Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas

The kids favorite presents this year -

Lia - Rock Hero

JoAnn - monkey hoodie

Es - Pocky

Ant - Nexxon cash

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Astronomy

The kids have all taken an interest in astronomy lately. I think it is the large number of clear nights that we have been having. I notice that I always tend to notice the stars more in the winter myself. They have been identifying constellations and naming some of their own. (In our family, we can now find the big dipper, the little dipper, and the tiny dipper! I bet most of you don't know where that one is!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

ARGH

My family recently attended our first unschooling gathering, ARGH, in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. For the most part, it was a wonderful, positive experience, and it was through and through a learning experience for all of us.

Our trip began not too early Saturday morning when we headed south on Interstate 81. We very nearly traveled the entire length of I-81 on our journey. Esme, Jo, and Lia were piled into the rear seat of the minivan, a large cooler and several bags of snacks, books, and audio tapes took up the middle seat, and Diana and I did our best to make ourselves comfortable up front. Our day consisted of driving down to the NY state border and then through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and halfway through Virginia. We stopped and took pics in rest stops in each state with the exception of Maryland which we were in for less than 30 minutes on a very busy highway with no rest areas in sight. It was nice to feel the temperatures rise and to watch the trees become leafier as we headed south. As with our earlier trip to NYC, I-81 in PA was very slow going! That got us a couple of hours off schedule leading to no lengthy stop for lunch and arriving about an hour later than anticipated at our motel in Verona, VA.

To keep expenses to a minimum, we decided to not eat out during our trip except for dinner this Halloween night which was chosen from the dollar menu at McDonald's. We were all soon asleep in beds in the motel and awoke early the next morning to a very skimpy continental breakfast courtesy of the motel. In spite of heavy rainfall, we were all excited about our first stop of the day, Foamhenge, a life-sized replica of Stonehenge made out of styrofoam! After a twenty minute drive, we trekked up a muddy slope and were not disappointed! It was magnificent, well worth the walk even in the rain. We hope to return one day when it is not raining for a more lengthy visit.

Our drive continued south through Virginia then into Tennessee. The route was a little confusing when we entered Bristol, a border city that is part VA and part TN. There was no sign really saying that we had entered Tennessee, but we kept following our trusty Google directions and eventually got where we were going. We had one last stop before Roan Mountain State Park. We were stopping to get some groceries. At first, we had thought that we would bring all the food we would need with us, but I was worried about keeping that much food fresh for two days so we decided to plan a stop at Elizabethton to stock up on the food that we would need for the next few days. This took much longer than I had expected. We were all a little on edge after two days of travel, and the people in the store were so slow! After a lot of people watching mixed in with my shopping, I realized it wasn't a bad thing. It seemed that everyone was just going at their own pace doing what they needed to do with no rush or hurry. Even the cashiers were extra patient, going with the flow one step at a time in an extremely busy store! I don't know if this is a southern thing or not, but it definitely had a different feel compared to my usual shopping trips where everyone is in such a hurry! At the Tennessee store, we were the ones who were hurrying. It was sort of embarrassing. I felt a little bit like we stood out from everyone else as outsiders even though I was in a large store in a not-too-small city on a busy Sunday afternoon.

When we got out of the store, I was disappointed because I realized that we were definitely going to arrive at the campground later than I was hoping to. I was working hard to let go of my disappointment and to just go with the flow, when Diana noted that the clock in the store said an hour earlier. All of a sudden, we all realized that we forgot to set our clocks back! We were right on time.

Arriving at the campground was very scary to me. I am not a people person. I have an irrational fear of people, and when I am coming to a place where I am somewhat expected to interact with others, with no clearly defined rules or expectations, I tend to fall apart. I should have recognized faces from the internet, but suddenly my memory was faulty and I couldn't remember who anyone was! We had talked at home about what to expect walking into a gathering where a lot of the people already knew each other. All of us were trying to have no expectations other than just having fun together in a beautiful setting, but at this point, I was worried that I would never be able to even ask anyone where to pick up my key!

A few people who arrived said hi, but that was the extent of the conversation. We started carrying our bags to our cabin and piling them on the porch. Then I saw Ren, and I was 100% sure that I recognized her! So, we went over, and Laura came, and we got our keys, and I was able to relax a bit.

Note, in the midst of my anxiety, I couldn't help but basking in the beautiful surroundings. I have been many beautiful places, but this was magnificent!!! If you are looking for a quiet, beautiful, inexpensive vacation place with lots of amenities, I highly recommend Roan Mountain State Park. Even if ARGH were never to take place there again, we would love to go back and enjoy the beauty/explore some more!

