Archive for February, 2009

In which I envison a great many peanut butter sandwiches in the near future.


Yesterday afternoon, I took my 5-year-old to the doctor because her cold was going on Day 8 and wasn’t showing any signs of improvement whatsoever.  We ended up getting the doctor that drives me batty, the one who reminds me a bit of Dr. House. He doesn’t limp, and he’s not so OBVIOUSLY rude to people, but he’s brilliant enough that he just does not understand how to talk to a 5-year-old during an appointment. In fact, he barely talks to the 5-year-old at all. He talks to me, and he says things like “Oh man, THIS is really gonna be a TOUGH one!” when my 5-year-old shows signs of distress at the thought of a stick or a Q-tip swab anywhere near her throat (which is so sore that she can barely talk or swallow).

What my 5-year-old hears isn’t so much that she’s the tough one. It’s that something will be DIFFICULT during this visit. Which translates into something will be PAINFUL during this visit. Her distress increases visibly.

What I think when I hear this sort of thing is: WHY did this guy ever get into pediatrics in the first place? What I want to SAY is “Dude, do you even HAVE children?”

What I wish is that I could have magically transported our entire pediatric facility from Colorado along with us when we moved, so that the girls would have the same doctors they’d had ever since they first popped out onto this unsuspecting world. The doctors that knew how to talk to them when they felt sick. The ones that looked right at them when they came through the door and gave them a commiserating frown/rueful smile and said: “Not feeling so good, huh? Well, let’s have a look-see.” and then just went ahead and did what needed to be done without pausing to comment on how difficult it might be, just transferring them from the exam table to my lap and encircling arms for things that might prove uncomfortable, and GETTING IT DONE.

But no. None of them thought uprooting their entire practice was a reasonable idea when I told them we were moving. So I’m stuck with this guy, who is apparently BRILLIANT and the ultimate Go-To-Guy when your kid has got some serious rare disease. But apparently, if your kid is just plain old sick, and happens to have some wax in her ear so he can’t really see if there’s an infection in there, and happens to have this aversion to Strep tests, he’s really not all that good.

And in the end, he simply decided Not To Do The Tests. He would give her antibiotics anyway at this point, so he didn’t see the reason for putting her through an ear cleaning and a Strep test that might or might not have resulted in a prescription for Amoxicillin. He saw how worried my kid was, and apparently didn’t want to deal with it. So, we lucked out, I guess, and just got a prescription. At first, I was all: Gee that’s nice of him. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. But then not ten minutes after he’d explained why he wasn’t going to do the test, he gave us a mini-lecture about how we couldn’t ALWAYS EXPECT to get off this easy. That NEXT TIME, she’d probably have to have the tests.

At that point I told him, as nicely as possible, that if he felt the procedures were necessary, we certainly would do them. That he was the doctor. That I relied on his professional opinion about these things. And that if my daughter showed stress or reluctance I was RIGHT THERE ON HAND, IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE  to help her through it. That I considered it my JOB to help my child through difficult medical moments, just as I considered it HIS JOB to tell me what was required.

He gave me a prescription and we left. Without doing any tests.

I guess it would be prudent to mention at this point that I, also, was still dealing with the very same symptoms as my 5-year-old, which made it very hard for me to maintain any sort of perspective or patience regarding this whole doctor visit. And if he was any other doctor, I’d have called the office to complain when we got home. But considering that he’s the uber-brilliant guy there, I figure it would be bad karma to, like, alienate him or something. So, I took my kids, the prescription, their various Webkinz that they brought in with them, all my own personal cold symptoms and got into my car and left.

And this morning, still feeling pretty crappy, I decided to stop pretending I wasn’t really sick, and called my own doctor’s office. I told them I suspected I have a sinus infection, and they said to come on in. So, I took my kids, their Webkinz toys, some Goldfish crackers, and all my symptoms down to my doctor’s office a couple of hours ago, where I was informed by my kindly young doctor that it’s not a sinus infection.

It’s the flu.

“The flu?” I said to him. “Are you sure? I thought the flu would be one of those I-can’t-even-get-out-of-bed-because-of-the-utter-agony type things. I’m up and around. How can it be the flu?”

