on the counter but that's another story for another post...)
So my girls - one lights up a stage while playing piano....the other is about to get her first taste of lighting up a stage while dancing.....and the boys - the boys - the boys - are busy EATING TERMITES.

By the time Camille and I returned from the city is was late afternoon.  Jeff was already working on the Big Sunday Dinner. "Where are the boys?" I asked. "And why do I smell smoke?"

"They're down by the lower pond and they've got a fire going."

WHAT???  Let me just explain my brief moment of panic by reminding my dear readers that the state of Texas was Officially On Fire not that long ago.  The dreadful and tragic fires of Bastrop, while not all that nearby, poured smoke over us for weeks.  And grass fires were breaking out right and left in our area - and I was quite concerned about you know - my whole life going up in flames.  And my boys were casually playing with fire.

"They're fine," Jeff said when he saw the blood drain from my face.  Okay - so we finally got some rain out here.  Everything greened up overnight - our cows got some meat on their bones again - and the weather cooled down.  But still.  "I've been down there and checked it out," my husband continued.  "They've got a fire ring in a pit and it's a small fire.  They're spending the night down there."

"Oh," I said, feeling much calmer.  "Well, are they coming in for dinner?"

It was then that Jeff explained to me that the boys were living off the land and refusing dinner.  In fact, they had spent the day building shelters, making weapons, and hunting and gathering.  They'd eaten cactus and other flora and fauna and TERMITES.  That's right, my very own flesh and blood turning over rotting logs and eating bugs while trying to make simple tools.  And some people don't believe in evolution.

You might think I reacted strongly to this - but I've known these boys for some time now.  These are the boys who bring snakes in my house - the boys who wake each other up by actually THROWING snakes into each other's beds....

- the boys who used to occasionally wake me up by announcing breakfast was ready - breakfast being grasshoppers sauteed in olive oil with garlic and cumin (they're their daddy's sons after all - they're going to use some light seasonings - can't have unseasoned grasshoppers).  So the termite thing didn't throw me all that much.  They're big boys, though, and I wondered just how many termites they'd have to eat before feeling full.

"They're gonna do frogs for dinner," Jeff said casually.  "I told them how to clean 'em and cook the legs."

UGH.  Jasper chimed in that the cactus was kind of good....he hadn't tried the termites but he wanted to eat the frog legs later with the boys.  Jasper refers to Joel and Jules as The Boys.  The Boys have talked Jasper into eating all sorts of things over the years - most of which I do not know about and I'm perfectly fine with that. 

Jeff kept on cooking our dinner as if all of the talk of termite-eating was normal.  He grew up on this land and spent his own childhood living wild - so it was pretty much just me wondering if the boys would survive the night.  They've always been Outside Sleepers.....often traipsing through the living room at bedtime, carrying a pillow and saying, "Goodnight Mom!" before slamming the backdoor and heading outside.  Sometimes they slept in the "fort," and sometimes they slept right on the ground.  We live close to the San Antonio River and so the river fog tends to roll in every morning - they would wake up with their hair soaking wet.
But this time, they weren't sleeping where I could see them out my bedroom window.  They were sleeping far enough away so that I wouldn't be able to hear them at all if Something Bad Happened.  What if a dingo tried to get my babies? Okay -so it would be a coyote, but you get the idea, right?  We live on a big place - over 100 acres - and they were as far away from the house as they could get and still be on family property.

Since we're such a Norman Rockwell family The Grandpa came for dinner.  And during dinner, we were talking about the boys, and by the end of dinner we had all decided to take them dinner.  We had not seen them all day - wanted to make sure they were okay.

By the time dinner was over it was good and dark.  We grabbed flashlights and food and headed out the door.  "Dad, we'll be back - just hang out here for awhile," I said to The Grandpa Who Walks With a Cane and Has Steel Rods in Both Legs.

"Oh no," he said casually.  "I'm coming, too."  He turned on a tiny little flashlight he keeps on a key chain to prove it.

