Thursday, June 29, 2006

Melting and Cooling

I was diagnosed in January with MS (multiple sclerosis). While this was sudden and totally out of the blue (no family history either), life has been whirling faster than usual this year. But on the up side, my kids have learned a lot and I feel I've been better able to talk about people with disabilities since I now have one (though it's not slowing me down much yet). The biggest problem I have with it now, other than phantom symptoms here and there, is the summer heat. People with MS really do just melt in the heat and we spend lots of time on message boards discussing how to beat the heat.

I have a mini arsenal of heat propelling paraphernalia myself. There's the highly attractive army beige vest that holds ice packs in it (after all, what woman doesn't want extra pudge in her torso?).

There's the slightly darker beige (just enough to not match the vest) garden hat that has a secret pack of gel in the top. You set the gel pack in cold water for 10 minutes, stick it back in the hat and you're cooler, plus you get the fashionable wide garden brim to shade your face and neck from the sun.

There's also a very cool Sharper Image device that you hang around your neck and the battery pack on your belt clip is supposed to keep you cool. There are several wrist devices that hold ice or cold things against your wrists. There is also a super cool tent air conditioner you just snap on top of your cooler and it supposedly cools up to 30 degrees! I have yet to try this out in the wild outdoors but it worked great on the test run in my kitchen. Yes, there are even cold gel bra inserts for those who are extremely curious. ;) I have played with most all of these but when I think of really decking myself out in all of it at once, I end up in fits of giggles. I know, without a doubt, that I would very closely resemble the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that became the Destroyer in Ghostbusters.

Now I honestly don't mean to demean the items listed here. I am *thoroughly* grateful for their existence in my life. They truly are fabulous products and I wouldn't even waste my time (and yours) mentioning them if they weren't really great. And I don't mean to come across as someone who has even the slightest fashion sense. I really am a jeans and t-shirt kind of mom. And in saying "t-shirt", I mean if it's not covered in spit-up and pureed fruit, I will wear it out in public. Age of the shirt doesn't really matter. But to these items, I just have to say that Linda Voss sums it up when talking about her spy purse, "What it lacks in fashion, it makes up for in function" - Shining Through (a GREAT romantic-war film with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas if you haven't seen it).

But out of all the cooling devices I have so far, one of the best was something I happened upon at Walmart. Yes, the big W. I live there, just like you do. I'll wave next time so you know it's me. It's called a Misty Mate. (Sorry Walmart, you big monster, couldn't find it on your site to link to!) You put in regular tap water, pump the handle once or twice and voila - fine mist comes out. It comes in a snazzy looking cover and has a thick shoulder strap (or fanny pack belt, whichever end you care to put it on). I took this to the zoo with us a few weeks ago and it was THE hit. My 3 kids and my 7 nieces & nephew LOVED it. In fact, I had to wrestle it away from them from time to time when I started to melt. It worked great and one of my nieces went home, begging her mother for one for the upcoming camping trip. (I love to do that to my SIL, don't you?? LOL)

How does all this relate to unschooling, you ask? Well, I'm glad you did. From this small piece of cheap (under $20) cooling play fun, we have discussed the human body, MS, human diseases, sweat, smells that come from sweat (that was inserted so my new friend, RJs mom, feels a little more normal), water, liquid vs gases vs mists, pressurization, etc, etc, etc. AND it will keep us cool all summer long.

My only problem now is this: Which line should I list the Misty Mate as a school supply on my tax forms? Hmmm....maybe I should put my blog URL in there somewhere. ;)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Birds and the Bees and the Bunnies

One of our kids favorite activities is chasing the local bunnies around our yard during the twilight hours. It's really comical to watch the two kids chase them around and the bunnies seem to enjoy it too. If they are chased out of the yard, it's only for a few minutes to catch their breath and then they're right back in the game. (Can you see the bunny near the dry creek bed in the lower right?)

My husband and I were watching the bunnies from the window (the kids didn't go out last night) and hubby says something along the lines of 'Hmmm...I've seen *that* dance before - this might turn into a biology lesson real quick'. I had a story to tell him...

A couple weeks ago, we met up with my BILs (brother-in-law) kids at the zoo. While we were in the insectarium, Matthew saw some kind of bug off by itself and then another one flew near it and kept going. Matthew mutters, "They're mating". I really wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly so I asked him what he said. "I said, they must be mating because there were two of them." Uninterested in any further study, he happily hurried off to the next group of bugs and left me standing there with my mouth hanging wide open. It slowly dawned on me where we were (an insectarium) and the realization that I might actually catch flies with that open mouth quickly shut my lips back together.

Now I must admit that we do watch a lot of Discovery and Animal Planet channels so I'm sure he's heard about mating a few times in his young life. But the ability of [what would the schools call it? Oh yes...] 'practical application' that he showed was quite surprising to me at his young 5 years.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hey, I know you're there - I can see you!!