The next few hours were a blur of unpacking, putting up the Halloween decorations, and putting on costumes. (Not me, 'cause I was not going to trick or treat. I was hoping to spend absolutely as much time as possible alone in the cabin on this trip!) Then, after getting directions, we piled into the car and headed to the conference center. More beauty was everywhere! Deer in every field, gorgeous foliage, the nearly ever present fog on the mountains, sunset, moon rise...well you get the picture!

Esme, JoAnn, and Lia were feeling shy, but still got their make up done for trick or treating. We all like to participate. Sometimes I think that we are odd unschoolers. Even Diana had a bunny nose and whiskers done. We met a few people, but I was not feeling particularly social, and that is OK. The kids and Diana in various combinations along with various people that they met along the way had fun trick-or-treating, and I handed out candy and spider rings to lots of trick or treaters. There was such a festive feeling, and everyone was so nice. By the end of the evening, Lia had a new friend, and the rest of us were more than ready for a good night's sleep.

The beds in the cabin were very, very soft! I fall victim to soft beds with a resulting lower back pain that can be relieved only with lots and lots of pain reliever and ultimately time. The next morning, my back was aching. It wasn't too horrible though, and I hoped that by pursuing my normal activities I would be able to coax it back to health. The day was filled with funshops including making candied apples, henna, and well other things that now seem just a blur! Esme and JoAnn found their way to the hang out cabin and met a few tweens and teens. Diana set up her wares at the untrepreneurial fair and sold a couple of items. I was hoping to have a few hours alone at the cabin in the afternoon, but it didn't seem to be in the cards. I did get a long walk in the woods and a hot bath, both of which were very nice in spite of my back.

That night was a potluck dinner in honor of Day of the Dead. Diana had decorated a sugar skull and carved an apple in honor of her stepfather Frank who died this past August. I made roasted veggies and marinated cucumbers as our contributions to the dinner, and the girls brought paper plates, plastic silverware, napkins, cups, and soda to contribute to the group effort. Lia, Jo, and Es ate with people who they had met that day, and Lia made plans for a sleepover with a new friend. Diana and I found seats and enjoyed a succulent buffet of tasty dishes. Wow! The food was wonderful! Diana and I and several of the other people at our table particularly liked some sweet potato scones which I hope to find the recipe for and recreate myself!

Unfortunately, my back was getting worse, not better. The seats were at a bad height for me, and I didn't bring a pillow with me to help get a good position. (I thought of it, and I should have!) Diana took me home shortly after we finished eating. At that point, I didn't care about socializing. I just wanted to get comfortable. There was a lot of confusion that evening. Lia had her sleepover, and Esme had decided to spend the night in the hangout cabin. Josie did not want to spend the night in the hangout cabin. She didn't want to spend the evening alone with Diana and me either though. She was very sad that she takes longer to get close to people than Lia and Es do. We talked a very long time about a lot of things until she was doing better. You can't change who you are. It is OK to take a long time for feel intimate with someone. It is OK to not want to play games that other people think are fun but you don't. It is OK to be yourself, even if you feel very different or on the outside of other people. Those are lessons that took me a long time to learn. JoAnn and Antonio are much like me in those ways, but I believe because they do not attend school, they have learned those lessons better and quicker than perhaps I ever will.

In the end, Esme came home and spent the night with Josie. She knew that Jo was sad, and she wanted to be with her more than away with people who she didn't know well yet. Es and Jo played PGSM and ate Halloween treats late into the night. My night was not so pleasant. I could not find a way to sleep. My back pain had become severe. There seemed to be no comfortable (to me) seat anywhere in the cabin! The worst part was that I had forgotten to even bring pain relievers with us. The next morning, Diana took me to the store to get some pain reliever. This was definitely an act of love considering how much she disliked driving on those mountain roads. It was a good trip though. We were able to call Antonio and check on him. (There is no cell phone reception at the park at all!) She also filled the gas tank so we would be heading home with a full tank.

The pain reliever made the pain bearable, but I still needed lots of rest and had to accept the fact that I had to limit my activities. There were some events that I had wanted to attend that day that I had to let slip by, Diana also. I had hoped that we could go to Carver's Gap, matter of fact that was one of the parts of the trip that was most exciting to me, and I had to let that go too. Diana and I had a quiet day in our little home in the mountains. I read on the porch and made a fall feast of turkey cutlets, stuffing, baked yams, and apple cherry wine for our dinner. Diana did art and took photos and read. The girls were out and about socializing, and we really didn't see them except for a moment or two all day! In the evening, we regrouped and headed to the conference center for the talent show.