We don't live in the Piney Woods of Texas - which are quite lovely in a Little House in the Big Woods sort of way.  And we don't live in the deserts or mountains of West Texas, which are also quite lovely.  We live in Brush Country which is not quite lovely at all.  It is full of thorns that grow on basically everything.  Thorny trees, thorny bushes, and tons and tons of thorny cacti.  Rattlesnakes curl up at their roots. The ground is hard, packed clay for the most part - especially during a drought.  There are animal trails throughout - followed by cows, coyotes, javelina, wild pigs, and the occasional fox or panther. And our place isn't manicured and kept up.  We were basically going to be following cow trails down the hill and through the brush to get to The Boys.  In the dark.  With an old guy and a cane.  And Jasper (who wore flip flops).

Off we went.

I held onto my dad and I only tripped him once.  Jeff caught him and copped a feel.  "Was that your breast I grabbed?" he asked me hopefully.  "Not mine," I replied.

Jasper kept running ahead - you know - into the dark and thorns and rattlesnakes - and Dad and I hobbled along with his cane and tiny little flashlight.  Jeff tried to pick out the path in the dark while swatting mosquitoes, and Camille danced along under the impression that We Are A Normal Family.

"How much further?" my dad asked.

"Oh, not much," we said.  We are good liars.

Finally, Jasper yelled, "I can see their campfire!"  And we could.  But they were in the middle of a mesquite thicket and Jeff had to lead us around a maze of cow trails to finally get to the little clearing they'd made.  Joel was guarding the fire.

And Jules was already bunked down.

They only had one cot between them - with the rattlesnakes Jeff didn't want them actually sleeping on the ground - so the plan was they'd sleep in shifts.

"Are you hungry?" Jeff asked.  The Boys admitted that they were, indeed, a bit on the peckish side. So Jeff spent the next few minutes feeding them. 

They had dragged some tires in from a nearby creek and settled in like proper rednecks - little grilling racks set out to cook their frogs on.  They'd also, they informed us, cooked eggs in the coals and then scooped them out of their shells to eat them.  These eggs came from the hen house - not sure if that counts as living off the land but I guess it does if there happens to be a hen house on said land.

The boys showed off their place to their little brother and sister - the shelters they'd built...

Jasper didn't care for the flash...

After a perfectly lovely visit, we bade farewell to the Wild Boys, and began our long trek back to the house.
We immediately headed off on the wrong cow trail - walked in circles for a few minutes - and then got our bearings and made our way home without further incident.  During the day you'd never get lost - but it was a dark night and we had teeny tiny flashlights.

Later that night, after Jeff had snuck back to their camp with mosquito repellent and an extra blanket, we were snuggled in our bed.  The coyotes were howling, and I worried that Jules might be a little anxious.  My heart strings were stretching in new directions - the boys seemed so very far away.  That's my theme this year - the stretching of the heart strings.  I fell asleep with the same slight worry I've grown accustomed to feeling - the one I didn't think I'd grow accustomed to.  My heart stretched all the way to a college dorm room hours and hours away, floating down the hall to where my firstborn lay peacefully and safely sleeping in my mind (it was more likely she was tucked away in a practice room).  And it stretched through the thorny bushes and down the cow trails of this place we call home, seeking out the Wild Boys who were stargazing and story-swapping beneath the big Texas sky.  It spread warmly down the hall to the two who have yet to test the bounds of its reach.  Where will they pull this heart of mine? 

I've a feeling this journey of my heart has just begun.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Elizabeth Stone

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Typical Unschooling Day? No Such Thing.

I've been asked to share what a typical unschooling day is like in The Can.

First of all - a little back story - we didn't start out as Unschoolers.  We started out as Actual School People, but Joel didn't fit the school very well and so we decided to homeschool.  Initially, we did everything the school did (School At Home) and because we are slow, were surprised to see that it didn't work.  Joel and his learning disabilities forced us to do things differently.  And since Joel was (and is) such a curious kid - an active kid - and a hugely entertaining kid - his days were pretty filled with his general Joel Activities and we found that there was very little time leftover for any kind of schooling.  And amazingly, he was learning anyway!  Like TONS AND TONS of stuff!  And since I'd already decided that the kid might not ever read and that I needed to be okay with that, I focused on finding ways to help him, as a non-reader, navigate the world.  He learned brilliantly and eagerly and all without reading. And since he'd learned nothing in the 2 years he'd been in school for kindergarten and first grade - and was now learning by leaps and bounds - I had to trust him and his natural curiosity to get the job done. It was Unschooling.