“Well,” he said. “Not everyone gets the exhaustion. In fact, it’s almost worse when they don’t, because they tend to think it’s just a cold and go about their business, and it takes longer to recover that way.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Did you get a flu shot this year?” he asked.

“Well… no.” I said.

“Definitely the flu,” he said, and started scribbling like mad on his prescription pad. “I’m gonna give you some Amoxicillin along with everything else I’m prescribing, just in case, but chances are, it won’t make a difference. Go home and rest.”

We’re home now. And resting as best we can.

Except for one event tomorrow that we simply cannot back out of, we’re cancelling everything for the next week or so.

I’ve decided that Mr. Uber-Brilliant Doctor Who Never Should Have Been A Pediatrician doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. I’ve decided to treat my 5-year-old’s cold as if it were the flu. Sure, she’ll take the damn antibiotics. Just in case. But chances are, it’s the flu, and we’ve just got to get through it.

I’ll be back when I’m on the other side of all this.


Photo meme.

Heather over at the Learning Umbrella tagged me for this quick little meme. It’s easy. Go to your 6th picture folder and find the 6th picture in there. Post it on your blog.

Here’s mine:


These oak leaves had seen better days, I guess. This was from a nature study we did about 18 months ago.

This meme is so quick and easy that I tag all of you. If you’re reading this, consider it a tag, and go get that picture. Let me know what you find.

Thanks, Heather.


So, we’ve all got colds again. Because we haven’t had enough of that yet this year. Seriously. It took me a few days to realize that this was another cold, because I actually thought that all that discomfort was just the tail end of that other cold I had 10 days ago. Turns out — nope! it’s a Whole New Cold! Lucky me!

My 8-year-old is so feverish today that she barely complained at all when I told her we wouldn’t be able to go to Girl Scouts. She gave me a token “whaaaa? but I’m NOT sick…” which trailed off into an exhausted moan and then she burrowed down under a bunch of blankets and I didn’t hear from her for about an hour or so.

My 5-year-old actually slept late this morning. That means she slept past the hour of 7:00 and then staggered downstairs with a blanket and her stuffed elephant and sneezed all over the coffee table and me and everything in the living room really, before settling down on the other couch.

Me? I’m all AH-CHOO.

But the silver lining to it all is that I’ve actually got a bit of a day off. RegularDad is bringing us dinner, and he doesn’t have to work tomorrow so I don’t really HAVE to do laundry today. I mean, he could just hang out in his jammies all day tomorrow, right? We all could, actually.

So, finding myself with an unexpected quiet day, I decided to check my calendar. And I discovered that today is my blog’s second anniversary. Two years ago today, I published my first post and then asked a few good friends to read it and tell me how fabulous I am if it was worth posting a second time or not, and here I am two years later, sick as a dog, but ready to celebrate.

I started this blog two years ago because I had just moved 2,000 miles across the country and was stuck in a very tiny farmhouse with two small children, a minivan that didn’t have legal tags on it, and nowhere to go even if I could have driven. The windows in that little farmhouse that February had completely frozen over so I couldn’t even see outdoors unless I actually WENT outdoors. But it was way too cold for that. RegularDad was working practically 24-7, and when he was here, he was sleeping. I had quit smoking a mere six months before then, and I found myself dangerously close to running out and buying a couple of cartons of Marlboros, and I really, really didn’t want to do that after all those months, but things were getting desperate. And I needed some grownups to talk to. Desperately.

So, I did the only rational thing I could think of. I started a blog. And sometimes I’d try to sound all wise and sage and homeschooly in my posts. But other times I’d just give in and type what was actually going through my head at any given moment, or unbelievable conversations that we were having around here, and I’ve found that those posts made people laugh, which was a bit of a relief. Because that meant that I wasn’t completely crazy.

Or maybe it meant that I was, but that I wasn’t alone in my insanity.

Either way, it helped. I managed to stay off the smokes, and continue to homeschool the kids, and things are much better now.

But I owe each of you a debt. For all the encouragement and laughs and free therapy. Many, many thanks to all of you for keeping me smoke free for all these months.

To celebrate, I figured I’d do a little stat inventory:

Here’s a link to my very first post: Wake Up Call.

