Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Wrap Up

Hot Dog's version of "Bald Mama"

I wish I could do this year over.  I wish that I could have been healthy and involved for this last year of my children's lives.  My kiddos have not invented a time machine yet (although I'm told they're working on it).
I can't have this year back.
Thank God this year is over.
Cancer treatment just sucks.

That aside, we also had some good times.  In spite of how I felt a good deal of the time, with the help of Firelord, friends, and family, we managed to get out and about.  It's was not as much as we would usually do, but still, much more than I would have expected. I'm writing this post to remind myself of those good times.

Bit Boy got braces - on and off - in 4 months.  We were all glad it was such a short treatment.

Bit Boy joined the Civil Air Patrol and earned his Eagles Wings, then decided that, as interested as he is in flying, the military bent was too much for his taste.  I was proud of him for sticking it out as long as he did and giving it a fair shot.

Firelord and Hot Dog in Geall
 We got to kayak and sail just a tiny bit at Boyd Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir.

Lego Kid and Hot Dog finally got their wish to go fishing.  We dragged Bit Boy, our near vegetarian, along.  Sadly he was the one who actually got a fish, much to his horror.
We were doing catch and release.  I promise the fish was fine.  Had Lego Kid been the one to catch it, we may have been eating sushi then and there, despite the lack of wasabi.

We got to foster some of the cutest kittens on the planet.  I'd have to go back and count but I'm pretty sure we've had more than 20 in just the last year.

We did lots of field trips
(many of which are worth doing again)
Celestial Seasonings
The U.S. Mint
Homeschool Day at Elich Gardens
Casa Bonita (might not need to do that again)
The Butterfly Pavilion
The Denver Zoo
2 different air shows - Warbirds Over the Rockies and the Wild West Air Fest
Yellowstone National Park
Harvest Farm Fall Festival
The DaVinci Machine Exhibit

This was the first year in a long time that I saw more performances than I was in.
Cirque du Soleil (Dralion w/ just Firelord, and Quidam w/ the kids)
Peter Pan
A Year with Frog and Toad

Winter Wishes Ice Show
A Musical Christmas Carol
Gift of the Magi

Yup, it was a hard year, but there were some very good times too.

Thanks to my family and friends, and especially Firelord, we got through it.

Here's to hoping for a healthy and happy 2013

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gift of the Magi

Last weekend we went to see the opera "Gift of the Magi" ( by composer David Conte)

I loved the orchestration. It was lush and it almost had lyrics of its own. The vocal parts didn't move me, I like a melody.  I guess I'm rather pedestrian that way.  What really knocked my socks off, though, was the plot.

WTF, you ask.   The plot?  Like, didn't you already know the story?  It's O'Henry for Pete's sake.  It's a classic.

Yes.  I knew the plot.  My mother told us the story when we were kids, and I've read it as an adult.  My mother always emphasized how the point of the story was that they had a love so great that they would sell their most precious items to give each other a Christmas gift.  She was all about the sacrifice for love.

I'm not completely sure if it was her retelling, or just how I understood it as a child, but I hated the story.  I mean, really hated it.  Della and James are spendthrifts with a communication problem.  If they had just talked about it they could have avoided the whole mess.  Also, I was fine with Della selling her hair.  It was a renewable resource.  Any woman who thinks her hair, or any other physical feature, is her most prized possession is going to be in a world of hurt someday anyway.  Selling a family heirloom was a shame.  Spending the proceeds on frivolous things like combs and a chain was just stupid.  I've been poor.  I've been hungry.  Believe me there are better things to spend your money on.

However, in this show I walked away understanding that the point of the story wasn't that they sold their most prized possessions for love.  It wasn't about the sacrifice.

The point of the story was that they forgave each other for being idiots.

That, my friends, is the secret to true love.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Voiceless it cries...

I have lost my voice.  It's not the first time, and it probably won't be the last.  Every few years it seems I get a cold that settles into my throat and I am left to whisper my way for a while.

Aside - the longest I went with out a voice was ~ 2 months.  I went to choir practice w/ my violin, on which I picked my part so as to know it when my voice came back.

I've noticed several things when I'm voiceless.  Interestingly, while they seem important and insightful while I'm without the ability to go above sotto voce, I tend to forget about them until the next time I loose my voice.  So, here's what I notice, with the hope that perhaps I won't need to be struck dumb to remember next time.

When I'm voiceless...

I can't yell.  Yes, self evident, but it has interesting applications.  While I rarely "yell at" the kids, I often yell to them.  We have a big house and yard,  and it seems easier to shout for them than to walk all over looking for them.  Now I have to think about whether what I want to say to them is worth the walk and the search.  (With my chemo-brain I'm as likely to forget why I was looking for them as to remember)  I wonder if not raising my voice changes how they feel about what I was going to tell them.  It seems like it does - but maybe it's just that I'm right in their face when I'm "talking" now?

People don't listen easily.  I take a while to say something these days, it doesn't just bounce out like it usually does.  It's an effort, and not one that most folks seem to have the patience for.  All those sassy little comments I make during a conversation are lost.  By the time I get it out the conversation has moved on.  It makes me realize how rarely anyone actually wants to hear what I say and how often (when my voice is healthy) I don't give them a choice.

All those little sounds you make during a conversation are important.  You know the ones..."Uh-huh"  "No!"  "Then what happened?"...  Also, those leading questions that help you get someone talking, or direct the conversation a bit, are far more helpful than one thinks.   I can't do those as easily right now.  (When I try to say "Uh-huh" it sounds like a sick mule.  People are startled and concerned.)  Not saying these things seems to impede conversation.  I really do want to hear what they have to say, but with out some vocal encouragement most folks peter off.  Perhaps they're feeling like I'm not listening?