It was Radical.

Turns out, it was Radical Unschooling.  The word Radical has now been placed in front of Unschooling for some folks - to show that there are Unschoolers and then there are UNSCHOOLERS and you don't want to confuse the two.  Radical Unschoolers are radical (!!) and their kids typically learn without the aid of adults, textbooks, classes, or organized or structured ANYTHING.  Once the kids became older, we found ourselves becoming less and less radical (!!). We still don't make anyone do anything (and I realize that might sound radical) but we do encourage them to do the things they've already identified as necessary for achieving their own goals.  This means that Joel - aged 17, who finally began reading independently at the age of 11, no longer has the entire day free to chase tadpoles.

Here are some recent unschooling questions I've been asked, and remember, I'm answering about my own family - so if you consider yourself a Radical Unschooler to your 3-year-old - please don't begin defining Radical Unschooling for me and telling me how I don't fit the label. 

Sardine Mama, do you have a set time when you Unschool?  Like, do you schedule it in along with other things?

I don't schedule in school time.  I don't call the kids to the kitchen table for "school."  We do have some school-ish books...and sometimes Camille (9) and Jasper (7) enjoy filling in blanks and connecting dots. But it's an activity for fun - not a true method of learning.

My teenagers do have some schedules - but these are in accordance with goals they've set themselves. And the Official Schedule usually goes something like this:  At some point in time during my conscious hours I will finish a set of math.  

How does Unschooling change as the kids get older?

It changes a lot (for us).  Our younger kids are totally free - they have nothing at all that they must do.  We do participate in a Homeschool Co-op that meets in our house - and they are both taking Spanish so they might have a little Spanish homework to do every now and then - but it's fun and they're the ones reminding me that they need to get on the computer to do it.

Our teens appear to be less Unschooled.  They might be taking distance education classes or working math problems. But it's because they've decided to do these things in order to attain a goal.  And the fact that they've not been doing schoolwork for years and years already means that they're not bored to tears by the very thought of it.

How do your kids adjust to book learning after years of Unschooling?

They adjust just fine.  Like I said, it's kind of a novel approach for them.  I can honestly say that their run-ins with textbooks and syllibi have only cemented the idea of natural learning for them, though.  Because they are used to following their interests as far as they like, for as long as they like, and using as much technology as they like - they find courses and textbooks to be extremely limiting.  In Unschooling, you follow a subject until you've exhausted it or lost interest - not for a specified amount of time - at the end of which you turn in your book and consider yourself educated.  In Unschooling, the answers to your questions are found everywhere and anywhere you want to look, not just between pages 116 and 119 in "the book."  I'd say that's the biggest challenge for Joel - he already knows so much about so many things - it is always hard for him to limit himself to the medium the course requires. 

This textbook frustration began for him when he was in 5th grade. We bought, per his request, an Actual American History book. He challenged the very first sentence about North American exploration. He had a vast working knowledge of Vikings at the time - and the book, he said, was simply wrong.  A brief Google search proved him correct and he's been very dubious of textbooks ever since (and he never opened that specific one again). 

The same holds true for the high school courses he's taken via distance learning - he's on the Internet so much and so intensely curious - that he's painfully aware of how outdated all of his textbooks are.  He never sees anything as an Absolute Truth - because he's fully expecting that tomorrow - some new truth will be discovered. He's currently reading Lies My Teacher Told Me and it cements his opinion about the uselessness of textbooks when a world of constantly changing information is at our fingertips. 

Learning is a continuum that never ends - not a checklist to be completed.   I love that my kids know this.

Can you give an example of a typical Unschooling day?

There is no typical, but I'll do my best.

Camille and Jasper are up by 8.  The two teens left in the house do not tend to get up unless they absolutely have to - and they're very likely to sleep through lunch.  I don't like them sleeping through lunch, but there is research to support that this type of sleep cycle so common to teens is actually beneficial to their neurological development.

