June 29, 2010

Unschooling Is Like A Game Of Super Mario Galaxy 2

When Jerry got the first Super Mario Galaxy game and asked me to play I was excited. But the excitement died when I discovered that, as player 2, my contribution was limited to collecting stars and freezing enemies. Where was the glory? When did I get to kick some ass? Eventually, I gave up out of sheer boredom.

Last week, Jerry and I played a game of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Once again, I was player 2. But this time I could also obliterate enemies by shaking the remote. A minor change, really. But, something else was different, too–my attitude. I thought of myself as the support crew. I wasn't there to win–I was there to support Jerry. And once I accepted that I was the sidekick, I had fun–especially once it hit me that my role as player 2 in the Super Mario Galaxy games is exactly the same as my role as an unschooling parent! I'm along for the ride. I'm not leading the way, but every now and then I throw in something new. Sometimes it's helpful and Jerry wants me to keep at it and sometimes he asks me to back off. But, I'm always covering his back–freezing enemies, collecting stars, asking where he wants me, and occasionally suggesting one tactic or another. It's a team effort, getting Jerry where he wants to go, but he sets the destination and leads the way. I'm happy to follow along behind, collecting stars as I go.

June 28, 2010

Cat Salad

I meant to take photos of the beautifully arranged bowls of movie snacks and popcorn that I served for our homeschool teen outdoor movie night on Saturday (which was awesome!), but I forgot. Instead, here's a picture of one of  my new bowls filled with something entirely different.

June 24, 2010

Magic Happens

Call it magic, serendipity, or coincidence. No matter what name you give it, when people, places, and things align themselves to grant your wishes it's really cool. Yesterday morning I was on the phone with my sister, lamenting the fact that I have no close female friends in Los Angeles. I was telling her (again) how I feel so isolated and explaining that I wanted to start up some neighborhood events so that I could build a closer community here in the neighborhood. We're having an outdoor movie night for the homeschooled teens this weekend and I had been thinking that a regular neighborhood movie night would be really cool.

Cut to a few hours later. Jerry and his friend Kyle are on the couch playing video games and I'm loading the car with boogie boards and beach chairs for our first homeschool beach day of the summer. I was on my driveway and saw a woman with two kids (they looked to be about 2 and 4) across the street. I said "Hi," and almost left it at that, but then I asked if they lived in the neighborhood. She said they did and we started talking. I told her about how there were no kids at all when we first moved in, and we shared notes on which houses have kids and how old they are (they're all much younger than Jerry) and how long they've lived there. I invited her and the kids in for some iced tea (figuring homeschool beach day could wait) and we spent the next hour happily chatting while the kids played with sidewalk chalk. I even broke out the old Thomas the Tank Engine tracks.

It was amazing! I felt like I asked for something and it appeared. But, what I realized–and what I'm sure I should have thought of long ago–is that, while the answer to my wish was right there in front of me, if I hadn't put myself out there and spoken to the woman I would have missed the moment entirely. How many other things that I've longed for have been right in front of me only to pass out of my vision because I was too blind (or shy, or lazy...) to see them and grab hold!? I'm not dwelling on the things I may have missed, but I will certainly try not to let this lesson go to waste. From now on, I talk to everyone I see! We're going to plan some neighborhood events and I'm really looking forward to seeing her and her kids again. Finally, a friend with kids in the neighborhood!!

And that was just the beginning of a fabulous day. After Rebecca left, I finished loading the car, then Jerry, Kyle and I headed for the beach. I wasn't sure if we'd know anyone, but we did–two of Jerry's good friends were there. It was really great. Kyle spent almost the entire time in the water while Jerry hung out on the sand and I talked to the other moms and one of the teen girls. Then we went down to the Santa Monica pier with another family for some video games and a couple rides.

Fun was had by all.

June 21, 2010

Photo Catch Up

I have lots of photos to share today. First of all, I found a picture of the cargo ship that will be taking the books I collected to their destination in Malawi (via Swaziland, I think).
This is a photo I don't think I ever showed you. It's the stacks of boxes at the post office here in L.A. 22 boxes in all!

Here are a couple pictures from Summer's 16th birthday tea last week. We invited the girls from our knitting group and had tea sandwiches and cake. It was such a nice way to spend an afternoon.

And now, the photo you've all been waiting for the completed quilt!!! (Along with some close-up detail shots.)

