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Showing posts from September, 2010

A Sure Fire Way to Annoy Your Kids, Courtesy of My Father

When I was a kid, whenever I or my sister or brother had the hiccups, we would kvetch* vehemently, as if someone could actually do something about them. "I have the hiccups!" I would exclaim. And my dad would say: "Well, don't tell anybody, or everyone one will want some."
Magic.
Try this with your kids. I have found that it works quite well for many things. Just this morning, I employed this strategy twice:
Mom! I have a snotty nose! Well, don't tell anybody, or everyone will want a snotty nose.
Mom! Bird poop on my window! Well, don't tell anybody, or everyone will want some bird poop.
Every time I do this, the kids growl in disgust and hurl vitriole at my dad: "Thanks a lot, Poppa!"
I get a little giggle each time, the kids give up on me in indignation, and I don't have to respond to every little complaint. Like I said: magic.
Thanks Poppa!
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*Spelling has been corrected from original post. See comments. Thanks HM.

Deschooling

Today for homeschooling, after playing wii and watching Family Matters, I took my kids to a toy store.
That's how we roll here at Alatorre Academy.
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An explanation. We've had some brilliant moments of homeschooling, many of them in fact. I have been encouraged and heartened by unexpected sparks and the space to see them grow. But it has not been easy. Some of my kids are exhibiting high levels of resistance, which has made things extremely difficult. I've been trying to take to heart advice I've received from veteran homeschoolers and from various articles on the internet. All of them talk about how important it is to "de-school," which I have decided basically means giving kids and parents time and space to learn how to think differently about school and learning, to break free of our notions of what school looks like. I have been trying to mimic many aspects of the school setting. Not surprisingly, some of my kids -- my younger ones -- enjoy thi…

Confidence

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One of the other parents on my son's soccer team is a bridge engineer. He is working on the re-design of the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland and the rest of the East Bay. At a stiflingly hot soccer tournament this past weekend, I had a chance to talk with him about the rebuilding of this important local bridge, one I and all of the other parents there are used to traveling over. Among other things, we talked about how there is not enough steel produced in the United States to build the Bay Bridge, necessitating that we contract out to China to build it. But China buys all of our scrap metal from our junk yards and refuse centers, right down to our discarded man hole covers, which they melt down and use on things like...bridges they build for other countries.
Over the course of the conversation, he told us about another engineer he knows who worked on retrofitting the Bay Bridge following the 1989 earthquake. During that quake, an entire section of the upper…

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Mom: "I really need some tea, but I'm too tired to move, so I guess tea is not happening for me."
Dad: "That's what you have kids for."
Mom: "Right! Cenzo, will you put the heat on underneath the tea pot for me?"
Son: "Is that really why you had kids?"
Dad: "Well, if it is, then we are absolute failures, because you never help us do anything."
Word, daddy-o.
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It's been a red letter week at Lake Alatorre. I couldn't even write it if I tried. Actually, I wouldn't want to. This is a week I hope to leave behind, and one that had better result in a reduction in my overall Purgatory time. Good-bye week. May your ugly head never rear again, may your claws unclench forever, may you scurry away into the hole from whence you came. And may that hole be a black one, a swirling vortex that will swallow you whole and for all time.
OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but still and anyway, I'm damn glad it's almost over.

You know you have a big family when...

...your four year-old, upon seeing a teacher leading a class of 12 kids down the street, remarks: "Wow! He has a bigger family even than us!"
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The Eye of a Needle Would Be Easier Than This

I have so much to do this morning, in a very short space of time. But I always have to time vent, it seems.

Today, I feel like my children are ungrateful and spoiled. Entitled and inflexible. Lazy and negative. Nay-sayers and buzz-kills. Nasty, brutish and short.

I'll be honest: when I am working hard to provide them with opportunities, relaxation and inspiration, and I am met with sour faces, complaints and resistance, I get extremely pissed off.

But what's the right response here? Yelling is definitely a fall back position; I'm pretty good at the indignant, guilt-inducing tirade. Unfortunately, I am the adult in this situation, and it's my job to guide them through the day, hopefully feeling good about themselves and having learned a thing or two.

I do want them to feel good about themselves; I want those positive feelings to come from having played and worked hard, helped their family, cooperated with mum, and experienced what it's like to engage the world po…

You know you have a big family when...

