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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Speech, discussion, explaining, instructing, debating …


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


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


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...