December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We've been up at my mom's place in Sacramento for the past week and have been having a great time. The day after Christmas we all went up to Tahoe to stay with my cousin and do a bit of family sledding. Here we are: from left to right this is my sister Jenny, her son Carson, my cousin's daughter Jessie, Warren, me, my brother David and his partner, Irene. What a fun day.

This is my cousin's son Tanner with Jerry.
My brother-in-law, Paul, with Carson and Jenny. That's Irene holding my niece, Layla, in the background.
My brother holding my sister's daughter, Cora.
Here's Carson. He told me the other day that his favorite color is red because it's the color of blood. :)
2010 is looking like it's going to be a good year. My brother seems to have gotten the job he interviewed for earlier in the week (after months of being out of work), my sister and her family are moving out of my mom's place and into their own apartment on January 15, and us, well, Warren is still unemployed with nothing on the horizon but we have money for another couple months in the bank and an offer to swap houses in a beautiful home in Point Arena ( a place among the Redwoods 3 hours North of San Francisco) in February. So I'd say things are looking grand!

Tonight we'll ring in the new year with family and friends and tomorrow we'll head back to L.A. so we can start 2010 at home.

Wishing you all a very happy 2010!

December 22, 2009

I'm Boycotting Sweden

I'm no fan of the HSLDA but this story on their site, about a family in Sweden whose 7-year-old child was taken away simply because the parents chose to homeschool him, made made me sick to my stomach. The courts recently ruled in favor of the government and cut back parental visits to one hour every five weeks. I only know what I read online, but it seems to me that this family could use our help.

Read about it here:
http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Sweden/200912220.asp

Sign a petition urging Swedish officials to send the boy home here:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/return-dominic-johansson-to-his-parents

And (most importantly) if you'd like to write letters to Swedish officials, here are the e-mail addresses you'll need (you can find these with links at the HSLDA site listed above):

The social workers

sofi.rosenqvist@gotland.se
caroline.palmqvist@gotland.se

The social workers’ supervisors

kristina.djerf@gotland.se
marika.gardell@gotland.se

National officials

Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt
Telephone: +46 8 405 10 00
Mailing Address: Rosenbad 4, SE-103 33 Stockholm

Minister Maria Larsson
Ministry for Elderly Care and Public Health, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs
Telephone +46 8 405 10 00
Fax +46 8 723 11 91
Mail Address: Fredsgatan 8; SE-103 33 Stockholm

To email the officials above visit the webpage: http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/2052

Local politicians and government leaders
Brittmarie.Fagerlund@lansstyrelsen.se
gustaf.hoffstedt@gotland.se
eva.nypelius@gotland.se
lars.thomsson@gotland.se
lena.celion@gotland.se
gotlands.kommun@gotland.se

Indian Ambassador to Sweden
ambassador@indianembassy.se

Dominic's father explains the situation (link):
Our son Dominic was removed from our custody by the Swedish Social Services with the help of the Swedish police force. What follows is a short story revealing the corruption of a few, dehumanizing actions and total lack of both responsibility and respect for basic human rights and freedoms in modern Sweden.

My name is Christer and the son of two very average hard-working parents. I was born in Sweden 1969 and raised in a rural environment where I developed and interest for helping animals, nature and people.

As a youth I found myself and my interests gravitating more and more introspective, one could say I am a very intellectual and inward looking soul, though I am social by nature. I have questioned life and how we live, looked at our values and tried to the best of my abilities to live them fully as best I can.

I believe in a simple practical healthy lifestyle and taking the time to help people and those less fortunate than myself.

In that spirit I found myself helping the local police where I live on Gotland and social organizations with "problem youth", creating new bridges of communication between parties and even assisting in ridding the island of Gotland I live on of violent criminal elements.

Having worked in social services I know well the value of a bit of citizen action and responsibility while looking out for ones fellow "man" so to speak, and would that more of us take such tasks upon themselves as well.

I have always found independent finance and support for all my projects. Whether it be my spare time or money from my own pocket.

When our newest project to help poor and homeless destitute children in India was developed almost 8 years ago, that was my attitude as well.

My wife Annie is an Indian citizen, and I was inspired by the challenges I saw in her home country to find a way to practically share my ideas and talents to help the suffering poor in ways to give them independence as opposed to seeking hand outs.

We created Mep Programs to establish the foundation for this in India in 2002. The idea was and is to help children by giving them the social and practical skills and support to take them out of the situations the find themselves in today.

Unfortunately for all involved we were all traumatized by a violent earthquake in Gujarat leaving over 16 000 people killed, and 600 000 people homeless.

We were on our way back home to Sweden from that tragedy when we were robbed of almost all our possessions and money on the way to the airport, and by the time we landed in Sweden we were both suffering from shock, overwork and depression.

Our son Dominic was to be born soon, and I was determined to be in top form for this welcome change in our lives, and the responsibility that incurs.

In order to keep on with our plans I decided to, with the recommendation of my doctor whom I sought help with, to go along with his advice and began taking a prescription of the anti-depression drug Seroxat.
(see youtube.com - taken on trust by Panormama BBC)
(I was advised to begin with 60mg)

This is where my story takes a downward turn.

I found myself in the unusual psychological state of even more heightened depression and angst. Having never suffered from such things I waited to see how things would develop. I figured it may have something to do with what I had experienced and also to be patient with the drugs. I found this to in fact be the opposite of what I had expected. After several months of worsening effects, I again asked for help and I was recommended increasing my dose of medication!

What followed was even worse and decided to take myself off the medication with the help of herbal medicines. After much research online I found the right substances and began my natural self medication (I am very weary of un-ecological and chemical products) which to my and my family's delight worked!

During the following years our son Dominic had cleared all the normal check ups and bills of health as any normal child would. Not only that, the doctors said that he had the mental capacity of a child two years his senior. (2006)

That being the case we continued our work with our test center on Gotland where we ran a working model of what we would like to see in India. This would help us iron out any problems and bumps along the way.

We home-schooled Domenic for a while (because we knew we are going to leave Sweden in a while), and contacted the Swedish school authorities for the requirements of doing so, and they kindly said all we needed to do was to contact the principal at his school to supply us with the appropriate study material etc. I have experience with schooling in my profession, which also helps me. My wife Annie is well educated and can teach on a University level!

Unbelievably, the principal not only denied us the material (which by law he was to supply us), he said openly he couldn't care less about our interest in human rights and decided to contact the social services to start an investigation of this situation!

Our project continued and during this time we tried on several occasions to help him, and those involved understand where we were coming from and to just relax about things.

They really seemed to be at odds with this, were uncooperative and at times hostile.

Well, during this time we had sold all our possessions, saved our money and looked forward to settling in with our project in India to get started with the practical works needed on site. With this in mind we bought our tickets, packed our bags and sat ourselves on the plane at Stockholm Arlanda airport, looking forward to a long flight and finally getting started.

But it was not to be so.

As the airplane was about to depart, it was stopped by the Swedish Police, who came onboard, took us all into custody at the airport and took away our son! We were completely surprised and shocked, my wife collapsed in a state of overwhelm and panic, no one was there to help, I tried my best to comfort her as she went in and out of consciousness. Her lips turned blue and her whole body had gone into a state of shock.

Finally I was able to resuscitate her, comfort her, though to this day she is understandably feeling extremely down, sad and in a state of disbelief. As an Indian citizen she could never have imagined such things happening in a modern western country.

Through all the madness, the brutal inhumane and complete disregard for basic human rights, the only reason for all this explained to us was the fact that our son Domenic had two bad milk teeth, which the social services deemed enough evidence to "kidnap" him away from us, and place him in the custody of some strange family.

As this gross negligence progressed and as we have fought day and night to get him back we have heard only the most pathetic and absurd excuses from the social workers responsible. Who have, by the way been pathetically unhelpful and downright uncooperative.

Our civil servants have cited the bad teeth, and a few anonymous letters as being the cause for the "kidnapping". Unbelievable, that a modern western country, in the EU would act like something out of a banana republic, with a dictatorship gulag mentality, with total disregard for family and the love between child and parents.

After a few weeks they changed approach and claimed we are bad parents, for no reason!

Who are these people who are responsible?