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...it is too common of an occurrence for you to discover, upon your family's arrival somewhere, that someone has neglected to wear shoes.
Nothing makes a mama feel less in control or more ridiculous than hauling around a barefoot kid in environs where shoes are tacitly required. And by ridiculous, I really mean Beverly Hillbillies-ish.
Sometimes, I think my children's sole mission in life is to make me face my ineptitude.
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Preserve Your Memories

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Post title nod to Simon and Garfunkel


My camera is broken. That beautiful photo above? Public domain, not mine. I've watched many priceless moments come and go this week, moments I definitely would have captured for posterity or my FB status updates. Sadly, those moments will now have to rely on my swiss-cheese brain to stay alive, which pretty much means most of them are doomed.
There is something kind of poignant about relying on memory alone, making a day that much more special because nothing remains to prove that it ever was. Hopefully, I will remember at least a few of the uncaptured yet captivating things we saw today: the wonderful old graveyard we visited...the ornately carved tombstones from the 1800's with entire life stories contained in birth dates and death dates...the lizards and the frog the kids caught (and released)...the grave rubbings we made of flowers, crosses, and birds...my friend Miriam giving Lady E a piggy-back ride, their faces bright with the se…

Communion

Today's recommended reading is a post from Not a Virgin, But Occasionally a Martyr.
I've been sitting here, hands poised above my keyboard, trying to think of what else to say, to convey how much I agree with what the writer, Kelly, has to say on the topic of poor people and government safety nets.  But she says it best, so best just to read it.
Thank you, Kelly.  The world needs this post.  And I can't imagine a table I'd rather be at.
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Exhausted? Or Enlightened?

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Teetering on the edge of the pond, pink Hello Kitty tutu fluttering, my daughter just might fall into that duck-poop laden scum.That would be unfortunate.I’m sitting on a bench about 20 feet away, watching her, and wondering if I am 20 feet away because I am that relaxed as a parent, able to let my kids explore the world and figure out how not to fall in ponds or if I’m simply too tired to stand within arm’s reach of her.Because I am quite tired, really, not so much from needing sleep as from being sick to death of monitoring the movements of tots.She dashes to and fro, finding sticks to dip in the water and chattering to the weird looking ducks.I would have taken a picture of the weird ducks, but she broke my camera yesterday. But these ducks have strange pompadour hairdos and she finds them charming.Another mother is there too.She hovers.Her son, although the same size as my daughter, looks a bit younger, maybe less sure of himself on his feet.In her fashionable, vaguely-Indian pri…

Kids Spoil Everything

Driving down the freeway on a recent warm day, Little T asked me to turn on the cool air. I wasn't sure I heard her correctly, given her creative use of the English language. Her brother confirmed: "You heard her right, mom. That's how she says it. She says cool-ition-air when she wants the air conditioner on."
I thought that was fantastic. I only got to enjoy it for a day, because her siblings repeated it so many times, with such extreme hilarity, that by the next day she was saying air conditioner.
During the same car trip, she was telling us a story with multiple parts. Each part started with "First of all..." Again, it was hilarious. I wish I could have let her go with that until she figured it out for herself.
"First of all, I yiked my preschoo day. And first of all, we had gwoup time. And first of all, we sang songs. And first of all, we had snack."
Alas, it was not to be. Four crazed siblings, repeating first of all as if it were a …

It's Still Summer to Her

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Photo credit: Auntie Debra
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Repost: Together

To mark the 9th anniversary of 9/11/2001, I am re-posting the reflection I wrote last year. It still holds true for me. We still need this story.

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Talk of the Nation today was about the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The question put forth was this, paraphrased from my memory: "What emotion still lingers for you from the experience of 9/11? What feelings will not let you go?"

People answered as you would expect: fear, sadness, anger, the desire for revenge. Those feelings and emotions have stayed, for so many of us. For me too. I, like all of you, remember so distinctly that morning. I was giving my boys a bath; Rick had already left for work. He called mid-morning and told me to turn on the TV. That's how I heard what was happening, and that scene stays with me.

I got the boys out of the tub, dried them off, my beautiful 3 and 1 year olds, and smelled their clean, soft hair and skin. I held them, cuddled with them, and watched them roll …

History Lesson

Yesterday, I took the kids up to Sonoma. On the way there, the subject of 9/11 came up, and the kids wanted me to tell them again what happened that day. Thus began Thursday's Social Studies/History lesson.

I told them the story as best I could, fielding questions about what the boys were doing that day, why daddy called me from work to tell me to turn on the TV, and whether or not the field in Pennsylvania was dry or wet. That question came from my 10 year old, who figured if it was wet, maybe the plane wouldn't burn up as badly.