This time, I had brought a pillow and was in it for the long haul! I love talent shows, and this one was wonderful! Our girls danced to a j-pop song among other things. I have heard a lot of good things about unschooling talent shows through the years, but the thing that really struck me (coming from a mainstream world) was how many kids on the spur of the moment decided to perform! If you were at a typical public school with a similar sort of event, very few kids would volunteer to get up in front of everyone and perform. The confidence was so shiny!

Although my back was a bit better, once again we did not stay for dancing or socializing. I needed to rest. That night, Esme stayed in the hangout cabin until late and then joined her sisters. I got up early the next morning and started packing up our cabin and doing a bit of light housekeeping. The girls soon followed and carted everything out to the car. The two girls who Lia was close to had both already left, so we decided to not stay for the closing circle but to head home. Diana was hoping to make it in one day! The gathering sort of lingered as we retraced our route home seeing various other ARGH attendees at rest areas along I-81.

What did we learn? Diana learned that our kids do not fight a lot! I realize that this is a subjective thing, but as an only child, Diana never really had to get along with other kids in her home on a regular basis. I think our kids are excellent problem solvers, very loving towards each other, and get along great. Diana has thought that they have too many disagreements, but what she hasn't seen is that they are pretty good at solving these disagreements and that living with a bunch of people is inevitably going to lead to disagreements that you have to work out. At ARGH, several people commented on how well our daughters got along with each other, also how well behaved they were (although we are used to that!) This was good for Diana to hear.

Esme learned that all teens are not the same, and that she can fit in with a group of teens and have fun in real life. She also learned that the next few years have many different options for her, and that she has many different roads and activities that she can explore throughout the rest of her teen years.

Josie learned that although she may be slow to get close to new people, that that does not mean that she isn't OK or that she will never have friends. She learned that there are different ways to go about making friends, and she is on the way to finding the right ones for her.

Lia learned that there are other people out there who are not obsessed with school, sports, or boys.

Ant learned that although he can survive a nearly a week on his own, life is more fun with the rest of us!

I learned that even when I am not able to function well and when things don't turn out the way I had planned or hoped, I can still be OK and have fun in a different way. I also had new seeds planted on why I have felt more discontent the last few months. I will write more about the another time though.




Monday, August 24, 2009

Xanth

It is time for another book review, actually a series review! The Xanth series by Piers Anthony is one of Diana's favorite (perhaps her very favorite) series of books. She compelled me to read them, and I have been chugging along through the series off and on for the last few years. I just today finished book 21, Faun & Games.

Although your views may vary, and Diana's views certainly do, I find a lot of problems with these books. First, they do not hold my attention. I can never seem to pin down exactly what the problem is. There is fantasy. There are interesting plots. The books are filled with unique characters, and yet, it is very easy for me to put the books down. I honestly think it is the writing style.

Note, this isn't a problem with Piers Anthony in general. I loved the Incarnations of Immortality series which I read in its entirety in one fell swoop. I have also read other random Piers Anthony novels with no problems. It seems to be the Xanth novels in particular that I have a problem with. They do not seem completed. It is more like someone had an idea for a book and just wrote about it off the top of their head with no proper plot development, character development, subtle foreshadowing, etc. I think I like my novels a bit more complex.

I also have a problem with the stereotyping. Others seem to find it a form of social commentary, but I just find it trite and not creative.

A bit of background for those of you who are not familiar with Xanth, Xanth is a world that looks rather similar to the state of Florida. In Xanth, all people have magic talents. There are also a host of magic creatures like centaurs, dragons, fauns, and griffins. Plots tend to revolve around various quests that the characters need to complete, and figures from our world (Mundania) figure prominently in many of the books. In some ways, Xanth is a Utopian world. The material things that people need grow on trees so it is not necessary for people to work for those things in the typical "mundane" way. The literalization of puns plays a huge part in the world of Xanth and the plots of the novels.

Faun & Games tells the story of a faun, Forrest, who is the caretaker of a sandal tree. His best friend is the faun who is the caretaker of the clog tree near his. When the clog tree faun disappears, Forrest heads out on a quest to find a new faun for the clog tree so that the clog tree will not suffer the horrible fate of becoming mundane. The book was not the worst of the series nor the best.