Obviously confused or unable to accept other cultures etc, individuals with the names of "Sofi Rosenqvist and Caroline Palmqvist", work for "Gotlands Kommun".
(sofi.rosenqvist@gotland.se - caroline.palmqvist@gotland.se)

The "Socialtjänsten" over here on Gotland has a history of over-reacting and complaints against them and their fellow co-workers are on our side in this regard.

What is happening right now, is our son Domenic is placed in an extremely stressful situation, we have little or no contact with him, his diet of organic healthy foods is non existent (when we finally got to meet him briefly he told us, under supervision how much candy he has been eating, ironic considering his so called bad teeth would be a central issue for their actions).

The more our lawyers look at this case, the more apparent that their is either total corruption and disregard for human rights within the social services to allow this negligence to continue

I am and have a background in social work, I am and have been working together with my wife to make this world a better place, and not just talk about it in endless meetings like so many beurocrats do.

I will and have worked with the police and other aspects of the social departments to help rid society of criminal elements, establish communication and responsibility with youth needing help and working on our project for the better part of 10 years.

That two misguided individuals would use the Swedish police to "kidnap" Dominic, to cite anonymous letters and bad teeth as evidence to do this is a dangerous precedent, it is without compare in an open and free society and indicative of the big social problems in society at large.

Their actions, decisions and continuing cover-up of the so-called evidence says more about their mental state of mind and lack of human compassion than any pathetic accusations towards us. What lay behind such claims and gross misuse of power?
(Difficulties to understand and respect a different life from the so called norm)

What sort of people separate children from parents without any evidence?

I am not sure, the attitude and actions are almost alien to me, but in comparison there must be some megalomaniacal feudalistic socialist beaurocratical fixation at work here.

I can only imagine that such actions are the work of persons unfit for such responsibility and positions of influence in the first place and that as this comes to light that the better elements of the modern Swedish social services will do the right thing and take care of this before our son sinks into depression and more mental stress. Annie is as well in a very bad state for the moment, and getting worse day by day for that matter!

We will continue our fight for our son, we will shed light on this situation as it develops with the blogs and media of the world asking that people look carefully at what is going on here. (swe blog http://www.mepprograms.org/omhandertagande.html)

We ask that anyone who cares and wants to know further the claims and details contact the public social services department at "Socialtjänsten Gotland" and ask any questions you feel.

Don't take our word for it, find out for yourself how incredibly preposterous and sadistic this situation is.
Please remember the people doing this are misguided human beings, so please remember to be polite as well.

If the Social Services on Gotland can take away a happy healthy young boy from his family (two persons who are socially responsible, working with a project to help needy and starving children, with a background in community services, cooperation with the police and with many other people in social services vouching for us) imagine what they can do to the average working person.

Imagine, at the supposed claim (we have not seen the attested letters or evidence of when they were supposedly sent) that someone complained that your child or children would be taken away from you.

The implications of this are terrifying, and the immediate effects on us all emotionally are almost unbearable, on top of this, our families in India are worried, and our project to help the poor and starving children of India sits on hold.

We hope for an immediate resolve of this gross injustice and a formal apology from those involved with reprimands to those responsible now.

Article written by Mark, with the help of Christer and Annie!


By Christer:
I would like to thank Mark for helping us with this article, and I would like to add a few things as well.

I'm no better then other people, I'm just a normal human being, trying my best to do what I feel is important both in my life and in this world. My family is maybe a little different from the norm, but, when did that become a crime?

I've red the Swedish constitution, and I have also read the mission that the Social Services are acting upon, and there actions against us are really not there, anywhere, so where do they come from?

Why this article?
There are courts to decide what's right in cases like this! Yes, there is... But when the Social Services and there lawyer started to lie and mix facts I decided to go public! The lawyer also added in the last meeting,
- They hate authorities!
Answer, No we do not, no matter what you try, I will never hate other people for what you have done and created!

The last thing I heard from the Social Services was, - Domenic is traumatized now, so he needs to be in a calm and peaceful environment. We agree, let him come home then! That is not a suggestion, that is our demand!

December 18, 2009

A Successful Meal!

We had dinner guests from Switzerland tonight and I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to serve. Because I don't have the menu planning gene, I was really agonizing over it. I looked through cookbooks, websites, magazines--but nothing seemed right. So then (and I should have thought to do this before) I called my sister who happens to be an amazing cook and right away she said, "Why don't you roast a chicken and make some macaroni and cheese to go with it? Then just steam some broccoli for a vegetable." So I did! And it was great!

I was so nervous about the chicken because I don't usually roast whole chickens (or any kind of chickens)--I tend to shy away from anything that screams "I was once alive!" and bones and blood fall into that category. (I was a vegetarian from ages 15-30.) But, I bought a whole cut-up chicken. I washed each disgusting piece. Patted them dry. Rubbed them with olive oil and a mixture of dry spices and salt and put them in a pan. Then stuck it in the oven. And it was really good! I'm sure I over cooked it because I was terrified that I might poison our guests at the very beginning of their American holiday, but the meat was still nice and juicy. And the macaroni and cheese was really good, too. Phew! I'm so relieved!

The Swiss family was really nice, too. They have two kids: a boy, aged 7 and a girl aged 10. And they brought us some lovely Swiss presents (including chocolate, of course!) We'd never met them before, but they'll be staying in our house while we're in Sacramento for Christmas. We organized it through the house swap site that we used for our trip to France. It'll work out really well because they need a place to stay and we need someone to feed the cats. It's a win-win situation!

And on top of all that I can now say, at the ripe old age of 41, that I know how to roast a chicken!

December 16, 2009

Avatar & Happy Day

Jerry and Warren went to the cast and crew screening for James Cameron's Avatar last night. Jerry loved it. In fact, love might not even be a strong enough word. He was exultant when the credits started to roll. He said he would watch it every day for the rest of his life if he could. He said it was perfect.

I wasn't with them because Warren could only take one guest and I was busy having a fabulous day to myself. I started off by signing papers at the lawyer's office (still working on Grandma Darlene's estate) in Orange County. Then I went to visit my Grandma Nolie for an hour (during which she asked me 52 times "what day is it?" I still love her, though.). And then (the best part of the day) I went to lunch with my friend Jeff. Jeff is my one and only best friend (not counting Warren) left in the L.A. area--all the others (OK, fine. Not all. Two.) have moved away. Anyway, it was great. But it wasn't over after I left Jeff''s! That's right, there's more! I went to my book club meeting and we talked about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I really liked in spite of the fact that I almost hurled it across my bedroom at one point towards the end. So I ended the day with wine and snacks and a discussion about a good book. Good day.

December 4, 2009

Why?! Why?! Why?!

So, Jerry has three close friends, right? He has Jackson, Shea, and Yulia.

Jackson and Jerry met at age 2 and spent the next 11 years glued together at the hip. Sure they went to different schools, but they spent every possible moment--that they weren't in school or doing homework--together. In the last year, however, Jackson has become more involved in school and school friends. He's been more difficult to get together with, and for the second year in a row Jackson made other plans for Halloween even though the two of them have a tradition of trick or treating together. So that's been hard on Jerry. He feels like Jackson is "dumping" him. I've been trying to figure out if Jackson is feeling like he and Jerry don't share the same interests anymore or if he really is just busy, and then the other day Jerry tells me Jackson has a girlfriend. Well, that explains it! So, Jackson has a girlfriend. Strike one.

Then there's Yulia. Yulia is the only person from our homeschool group that Jerry really clicked with. And boy did they click. They met a little over a year ago and formed a fast friendship. These two totally speak the same language. When he found out Yulia was moving, Jerry was devastated and since she moved to Texas (at the end of September) Jerry has really missed her. Strike two.

Then there's Shea. We met Shea when Jerry was homescholing in kindergarten, then lost touch when Jerry started school the following year. But in the past year Shea and Jerry have rekindled their friendship and it's been really great because Shea lives two minutes from our house. I love that I can just bop over and pick him up for last minute play dates. Well, I found out yesterday that Shea's family is moving--to Portland!!! Strike three!!

What is happening here!? Why is the universe conspiring to take all Jerry's friends away? Can somebody please cut the kid a break? I know he'll be gaining valuable life lessons from all this. Blah, blah, blah. But really? Does it all have to happen at once? He's having a hard enough time sorting out how he feels about Yulia leaving. And Jackson having a girlfriend. And now Shea will be going, too? Come on!