Here’s one of my very favorite posts ever: Regarding False Forwarding.

And here, according to my stats, are the top-5, most popular pages that people hit on this blog:

About RegularMom and RegularCurriculum are the tabs up at the top of the page. People click there often. I should go update that stuff.

After those two pages, the next most popular post is A Little Q&A on Blogging. I linked to Doc’s place in that post and then she linked back to me, so a lot of people came visiting from her blog. No surprises there.

Next up was There’s Always the Moon, another one of my favorites. Probably some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I remember it was FREEZING out that night, but I was determined to get shots of the eclipse. RegularDad was (of course) working late, and my 8-year-old kept hearing me go out the front door and coming down to make sure I was still here, which was exasperating. But I still managed to get some good pictures. This post is dated February 21, 2008, by the way, one day after my first blog anniversary, which explains why I didn’t do a first anniversary post last year: I was drunk on taking pictures of the moon.

And finally making the top 5 — and oddest of all, I might add — is this one: Post-Nicotine Addiction Conversation. One of the most common Google searches that pops up in my stat bar is some variation of Captain Crunch Berries. People all over the world are apparently ALWAYS looking for the Crunch Berries. Hey. I totally understand. As my post concerning Crunch Berries clearly shows. Indeed, I’ll always have fond memories of that cereal, even though I know better than to keep it around. I assure you all, though, that if I ever, EVER come close to buying a pack of cigarettes, I’ll go for the crunch berries first. Pinky swear. Totally.

And, finally, just for the record: It’s been 2 years, 7 months, and 11 days since my last cigarette. I’ve not smoked 19,410 cigarettes and I’ve saved 67 days of my life.

And I have all of you to thank for that. I couldn’t have done it without you.

So, thanks.

I was almost afraid to even come in here, but here I am.

I know, I know. I keep doing this to you this year, don’t I?

All I can say is: teaching someone to read in between bouts of illness and car accidents and other homeschool teaching requirements for another kid and all this while still having to cook and wash dishes and clothing, and shuttle people back and forth to karate and drama club and scouts and soccer and shovel snow and ice off the driveway because RegularDad can’t get to it before it becomes a TERRIBLE MESS, and and and and AND!!!

That pretty much describes my winter so far.

Well, it’s just life and motherhood. And I’m seriously not complaining. In fact, I remain cheerful as ever (but that’s because right now I’m dipping into the Valentine’s Day chocolates that RegularDad gets me every year). Yes, I remain cheerful and hopeful in spite of the fact that not 2 days after I was finally done with my cold, my 5-year-old came down with YET ANOTHER FEVER, and in spite of the fact that my mother-in-law got that job she wanted to get and is in the process of MOVING HERE as we speak.

Yes, you heard me right.

My mother-in-law is on her way. I’ve been practicing my smile till it hurts. And in my head all I can think is: Find a happy place… find a happy place… FIND A HAPPY PLACE! (like the starfish from Finding Nemo did when Darla was tormenting her in the fish tank) because that’s pretty much my mother-in-law in a nutshell right there: a 61-year-old DARLA.

But, today, the sun is out, and I got some poetry written this morning, and the girls are happy and relatively healthy and RegularDad’s got this coming weekend off, and it’s hard not to be cheerful.

So, my apologies once again, for wandering off and not posting. Just know that even when I’m not posting, I’m feeling pretty cheerful, and that I’m probably working my way through another reading lesson with my 5-year-old, or I’m dealing with a ferocious pile of laundry or I’m driving someone someplace, and that even though I can’t post about it as often as I’d like, my life is exactly the way it should be at this moment in time.

I hope yours is, too.

What we’re reading.


The big blogging thing this year seems to be reading a book a week and then reporting on it. I can’t really commit to that because I usually read more than that, and I’m not always that great about reporting back on what I’ve read. I also re-read a lot, and who wants to come here and listen to me repeat myself? Also, I’m always behind on my blog, and if I set up some sort of weekly deadline, I’d keep missing it, and then I’d have BLOG GUILT, and really — who needs that? If I find myself in need of a little extra guilt, I can always call my mother-in-law.