If you choose to read this series, I do find it best to read all the books in order. Many say that they don't, but there is a lot of background information built into the earlier novels, and all of the novels regularly refer to things that took place in the earlier novels with an expectation that you will have some inkling what is being talked about. I think if you just jumped in, you would miss out on a lot!

If you like fantasy and puns, you may want to give this series a try. The first book A Spell for Chameleon has a particularly nice plot and very lovable characters. When I have complained about the lack of complexity in the plots, Diana has stated that they are children's books, but I definitely disagree on this point. The books are not marketed to children or teens. There is a lot of sexual innuendo, which although we do not mind it in our family, I know many people would feel was inappropriate for children, but most importantly, if I find a book boring, I think that kids would find it even more so! I would not recommend these books to my kids although they are welcome to read them if they so choose.

If you try the Xanth books, and don't find them to your liking, don't give up on Piers Anthony. You may want to give the Incarnations of Immortality a try (again the first book, On a Pale Horse is stand alone good) or one of his other series. Please don't judge this talented and prolific author on one series that seems like just a fill in to the good stuff to me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not Back to School

I am writing this post particularly for the Carnival of Unschooling Life which has the theme of Not Back to School this month. The thing that hit me when I thought about the theme is that we don't even really note the "back to school" time in our household anymore.

I do remember though, back when my now 21 yo was a five year old, and when she didn't go to a first day of kindergarten. I definitely noticed all the buses that year on the first day. All the children lined up in stiff new clothes that looked too warm for the weather and brandnew backpacks filled with school supplies. Of course, in a week, they all look pretty much as worn as the ones from the end of the previous year, but that day, I could nearly smell the freshly sharpened pencils as I watched through my front curtains.

Emma was up and writing something on a piece of paper and seeming quite content. I was content too, but maybe there was a part of me that was wistful for the idealized version of school that many seem to fall victim too.

Fast forward sixteen years. My four still at home kids now 11, 13, 15, and 17 don't pay any attention to the first day of school. I don't even know when it is! We do occasionally take advantage of back to school sales; you can't beat 25 cents for a box of 24 Crayola crayons or 500 sheets of lined paper for a dime. Since these sales seem to start right after the Fourth of July in our neck of the woods, they don't really correspond to school starting.

We just live our lives. School is something other people do for reasons that we often find hard to fathom. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Birthday Weekend

It is birthday time here at Faerie Gardens. Wednesday was Diana's birthday, and we celebrated with a picnic at Mexico Point. Here special dessert was a Wattamelon Roll complete with candle (and vanilla ice cream for me who doesn't like it very much!)

Saturday was Josie's 13th birthday. Now I only have one preteen left! We celebrated with a special dinner of pepper steak, salt potatoes, and roast corn (which was for Diana too 'cause it is her favorite.) The we went to Harborfest for the pyrotechnic display with Diana's nanny and dad. We finished up the night with a dark chocolate layer cake with cream cheese icing.

Today is Ant's birthday, and we are going on a trip to Super Walmart in a little bit to pick out a special dessert for him. The kids love going to Super Walmart in the middle of the night so it should be fun for all!

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Fun!

Lia and Esme have recently taken up watercolor painting. Esme is glad to add another medium to her artistic endeavors and is pleased how her watercolor pieces have come out. Lia has been doing a lot of paintings on a large scale and gifting us all. She has also been using poster paints in conjunction with stamps to make designs and cards.

Esme sold some things and used the profits to buy a Pullip doll which she has named Giselle Xander Shelle. Ultimately she wants to add an obitsu body and new eyes and move into doing doll customization and picture stories.

Antonio has been going through bursts of high energy activity coupled with, to be expected, quiet and tired times. He has declared that he wants to know everything (he takes after me), and considering the new tidbits of info that he shares with us every day, he is well on his way to getting there. He has had an increasing interest in cars which has led to more of an interest in cars in Jo and myself. We have had lots of family convos about various automobile related things. Mabinogi is his MMO of choice at the moment.

On the book front, Diana, Es, Jo, and I have all enjoyed Bad Kitty and the follow up Kitty Kitty. Those books are so hilarious! We are looking forward to another one being added to the series soon.

The wii is still a big thing, but it seems to have taken on a different role in our life. It is now something someone turns to when they can't think of anything else to do. Sort of a last choice. Antonio also uses it to placate Lia when she is antsy. If she is having trouble being herself and eleven, Ant will notice and ask her to play wii, and it often gets her past a bad mood time.