I know we can visit them. I know they'll have e-mail and Facebook. But Jerry needs some live, in-the-flesh friends that live in Los Angeles (preferably on the Eastside). Where the heck are all the anime and manga loving, video game playing, computer hacking teens around here? I know they've got to be out there. And I know some of them have got to be homeschooling.

But that's not really the problem. I'm sure Jerry will find other friends. He's already started developing a couple new friendships that I can encourage. The problem is they aren't his old friends. And he wants the old ones.

I can't stop thinking of the Billy Collins poem "On Turning Ten." Jerry's obviously older than ten, but I think he must be experiencing some of the same feelings. It breaks my heart.

On Turning Ten by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

December 1, 2009

Proud Mama

It's been a while. I know. So, here I am – playing catch up once again. I have to warn you, there will be bragging involved. I'm feeling so proud of Jerry today. Not for anything in particular. I'm just proud because he is who he is. And because he knows himself so well. He has such maturity when it comes to understanding his feelings and expressing himself – it just blows me away.

See, Warren is officially unemployed now, which means he's home. Watching Jerry. And being a bit, uh, judgmental about how he spends his time. At least that's how it started out. A few nights ago there was yelling (by Jerry), arms were thrown up in annoyance and despair (by Warren) and the word "school" and the phrase "turn off the TV for good" were heard during a private conversation between Warren and I. Needless to say, I was a bit worried at how the rest of Warren's unemployment would effect our unschooling.

See, Warren totally gets the educational side of unschooling. It's the lifestyle part that throws him for a loop. Specifically, he doesn't want Jerry staying up until 3:30 a.m. and he doesn't want him spending all day on the couch in front of the television (computer on lap, DS in hand). And I totally get that. But, as we learned when I kept track of how we spend our days (Jerry and I) he doesn't sit on the couch all day. In fact, he takes part in a wide variety of activities. Sure, some weeks are less active than others, but, in general, the television watching happens late in the day and well into the night (and early hours of the morning) when there's not much else to do anyway. So yes, there's a lot of TV. And, no. It's not "educational." It's not even Mythbusters. He's watching the Disney Channel.

But he's watching with an eye toward figuring out relationships. I realized it last night during another one of our 1 a.m. discussions. He was asking me about boys I liked when I was his age and how old I was when I had my first boyfriend (Newsflash: Jerry's best friend, Jackson, has a girlfriend!!) and he started to mention all these things he'd learned on the cartoon Sixteen. They were all about relationships. And they were true. (Rule #1: Never break up by text message.) Anyway, it was pretty amazing to see that he really does get more than we guess out of the shows he watches.

One thing I love about our late night talks is that Jerry asks me all kinds of questions and he wonders aloud about things. "I wonder what it would feel like to have both arms and wings," he said late last night. He was trying to figure out the mechanics of it all. How would the wings extend? Where would they be when they rested? What would make them unfold?

The other day – a day or two after Warren and Jerry had their argument – Jerry called a family meeting. He wanted to talk about how he and Warren could get along better. He was amazing. So mature and well-spoken. They both said how they felt and talked about ways they could show respect and kindness to one another. Then they had a pillow fight.

I could go on, but it would probably get very boring. Lucky for you, Jerry's doing a Pokemon ROM hack and he needs my help. So I'm off.

P.S. Guess who's learning the binary and hexidecimal number systems? That's right! Me! More on the mind-blowing conversion from decimal to binary later....

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a fabulous day and that you all find many, many things (people, places, moments, etc) to be thankful for. And on that very subject, I received an e-mail today from a friend (one of my favorite people on the planet, actually) that I don't see or talk to nearly enough. She has started a blog. Here's what she has to say about it:
Untold numbers are experiencing Short Sale and Foreclosure on their homes, due to circumstances out of our control, and yet we're too ashamed to talk about it. I've recently joined these masses. The purpose of this blog is to document my own journey into Short Sale, in the hopes of easing the burden, allaying the fears, and answering the questions of others who are also traveling this path.
Visit her blog at Short Sale Mama.

November 20, 2009

For Barbara

This is just a quick update for my Aunt Barbara because I know she hates it when I take a blogging break. I can't get over how busy we are all of a sudden! This week alone we've had dog walking every day, knitting circle, teen laser tag, a field trip to Rhythm & Hues (a visual effects house), Japanese class was canceled, so we went to the doctor's office instead (Jerry has a hang nail). Then, I had book club and worked for my 94-year-old friend, went to the library opening, interviewed someone (another 94-year-old!) for the local paper, and now my sister and her family are arriving tonight so I need to get our sadly neglected house back in shape and do laundry--lots of laundry. Oh, and we're starting LARP (Live Action Role Play) today!! And I wanted to go to a homeschool teen/parent meeting to talk about getting more social things going, but I may have to give up on that. Sheesh. We've only added two extra activities (knitting circle for Summer and D&D for Jerry) but I feel like I barely have time to breathe. It's been really good though. Jerry loves the D&D game and is making some new friends, Summer is finally getting to know some other homeschooled girls, and I've really enjoyed the company of the other moms I've met. Oh, and we're starting LARP (Live Action Role Play) today!! I really hope Jerry likes it.

So there you have it. That's all the news. I'm off to do the laundry!

November 18, 2009

Big News!

Our local library branch opened on Monday! I was there for the ribbon cutting ceremony along with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a couple councilmen, the fire chief, some random city officials, and about 300 neighbors. It was awesome! Our library is so cool! The first cool thing is the fact that it exists at all. The voters of L.A. approved a bill to build more libraries a decade or so ago--but the Silver Lake branch wasn't one of them. However, the Office of Public Works, in an unprecedented display of a government competence, managed the money so well that they had enough money to build four extra libraries (four!)--and ours was one of them! The next cool thing is that the library is a Leed Certified green building. And it's beautiful! And the final cool thing is that I can walk there! It's literally around the corner from my house!!

Anyway, the library opening is big news, but it's not the big news. The big news is that after considering my frenzied excitement over the opening of our library, and thinking about how much I love books and information and sharing books and information with people, and how I'd love nothing more than to live a long fruitful life and die in a room full of dusty old books, I've decided to become a librarian! It's a long-term plan because I won't actually get a job until Jerry is off doing his own thing. I'm going to start by getting a certificate in Library Science at the local community college. (I registered yesterday and had my transcripts sent to the school and everything!) I'm going to volunteer at our library (which I would have done anyway) to gain some experience. And then, when the time is right for both me and Jerry, I'll apply to the UCLA Masters of Library and Information Science Program. Woohoo!

And then, I was thinking "How can I combine being a librarian with travel?" and I thought maybe I can start a nonprofit group that builds libraries in third world countries. Wouldn't that be awesome!!? Anyway, it's very exciting and I'm trying not to think too much about it so I don't start wondering how I'll have the time. I'm just going to dive in. I can't wait to start going to school again. I love school!

The other exciting news, also related to the library, is that I met Janet Fitch (author of White Oleander) and Cecil Castellucci (author of The Queen of Cool) at the opening--they both live in Silver Lake. Anna Hays, an author I had interviewed for the local paper (and really loved talking to), introduced me to them. So that was really cool. I was buzzing with excitement when I got home--and it's obviously lingered for a few days.

Well, the dirty dishes on my kitchen counter are calling out my name so I'd better go wash them. I'll dream about my life as a librarian while I scrub....

November 13, 2009

No Mo' NaNoWriMo

Well, that didn't last long. Writing 2000 words a day just isn't my thing. It's no fun if you can't go back and make the writing good. Part of what I like about writing is going back over it and reading it--but if it's all hurried drivel and I can't go back and fix it, I don't really want to read it. So, I'm bailing on NaNoWriMo. The good thing about it, though, was that I realized I do have time to write. I can squeeze it in after Warren leaves for work and before Jerry wakes up. So, that's a big plus.

We've been so busy this last week. Lots of social things. I started a weekly teen knitting circle so Summer can meet some more homeschooled girls her age and that's been really great. Jerry now has a weekly D&D game with a couple friends (run by a fabulously patient mom). And we spent the night at Mandy's last Sunday and played Rock Band well into the night before heading off to homeschool day at Legoland the following day.

