Archive for October, 2008

RegularDad brings in the mail.

CONVERSATION BEFORE I WENT OUT TO THE STORE:

RegularDad: Here ya go. It looks like something official.

Me, opening the envelope: Ooooh, goody. It’s my voter registration card.

RegularDad, who just discovered two days earlier that he is not registered to vote: Yeah. Goody.

Me: Sorry, hon.

RegularDad: What do you care? We’d just cancel each other out anyway.

Me: Not this year. You said you weren’t voting for McCain.

RegularDad: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I was gonna vote for Obama, you know.

Me: Really? You weren’t?

RegularDad: Nope. Don’t like him either. I was gonna vote for anyone else.

Me: Oh.

RegularDad: You shouldn’t vote. That way it’ll be like we cancelled each other out, like usual.

Me: Nice try.

CONVERSATION AFTER I GOT BACK FROM THE STORE:

Me, glancing at the table where I thought I left my voter registration card, and seeing only the empty envelope: Hey, where’s my voter registration card?

RegularDad: Whaddaya mean? You lost it already?

Me, looking pointedly at him: You know, hon, I don’t NEED to show them that card when I go vote. You do know that, don’t you?

RegularDad: You don’t?

Me: Nope.

RegularDad: Oh, well, in that case, your card’s in the kitchen. You left it on top of the crock pot.

Somebody cue the theme from ER.

This is a picture of the top of my microwave:

I used to use the top of my microwave as a storage area for all things sharp, fragile, easily lost, or otherwise unsuitable for toddler hands. Nowadays, both the girls are tall enough to take pretty much anything they want from the top of the microwave, so it’s not really such a useful storage area anymore, but I’m a creature of habit, so things still pile up in that area quite often.

The top of the microwave is also the location of our Stuffed Animal Hospital, which is a fully equipped facility, including a state-of-the-art surgical unit, ICU, emergency room, and after-hours clinic. You can see in the picture that we’ve got a patient in the ER at the moment. He’s awaiting sutures from a ruptured (possibly chewed) paw. We’re not sure how it happened exactly, but we do know that he was trapped in my 5-year-old’s bedroom for at least 2 weeks before the injury was discovered. Don’t worry about him, though. He gets daily visitors, and unlike most modern hospitals, the food here really rocks. He’ll be fine.

I suppose you’re wondering why I’m telling you about the little medical facility that sits atop my microwave at all. It’s a valid question. To answer it, I’ve got to digress a bit and tell you about Rest Time.

We have a designated Rest Time every afternoon here at our place. After lunch, and after a little history or science, and after a little extra play time, all three of us go to our rooms to do something by ourselves. My 8-year-old reads sometimes, but more often than not, she still listens to stories on CD because she likes to draw or color at the same time. Or, more recently, she’s started taking “homework” to her rest time. We stumbled into this by accident one day. She was lagging in her math, and I told her she’d have to finish it later, before rest time, and she brightened up and said, “how about during rest time? Like it’s my homework?” Who knew she’d be so into it? So, now I give her a little something to do every day during rest time.

My 5-year-old listens to stories or music and plays. Soon she’ll be reading on her own. And probably requesting homework. To be like her sister. Ah, such is life.

Anyway. Homework during rest time is also useful in that it keeps my 8-year-old from getting restless and Getting Certain Ideas Into Her Head. You know…. THOSE kinds of ideas. The ones that SEEMED LIKE A REALLY GREAT IDEA AT THE TIME. But in retrospect… maybe NOT SO GOOD. What’s that? Your kids haven’t had any ideas like that yet? That’s okay. Give it time. They’ll have at least one. And Good Luck To You On That Merry Day, is all I’m sayin’. And that maybe you might want to clear some space on the top of your microwave. Just in case.