Oh! I almost forgot that we seem to have entered another sewing cycle. It started with Zelly (Es's pullip.) In order to afford her, Esme had to do a share which basically means that someone else paid half the price for the doll in exchange for Esme sending her Zelly's clothes. So of course, Esme had to sew some new clothes for her. This led to all the girls sewing, and they have been sewing a couple of times a week ever since.

Also, the kids were gifted with SIMS2 for the computer from their big sis Em, and they have all been playing that but especially JoAnn and Lia!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Five Tips for Surviving the Summer

When I am around mainstream parents, both here online, and out there in meatspace, I often hear griping about their kids being out of school for the summer. Oh, some kids go to camp, and some go to daycare, but there are a lot of parents who seem to be very unhappy to be spending extra time with their kids during summer vacation.

This obviously isn't a problem here. We are together all the time, and for the most part enjoy it. Summer is actually the best because we can go outside whenever we want a lot more easily than in the winter. I have been thinking a bit lately about those parents whose views are so different from ours and thought I might give them some advice, so here it goes!

Five Tips for Surviving Summer Vacation with Your Kids

1. Change your terminology! It may sound simple, but simply changing the words that you both use and think can help change your whole frame of mind. Do not worry about surviving the summer, instead think about how to make sure that each member of your family shines through the summer! Summer is the perfect time to cement relationships with the other members of your family regardless of their ages. Focus on shining, and bringing out each person's best, and your positive attitude is sure to rub off on all!

2. Make a list. That's right. Make a list, and while you're at it go ahead and check it twice! List fun activities that you think your kids might like to do. List fun things that you want to do! List things that your partner has been talking about or excited about in the past (if you have a partner, if you don't, count your blessings that you don't have to consider their thoughts too. It is always best to look on the bright side.) When you need to get away, or the kids are bored, or there is a rainy day, or an unexpected sunny day after a rainy day, pull out the list! In our family, we all have so many interests and things that we want to do, but we often forget them when opportunity strikes. Don't let that happen to you.

3. Don't be afraid to ignore the list! That's right. After making a list, and checking it twice, remember that this is your children's summer vacation and perhaps the best thing that you can provide for them is freedom! Let your kids stay up late and then sleep late the next day if they want. Let them have breakfast at 1 pm, and dinner at midnight. Take a 2 am run to the 24 hour grocery for emergency ice cream. If you've planned a trip to the zoo, and realize at the last minute that a trip to the beach is what the kids really want, change your plans, grab your suits and towels, and head to the beach! You may not be committed to a full time unschooling lifestyle, but summer vacation is the perfect time to give your kids a taste of the freedom that unschooling kids have everyday.

4. Cultivate interests. School can be all consuming, and the standard curriculum greatly limits the things that your kids spend their time on during the school year. Many kids want nothing other than to veg out in front of the TV after they get home. When kids are feeling refreshed in the summer, it may be the perfect time for the projects and learning that don't fit with that standard curriculum. Does your thirteen year old have a passion for science? Strew your house with science related books from the library and enlist their help in stocking a laboratory in the basement. How about your ten year old who has been talking about trying out for a play? See what theater opportunities are available in your neck of the woods. If you can't find anything that meets her needs, see if you can gather together some neighborhood kids for an impromptu theater project.

5. Play. The absolutely best thing that you can do for your kids this summer vacation is to play with them! Share in their interests and their fun. Be a part of their lives, and you will create relationships with them that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sharing

A wonderful blog post that I read today...

Reward or Payment?

Just recently, I read a group of articles put out by one parenting site in which parents (self proclaimed experts really) posted their views on giving children rewards. The articles were contradicatory towards one another, and that was sort of the point. In terms of the article's strength, and the comment response, the article opposed to using rewards was the definite winner in the debate (if that is what it was.)

Now, I am going to share my views, and they just might surprise you. Yes, I am an unschooler. I believe that my children can and should do those things that they choose to do, using their own brains to reason out what is best for them, with me providing helpful, well thoughtout input and giving them access to lots of other input so that their decisions will be well informed. In general, I agree that children should not be given rewards for their behavior. I want my kids to figure out what they want to do and what is best for them, not do things 'cause I might give them something. So far no surprises right?

There is another side though. Our society works on a system where people get paid for doing work. I believe that seeing first hand how this works is the best way to learn about the system. In our house, this is where "rewards" come in, but I prefer to not call them rewards but rather payments. If I would like something done around the house, I may offer my child the job in exchange for a payment. (In our house, the common currency is paper tickets like the kind you get at the carnival which can be exchanged for various things and activities as they come available.)