We've been devouring the Ranger's Apprentice Series on audiobook. We're starting Book 3 today. While we listen Jerry has been doing lots of perler beads projects and even a little knitting. I've been knitting a bit (I'm pretty pathetic) and trying to learn to crochet so I can make some cute little amigurumi creatures.

The night before last, in one of our 2 a.m. talks (Jerry really opens up at that hour, for some reason), Jerry told me that he feels like he's been watching too much television. And then the heavens opened up and angels began to sing and a rainbow stretched across the sky and--oh, sorry. None of those things happened. But I was so happy the sheer force of my happiness could have made them happen. What actually happened was that we talked about other things he might do instead, thought of some new project possibilities, and then I went back to bed. But I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking, "Oh my god. Maybe the deschooling is done! Maybe the cocoon phase is over!! Maybe he'll start to get excited about learning again!!!" I just couldn't turn my brain off. So, instead of sleeping, I got up and finished watching the first season of Weeds (the best show ever). I didn't go back to bed until 6:45 and by then Warren was getting up, so I gave up on sleep all together. I managed to muddle through the day pretty well, though, even on three hours of sleep. I think it's the happiness adrenaline. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will last!

In other news, I've started keeping track of how Jerry spends his time. I really didn't want to do this. But Warren was feeling like Jerry does nothing but watch television and it was the only way I could think of proving to him that that's just not true. I've been doing it for over a week now and it's not nearly as invasive or annoying as I thought it would be. It's actually given me a lot more confidence. Before, when I would argue that Jerry doesn't watch tv all the time, I didn't have anything to back me up. Now I do--of course, on the rare day that he does nothing but watch tv the plan can backfire, but if Warren can see it's a rare event, then I've made my point. What I really like about the record-keeping, though, is being able to look over our week and see that we really are doing a lot. So, I think I'll keep doing it for a while. Once I clean the scanner off (it's buried under the piles of office crap I've been "organizing") I'll scan some of them for you. I'm color coding them so it's easy to see at a glance what we've been up to (and it's pretty).

Let's see...what else is happening? One of that cats has worms--just thought you'd like to know. Also, I'm trying to wrap up my grandma's estate by the end of the year. So I have lots to do there. I'll get a small stipend for all the work I've done and I'm thinking of doing something completely selfish with the money. Something like leasing a horse for a while, or paying for riding lessons, or--actually those are the only selfish things I've come up with so far. The other things I've thought of are building a new closet in the guest bedroom or putting new cupboards in the kitchen. But it won't be enough money for either of those things so, they're probably out of the question anyway. That's all the news really. Oh, Warren and I are going to see Ray Davies on Saturday night. And we're even going out for drinks and dinner with some friends beforehand. So that's exciting. Though I think I might need to buy an new outfit first--my wardrobe is pretty sad these days. Oh, and there's an all ages Derby Dolls brawl on Sunday. So that's cool. Jerry will get to experience the roller derby at last!

That's about it.

November 4, 2009

Sita Sings the Blues

So, I'm 5669 words into my novel, but I decided rather than completely let the blog go this month, I'll post links to websites or videos that I really like. The first one is an animated movie called Sita Sings the Blues. You can watch the entire thing online. It's made by a self-taught animator who combines the story of the Ramayana with a bit of autobiography. It runs about an hour and twenty minutes so pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy!

November 2, 2009

It's NaNoWriMo!


I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year! So, you probably won't hear much from me for the next month--except for the occasional brief update. So far I have nearly 4000 words written. I'm cheating a bit because I actually started this novel a couple years ago. Still, if I can write 2000 words every day this month I'll have a very rough first draft of my very first novel. Wish me luck!

October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me

I know I said I was taking a break but today is my birthday and I need to tell you what I got. Brace yourselves, it's ugly. Psoriasis. That's right. It's just a tiny little thing on my scalp, but it's a reminder that I am not immune to aging or other human ailments and that really sucks. Guess what else I got? A bad hip. Yep, I told the doctor what happened after we got off the plane from Paris (you know, not being able to walk and having to hire ride a wheelchair through the airport while my loving husband laughed at me from one gate to another) and she said it's a precursor to hip problems! In addition to that, I got my driver's license renewed and now there's a notation on my license that says I have to wear my glasses when I'm driving! Could I be any more aged and decrepit? Don't answer that. But the worst thing is, and I cannot figure out what I was thinking, I told the truth about my weight on my license renewal!! I've never told the truth about my weight on my license. Ever! Even when I was a mere 107, my license said 105. But yesterday the woman at the DMV looked at my old license information and said are you still 115? And I said "No, I'm probably closer to 125." How could I!? I meant to say 120. Because, you know, I like to round to the lowest 5 where weight is concerned and sometimes I do weigh in at 124.5. So really it should be 120. But she didn't know about my special way of rounding down so she just typed in 125. What was I thinking!?

Ah well. There's nothing I can do about it now. Anyway, my real birthday present from Warren and Jerry is very exciting. They're buying me a table saw! It's the gift that keeps on giving. See, what I really want is a potting bench. But if I buy a potting bench all I get out of it is, well, a potting bench. But if I get a saw and make it myself (using one of the many old doors we have lying around our yard) then I get a potting bench and whatever else I decide to make. So, any recommendations on what to look for in a table saw would be appreciated.

The other thing I'm pretty sure we're getting is a semi-permanent houseguest. My husband's friend is having a hard time (divorce, disability, that kind of thing) and he needs a place to stay so he's probably going to stay with us for a while. In addition to that, a friend of mine from college might be getting a job in L.A. and he may end up crashing on our couch a few nights a week so he doesn't have to drive all the way back to Orange County. We may have a very full house in the next few months.

So, there you are. That's what's happening. I'm getting old and our house is getting crowded, but it's all good.

October 27, 2009

Blogging Break

Just letting you know I'm taking a short break. I'll be back in a week or two!

October 26, 2009

Weekend Fun

We had such a great weekend. Warren managed to get off work on Saturday so we could go to the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Ventura. The weather was perfect and as soon as we arrived we ran into some friends from our Santa Monica unschooler park day. It was a real treat since we didn't even know they'd be there. I made a little video of the day to share with you all (or you three).



On the way home we stopped at a pumpkin patch where Jerry and Warren made their way through a maze.

Sunday we didn't have any plans. I got out of bed early to stop our cats from killing each other. Since I was up, I took my book and a blanket out on the deck with a cup of tea and read for a while. It was heavenly. Later in the day my sister-in-law called to see if she could drop her kids off for a couple hours so we had some surprise guests and it turned into an all day affair with pumpkin carving and dinner.


At the end of the day Warren, Jerry and I each did our own thing. I watch the 4th installment of the Python documentary, Warren did some laundry and Jerry watched a One Piece movie on his PC. Before I went to bed Jerry and I had a nice long talk (we've had quite a few late night chats in the last few weeks) and then I went to bed while Jerry went back upstairs to watch some late night television. All in all it was a fabulous weekend!

October 23, 2009

Enough

You know what's funny? Whenever I start to worry about Jerry (and I've probably said this before because it keeps happening) and how he spends his time, the very next day he does something completely different. I don't know why it always surprises me. And you know what else? I was getting all worried about "am I doing enough?" and all, but I also had a migraine so I wasn't feeling too good. And I think that had a lot to do with my worry--not that I don't worry when I'm feeling well. But now that I think about it, I really don't worry that much anymore. I'm bordering on being one very confident unschooling parent. Wow. How did that happen? With all my angst and worry in the beginning it felt like I'd never get to this place. I guess part of what's happened is that since I've stopped voicing my concerns to Jerry I find that he tends to take care of those concerns on his own. It's not always exactly the way I wish he would do it--but then he's not me. So he has his own way of doing things.

One thing that had been happening the last few months was that Jerry was staying up until about 2 a.m. and getting up around 11. I didn't say anything about it. But when he had a few bad days I suggested that coming to bed when Warren and I go to bed (around 11 or 12) might help. I did a little cajoling but not much. Besides, since he was staying up later than me, we couldn't read together and we've always liked to read aloud before bed. So I suggested starting a new book. He went for it and for a few weeks was going to bed at the same time as his dad and me (but sleeping much later) and then a couple nights ago he was up until 2 again. And last night he told me that he doesn't feel good when he stays up that late. It makes him feel negative and grouchy (I'm paraphrasing but that was the gist). So he came to the conclusion himself. Which is the whole point of radical unschooling, really.