But for Camille and Jasper the day begins with Jasper letting the chickens out of the coop and feeding them.  Then he will usually stay outside and play, often joined by Camille, until around 9.  Breakfast is often made by Camille - and might include pancakes, fresh eggs, etc.  She likes to play restaurant and will distribute homemade menus she's written out herself (ummm...that would be spelling and grammar and math, thank you very much).  After that, there might be some television (yes, we're one of THOSE families).  As I type right now, I can hear Spongebob's irritating nasal voice.  There is also a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle out and Camille stops by it constantly - spending a minute or two - before flitting off to do something else. 

They might pass some time playing computer games (they both like Minecraft).  A day doesn't go by that they don't make a huge mess by making something craftsy - yesterday, for example, they used a kit I didn't know we had to make their own paint.  They built a set of bunk beds for Camille's dolls - they made finger puppets and a stage for a puppet show.  This was all done with no input from me - they never asked permission - they never asked for help. 

Now that the weather is cooler they spend a lot of time exploring in our fields - something their older sister and brothers grew up doing, as well - and this results in them coming in with all kinds of treasures like petrified wood, bones, clay, and rocks.  They build shelters and hideouts and stare through binoculars.  On my camera right now is a lovely recorded short film of a dung beetle rolling a dung ball through the tall blades of grass on the macro setting.  This was not of my doing.

Around lunchtime I'll begin the process of reminding the sleeping boys that they're running out of daylight - and they'll usually get up.  They typically hit facebook first - and then they might spend the next couple of hours on You Tube, laughing loudly at animated videos.  Joel is working on a animated short movie at the moment - so he can easily kill several hours on that.  He's had to learn how to animate, of course, and that began with Manga art in middle school years - now he actually uses animation programs.  He's buying a camera because he wants to try his hand at live action shorts - and he and his cohorts have already been writing scripts.  When he watches television or movies he's taken to pointing out camera angles - movie making is never far from his mind.  In our co-op he's taking Art - actually paying close attention to design elements - because he thinks it will help him in movie making. 

Because college hasn't been ruled out - he's taking a distance education Biology class.  He's learned how to outline chapters - that's probably about all he's getting out of the course - and so he tries to devote some time everyday to the biology textbook.  He doesn't see much relevance in the subject matter, nor does he appreciate the fact that he has to learn things within a specific order, so it seems to be a rather painful experience for him.  But guess what?  He does it anyway.   

The evenings might find him reading or playing video games. He's a Halo fan - and that includes all of the Halo books, as well.  And speaking of reading, he's reading a Great Books anthology that kicked off with Giglamesh.  Joel already knew the basic story of Giglamesh (he loves ancient literature and always has) but had never read the actual translated version.  It is absolutely filled with SEX.  He finds it hilarious - and will toss me the book and say, "Read the second paragraph," with a huge grin on his face.  Let me just say that we've got nothing on the Ancients.  They did it ALL.  There was even a phrase that went, "She let him in through her back door..." and Joel about died.  A favorite line was "And when his brothers saw his penis they knew you'd done something heinous."  Now this kinda makes me wonder about the translation, you know?  I mean, in English it quite obviously rhymes.  Surely it doesn't rhyme in Akkadian?  It was written on stone tablets in cuneiform!!  Don't you think it is too much of a coincidence that penis and heinous rhyme? The whole thing is highly suspicious and smacks of teengage boys posing as ancient history scholars. 


So he is enjoying Giglamesh and I'm afraid that Prometheus Bound (which is probably not a bondage story) might be a disappointment after Giglamesh.  Prometheus Bound is next in the anthology...

On NPR Joel and I heard an interview with a man who wrote a book about Bananas.  Joel was enthralled.  Not only did the author sing the Chiquita Banana Song (Joel loved it), he also talked about the violent, bloody history of banana farming in South American, the United Fruit Company and the atrocities it committed - its relationship with Dole - the fact that it was at one time considered coarse and crude for women to eat bananas (due to their ahem...shape)....this was a book Joel could not pass up.  So we ordered it - he read it and loved it - and now knows all kinds of useless information about bananas, which we no longer eat, by the way - because Joel says they've got blood on them.