Having said all that, I will now say that I plan on, from time to time, posting about what we’re reading. Because a lot of what we’re reading is fabulous. And you may want to read the books we’re reading, too.

So, here’s a little sampling of what we’ve been reading lately. From the bottom of the stack to the top:

Vikingtown. A basic public library text I picked up because it has a “If you were a time traveler going to a Viking town, here’s what you’d need to bring” section, and my 8-year-old loves time travel stories. In spite of the time travel section, this book was a bit of a flop here. Not a lot of interest.

Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, a children’s edition by Bruce Coville. If Vikingtown was a flop, Shakespeare certainly has not been a flop at all. Especially the Coville series. The first Shakespeare I read to them was Coville’s Twelfth Night. If you’re hoping to hook little kids on Shakespeare for life, that’s the book to start with. I read them Twelfth Night every day for weeks, they loved it so much, and I had to keep renewing the book until the library finally told me to bring it back already, and consider buying my own copy. We checked out other Coville editions but the tragedies weren’t nearly as popular as the comedies. Midsummer Night’s Dream was a cool second favorite. I’m not sure how they’ll take A Winter’s Tale. But it’s up next on our list. I’ll let you know. The important thing is: my daughters LOVE SHAKESPEARE. Mission accomplished.

The 101 Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith. This text came up in our writing program, and I decided to get a copy of the book and take a break from Shakespeare to read this aloud to them. My 8-year-old couldn’t suffer the waiting through a chapter a day and stole the book to read at bedtime. She finished it in about 2 days and I made her promise not to give away the ending. The book was a success, not just because they loved it, but because my 8-year-old finally understood what I meant when I say: The book is always better than the movie. Always.

Your Mother Was A Neanderthal, a Time Warp Trio book, by Scieszka and Smith. As I mentioned, my 8-year-old loves time travel books. This series is her favorite. She reads through these like candy.

Dewey, the Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron. This was a Christmas gift from the girls. It’s a quick read, and a touching cat story. Worth reading if you’ve ever had a strong bond with a pet.

The Razor’s Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. I’ve been curious about Maugham long enough that I’ve finally picked up a copy of one of his books to give it a whirl. I’m just starting this one now. I’ll let you know.

Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I never read this. Somehow I always missed it in classes. And then I picked up a copy of it a year or so ago and then never managed to get around to it. Until this New Year. Here’s how I finally managed to read it:

On New Year’s Eve, my 40th birthday, we had a very small celebration at home and then everyone went to bed early due to various colds and levels of exhaustion. I ended up staying up late to watch the movie of P&P that I never did get to see, that I always wanted to see, that I didn’t have the heart to pester RegularDad into watching because this kind of movie just isn’t his thing. So, I’m finally watching this movie and it’s like this unexpected birthday treat, you know? Like a little gift I got to give myself. And the phone rings. It’s RegularSis calling to say Happy Birthday.

She goes: “So what are you doing for your birthday? Anything special?”
And I say: “I’m watching Pride & Prejudice.”
And she goes: “Oh my God! It’s such a great movie!!!! I’ll let you go! Happy Birthday!”
And she hangs right up. Because… she GETS IT.

A few minutes later, my mother calls to say Happy Birthday.

“So, what are you doing?” she asks me.
“Watching Pride & Prejudice,” I say.
“Oh,” she says, and then prattles on for like 20 freekin minutes about God knows what…

…and I end up COMPLETELY MISSING what Darcy wrote in that letter, and even though I was able to basically piece it together and the movie was still good, I really wanted to know exactly WHAT HE WROTE. So I picked up my copy of P&P the next day and didn’t put it down until I was done.

You should read Pride & Prejudice too. In fact, if you don’t, I’m gonna make my mom call you every day until you do. So, you might as well just read it. Trust me. It’s a great book.

Reading Like A Writer, by Francine Prose. This was an afterthought of a book I grabbed one evening while wandering around the bookstore, and I’m so glad I got it. I learned a lot about reading and about writing from this book. And the most important thing I learned was that it’s okay to read the classics just for the enjoyment of it.