Anyway, I know I'm not being very clear or concise. I just wanted to get that out of my head and into the blogosphere but I don't have time to write a really great post about it. I have to pick up Warren's car at the mechanics, we need to get to Jerry's dog walking job, and then we're going to see Astro Boy with one of the girls from the Santa Monica unschooler park day and her mom and then we're going to park day, and then we have the long traffic-jammed ride home from Santa Monica, which I'm actually looking forward to because we'll be listening to Leviathan the whole way!

Can someone just smack me next time I say we don't do enough?

October 20, 2009

Am I Doing Enough?

That's what I was asking myself yesterday. As an unschooling parent I spend a lot of time looking for things that will interest Jerry. I scan the internet. I use Google Alerts to notify me when something he's interested in shows up online. I'm always sending him links to things I think he'll enjoy reading about. But I can't always find what I'm looking for and even when I do find something (like the internship at the museum) Jerry isn't always interested. I was hoping to find someone who reads Make magazine and is into hacking and DIY electronics and that kind of thing to provide some mentoring for Jerry, but so far that hasn't panned out. I wanted to get an electronics class together, but couldn't get the 8 kids required. I found an awesome electronics space that offers classes all the time, but it's in Brooklyn. The list goes on...

One thing that has been helpful as I ponder my strategy for getting out of this slump of mine is something I discovered online called "Recordkeeping for Unschoolers." I got it a while back so I don't recall the website that posted it. But the idea is that pretty much everything is worthwhile. I've added to the list and I plan to keep adding to it. I'm going to print it and post it in my kitchen. I figure it will give me ideas when I need them and it will also remind me that we really are doing something--even when it feels like nothing.

Record-keeping for Unschoolers

Reading

Books, magazines, newspapers, websites, fiction, biography, nonfiction, poetry, drama, manga, video game guides, travel guides, essays, articles …

Doing

Cooking, swimming, dog walking, babysitting, volunteering, working, singing, acting, playing music, calculating, gardening, helping, sports ...

Creating

Arts & crafts, building, sewing, weaving, beadwork, legos, computer graphics, game design, electronics, movie making, photography …

Writing

Journaling, stories, poetry, letters, website, e-mail, articles …

Watching

TV, movies, documentaries, cartoons, YouTube, live theater, demonstrations, wildlife …

Listening

Audiobooks, podcasts, radio, music, stories, lectures ...

Talking

Speech, discussion, explaining, instructing, debating …

Visiting

Museums, zoos, field trips, people, park day…

Thinking

Planning, analyzing, imagining, plotting, wondering …


So that should help. My other plan is to become more active. I need to stop doing so much planning and searching and just take the few ideas that are more within my control and build on those. I've been thinking of doing some electronics stuff with a group of kids at our house and I guess I just need to stop thinking and do it.

And maybe I'll post on Unschooling Basics to find out what other people do when they aren't sure they're doing enough. Do more would be the obvious answer, but at a certain point I think you just have to let things be, right? I mean, I can only do so much. Jerry is going to do what he likes to do and as long as I'm watching for clues as to what those things are and offering suggestions I'm doing the right thing....right? Is that all I'm supposed to do?

I just feel like there are untapped resources out there and I'm not finding them and it's driving me crazy. But Jerry has to want to tap into those resources, too. And his reaction to the ideas I share is definitely not within my control. Sorry, I'm rambling.

So, what do you guys think? As an unschooling parent how do you know if you're doing enough?

October 19, 2009

Wild Things

I love, love, loved Where the Wild Things Are. Sometimes it was a little slow and you were just waiting for the next thing to happen, but it was beautiful and touching and heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. And the Wild Things were amazing, as was the boy who played Max. My parents came down this weekend and we went to see it at a beautiful old theater near our house.

In other news, Jerry has met another 14-year-old unschooler who also loves Bleach! I know no one will replace Yulia (his friend who just moved to Texas) but this comes at a very good time since he's still really missing her. He likes the unschooler park day in Santa Monica on Fridays (which is where he met this boy). It's much smaller than our usual park day (he never goes to that one anymore) and not quite as overwhelming. The thing that has kept us from going to Santa Monica more frequently this past year is that it's on the other side of town and Friday afternoon is a notoriously bad time to drive across town. Since most people don't arrive at the park until later, our drive out there takes at least and hour and the ride home (if we don't have dinner or see a movie after we leave) can take almost two hours! (Without traffic it takes 30 minutes.) Still, it's worth the drive since Jerry enjoys it. Last week we were going to see a movie afterward but missed it so we ended up driving home at 5:30, which is how I know it can take up to 2 hours to get home. Anyway, that's what audiobooks were made for, right?

Oh, the Monty Python documentary started on IFC this week! We watched the first episode last night. It's really good. I recommend that, too. Hmmm, we were thinking of having a movie marathon today. Maybe it should start with The Life of Brian....

October 13, 2009

Ramblings

I don't have much to say, but I wanted to check in anyway. It looks like the New York people we were hoping to swap with aren't available now. I'm not giving up hope, though! I've already sent our some e-mails and am keeping my fingers crossed we can find someone who wants to do an exchange--even if it's just on the East coast within an hour or two of New York City (anyone? Bueller?). Jerry's birthday dinner was great. Yesterday was his actual birthday so he is officially 14 now. (Eh gads!) We were going to start working with the arduino today, but I think we may finish our other projects first. We have at least three that need finishing and I think it would be a good idea to get those out of the way before we start something new. Still, I'm excited about learning to use the arduino. I bought a book called Getting Started with Arduino yesterday which will be very helpful. I know we can probably get all the information in the book on the internet, but it's nice to be able to flip through a book for information sometimes. Jerry is going to start using Rosetta Stone for Japanese this week and I'm going to use the French version. He's had the program for a while but hasn't really used it. His teacher says it will really help so I'm going to be giving him gentle reminders three times a week that he wanted to started using it. He decided not to do the internship at the Natural History Museum because he doesn't know how to use a lot of the technology they'd need him to use. My friend at the museum said he'd teach him but Jerry said it would feel too much like school. So, I'm going to encourage him to learn those things on his own and hope that he decides to do an internship next year. I think if he started it he'd really love it, so I hope he'll take the job eventually. I'm going to put together an electronics project for Halloween that I'm hoping some of the other boys (or girls) in the homeschool group will be interested in. We're going to make a picture with eyes that will follow you across a room. I just need to figure out how much it will cost to put the kits together so I can let people know. If it goes well I plan on doing regular electronics "classes." They won't really be classes since I won't be teaching, but I'm not sure what else to call them. Speaking of teaching, last week I went to listen to Terrence Roberts, a man who was one of the "Little Rock Nine" (one of the first black students at a high school in Little Rock after desegregation) at a book signing and he was talking about education and he said he thought the word "teacher" was a misnomer. He said we should get rid of the word and use something like "master learner" instead, since we're all always learning--and it's the learning that's important. I like that idea. And I like to think of myself as a master learner rather than a teacher. Anyway, the weather has been really nice. Much cooler and kind of crisp, but sunny. Not today, though. It's going to rain today (yippee!) but we haven't put plastic over the leaky spots in the roof yet. Actually, I think we're out of plastic, so I need to buy plastic today, too. Jerry and I just finished listening to The Printer's Devil on audio book. We really enjoyed it. The woman that read it was terrific and there's a huge surprise in the middle of the book that neither of us saw coming. Now we're listening to The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson but I think I'm going to have to give up on that one. The relationships between the main character and his parents are really annoying and shallow and the way the reader does all the characters makes them all seem very stereotypical. And as we all know, the stereotypical teen is not a person we want to listen to for several hours at a time. Poor teens. They get such a bad wrap. Anyway, time for me to get off the computer and get busy. If you've read this far, you're a true bloggy friend!