Speaking quietly can get attention faster and more gracefully than a raised voice.   I've noticed this before, even when I'm not speechless, but it bears repeating.  If you want someone to really listen, quiet down.  Bit Boy was telling me that he recently learned that is part of Hopi culture too.

I wonder if it seems to others like I'm singing all the time.  When I can't sing, I feel like I'm missing limb.  I also find that, without a voice, I pick up an instrument more often during the day.  I'm not sure why I'm like this, although I'm pretty sure I've always been like this.  It's a mental health thing perhaps?  Anyway, if I can't sing I still have to make noise.  :-p

I find myself writing more.  I often don't know what I think until say/write it and then examine it to see if what I just spewed out holds true.  I process "out loud" even if it's on paper (or computer screen).  (Yes, this is a lot like Hot Dog.  It's the mother's curse. "I hope you have a child just like you someday!" :-D )

If I can't ask questions and prompt conversation, certain people in this family barely speak to me.  I don't think it's personal.   I think they just don't process the way I do.  I'm beginning to believe them when I ask  "What are you thinking?"  and they reply "Nothing."  Can you imagine?  Weird.

A big part of my parenting is done with my voice.  I read stories and sing to teach, to distract, to comfort.  We talk- a lot - about just about anything.  It's hard for Lego Kid and Hot Dog to have a mom who doesn't talk.  It feels wrong to all of us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now what?

This post is inspired by the questions and concerns another homeschooling mom expressed on one of my lists.

Paraphrasing, she said:

"I just realized at least 2 of my 5 kids (ages 7 and 10) are right brained.  I'm not.   They're not reading yet.  I don't know what to do.  The baby is just a year old and I'm pulled in so many directions.  Traditional learners can sit everyone down at the table and work for 3 hours and be done.  My kids won't.  What do I do?"

Here's my response:

First, cut yourself some slack.  You've just had a huge paradigm shift.  It'll take a while to integrate that into your everyday life.

You still have very little ones.  I gave myself the 1st year or two of every babies life to just be.  You can call it unschooling, or relaxed homeschooling if you want.  If you can manage to read to them most days, take them to the library and to parks now and then, you will be doing more than fine.  There's nothing that is urgent right now.  Keeping everybody fed and healthy is a high enough goal.

You say you like check-lists and scripts.  That's going to be tough.  Right brainers don't just think "out of the box"  Rbers don't even notice there's a box.  They won't even understand how they're making you crazy.  (But it might amuse them) 

If you write a script, they're going to turn it on end.  It's time to start thinking of your homeschooling as an improv troupe.  When you're doing improv it doesn't mean you are without structure.  It means that, with in a certain agreed upon structure, you are free to experiment.  It means that there is not "right" and "wrong" way to do something - there's only this works and that doesn't, this is fun, this is drudgery.  Your improv will be different than someone elses, and that's a good thing!  It means you're doing what works for you.

What if instead of a daily checklist that the kids have to do, you have a mental checklist you consult every week or so, privately or with your spouse?   Especially when they are little my kids learn so much without my input or structure.  I'm always amazed when I step back and look at how my little ones spend their days and see it through their eyes.

Our kids are getting older.  I miss having littles, but the advantage of having rational human beings for children isn't to be dismissed.  At our house we have pretty regular talks about what is working and what isn't.  It's not child centered, it's family centered.  It has to work for everyone.  It has to meet our long term goals, which the children help to set for themselves.   We all have family and household chores which  we have to do, just 'cause that's what it takes to manage a house hold.

Our days and weeks have a certain fluid structure, with the oldest (14) having the most structure and the youngest (8) the least.   My oldest can now work mostly independently.  He has a list of academics he does everyday and then he is free to do as he wishes.  (Which is mostly sit at the computer programming, skyping friends and play games.  So long as he meets his family obligations, his academic commitment, and moves his body around every hour, I try to be ok with that)  My 11 yo is just starting to do regular academics - he's learning to type, practicing his hand writing, and practicing piano every day.  Soon he'll start doing a wee bit of math.  My 8 year old isn't reading yet.  His brothers didn't start reading until after 9, yet by 11 both were reading at an adult level, so I'm not worried.  He's learning to type and practicing his handwriting, but mostly because he wants desperately to be like his big brother.  The younger two (8 & 11) spend most of their days playing - legos, k'nex, making things out of cardboard or wood scraps, dueling, shooting each other, and -yes- bickering for entertainment.

Just throwing in that last bit to keep it real here.  I hate reading stuff about how perfect someone's life is.   My life's not picture perfect, just humanly lovely imperfectly perfect - except when it's not.  
That's what wine is for. ;-p

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Opposite of brain fart is....

I just had a flash of inspiration - instead of a math camp, or an art camp, for kids, what about having a math night or art night for parents?

I've been toying with the idea of a math camp for kids, and/or an art camp for kids (not unrelated you know, math and art).  The trouble is that it is such a short time.  Even a week of meetings isn't enough to really let knowledge sink it.  It's just enough to set off a spark. Too many parents have told me they have a "math phobia"   or "don't know what to do for art".   Maybe what we need to do is to inspire the parents.

I know for myself that if I'm really focused on something there is no way the kids will leave me alone.  If I want them to do something and stay on task, I need to be right there.  What if we used that to our advantage?  If we can inspire the parents to experiment and play with these cool concepts, how could the kids resist budding in?

What do you think?  Ideas?  Cons?

Zentangle Letters

It's that time of year again... Christmas!  I just got done making some zentangles that I think would make nice gift tags..


This last year was pretty hard.  One of the things that I did to calm and distract me was to zentangle. 
(It's a noun, it's a verb, it's ZENTANGLE!)