Now there are a few things that keep this system under control. First of all, I don't offer the kids payments for things that most people do for themselves without payment like picking up after themselves. Second, I still ask my kids if they are available to help me with various things like switching laundry or making dinner without offering payment. Third, all my kids help in various ways getting the house in order after dinner just as part of the family without expecting payment too. No one is required to do this, they just want to be a part of taking care of the house and family. In other words, my kids are normal, helpful family members who do not expect payment for normal life activities.

Also, I do not ever require the kids to do anything for payment. This would defeat the purpose. In the real world, you can choose whether to take a job or not. I realize that some people may feel forced into a situation, but there is always a choice on some level. I want my kids to know this! Of course, if one kid says no, the job is often offered to another who will then get the payment.

This method has worked well in our family for a couple of years now. It is the best of both worlds. Of course as unschoolers, we are not offering our kids rewards for things like A's or school work or reading books! Also, if we had more financial resources, I would prefer to give my kids cash payments instead of tickets, but they understand that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

When Principles Collide

As an unschooling parent, I strive to live my life by principle as opposed to rules. I raise my kids to be the same way. It is agreed by many philosophers and social theorists that the highest level of ethical development is having a clearly developed set of personal principles that are logical, univeral, and consistent that one makes one's decisions based on.

Broad principles such as human life is more valuable than property may seem obvious, but when they filter down to every day decisions it can be anything but simple!

My thoughts today have to do with when one's child is making decisions based on a principle that one disagrees with. From an unschooling point of view, what is the right thing to do when principles collide? This can be a tricky situation, and I believe that the proper response is going to vary based on the child. This happened today, and I thought I would evaluate my behavior based on my principles without giving details that might violate my child's privacy.

First, I stood up for my principles. I have a principle that influences my life that says that I need to respond when someone does something that I feel is wrong. I do have levels of response. If it is something that I do not feel would be helped in any way by my direct involvement, I often respond with a general blog post. I am not responding to the person whose morals I disagree with directly, but I am putting my ideas out there in the hope that I might make someone think outside the box. If I do think that I could help directly, I will usually plant seeds. Most people do not respond to direct conflict, so I will very casually plant ideas in someones head so that they might think differently the next time. The third response is actually my rarest. If I am close to someone, and I know that they value my opinion, I will share my principle directly. My children fall into this category, so I did share my opinion. Because the principle being violated was one that I feel strongly about, I was honest and told her that I thought that she was wrong, and I told her exactly why. Note, there are others who might agree with her, but the issue was one that I felt strongly about, and I needed to know that she knew how I felt and why.

Secondly, I supported her. She was upset by this conflict of our views, so I held her and let her cry and did not express anything else that could be contrued as judgement. This was upholding my principle to support my children no matter what even if they disagree with me. Then I gave her time alone which I knew she wanted. This supported the principle of treating people as individuals and respecting their individual needs. At this point, being human, I was doubting my behavior. Maybe I should have said nothing. Maybe I should have planted seeds...

I thought that I needed to touch bases with my child and see how she was feeling and tell her once again that she has my support, and that I realize that people see things differently and that I will still love her even if this is something that we disagree on. I also talked a bit with her about why she may have the opinions and values that she does in a non-negative or threatening manner. The principle involved here was that it is important to have a close relationship with one's kids.

Now there is one more thing. I am ashamed to say that I didn't really listen to my daughter. Not 100%. So...the principle of listening and trying to understand others' points of view is coming into play...I am going to talk to her some more right now!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Contests

Since I am expecting a my first grandchild, I have an eye open for contests featuring prizes for mommies and babies. I have wanted to purchace a ring sling, but the good ones are so expensive! Today I saw this contest, and I am entering with hopes to win a prize.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Eye of the Forest - Review

The Eye of the Forest is the fifth book in the Children of the Lamp series by P. B. Kerr. The Children of the Lamp is a series of books about djinn (genies) aimed at 9-12 years olds. The main characters are twins, John and Philippa Gaunt, who upon reaching puberty discover that they are djinn. Djinn are of fire, and have powers such as being able to grant wishes and being able to travel outside of their bodies.

As far as series go, the Children of the Lamp is superior to many that I have read for this age group. The characters are well developed, the situations are unique, and the plots are interesting. I do not feel that the books are stand alone reads though. This is definitely a series to read in order, and most likely, after you have read one, you will want to read more. I have not noticed any inconsistencies from book to book up to this point.