One day not too long ago, during rest time, I was in my office mulling over a poem when I heard my 8-year-old start to cry. She came out of her room and rushed into the bathroom and shut the door. I waited a few minutes, thinking maybe she had… well, you know… waited a bit too long to run for the bathroom. But after a few minutes, instead of coming out again, she was still in there, and now I could hear her saying quietly, over and over again: “oh no… oh no… oh no…”

Yeah. Not good.

I got up and went down the steps, and knocked at the bathroom door. I opened the door and there she was, in tears, bent over the sink, moaning.

“What is it?” I asked her.
“It’s— it’s—well— I was just playing. I didn’t think anything would happen to him!” Then, still crying, she showed me what was in the sink.

She’d been playing with her stuffed animals, and for whatever reason I’ll never understand, she decided to drape one of them over the top of her lamp and leave it there for a while. Then she sort of forgot about it. Until she smelled a funny burning smell, that is.

I picked up the stuffed animal — a little stuffed dog — and then dropped him right back into the sink because his belly was still HOT. Then I began the LECTURE. The LECTURE lasted all the way down the stairs into the kitchen to get some tupperware to put the dog in so I could pour water over him and make sure his fur was OUT. Then the lecture continued all the way back UP the stairs to her room to get the lightbulb that the dog had been resting upon. There was a large tawny spot of MUCK burned into the top of it. That bulb was replaced with a fresh one. And then the LECTURE continued back down the stairs to the kitchen to check on the dog.

“I’M SORRY!!!!!” she wailed. “I’M SO, SO SORRY, MOM!!!” And she was too. I could tell. She GOT it. She understood now, how easy it was to accidentally start a fire. Then, still in tears, she said, “Mom? Do you think we’ll be able to fix him?”

“No, honey. We really can’t.”

And she cried and cried and cried. And even though there wasn’t much we could do, we put him into the hospital anyway. Welcome to the newest wing of our stuffed animal care facility: the STUFFED ANIMAL BURN UNIT:

Have you ever seen a sorrier stuffed animal sight than that? Look at his face. That puppy is hurtin’.

Here’s a close up of the wound itself. We feel it’s important to share these pictures with you, since we are a teaching hospital, after all.

Other than putting him out, and soaking him in cold water, there’s not much we can do for him. He’ll have those scars forever, not to mention an enormous lump of melted plastic that used to be tiny plastic beads. We considered surgically removing the lump, but it’s too large. We don’t want to risk any of his other essential beads.

We’ll just keep him comfortable and hope that he finds a way to live with his disability. We’ve considered starting an organization for him and stuffed animals just like him. In the meantime, we’ve got room for him in the ICU where he’ll begin his recovery process. He’s even got someone to talk to while he’s there.

If this whole post has gone the way of So Irritatingly CUTE That You Want To Scream, don’t worry. Here’s how it ends:

After a while, they’ll refuse to do their physical therapy. All they’ll want to do is sit up on the microwave and compare war stories. Pretty soon, they’ll be sneaking pizza orders and six-packs and showing their scars to anyone who’ll listen. Visitors will start to decline a bit as they become more and more convinced that this whole thing is nothing but a Vile Conspiracy Against Animals With Plastic Bead Stuffing.

Not long after that, I’ll boot them off the microwave because their insurance will have run out and they’ll stagger around the living room for a while or get stuck under a dining room chair. That’s when one of the Barbie dolls will come along and give them a medal, and a book deal, and then they’ll all go on Oprah and live happily ever after.

But at least we got a good fire safety lesson out of it. Chances are good that my 8-year-old will never put anything on top of her lamp ever again.

I like to fish, too.

I don’t know about all you, but me personally? I’ll be SO GLAD when this is all over.

That’s Portugese for: “Man, I love you guys!”

Mom #1 handed me this sweet little thing yesterday:

which I accept with many thanks and smiles and hugs. Here’s the translation and what it all means, pulled from Two Moms Homeschool:

“This blog invests and believes in ‘proximity’ [meaning that blogging makes us ‘close’ – being close through proxy].”

This award is given to say that certain blogs are charming; that they show the marvels of friendship. And that part of the blogging experience is to pass these little awards along when we get them, to other bloggers with whom we feel a similar bond.