We talked about the Muslim faith. About Osama Bin Laden. About the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed 9/11, and how those wars are different from each other. About the people who suffered and died that day. About why we went to war in the first place, or at least how the war was justified by our leaders. Was George Bush a good president? What was he doing that day when the attacks happened? Why do Saudi Arabians hate us? Is it true…

Starting Off With a Bang. Or a Bite.

At the cute little preschool Open House yesterday, we were enjoying a little milk and banana bread, and mingling politely with all the other parents and tots. My own little tot was dashing around checking out the toys, staking claim to the playhouse and generally having a fabulous time.

My 10 year old son and I were sitting at a table with two other moms, neither of whom I have met. To my son, I said: "Well, what do you think? You think she's going to like it here?"

Of his little sister, my son remarked, loud enough to share his observation with those at our table as well as a few more: "I think she's going to get kicked out for biting."

Great. She's got a rep and she hasn't even started her first day yet.

I guess I should be prepared for mothers to protectively guide their young ones away from that curly-haired, wild-eyed little sprite with the funny name.

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Today is the day. Her first five hours of school. Yee-haw!

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Where I Try To Pick a Course of Action

See that house, Mom? The people who live in that house have a flat screen TV. I can tell.

We, in case you can't tell, do not. We were in a very beautiful neighborhood, where people like us go when we are providing a service to people who live in very beautiful neighborhoods.

Really? I said. You can tell that just by looking?

Yup. All of these houses have flat screen TVs.

This might sound unbelievable to you, kid, but there are people in the world who are wealthy enough to live in a house like that who are not interested in television, and wouldn't spend money on a flat screen TV no matter what it cost.

Not these people in these houses. They definitely have flat screen TVs.

Well, tell me this. Can you tell by looking at the houses if the people who live in them are happy?

Yup. See that blue one? They have a flat screen TV, and they are happy. And that one on the corner? They have a flat screen and they are really happy, because they also have those cool big soccer goals…

Grab Bag

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And summer comes to a close.

Ours ended well, with the arrival of Tule, a six year old beautiful black lab who needed a new home as much as we needed a doggie. We started Labor Day weekend with no inkling that by its close we would have a truly great dog. But she's here! And it has been an amazingly effortless transition so far. We haven't had a dog for six years, but it seems to be much like riding a bicycle; you never forget how. She fits in around here like a long missing puzzle piece. As I type, she is curled up on Sam's bed, cozy and happy after a day of chasing a tennis ball to the delight of some happy children.



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Two funnies from my second son today.

Funny #1: While we were at the park trying unsuccessfully to tire out our new dog, he needed to use the bathroom but I had forgotten the key. (Our local park system sells a key, for a nominal fee, that opens all the public park restrooms; funny thing about them though...they don't work if you leave them at …

The View From Here

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Things I've watched my kids do this week:

My 10 year old hopping on his one clean foot from the living room, into the dining room, through the kitchen, into the hall, up the stairs and into the bathroom to rinse sand off his other foot.

My 5 year old picking her nose.

My 8 year old, flying down a swimming pool slide over and over and over and over.

My 3 year old sticking her tongue out at me. Over and over and over and over.

All five of them staring up at the huge aquarium tank at the California Academy of Sciences.


My 3 year old picking her nose.

My 11 year old wrestling with several 8 year old girls from his sister's soccer team. There were piggy back rides. There was hand holding. There was lots of jumping around. Wow.

My four school-age kids reading their books or doing their writing "assignment" on a stone bridge at a park on a beautiful sunny school day.

My 8 year old, sleeping soundly, arms wrapped around her 3 year old sister, also sleeping soundly.

My 11 year ol…

7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 12

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Ah, blessed Friday, with its built-in blog post format. I needed you today to jump start AIRY5.

Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary. She started the whole thing 95 Fridays ago (give or take), and you'll find links to everyone else who is playing along. And happy Friday to you all!

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1. It's safe to say my world is rocked. Homeschooling, like most of my life, is not for the feint of heart. We've had some great moments, some lovely, brilliant, affirming moments, and we've had some "run for the hills" moments. Homeschooling has temporarily impeded my ability to blog, that's for sure. I want to write more about how it has gone for us, but I'm overwhelmed. I am thinking of starting a second blog, one devoted to our little academy here, and one my kids can post to. That's a whole lesson right there! Anyway, at this point, I have hundreds of ideas and very few clues about how to implement them. Good thing life is a journey, that's all I…