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????