Jules spends his days taking care of his turtles, playing with the two younger ones or hanging out with his brother - he seamlessly goes back and forth between the worlds of childhood and teenager-dom.  I love this and want this for him right now.  He has a couple of good friends who might call throughout the day - usually to discuss video-gaming.  He wants to be a scientist - but doesn't want to put in the effort to make it happen.  He's currently on a math bender, though - doing several sets a day (Teaching Textbooks).  When he gets his fill he'll go months without touching it again.  He will sit through an entire disc of Through the Wormhole - and I think that is what is inspiring him with math at the moment.  He's fascinated by time travel and alternate realities.  He's reading a Great Books Science Fiction Anthology and loving the hell out of it.

So a typical Unschooling Day looks like what your day would look like if you could spend it doing the things you love. For us it means we're reading Giglamesh and watching Beavis and Butthead. We're talking about String Theory and learning to sew.  We're learning to tolerate doing the things we don't love in order to do the things we do love.  We're laughing and arguing, working and playing, and living life as if we only had one go at it - and for us - that has meant staying out of the classroom and going into the world - be it real or virtual or something in between.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupying My Life...It's Not Really a Protest But It Does Tend to Get Out of Hand

Whew!  Have you been worried about me?  I've been gone for a long time, haven't I?

Actually, when I'm "gone" from the blog it means I'm being hysterically present somewhere else.  I have been busy occupying my life (where I am Actually Part of the 99% and pardon me for saying so). My Friend Mark does a monthly photo-dump post.  This is kind of a photo-dump.  Unlike Mark's photos, though, mine are blurry and grainy and generally Not Very Good.  But they're all I've got.

We went to see Ellie. 

It was a long drive and we couldn't even begin it until Camille got out of rehearsals for The Nutcracker - that's right - we began a long car trip loaded down with pillow pets, a Sardine Mama, a Sardine Daddy, a Sardine Grandpa, and a school of fishies - at the Worst Possible Time of the Day. 

We like to treat old people with respect so we stuck my dad in the back seat with a blanket, a windbreaker, and a jar of pretzels.  We hate it when he whines that he's cold or hungry.  He loved listening to the 110 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs we lined up for the least we think he loved was hard to hear what he was saying back there.

When we finally arrived in College Town, USA it was late, but I figured my kid was still up studying or practicing because I Know Her.  I sent her a text:

Hey, I know it's late but we're here and I would like to swing by your dorm for a hug if you're not busy.

She was busy practicing dictation for her Aural Skills class.  I don't know what Aural Skills are but I'm pretty sure it's one of the things they teach at Hogwarts.  She dropped it all and came bounding out of her dorm to meet us on the sidewalk.  I apologized to her in advance for the fact that I was probably going to hug her until Awkwardness Set In.  She sighed and held out her arms.  She felt SO GOOD and I didn't want to let go but I did and was immediately replaced by Camille.  Ellie happily gave her little sister a longer hug - everyone else got the half-hug. 

The next day was spent touring the campus, visiting the dorm, and yes!  We ALL FIT in there with even enough room to spare for the thoroughly traumatized roommate!  My dad really enjoyed it and says he feels better about her being gone now that he actually knows where she is. Camille took this picture of him and it is a great photo because it shows exactly the way he looks when he's looking at Camille.  He's the only grandparent my kids have, but what we lack in quantity we make up for with quality!

And here Ellie is (barely - i almost cut her out) posing with The Brothers.  While we were posing in the auditorium foyer - one of El's professors walked by.  She looked at him - he looked at her - he looked at us - he paused - Ellie didn't say anything - and he kept walking.  "You could have introduced us!" I said.  She was like, "I'm pretty sure he knows you're my family."  She looked at all of us.  "I don't think he thought I was here hanging with my friends - aged 7 through 80-something...."

Jules's shirt is bleach-stained and has a large hole in the back.  He wore his best clothes so as not to embarrass his sister.