Too often, I pick up one of the classics and I start reading from a point of anxiety. Even before I’ve gotten beyond the Table of Contents, I worry that I won’t GET what all the brilliant people out there GET about the book. What are the eco-socio-political undertones? What does it all MEAN? And what if I were to mention to someone that I’m reading Don Quixote, and they said to me: Really? I loved that one. I was really impressed by the author’s ability to BLAH-DE-BLAH-BLAH-BLABBERY-BLOO-BLA-BLEEE…. How could I possibly respond without sounding like a moronic ass who doesn’t deserve to read the classics, let alone todays Dilbert?

And people wonder why no one reads the classics anymore.

Anyway. So, this book by Prose (um, aren’t you just dying to know if that’s a pen name? I am.) basically gave us all permission to just open up a copy of — oh, I don’t know — Pride & Prejudice maybe? — and just ENJOY the book.

How could you not love that?

Well, I’d quote several passages from any one of these books, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. And it’s time for PJ’s around here. And my tea’s gone cold.

And did I mention that I’ve got a cold right now? Ah…. CHOOOOO…..

Until next time…. Happy reading.

An argument for penmanship.

I came across this article via Arts and Letter Daily this morning, although it’s been out for a while. (I’m always behind in my reading. Always.)

It’s a fine argument in defense of handwriting written by Kitty Burns Florey. More and more schools, it seems, are doing away with teaching handwriting in lieu of teaching keyboarding. It sounds crazy, I know, and most teachers agree. So they squeeze in time for teaching printing, because they know that the ability to write with a pen is — well — important.

Educators I talked to claim that kids master reading more easily when they write a word as they learn it: the writing process keeps their attention focused as they match symbol to sound. Quite a few teachers whose schools make little provision for teaching handwriting have wedged it into the curriculum anyway because they’re convinced of its importance.

Kids certainly need to learn to type on a keyboard, but they also need legible handwriting–for taking tests, writing reports, working at the chalkboard. Many schools have adopted some version of technology for these tasks, but far more haven’t the resources for it. Children are judged by their handwriting; if they produce indecipherable chicken-scratching, a teacher will not be sympathetic. And if writing hasn’t become easy and automatic, they’ll lose their train of thought, be unable to plan ahead as they write, and, in the end, dislike both aspects of the writing process: forming their letters and expressing their ideas.

The big loser in this whole scenario is, of course, cursive writing. That’s what’s quickly disappearing from schools all around the country. If it’s hard enough to squeeze in enough time and money to teach printing, the chances of teaching printing and then cursive are pretty much nil.

I’ve seen some heated debate on this issue in various message boards over the past few months. Some people are horrified to hear that cursive writing may become extinct over the next few decades. Some people are thrilled. Some make their kids learn only cursive; some only printing. Some do both. Some teach a method that combines both skills simultaneously.

Here at my place, I’m teaching both. At some point, I’m sure the kids will develop their own singular combined style, and I’ll be glad to see it. I think it’s a mark of developing maturity to see individual penmanship styles emerge.

It’s just one more thing that keeps me homeschooling, I guess. I can’t imagine my girls not knowing how to write cursive letters. And I’m very glad to be the one to teach them this skill, especially because one of my girls is left-handed like me. For me, as a lefty in school, learning Palmer Method cursive was filled with all sorts of hidden pitfalls. I struggled with it through 3rd grade and spent most of that year washing layers of pencil lead off the side of my hand where it ran over the script.

But then in 4th grade, I ended up with a teacher who understood the whole lefty situation. She spent that year retraining my hands and teaching me to reposition my paper so that I no longer wrote with my hand curved around the top of my pencil. I hated it at the time. She placed my desk at the end of a row so that she could easily reach my hand and paper. And EVERY TIME we were given writing assignments she’d watch me, and the minute she saw me revert back to the old awkward postions she’d come over and change me back to the proper way. She’d pat me on the back and say: someday you’ll thank me for this.

And she was right. Because once I’d made that adjustment, all of the handwriting skills that used to trip me up suddenly became clearer and easier. And I hope that there are teachers out there still who are doing this for their lefty students. In spite of the push to simply replace pencils with keyboards.

And in another year or so, when my older daughter calms down about her writing, I’ll start doing the same thing to her. And when she’s about 30, she’ll thank me for it. I hope I live that long.

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