I’m paraphrasing here, and I’ve taken some liberties with commas in the quotation above, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got this down. And I do appreciate it, and I have to say that of all the things I’ve come to love about the blogging experience, the number one thing has got to be the people I’ve “met” along the way.

So much about the homeschooling experience can be isolating at times. But participating in the Internet Homeschooling Community has really helped me grow, personally as well as homeschoolingly. (Look at that problematic word I just created. Isn’t it WONDERFUL?)

Many thanks to Mom #1 for sending this to me. And many thanks to all of you out there who keep on coming back here to read this drivel. You keep me going, people. Believe it.

I’m supposed to pass this along to 8 other bloggers I feel the same way about, and here they are:

Katherine, Doc, Karisma, Robinella, Fourmother, Ami, Heather, and Heather. And I know some of you got this one already, but here… have another. It’s on me.

Word jail.

I think we all need to seriously acknowledge how hard our younger children work at learning to read. Seriously. Whether your kid is “normal” or “gifted” or “dyslexic” or just plain old “regular”, learning to read is intense. And they work damn hard at it, and we should acknowledge that. Honor it.

We work on primer for about 15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 or 4 days a week. Any more than that, and my kindergartener just folds herself up and disappears on me. And because I kinda like having her around, in spite of the GENERAL INSANITY that she brings to our days, I don’t like it when she folds up and disappears. So we keep primer lessons as brief as possible. And if I can get her laughing by the end of the page, so much the better.

We have reached that delicate place in her reading lessons, where it seems that the BREAKTHROUGH is imminent: that the day will come soon when she simply picks up a book and sits down to read it without realizing that she’s done it. She’s already begun reading store signs and road signs without thinking about it. And whatever I give her to read to me, she can do it. Yet if asked, she tells people that she doesn’t know how to read yet. She’s in THAT place. That tricky place.

And I remember when my 8-year-old was there in that place. How stormy it was. How intense and BIG it all was for her. And she remembers too. I know she does. Because already a few times, when I’m sitting on the couch working with my 5-year-old on something tricky, and I pull out a joke or a game from my magic bag, my older daughter whips around in her chair, her math sheet forgotten in the excitement of realizing that her sister is learning THAT COOL THING!!! She grins at us, and sometimes gets up to join in the word game, or even in rare moments accidentally shouts the answer to something, and then we all laugh together, and I admonish her to go on back to her math, to let her sister try.

And then, on other days, when no matter what I pull out from my bag of tricks, nothing works, and my 5-year-old grouses and grumbles and fidgets until I find a quick exit to the lesson no matter where we’re at and let her go play, my 8-year-old just finishes her math and finds something to do without any comment. She understands how hard it is. And she also knows that the payoff is coming. But like me, she knows better than to try to explain that to her sister. Some things — things like wandering through the house reading a book and eating an apple at the same time — are inexplicable. But worth the wait.

Today, we reached the point in primer when it was time to put the word “have” into word jail for being a rule breaker. I wrote the word “have” on the board and drew a bunch of bars over it and a little lock and key, and a sad face around the silent ‘e’ because he’d been defeated by the dastardly “have”. And my 5-year-old was giggling herself into a general uproar and my 8-year-old was cheering “WORD JAIL! WORD JAIL! WORD JAIL!” and all was well in our little world.

It’s not a whole lot a time we spend on this stuff, but it’s quite tiring all the same. She’s got other work to do, in other subjects, but none of them are required the way primer is required, and I’m constantly glad that she’s doing this hard work here at home, where the moment I sense she’s Had Enough Of It For The Day, I can simply release her, cancel the rest of her subjects and let her go wherever it is she needs to go to get it out of her system. To wait for the BREAKTHROUGH that she doesn’t even realize is coming.