Those of you who aren't avid blog readers should know that comments are welcomed, nay, heralded by blog authors. As Melissa Wiley (one of my favorite fellow homeschoolers) says, "Without readers, we bloggers are talking to ourselves."

And I heartily agree with her. So please, feel free to comment on my postings. I will respond. I may not have something to post everyday but I do hang around here at least once a day. Call me bored, call me eccentric but call me something! And thanks for your support, those of you who've admitted showing up here!

Reading and Writing

Matthew, 5yrs, learned to read around his 4th birthday. I'm not sure exactly when the lightbulb went on because, as unschoolers, we don't do drills or worksheets or insist that the kids "read aloud" to us or do phonics, etc. So somewhere around his 4th bday, he started reading. And he picked it up very fast. He is an excellent reader now and I'm still amazed at how quickly he can pick up the context of new words based on the sentence structure. I'm sure it would be nice to be a school-at-homer and take credit for the hard work but all we did was this:
1. Leisure read in front of the kids a lot
2. Read to the kids a lot (I'm talking two stories a day, at the very least)
3. Always read to them a step above where the 'experts' say they should be read to. For instance, I read him Charlotte's Web at 3 years old. A full-on "chapter book" with few illustrations. And he loved it.
4. Provide quality books for his current reading level.
5. Don't push.

This is what we did. I have read many unschooler stories about kids (especially boys) who don't start reading until they're quite older...well into the teenage years. I was prepared for that, though I hoped he'd read earlier. What I wasn't expecting was that he would pick it up so fast! So life changed quickly for us. No longer could my husband and I spell to each other...
DH (talking to me): "So do you want to go for i-c-e c-r-e-a-m tonight?"
Matthew (interjecting): "YES!!!"

However, if I were going to compare him to his schooled (or school-at-home) counterparts, I would also have to say that just because he reads very well for his age does not mean that he writes as well as he "should".

Matthew has hated drawing utensils of any kind all his life. I remember a very young baby well-checkup when the pediatrician asked if he could grip a crayon and scribble, I had no answer for him. Matthew would flat refuse crayons, pencils, pens, name it, I tried it several times. He had no interest in any of them. Until...(again, just around his 4th bday), Rose became interested in our MagnaDoodle. She was only 18 months old but loved to scribble on it and would ask various members of the family to draw things for her and eventually, they would write out her name.

(Hang in there, the point is coming)
Soon, Matthew asked me to show him how to write his name. I wrote it out for him and he took it off and came back at the end of the week with his name scrawled on a piece of paper. It wasn't one of those illegible first attempts at writing that most parents have in the ol' scrapbook. It was very easy to tell what he'd written and I was exceedingly proud of his ambition to do it himself.

With that little bit of encouragement, I decided that he would pick up on writing as fast as he had done reading. Once again, I was wrong. Why don't I just stop ever assuming anything ever again? It seems my assumptions are always wrong anyway! ;)

He will be 6 years old in September. He is still a very avid reader and blows through chapter books in less than a day. But has no interest in writing. I've seen him write his name and 'mom' and 'dad' and that's about it (and I've only seen 'mom' and 'dad' a handful of times at that). Of course that nagging voice in my head (who is that? Oh yes, my ever-teacher-mom, who has taught pre-K for 20+ years. teehee) says, "He's never going to write unless you force him - what's fun about writing??" And I argue with that voice, "No, we were content to wait for him to read for a long time and we will give him longer on writing as well. It's only a matter of time before it clicks". We try to encourage him with, "If I write you a note, will you respond to me?" but he's clearly not interested.

(Yes, I promise I'm going somewhere with all of this)
This past weekend, I was in his room and he was talking about drawing a map. He hopes to be an astronaut and "the first REAL Indiana Jones" when he grows up (nah, I'm not gonna burst that bubble - maybe he will! Who am I to say that he won't?) so we've been discussing all things archeology for a while. (Side note: he's really ecstatic that the VBS theme this year is archeology!) I casually mention that he has that journal that I bought him last year somewhere that would be a great place to draw. "You know, you don't have to write only words in journals - you can draw and put stickers in them too," I tried to encourage. I dug around and found the journal, still totally untouched. And I left his room for naptime. [No, he doesn't still take naps at this age but we all have a quiet afternoon in our rooms because the girls still nap and he and I need our alone/down time too.]

After nap on Monday, he showed me that he'd written his name and 'mom' and 'dad' and a new one - 'x-pod' (one of his favorite toys). I gushed a little on what a great writing job he'd done and left it at that.

(Yes, now is the point)
Yesterday as I tucked him in, I saw the journal sitting on his bed. He showed me his new page. On it was written:
Dear Mom,
I lv u.