And here she is with Camille - who stuck to her like glue.
And here are Camille and Jasper taking a break from Running Amok.
Did I mention Camille stuck to her sister like glue?
We spent all of one day with Ellie - and then we picked her up after classes on the second day.  She took us to a cute little coffee house and out for Thai food.  We dropped her off and said our final goodbyes in front of curious onlookers.  She headed off to her dorm, clutching her take-out container of tom kha gai before heading to a study group, with Camille waving dramatically and tearing up.

And then?  After her study group was over we snagged her up off the street and took her for ice cream.  This was followed by another tearful goodbye.  And then?  The next morning she texted that she wanted us to bring her some CREAM FOR HER COFFEE.  And since we are the pathetic, sad, lonely people that we are....looking for just one more reason to see her....we did it.  We pulled up to the sidewalk as she came out of class and held the carton out the window.  She grabbed it, said thanks and goodbye, and scurried off before we had a chance to start yet another round of hugging.

We couldn't head home yet, however.  Joel had spotted a sword in an antique store the day before and had become somewhat fixated on being its new owner and so we headed back downtown to make your general commonplace no big deal whatsoever sword purchase.  He proudly brandished the thing on the sidewalk, looking all kinds of fierce.  It was weird but only in the expected sort of way.

The next time we'll see Ellie will be at Thanksgiving - and that is when The Nutcracker is up and running and we'll be all crazy so I doubt I'll even feel her presence.  Plus I suspect The Boyfriend will be taking up a certain amount of her time. 

Other things I've been doing? Include turning 16-year-olds into 17-year-olds. Joel is 17. I can't believe it. He celebrated by having a bunch of wild boys over - something he's been doing for his birthdays since he started having birthdays. When he turned 8 he had an Indian Party (although I'm certain I called it a Native American party because sometimes I'm so PC even I can hardly stand myself). The Indian Party was probably the crowning achievement of my Over The Top Birthday Party Phase. I still get just a little bit proud when I think about it.

The boys were each assigned a regional tribe - they were to come dressed in tribal clothing that they had researched themselves, they were to bring a peace offering, and we were to play Actual Native American Games and have an Official Pow Wow. The evening mostly consisted of half-naked boys running around trying to poke each other with Peace Sticks Turned Spears, while screaming at the tops of their lungs. There was Loosening of the Loin Cloths as the evening wore on - the boys too hysterical to notice or care - the parents too exhausted.

If you've read the Indian Party Story on the blog before - pardon me - some of these folks are new here. During the Peace Circle the boys were supposed to make their offerings and give brief reports on their tribes. One little boy, who shall remain nameless but who appears on this post years and years later and wearing a Ramones t-shirt said, "I don't have an offering or a report and my mom says if you pull this crap next year we're not coming." He was wearing a paper sack as a costume, kind of an after-thought, and that made it all the more hilarious.

Look at my little boy with his missing teeth. (I'm going to go cry a little bit now but I'll be right back.)

Can I just point out that I made the tee-pee on the cake MYSELF?

I no longer try to camouflage the violent birthday games by calling their weapons Peace Sticks - these boys have gone Mafia on me, now.  They're into Airsoft Weapons - much as it disgusts me - and so Joel chose to celebrate his birthday by staying up all night shooting at his friends while they shot at him.  As moms pulled up to drop off sons they shouted, "Don't shoot!!" and luckily for the armed boys - they didn't.  Jeff wasn't as fortunate.  He went outside to fill up a cow trough and forgot to yell, "Don't shoot!"  He got shot.  I'm not sure what sounds or words escaped his lips when he felt the first ping, but I'm betting it wasn't G-Rated. 

The boys wouldn't even come in for cake - but when I woke up in the morning it had somehow disappeared during the night.  I tried to be a good hostess and take care of the guests.  "Can I get you boys anything before I head off to bed?" I asked as they took a break from Actually Shooting Each Other to begin Shooting Each Other via video games.

"Just a girlfriend and the keys to your car..." said one of the boys.  Every time I asked a question I received some version of this as an answer so I quit asking after awhile. 