A year or so from now she’ll be wandering into the kitchen with a copy of Black Beauty to find a piece of cheese or an apple in the fridge. She’ll slog back to the couch with her snack and dig into it and bend her head into all those words — the words she won’t even remember struggling over this year — and when I tell her it’s time to put the book away, she’ll groan and be all irritated with me.

And I will have taught her how to read.

Poet, pushing 40, attends rock concert, loses favorite pencils.

Whoops, I did it again. Haven’t posted in a while. I’m coming down from a few not-so-glorious days spent in the bottomless depths of hell visiting with my in-laws. It’s kept me hopping, dealing with all the dysfunction, and it left me exhausted and questioning the very meaning of existence at some times. But after my mother-in-law (the one that wishes I was dead so she could raise my kids herself) finally left on Tuesday night, I collapsed on the sofa into a state of befuddled exhaustion, the kind that brings on that dreaded Super Loud BOOMING sound in my ears.

We did half-days of school work on Wednesday and Thursday, having taken off Monday and Tuesday for family visits. Although, now that I think about it, we went to the zoo on Monday, which can certainly count as a field trip.

Last night, though, I went out with a couple of other homeschoolin’ mamas I know, to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia, followed by a concert featuring a band called Rise Against, and about 3 other opening acts whose names I can’t remember. It was loud in there, and hot, and Rise Against played just fast enough to get me out of my In-Law Funk. It was just what the doctor ordered, if you ask me.

I will, however, confess that I seem to have reached that point in my adulthood where I no longer know how to really attend a concert properly. I was dressed fine – Dream Theater t-shirt and jeans, but I didn’t know that I’d be patted down at the door. And while I fully expected that they’d search my purse, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the fact that all writing utensils are forbidden inside clubs these days. The woman searching me pulled all my favorite mechanical pencils out of my purse — the ones I keep with me wherever I go, along with a small notebook, because I’m a poet and I do that kind of dorky thing — and told me I had to either go put them in the car, or she’d have to throw them out.

The car was a bit of a walk from the club, and inside the music had already started. So, rather than tell the two other women I was with that we had to go back to the car, I let the bouncer throw out all my pencils, and we went inside. Live and learn.

On the agenda for today: lots of extra coffee, a trip to the library to see some reptiles they’ve got on exhibit, and a quick stop at Office Max. For new pencils.

Hope your day is Just As Exciting.

Here’s a video of one of Rise Against’s more popular songs. (Sorry I can’t embed it; but every time I try, it says the video’s no longer available, so you’ll have to watch it right from You Tube.) The video has a violent theme to it, no doubt, but it’s still a great song, and honestly? After months of watching the presidential election fiasco and then spending a few days with the in-laws, it’s a pretty accurate metaphor for my state of mind these days.

Unexpected meet-up.

On Monday night, I drove across the Delaware and into Princeton, NJ to have dinner with Susan Wise Bauer and a small cluster of homeschooling women who hang out at her message board. This is by far the furthest thing I ever imagined myself doing as a homeschooling parent, but I was perusing the WTM message boards one day and saw her invitation to meet up for dinner before she gave a small lecture on her new book, and I thought: What the hell? Why not. So, I said I’d go, and then spent the next 5 days trying to talk myself out of it.

First of all, the majority of people over at the WTM message boards have radically different political and religious beliefs than me. I’m pro-choice; they’re not. I’m voting for Obama; they’re exchanging cookie recipes with Palin. I’m homeschooling for my kids; they’re homeschooling for Jesus. I believe in evolution; they think I’m damned. You know… just a few minor differences like that.

I said to myself, for days afterwards: WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? THESE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE. THEY WILL EAT YOU FOR LUNCH AND SPIT OUT THE BONES AND THEN PICK THEIR TEETH WITH WHAT’S LEFT OF YOUR RIBCAGE, IGNORING ALL THE WHILE THE AMAZING SIMILARITIES OF YOUR SKELETAL STRUCTURE WITH THAT OF THE GREAT APES, RENDERING YOUR UNTIMELY DEMISE USELESS…AND THEN YOU WON’T GET TO VOTE FOR OBAMA. AND THAT’S HOW THEY GET YOU.