October 8, 2009

Books & Birthdays

I am very excited about this book! Scott Westerfeld is the author of the Uglies series, which I absolutely loved. (Even though they're categorized are young adult books, I highly recommend them to anyone of any age.) I'm very irritated about one thing, though. I've just discovered that I missed Westerfeld's book signing in L.A. by one day. Yes, I found out about the book yesterday, checked for book signings this morning and discovered they had just happened last night. He's already on his way to San Francisco. Oh well. I'm still hoping to get a signed copy, and in the meantime I've ordered the audio book so Jerry and I can listen to it while driving (or cleaning, or doing art projects, or whatever). Cory Doctorow, of boing boing, described the book like this:
Leviathan is set in an alternate steampunk past, in which the powers of the world are divided into "Clankers" who favour huge, steam-powered walking war-machines; and "Darwinists," whose hybrid "beasties" can stand in for airships, steam-trains, war-ships, and subs (they even have a giant squid/octopus hybrid called the kraken that can seize whole warships and drag them to their watery graves).
Awesome, eh!?

In other news, we're keeping up our busy schedule. My niece will be spending Wednesdays with us from now on. I'll be taking her to circus class each week. Yesterday after class (and after dog walking and completely forgetting about Jerry's Japanese class) I took her to see September Issue at the movie theater. We both liked it, but it felt a bit long. Still, it's an interesting look into the world of fashion and Summer thinks she'd like to have a career in fashion (or she did until she saw the movie!).

I've got a fabulous birthday dinner planned for Jerry on Sunday. I'm gathering up all of Jerry's favorite people in one place at one time. It will be pretty amazing for him, I think. The guest list includes: Mai and Willem, Jerry's Japanese teacher and her husband; Xiquan, our former boarder and Caltech student from China; Poliana, Jerry's beloved former babysitter; and the icing on the cake, coming all the way from San Francisco, Lyssa, the very first college student to live with us and someone very near and dear to Jerry's heart (this one will be a surprise for Jerry!). We're only missing a few favorite people, and one of them (who lives in Kansas, another former boarder of ours) did stop by for a visit earlier in the week, so that was lucky. She just happened to be in town for a wedding. Warren will be off work so he'll be there, too. And Jerry's best friend is coming as well. I'm looking forward to a very special celebration of Jerry's 14th birthday.

And now I need to get ready to go to my weekly gig helping out a 94-year-old friend and adopted grandfather, Sol.

October 5, 2009

Two Things

First of all, never say never. I know this rule. I spout it all the time because I swore I'd never raise a child in Los Angeles and here I am doing it and loving every second, so you'd think I'd have learned my lesson. Right? Still, there was one "never" I was so sure we could avoid forever that I shouted it from rooftops. I told people on the streets. I had it painted on the side of my house. OK, I didn't do any of those things. But they do illustrate the confidence with which I regularly said:
Warren will never work on another James Cameron movie. Ever.
Yes, I said it many times in the last 13 years, after his six months on Titanic nearly broke our marriage. That's right, six months of working seven days a week, 16 to 20 hours a day just about did us in. (It turns out I'm one of those people that likes to see my husband on a regular basis. Go figure!) I'm sure you can see where this is going.

At this very moment Warren is driving to work. On Avatar. Directed by James Cameron.

But, it's only going to last for two months. And, at the time of Titanic Jerry was only a baby and I was overwhelmed by new motherhood and far from my family and none of my friends had kids and Warren was gone. All. The. Time. So this should be different. Plus, they say it's only six days a week (not seven). And the hours are only 12 to 14 a day (not 20). So that's a bonus. And the movie comes out December 17 or 18, so it can't go any longer that that. Phew. We should be OK.

The good thing about this job is the fact that Warren will be earning over time. Lots of it. Which means that if we save, save, save, and if we're sure we have enough in savings to pay our bills and put food on the table through March (because November through February are notoriously slow in the film business) and if we can find a suitable swap, we can go to New York!!

Which leads me to the second thing:
It's time for me to accept the fact that I'm always either traveling or planning to travel. And I like it that way.
I keep saying "Now that we're home I'm not going anywhere." As soon as we return from a trip, I'm convinced that I don't want to leave our house for another year, at least. And then, after about two months, I suddenly find I must go visit my friend in Mexico. Or there's an opportunity to go to Boston for Jerry to take some classes at MIT and suddenly I'm checking airfare, looking up house swaps, setting dates, and figuring out which blogging friends I might actually get to meet in the flesh. Or I start looking through the Homelink database at houses in South Africa, Iceland, Japan, anywhere, really. It's like a sickness. Only it's not a sickness. It's just me. (No smart remarks from the peanut gallery, please!)

It's such a relief when you recognize a trait that you'd always thought you needed to change, as something that's just a part of you--for better or for worse. Take procrastination. I am a huge procrastinator. I've beaten myself up over it. I've tried to change. I've made check lists with completion dates so I could spread tasks out over time and yet, I consistently wait until the very last second before (and occasionally the second after) something needs to be done to start working on it. It's like a sickness, right? I mean that's what I told myself for years.

Until I realized I must like doing things at the last minute. Why else would I keep doing it? I like the adrenaline rush. I like the big push to accomplish something all at once, rather than bit by bit, over time. It's not as if I don't finish the tasks I've set out for myself. I do. All in one fell swoop. At the last possible second. In a blaze of glory! Perhaps I exaggerate. But still, what a relief to know that's how I operate and just accept it!

So, I'm no longer going to say, "I'm so glad we're home--now we're not going anywhere!" I'm just going to say, "I'm so glad we're home." And when the travel bug bites again, I'll invite him in.

Boy do I feel better. Not that I was feeling bad. I just feel like I don't have to roll my eyes at myself (yes, I sometimes roll my eyes at myself) when I start checking airfare or perusing the world map. I'm free to be me! Yippee!

So, like I started saying before, it looks like we might be going to New York!! We're still trying to figure out when, but it will probably be December or January. Warren would rather go in December, just in case a job comes up in January. But I'm afraid he'll still be working. Anyway, I'm looking for possible house swaps and hoping that we can use some points we've got saved on a credit card for airfare, so it really shouldn't cost much at all. I'm so excited!

We're also going to start an official savings account for a trip to Japan! It may take a few years to save up enough money, but at least the wheels are rolling. Jerry's aiming to be fluent in Japanese by the time we go. So that gives him something to work towards, too.

Jerry officially starts his dog walking job today, by the way. And we're meeting with my friend at the museum about that internship. Oh, and if you're anywhere near Boston and you have a 7th-12th grader you should check out MIT's Splash! I was thinking Jerry might go this year, but he decided to pass. It sounds awesome, though.

And now I'm going to make a nice hot cup of coffee because Fall has finally arrived in Los Angeles! At last the weather is cool and crisp and the sky is (mostly) clear and we can look forward to warm soup and fresh bread and all the things that make owning a stove (and actually being able to use it without causing heatstroke) so wonderful.

October 3, 2009

Hotel Room Cooking Gone Awesome

And I thought my iron-grilled, hotel room quesadilla was clever...

September 30, 2009

Parties, Guests & Internships

We've been orbiting at warp speed around here these days. Our visitors from New Zealand arrived yesterday. It turns out the woman's 4x (or maybe 5 or 6x) great grandfather operated the printing press at a museum we visited in Russell New Zealand and her grandmother was the nanny for the children there! Her family has lived in the Bay of Islands region of New Zealand for 800 years. That museum was one of the best ones I've been to anywhere in the world, so I was very excited to meet the descendant of people who actually lived and worked there.

Our anniversary party on Saturday was terrific. It was so nice to see our old friends and I made all the food in advance so I was able to relax and enjoy myself the entire time. I also had a great time at the cemetery tour earlier that day, where I portrayed Katharine Putnam Hooker (instead of Marion), a travel writer and great friend of John Muir and the astronomer George Ellery Hale. Thankfully my "scene" partner was comfortable with improvisation because we never did the skit the same way once. But we got lots of compliments anyway!

We had some friends over on Monday to build some Drawdio pencils and that was lots of fun. And last week Jerry had a small birthday party (where building the Drawdio was a big hit) and that went really well--except for the part where we had to drive Yulia (one of Jerry's best friends) home and the two of them had to say their final good-byes. Yulia moved to Texas two days after the party. Jerry cried the whole way home.

Jerry got some happy news at the party on Saturday, though. A friend of ours who works for the Natural History Museum asked if Jerry would be interested in doing an internship for the museum. His job would be to build a video game for them. How awesome is that!? Jerry is also starting his very first job next week. He'll be walking my friend John's dog five days a week. So it looks like things are going to get pretty busy in the next few weeks. Well, they've been busy as it is, but I suppose we'll have more of a regular busy schedule now. Another fun addition to our schedule will be Wednesdays spent with my niece. She homeschools as well and I'm going to start taking her to circus class (I haven't been going, myself) every Wednesday and then she'll hang out with us for the rest of the day. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her--she's the one who went to France with us.