~The sweetest words I've ever read in all my life.~
But aside from my motherly sentiments about it, it was such a big step! And very legible. I was equally impressed with his letter composition - the "dear", the comma, the separate lines. I asked him if he looked at something to help him. He showed me his recent Bunnicula books. On the back of each book is a letter written to show the synopsis and he followed the format that was there.

I have to admit that I find myself wondering if I would have seen those words if I'd pushed him into writing a year ago when he wasn't the least bit interested in them. I don't know. But I do know that I'm glad I waited. After all, the best things in life really are worth waiting for, eh? ;)

Friday, June 23, 2006


We met friends today at the local park. They have installed new playground equipment and the fancy schmancy rubberized ground cover. My only complaint is lack of shade but if I'll just look back a few posts, apparently I haven't yet learned that you can't please all the people all the time.

After we played a while, we decided to take a walk and went around where the beautiful pond is with the fake blue-green tinted water. My friend bought some fish food from the self-serve gumball machine and, after freaking out about the ants now firmly entrenched on her hand, flung it out into the water. There it bobbed on top of the water like a...well, dead goldfish. No one attacked it and the food just floated. It reminded me of that line from Jurassic Park, "T. Rex doesn't want to be fed, he wants to hunt. Can't just… supress 65 million years of gut instinct." I suppose the fish agreed with me because, as much as our kids waited patiently, nothing happened.

Meanwhile, I see this as a great photo op. Kids feeding fish = cute, right? So I go on the other side and snap snap snap. Cute. Then I see the fish right near the edge of the pond where I'm standing. I point them out and the kids get very excited.

I must pause here and ask WHY do kids always think fish are really dumb and will eat anything you throw in the water? I've never been around kids who say, "Hey, that stick isn't fish food - they won't eat it"...but I digress.

So the kids start picking up pieces of grass and bark and twigs and tree leaves and throw them in the water. And shock of all shocks, the fish actually start jumping for the bark! They're splashing around and the kids are estatic about it. Meanwhile, the "fish food" that the city just made .50 off of is still bobbing around like pieces of styrofoam 5 feet away. Great city planning! Who knew fish would actually prefer bark?

My friend is handling the 4 mobile kids and the two strollers with our babies in them while I'm still snapping pictures away, trying not to fall in while getting the perfect angle. And I hear her say, "You'd better stop throwing in the bark. They might realize it's not food. After all, they *do* swim in schools."

Point taken.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm moving!

I'm moving to a new home - please check me out at

Thanks for stopping by! :)

I Am From

I am from The Letter People, from an Atari 500 and boomboxes.
I am from a small yellow five room house on land big enough for twelve. From apples and lilacs and horses and tire swings hung from climbing trees.
I am from the sweet honeysuckle, the cool dark woods filled with stick directions and a field of jonquils. From rabbits and cats and dogs and gerbils and guinea pigs and mice.
I am from French Dip and Writers, from Burtons and Pratts and Grandpa Clark who loved to read and take long walks and fight for justice.
I am from the tellers of rich stories and lovers of rich music. Quotes from birds and cats who wouldn’t go away.
From think before you speak and get a good education so you can support yourself and be brave like a soldier.
I am from Agape Love. From the beginnings of CCM. From long bus rides to GA camp and hot float trips down ice-cold spring fed rivers.
I'm from Missouri and California and Michigan and Ireland and Germany, from egg rolls and apple pie and biscuits and gravy and warm blueberry muffins on crisp Christmas mornings.
From the blizzard of ’82 when we were without electricity for three days and I was sick with 103 fever, from homemade Halloween costumes, and the aunt who was a year younger than me and still my best childhood friend.
I am from boxes buried in the basement, from collages hanging on walls, from Super 8 films and yellowed newspaper clippings stored in dust covered containers but not forgotten.

To read more about the I Am From poems, check out Loni's contest or click here for a template to do your own

My book

I've written a children's book manuscript. I really do have a corner on the market for this topic and I feel it's well written. Today I received my first rejection letter. And instead of feeling like I'm a hack with no talent, I feel wildly invigorated. I'm ready now to print off a thousand copies and mail them out. I feel very optimistic about this book and just need to find the right publisher. This first publisher was upfront from the beginning and stated that it was a long shot because they don't do children's books but she does feel I have a "valuable book" and just need "the right publisher". If this is what all rejection letters say, please don't tell me. I don't want to know. ;) For now, I'll basque in the glory of my first ever rejection letter and I just might frame it for my living room wall. ;)

Tunafish salad for lunch

DD3: "What *is* this?" (turning her nose up)
DS5: "TUNA!!! YEAH!!"
DD3: "I don't like tuna."
DS5: [happily]"Tuna is a type of fish."
DD3: "I don't like pickles."
DS5: "Thank you for the tuna, Mom!"
Me: "You're welcome." DD3 starts to munch away.

"You can please all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can't please all the people all the time." End of lessons for today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Star Trek

Your results:
You are Deanna Troi

You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.

Deanna Troi

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test