Some particularly strong points that I have noticed from an unschooling point of view is that there is no focus on school in these books. The books take place in exotic locales, and the author includes fairly well researched information about the settings. Also the children are independent and interact well with adults forming friendships with people outside a limited peer group. In general, the books have a lack of ageism with people being treated as individuals regardless of how old they may happen to be.

The Eye of the Forest takes place mainly in the Amazon rain forest. The twins along with their Uncle Nimrod and a friend are trying to stop someone (they don't know who) from discovering the "Eye of the Forest" which is a mystical doorway leading seemingly to nowhere. In order to divert disaster, they must find the eye themselves. Of course, this involves lots of adventure and use of their particular djinn capabilities. There is a side theme involving the good and evil in all of us, and another dealing with rain forest deforestation. I was pleased that the ecological story line presented a well balanced picture showing the struggles of people who do participate in industries that can lead to deforestation as well as the obvious arguments against it.

All in all, I would recommend this book to those who enjoy series with a fantasy element and a lot of adventure. These books are suitable for all ages, but please note that the evil characters tend to be truly evil and truly bad things happen to some of the characters.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blogging for LGBT Families Day 2009

As most of you know, we are a two mommy family.  It has been a busy weekend in a busy month, and today is a busy day, but Diana and I thought it was important that we do a post in honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day.  Since she is working outside the home today, and I am not, I have the honor of writing about our family.

When I met Diana in 2003, I was the single parent of five kids, Emma 15, Ant 11, Esme 9, Josie 7, and Lia 5.  Were the kids in any way a hindrance to our relationship?  Well, Diana had been trying to conceive for several years without success, and I couldn't help worry that she would be both overwhelmed and saddened by my large family.  The kids' reactions varied.  Some were very, very supportive.  (It is wonderful to see your mom happy!)  Others were surprised, but none were negative, and as our relationship progressed, with the exception of my oldest daughter who wanted to remain in the same city/neighborhood that she had grown up in, we all decided to move in together and become a family.

Adding five new people to your family is not that easy!  Diana was an only child with no cousins close to her age.  She was not use to having a lot of kids around.  She was use to privacy, peace and quiet, and having a lot of control!  Well anyone with a big family knows that privacy, and peace and quiet can be in short supply.  Also, it tends to work best if you learn to let go of trying to control too many things and trust instead.

We worked it out though.  We did our best to listen to and learn from each other.  We have tried to honor each others' needs as we grow together.  Diana now loves her "gift children" very much! 

At this point, it seems more that this is an entry about blended families than about GLBT families.  But you know what?  That is because as GLBT family is just a family!  I don't feel like we are any different from other families.  Each family is formed in its own way!  The members of our family all love each other.  We work together for common goals, and we strive to help each other to meet our own individual goals.  We strive to live consensually.  We aren't perfect.  We sometimes argue.  We all sometimes make mistakes.  In general though, it works, and we are all better together than we would be individually.

Remember, a family is a family.  Ours isn't better or worse than anyone else's simply because it is led by two women instead of a woman and a man.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Do They Do?

I get this question a lot.  I hate to pigeonhole my kids.  Each one of them has diverse interests and participates in diverse activities.  On the other hand, when I think about it, I do know what they do at least for now.  For who knows, what they might be doing a year from now or five or ten.  People change and grow and just get sick of one thing and move onto something else.  It is the way it usually is and is good!

What does Antonio do?  We invents things and makes things and improves things.  I suppose he is an engineer.  He also programs and plays video games.  He excels at pixel art which he uses while developing video games.  He also studies and learns things in pursuit of knowing everything.  (He takes after his momma there.)  He freeruns.  His hobbies are drawing, writing fanfic, reading manga, and hiking/tree-climbing/nature study.

Esme is first and foremost a writer and drawer.  That is where most of her time and energy is invested.  She also socializes regularly online not only IM'ing with her four best friends, (they call themselves the Elite Five,) but also participating in diverse forums that are of interest to her as an active member and in some cases moderator.  Her hobbies are rollerblading, reading, doll collecting, and sculpting.

JoAnn spends a lot of time reading and cooking.  She reads more books, both novels and nonfiction, than anyone else in the house.  She loves discussing what she reads and is the one to go to if you want a book suggestion.  All of her reading has led to many interests, the strongest being all things Abraham Lincoln and all things India.  She loves to cook and make complicated recipes from scratch.  She is a loner in this (liking the solitude of being the only one in the kitchen), and I am happy to have her on board as family cook because cooking is not my favorite activity.  JoAnn's hobbies are drawing, graphic design, and doll collecting.  She also socializes online but not to the extent that Esme does.