So, all in all things are great. Just wanted to let you know!

September 24, 2009

New Blog! Elevator to the Coolness

I'm starting a new blog! It's not replacing this blog, though. It's an addition. I decided I need a place to put all the cool things I find on the internet (and in life) in one place, where they're easy to get at and easy to share. I only have a couple things posted so far. But I do have a growing list of links to sites that I really like. So please take a look. And feel free to share your ideas on where to ride the Elevator to the Coolness.

September 23, 2009

Silk Screening Awesomeness

Our silk screening class was awesome! The guy who taught us was so nice and really treated Jerry like an equal--which was so refreshing. We were there for a little over three hours and he showed us every step: scanning our drawings, printing the negative, creating the screen, applying the paint and cleaning up. Jerry loved it. I wish I'd brought my camera so you could see the process. Next time I'll bring it for sure. Now that we've taken the class we can use his equipment for just $10/hour so we're sure to be doing some silk screening in the next few months.

I hosted book club at my house last night. I love my book club. It's filled with smart, funny, interesting people and it's hilarious to hear them talk about their experiences in the film business (most, but not all, are or have at one time worked in film). If one of them has a story about an actor or a director who's a real jerk, you can bet at least two other people have had a similar experience with the same person--last night it was Eric Stoltz--apparently he's not the nicest guy. The book was Never Let Me go by Kazuo Ishiguro and it turned out that everyone except one person disliked the book. But, we had a good discussion and wine and snacks, and one of the guys brought Jerry a ski cap from the movie Hancock (which Jerry was very excited about).

Today we're going to a park day out in the Valley where the temperature is supposed to reach well into the hundreds (bleck!). It's Yulia's last park day before she moves, so it's bound to be an emotional day for Jerry.

Also, Jerry and I need to finish a few of the projects we've started in the last week or two (or three), like this and this and this, so we can start with a clean slate at his birthday party on Thursday when we make this.

Busy week. Happy week.

September 21, 2009

Overwhelmed

I was talking to Warren on Saturday morning about how I've been feeling really overwhelmed lately. I just have so much hanging over my head at the moment. My grandma's estate stuff, trying to find things for Jerry to do, wondering how we'll manage to keep paying the mortgage if Warren is out of work until February (which is starting, more and more, to look like a real possibility), keeping on top of the house (admittedly this is not very important to me, but I still feel like I should be doing it), editing the newsletter for this writers group, and a bunch of other stuff. And this week, in particular, is really full. Tonight I'm going to Mom's Night Out (with some other homeschool moms), tomorrow night I'm hosting my book club here at our house, Thursday night is Jerry's birthday party (a few weeks early because one of his best friends is moving to Texas on Saturday), and we're having a 20th anniversary party (20 years since Warren spent the summer in a van following the Dead and 20 years since we met--at the end of that summer). When you're overwhelmed with responsibilities and someone asks you to take on even more responsibility, the appropriate response would be, "No thanks," right? Wrong! I've just agreed to portray a woman named Marian Osgood Hooker in a living history cemetery tour on Saturday morning before the party. I was so excited when I agreed to do it and then about thirty minutes later I thought, "Am I insane!?" Aaaaaahhhhhhhh! I just need to breathe deep and make myself a list of things that need to get done this week and start to check them off one by one.

Here's what the week looks like so far:

Monday - Mom's Night Out (so I have all day to clean house, do laundry, pay bills, work on Grandma's estate, and to sew a few things for my friend Sol, who I meet with on...)

Tuesday - 9-11 am Sol's house, 12-1 pm Jerry's Japanese lesson, 2-5 pm silk screening class (very excited about that!), 6 pm community meeting on solar power (may have to skip that), 8 pm Book Club (at which I need to have a fabulous spread for the other book lovers to enjoy--thank goodness for Trader Joe's!)

Wednesday - 1 pm - ? Park day and good-bye tea party for Jerry's friend Yulia, 8 pm rehearsal for living history tour

Thursday - 4 pm - late Jerry's birthday party

Friday - Get ready for Saturday

Saturday - 9 am-1:30 pm Living History Tour, 4 pm anniversary party at our house

Sunday -recover

Monday - Clean house in preparation for...

Tuesday - Four visitors from New Zealand!

Phew! It's a lot, but looking over the week I can see that I do have plenty of time to get it all done. And it's all good, fun, stuff. There's no drudgery on that list (except for the stuff I have to do today--which may be why I'm sitting at my computer blogging instead of getting the work done!).

I feel a little better though--not quite as overwhelmed. Okay, then. I guess I'll stop blogging and get to work. But maybe I'll make some iced tea first. That sounds good. And, oh! I forgot to mention that I harvested four cantaloupe from my garden this week (which I planted from seed!) and they were great! It was so exciting!! I know food grows from seed and all, but isn't it amazing!? I started with this one little seed and a few months later I'm eating the juiciest cantaloupe ever--and it's filled with about a million more seeds. It's like magic. Only it isn't. It's just nature and life and growth and it's so cool. And now I really am just trying to avoid the work I need to do today. I need to go. Oh, but there's one more thing. Jerry and I spent the day with my cousin and her daughter yesterday. It was such a nice day. The kids played in the pool and we got to hear all about their year spent living on a sailboat (they just returned home in August). They had a fabulous time and only thought they were going to die twice, which seems pretty good considering they were at the mercy of the ocean for a whole year.

One last thing before I go. Here's a snippet of conversation Jerry and I had when we were driving down to my cousin's:
Jerry: (Looking at the GPS) We'll be there in 40 minutes so we should get there at 1:23 exactly.
Me: No that can't be right.
Jerry: It is mom, look. (Adjusts GPS to show arrival time.) See, it says 1:23. Just because I don't do math worksheets doesn't mean I can't do math.

September 16, 2009

Unschooling=Kindness

Pam Sorooshian wrote something on the Good Vibrations Yahoo! Group that I wanted to share with you. I hope she doesn't mind.
I wanted to comment on something I said in both my talks, I think. I said that unschooling could, maybe, be boiled down to just "Be Nice!" But I got distracted and didn't elaborate on that and now I'm afraid it will come across in a way I did not intend. "Be Nice" is a thing parents often say to their kids - and they mean things like, "You have to share with your sister," or "Don't be so demanding," etc. I realized that, for some, "Be Nice," has some baggage.

I did not mean "Be Nice" like that - not in the same way children are commanded to "Be nice!" That isn't from the heart - that isn't actually "nice," but, anyway, I meant that we should think about whether we are treating our children kindly - are we being generous and caring and supportive and friendly and warm and sympathetic and considerate. So - I'd like to change what I said to, "Be Kind," instead of "Be Nice." Everybody, if you listen to the recording - please make that change, in your head, when you come to that part!

I saw a LOT of kindness at the conference - it was everywhere I looked. To me, after unschooling is talked about and talked about and talked about, it really finally does boil down to how we treat each other. It isn't kind to try to force another person to eat or sleep. It isn't kind to manipulate other people into doing what we want them to do - even for their own good. It IS kind to consider what they might like and to offer it to them. It is kind to be honest. It is kind to be helpful and it is kind to protect our children and keep them safe. It is kind to give them what Roya called, "perceived freedom," meaning that they don't feel constrained or restricted, even though we are right there, nearby, always clearing the way for them, removing obstacles, and helping them move in a positive direction.

So - guess I still can't stop talking -- even after going over an hour overtime at the conference, huh?

Anyway - I was reveling in all the kindness - all the wonderful parenting that I was surrounded by at the conference. It is so great to experience what it would be like if all parents were being kind to their children. WHAT a world this would be!

-Pam Sorooshian
I'd like to end with that wonderful vision of a world full of parents giving their children nothing but kindness--I can't, though, because I have to share my awesome technique for making hotel room quesadillas when you have no hot plate, electric griddle, or microwave.