I woke up to this: (That's my big baby sleeping under the piano).

Speaking of boys being boys...Joel and Jules and a couple of friends have started their own animation film company.  Thus far, they have produced one very offensive and not even marginally funny 2-minute video where a cartoon cat is killed, a building is bombed, and the words midget and porn are both used.  I would share a link but NO.  Because a cat is killed, a building blown up, and the words midget and porn are used and oh my god I hate to see what The Googles are going to send my way now.  But the animation is good and Joel did that part all by himself.  It took him hours and hours and hours and hours and I'm really proud of him.  We are currently involved in discussions about crude and offensive humor and what makes it humorous - and the fact that his is lacking the humor. He gets it and is trying to figure out how to get the humorous ramblings of his mind (and they are humorous - I'm subjected to them daily) to stay humorous once it's been transferred to an actual medium.  There's a learning curve.  I'm still trying to perfect my own story-telling craft...often I find that the stories in my mind are Way Less Awesome once they've been written down.  If only we could use those little magic flash drives - just stick them in our heads and then stick them into the computer....

Joel plans to actually own an animation and film studio someday.  He has promised to employ all of his friends and his brothers, thereby making it a charitable operation as well.

Finally, our Homeschool Co-op took a little field trip to see a play adapted from one of R.L. Stine's stories...R.L. Stine of the famous Goosebumps series. 

Our family and two others crammed into our bus and headed over the the insanely crowded theater and its accompanying parking lot and BOOM.  Rock star parking.  One of our mamas suffers a condition that requires the use of a cane and while I'm sure she would gladly trade in her Handicapped Parking Tag for the chance to toss her cane out the door - the rest of us are not used to Rock Star Parking and we were all like Booyah!!  Whoop!!  Right. Up. Front. Sistas. We piled out and were immediately disheartened by the lines and lines and lines of School Kids waiting to get in the front door.  But guess what?  Way up at the front of the line - way off in the distance - we saw that there were two doors.  Two.  And one was for students and one was for individuals.  Again with the Booyah!!-ing and the Whoop!!-ing and we headed right on past all the hundreds of students to correctly identify ourselves as Individuals upon whence we were escorted into the theater that was completely empty except for some families (I spotted tie-dye immediately) seated in the first three rows.  Those are our people!! We were seated in the Homeschool Rock Star Row and awaited the seating of the masses.  Also in the first 3 rows?  Sat R.L. Stine.

As always, when we attend field trips along with School Kids, my ears were ringing soon enough.  Every time the lights dimmed (to start the show, to switch scenes, etc) the kids erupted in out and out total and complete SCREAMING.  Jasper put his hands over his ears and at a certain point, so did I.  And I have seen Van Halen FOUR TIMES, people.  And it was before there were sound ordinances. I'm practically deaf. But I had to cover my ears on this field trip.

After the show R.L. Stine took to the stage to answer questions.  The kids in the audience started raising hands and the questions that came out of the kids' mouths were all the type of questions you would find on the annoying Reading Comprehension quiz at the end of a standardized test literature passage.  Why were they ghosts?  What happened to the parents?  Why was he on a skateboard?  Why did the brother and sister fight?

I wanted to ask, "How did you get noticed by an agent?  What are your advances like?  Could you have busted through as easily in the industry climate of today?"

Finally they took a question from a homeschooler and she asked him how old he was when he started writing.  That was the kind of question we'd been waiting for.  He was 9, by the way.

I'm not sure that the kids in the audience knew that Mr. Stine is a world-famous author or what that even means.  With the exception of that one question, it didn't seem like it.

Would you believe they wouldn't let him sign books?  Rush rush rush - no time for pics - thanks for coming and out the door with all of you.  We waited around and broke the rules.

Hope you enjoyed the pics and are reassured as to my continued existence. 

I have been asked to blog about what a typical Unschooling Day is like for us.  I'm pretty sure I've done it before, but I'll do it again because as I pointed out earlier, some of you are new.  Also?  It's been awhile since anyone bothered to e-mail me to personally tell me that I'm ruining my kids.  

So tell me - how've you been occupying your time over there in your life?