Lia is a social butterfly.  When she isn't playing with her siblings, she is actively involved with Diana or myself or over at one of her many friends houses.  Lia loves to sing and dance.  She also takes photos and videos.  Her hobbies are science (fun experiments and anatomy), reading, and drawing. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Inkspell

I just finished reading Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, the second book in the Inkworld Trilogy.  This book was very similar to the first, Inkheart.  It was rather slow and didactic, and not as riveting as the story concept leads me to believe it should be.  I found myself picking up the book more often, eager to read, than with the first, but I think this was more because I had more of myself invested in the story than because the book was well written.

Fantasy stories can be very compelling, and once I have started a series, it is hard to stop reading prematurely unless the books become truly horrible.  One improvement in this book was that the author did a better job of switching between view points to increase interest and move the plot along.  There were a few times when one point of view was neglected for too long, and it was hard for me to pick it up where it had left off, but for the most part, I enjoyed that aspect of the story.  I also liked the very short chapters.  I am a fan of very short chapters because I can more easily read the book in short spurts of free time without having to stop at illogical points.

I am reluctant to write about the plot of a book in a series unless it is the first book because it always seems like a spoiler to me.  In general, the Inkworld series tells the story of Meggie, the daughter of a bookbinder and her relationship to the book Inkheart, a novel that takes place in a world full of fairies, princes, and fire elves, as well as truly evil characters.  One sore point for me was that there were several times in Inkspell when Meggie acted out of character.  I tried to stretch my thoughts of her character to include all of her actions, but it just didn't mesh.

Unlike Inkheart, Inkspell, is not self-contained.  I am eager to check out the book Inkdeath just so I can see how everything turns out!  I recommend these books to fantasy lovers who don't mind a slow pace.  The short chapters might make them good read alouds particularly for the five to ten year old set who might want more adventure and complexity in their stories, but might not be ready to read more complex stories for themselves. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Book Reviews

Diana has been encouraging me to post my book reviews here, both new ones that I write and previous ones too.  I have been debating doing that or opening a new blog to do that.  I have decided that I will try doing it here and see how it feels.

So, look forward to book reviews from Faerie Gardens in the near future!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Be Careful!

I recently realized that everytime I hear the phrase "be careful", I both get extremely anxious and a little be upset.  The anxious is because I am always as careful as possible.  It seems I have spent my whole life being careful to the exclusion of feeling free and myself a lot of the time.  The upset is because if I am being as careful as I can be and then something still goes wrong, it is obviously just because I am flawed.  Also, if a loved one is saying it, I think that they don't really know me.  They don't understand just *how* careful I am being all of the time.

In other words, I am coming to see that in many situations, the seemingly harmless and even lovingly meant phrase "be careful" can be a stepping stone to perfectionism and pathological anxiety.  A few days after that realization, I heard myself telling my daughter JoAnn, who struggles with perfectionism and anxiety, to be careful.  She was being careful!  JoAnn is always careful!  She does her best.  And as I said the phrase, I saw a cringe most across her features.  She was feeling the same way I feel!

In the future, I am going to be more careful with my use of that phrase.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Book News

This morning when I got up, I found Esme reading the We Dare You science book.  Her curiosity got the better of her!

In other news, Ant has been going through a *bored* stage which has led to him playing his guitar more.  He is going through learning various chords now.

Monday, April 27, 2009

This Book Wins!

I recently checked out We Dare You.  The subtitle is "Hundreds of Fun Science Bets, Challenges, and Experiments You Can Do at Home!"  My kids have picked this book up and love it!  JoAnn was the first to get hooked.  Then Lia jumped on board!  Now both of them are sharing their cool finds with the rest of us.  The best thing is that most of the activities in the book can truly be done with things we just happen to have lying around.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I haven't been updating here regularly (obviously!) but we have been busy living and learning this winter. I thought today I would post some things that I am thankful for at the moment.

*I am thankful that we had two relatively warm days this week! The snow level is down, and it was a nice break in the harsh weather.

*I am thankful that my son Antonio has grown into such a strong, supportive, sensitive young man. I am so glad that he is a part of my life!

*I am thankful for our pets Bunny (the cat) and Allie (the guinea pig.) They are wonderful additions to our lives!

*I am thankful that we have enough food.

*I am thankful for this computer! It is a relatively new addition to my desk, and it definitely makes my life better. I waste so much less time.

*I am thankful for my girlfriend Diana who grows so much every week and makes me proud of her!

*I am thankful for my health. I can breathe! The worse of the sinus infection is over.