See, Jerry eats the same thing for dinner every night (and has for the last four or five years). Black beans, white rice and a quesadilla (and broccoli if we have it and I get my act together to make it). So whenever we go to a conference I bring a rice cooker, an electric griddle, and hope for a microwave. Problem is, the griddle belongs to my mom, so it lives in Sacramento. The three conferences I've been to up until last week had all required a stop over in Sacramento where I'd drop off the dog and pick up the griddle. But this time we were out of luck until I realized that hotel rooms have irons! So I bought some heavy duty aluminum foil, sandwiched the tortillas and cheese between two pieces of aluminum and ironed away! Presto! One perfectly good quesadilla. I thought I was so clever until Molly told me that someone at an HSC conference had made grilled cheese the same way. Actually, I still think I'm pretty clever. But I guess there might be a few more clever people out there. At least one anyway...

September 14, 2009

Warning: Whining Ahead

Sorry. It's just that I'm feeling all "bad mom" today. I think it's because of the conference. I enjoyed it. I really did. But now I feel like I haven't been doing enough for Jerry. It's soooo haaaaarrrrrd. He really is so difficult to motivate. I know we do stuff, but the things we do take up a very small portion of the week. He seriously spends most of his time on the couch with his laptop open and the television on. You always hear unschoolers say, "when I say my kid is watching television I don't mean he's watching cartoons all day." Well, Jerry is watching cartoons all day. He loves them. And I really do think he benefits from watching them. I mean, who knows? He may go into that field eventually. It's just that I wish he didn't watch quite so many of them all in a row, over and over again.

Okay, I feel better now that I got that off my chest. But I still feel like if I were doing more, or just doing the right things, he'd been more inclined to get off the couch. It's not that I'm not offering suggestions. I am. But he turns them down most of the time. And I have to be okay with that. So I have been. But it's getting old.

Today, in an effort to find some activities that are more appealing than cartoons, I've been thinking of all the things Jerry has expressed a real interest in, and trying to find ways to bring them into his life. I had already sent out some e-mails looking for a video game design/arduino/electronics/Maker-type/creative person to hang out with Jerry for a couple hours a week but I haven't found anyone yet. Today I sent an e-mail to a local silk screening shop (Jerry loves silk screening) about taking classes or maybe just visiting and also checked into going back to the clay studio Jerry used to go to for classes (he didn't sound super excited about it, but I'll ask again later). I also got him a pro membership on instructables.com so we can download instructions for cool projects. And we went to Radio Shack to buy the supplies for some LED pens he wants to make. I still feel kinda depressed about the whole thing, though.

It all started when we were at Radio Shack and I was about to pay and he said, "Oh, mom, I guess I should mention that I was really just showing you the LED pens. I wasn't saying I wanted to make them." Really? Why did he say he wanted to go buy the supplies if he didn't want to make the things!? It's not that he didn't want to make them. I know. He could just go either way, is what he was saying. But it still sent me into a bit of a funk.

Anyway, I'm complaining about TV but the truth is he hasn't been in front of the TV all day. And at the moment he and his friend Jackson are watching Castle in the Sky in Japanese (with English subtitles). And he does want to make the LED pens after all. So we'll do that later.

I'm freaking out over nothing. I know. But I feel it's only fair to let people know that even after two years you might still freak out over things. Thankfully, I've learned to do it quietly and to myself (well, and to you), rather than at Jerry.

In fact, last week I was very proud of myself. I had been reading Raising Freethinkers by Dale McGowan and decided that Jerry absolutely had to know the differences between the seven largest world religions. Immediately. So I got some books at the library and started reading up on them. I didn't say anything to Jerry, though. And then at the conference I asked Sandra Dodd what a parent should do when they get a sudden urge to "teach" something (like world religions, for example) and she said rent a couple good movies and maybe he'll want to watch them. Or learn about them myself and just drop some information in conversation and see if he's interested in hearing more. And that was good advice. But then Pam Sorooshian, who was sitting in front of me, turned around and said, "I have another idea. How old are you?" "Forty," I said. "How about if you decide you want him to know everything about world religions by the time he turns forty. You're learning about it at forty." And that, my friends, is the beauty of Pam Sorooshian. Needless to say the urge has past.

I feel much better now. I guess I just needed to vent.

I'm off to the grocery store now, to buy dinner for an 18th wedding anniversary picnic, which Warren and I will enjoy on our deck when he gets home from work. Wow. 18 years. How did we ever get so old?

September 8, 2009

Mice and Lizards and Rats, Oh My!

I want you all (all two of you) to know that I just picked up a live mouse by the tail, with my bare hands, took him outside, tossed him (not as gently as I had intended) into the bushes and yelled "run for your life!" as I held Ravenpaw back and forced him back into the house. Yes, I went downstairs to find Ravenpaw happily crouched on the rug in the hallway with a cute little grey mouse shivering between his paws. In the last three days I have rescued one reptile (whose tail had already fallen off once and was just starting to grow back), removed one dead rat (again by the tail--this time with gloves) and now the mouse. I know we wanted cats because we thought they'd deter rats. So they're just doing their job. But I'm fielding dead lizards, rodents and birds--oh, I forgot the bird. OnFriday Ravenpaw killed a bird--nearly every day. It's too much!

What will happen when I leave Warren to himself for four days while we're at the Good Vibrations Conference in San Diego is anyone's guess. Warren doesn't do well with rodents, birds and reptiles--dead or alive. I'm sure he'll manage, but let's all just hope the cats decide to take some time off from their hunting for the weekend.

Speaking of hunting, we watched Gross Pointe Blank again last night. I love that movie. It's a must see! And what a great soundtrack. Oh, and speaking of great soundtracks, we took Jerry and a friend to see a screening of Ferris Bueller's Day off on Saturday. It was great!! A few of the actors and one of the producers were there for a Q&A before and after the show. I love that movie, too! We learned that John Hughes wrote the first 60 pages of that script in one night. And the rest of the script was finished in six days!

I'm off to watch Friends with Jerry...

September 2, 2009

This Fire

is really getting me down. My favorite hiking area is right at the center of the fire. It's silly but I feel like I've lost a good friend. I actually cried today when I found out.

In happier news, we've had visitors from New Zealand staying with us for the past four days and we really enjoyed their visit (even though it was too hot and smokey to do much outside). They are also homeschoolers and have also worked in the film business. It was really nice to see them again and have more time to hang out. Jerry and the two kids (Auggie and Lindsay) had a fabulous time. In fact, I feel like I hardly saw any of them!

I'm really starting to look forward to the Good Vibrations conference in San Diego next weekend. Anyone else going????

August 31, 2009

Water Balloon Slingshot: The Movie

Last week we made a water balloon slingshot and took it out to Griffith Park to give it a try. What a blast! Here's a little movie that Warren put together with the video footage and a few pictures:


And while most other school-aged kids were sitting at their school desks, about to embark on another year of learning stuff other people think they should know, we rented a motor boat and took it for a spin in the ocean. It was awesome. I'll post some pictures and video of that soon. Jerry said it was "the best day of his life so far."

August 29, 2009

Two In A Row!

What the heck is going on? You get nothing but the same old post greeting you for weeks and then suddenly there are two posts in a row. I'll tell you what's happening. A heat wave. It was 106 degrees in the sun today (99 in the shade). And it just so happens that my office (which is where my laptop is now that I've cleared the piles and piles and bags and boxes of clutter off my desk) is the coolest place in the house outside the refrigerator. That's how my desk got cleared off. On Day One of the heat wave I spent the entire day down here de-cluttering because it was just too hot to do anything else. And now we've just come back from a very long tour of Cost Plus World Market where Warren and I closely inspected every single item in the store, in order to savor the climate control just a little bit longer, while Jerry parked himself on a comfy chair and played his DS for an hour (made me think of this article about Ikea in China). Now we're home with a bottle of white wine (a state fair silver medal winner!) in the refrigerator and some time to relax before starting dinner.

My plan was to lay down in the bedroom with a book because I'd just picked up a copy of Raising Freethinkers at the library, but even the bedroom (which is usually fairly cool) was sweltering. So here I am with nothing to say and blogging anyway.

By the way, I think I'm going to switch to a new blog. I can hardly call myself the "New Unschooler" anymore now that we're starting our third year of it. I'm not sure when I'll switch (I need a new name first) but it will be coming soon.

Well, that bottle should be cool enough by now. I'm off to the kitchen for a glass of wine and then I'm going to start my book. It may be hot, but a good book and a glass of cold wine should do the trick!