But even aside from all that, the meeting place was surreal as well. Dinner was at restaurant in Palmer Square and then the lecture was at the Princeton Public Library. And, all’s I’m sayin’ is: I spent the grade school years of my childhood running up and down Nassau Street, through Palmer Square, down to the library, and back again. RegularSis and I used to hang out at the Gallup Poll where our mom worked. We’d help stuff envelopes, disrupt meetings, play with the automatic stampers, and then run out to Polly’s Fine Candy for swedish fish, licorice whips, red hot dollars, and whatever else they had that I can’t remember anymore. We’d go back to the office with our candy and hide out in the back room where they kept all the old filing cabinets and spin endlessly on half-broken office chairs until one of the Gallup brothers came to find us and tell us it was time to go home.

I hadn’t been back there in years, but it was still sort of MY TURF, if you know what I mean, and even though I just painted a lovely little Norman Rockwell type scene up there, most of the memories of those years in my childhood are dark and difficult. Going back to Princeton was something I’d always imagined myself doing while holding my therapist’s hand and talking into one of those mini tape recorders. But instead, I’d managed to arrange this little trip down memory lane to coincide with a meeting with the woman who wrote the homeschooling book I use as a starting point and a bunch of her groupies. Which makes me yet another groupie, doesn’t it.

HOW do I get myself into these things?

Anyway. So I went. I got myself an extra large vanilla latte (caffeinated for the nighttime drive) and headed across the river and found the library even though they’d moved it to a completely different building. I managed to park the car and got out, and immediately knew where I was even though I’d never been there before. I found a small group of women standing in front of the restaurant and gave them that Raised Eyebrow Questioning Look, and asked if they were from the WTM boards, and the said yes, and then began the surreal experience of having to introduce yourself by your screen name instead of your real name. I got a couple of second looks when I said “RegularMom” – probably because of the frog…he does sort of stand out, doesn’t he? Or maybe it’s because they knew I’M NOT A REPUBLICAN. We liberals smell funny, you know. One can always tell.

Pretty soon, Susan arrived and we all went into the restaurant and got a table and ordered food and ate it, and we talked about homeschooling, and Susan signed my books for me, and it turns out that my copy of the Art of the Public Grovel  was the first one she’d ever actually signed, which was pretty cool, but it’s not like confetti fell from the sky or anything. Still, I’ve got the first signed copy of that book. And I’ll always have that story to tell to my grandkids someday, hopefully when they’re all teenagers and getting ready for an important date and wishing I hadn’t dropped by unexpectedly.  

And as for all my fears about the Republicans, well it turns out that there are Republicans out there who are actually really very nice people. Seriously. We all even talked about the politics thing — how the political posts over at the WTM message boards have become this hotbed of insanity, and how funny it is that we can all still get along on the homeschooling front. And then another liberal did show up a little late, so I wasn’t the only one, and I didn’t feel too freaked out, and we had Just A Lovely Evening Together. After dinner, we all went to listen to Susan talk about her new book, and it was a good time.

The only really strange thing about the evening, other than the fact that I actually attended in the first place, was how hard it was for me to stay with one topic. I’d be listening in to one side of the table, and I’d start to respond, but then I’d hear something on the other side of the table and my attention would shift. I guess in my mind, I somehow thought I’d be able to come right back to the first conversation and pick up where I left off, as if I were sitting there on the message board instead face-to-face with them. This is surely some new pitfall of modern dialogue — one that deserves a lot more thought than I’m willing to give it right now, considering how late it is, and considering the fact that I’m only just now getting the house back into some semblance of order. One evening out — and I’m somehow four days behind in laundry and dishes, and just getting the schoolwork done is taking every ounce of everything I’ve got.

So, that was my night out. Nights out have become a bit of rarity for me these days. But I’m quickly approaching a time in my life when staying home doesn’t bother me all that much. Now you know why.


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