This is my favorite detail on the quilt. Instead of quilting the borders with the machine I embrodered little flowers over the blue flowers on the fabric.

And here is Charlie, all scrunched into a box.

And, I don't believe I ever introduced you to Lily. She is my neighbor's psychotic cat.

I was feeding her last week while my neighbor was out of town. I started out going over to feed her in my bare feet, and by the end of the ten days I was wearing long pants, boots, and using an umbrella to provide a barrier between my body and her claws. She has serious issues. She purrs and rubs against your legs, but if you move she turns on you and hisses. She also does this low kick, kung fu thing when you're trying to walk past her (I have scars on my ankle to prove it!). Thankfully my neighbor is home now, though I don't know how she can relax with that cat in the house. Lily is a recent addition to her household–she came from a friend of my neighbor's who had to move into a nursing home–so hopefully with time she'll mellow out a bit.

And now, since today is the first day in months that I don't have any previous commitments, I'm going spend it giving Jerry my complete attention. So, I'm off to watch him play Borderlands, and maybe even try it myself.

June 18, 2010

Video Games Live & Laker Mayhem

We went to see Video Games Lives last night. It's was an evening of video game music (with game images projected onto several big screens) played by a full orchestra with a choir. And it's absolutely amazing. Watch this trailer for the upcoming PBS special (and be sure to watch the special when it airs!) to get a taste of what we experienced.

Pretty cool, right? I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to be in an auditorium full of people who are just as excited about video games as Jerry. We took Jerry's friend, Shea, with us and he loved it, too. The boys were beaming when we walked out of the theater.

Getting to the theater in the first place was a little tricky, however, because game 7 of the NBA finals was happening right next door! Originally, I only had two tickets and I was going to drop Jerry and Shea off at the Kodak Theater, which is in Hollywood, and go have dinner at the Hollywood and Highland mall. But the day of the show I realized I was mistaken. The show was at the Nokia Theater, which is right next to the Staple Center! Luckily, I decided I didn't want to be wandering the street with all those Lakers fans (not that I have anything against them–I married one). I just didn't think it would be very safe. So, I found a ticket on Craigslist and agreed to meet the guy just before the show near the box office. We made one other change in plans, as well, and decided to take the subway rather than driving. It was definitely the right thing to do!

We got off the subway and walked toward the theater and about 2 blocks before the Staple Center we came to a row of cops. Actually, it was more like a wall of cops. No, make that a sea. It was unbelievable and completely freaky. They were all saying, "Tickets. You need a ticket to get through." So I ended up explaining to about four different officers that I had tickets for Jerry and Shea, but would be picking up my ticket at the box office. Here they are from the back (once we made it through the blockade). It's hard to see because we were in the shade and I was using my phone camera, but those are all cops. And there were a lot more across the street.
Anyway, we made it to the theater at last.

And I got my ticket. And we went in together.
I sat in my own seat away from the boys for the first half. But during intermission, Jerry said the seat next to him was empty, so I was able to sit next to him for the rest of the show. He got all teary when they played Megaman, followed by Halo. It was very sweet.

I just love the passion that gamers have. I was thinking, as I was sitting there watching the show, how lucky I am that unschooling brought me to this acceptance and celebration of Jerry's passions.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the other event that was going on nearby, just beyond the Staples Center. E3!! The Video Game and Electronic Entertainment Expo. So, there were lots of guest conductors coming onto the stage. They were the composers of the music we were hearing and it was so neat to hear them talk about their inspiration for the music.

I know I already said it, but I just have to say again how cool it was to be in an auditorium full of people who share Jerry's passion for games. There was a 16-year-old kid sitting in front of us that was just bopping along to the music–head and shoulders moving to the Mario beat. And when the guy who played the Mario theme blindfolded on the piano asked for requests, this one girl was about to faint she was shouting "FINAL FANTASY 7!!!!" so loud. She got her wish later, when the full orchestra played it. :)

All in all it was terrific evening. We made it back to the subway all in one piece. The revelers from the Laker game weren't too obnoxious to do any damage (at least by the time our show was over) and we were still buzzing from the excitement when we got home.

We'll be making a trip to Blockbuster today to check out some of the games that were in the show last night. The fun never ends when the world is your classroom!

June 16, 2010

Quilts, Guns, & Pizza

First off, here's the top of the quilt all pieced together. It looks bigger than it is. It's only 42.5 square inches. I changed the middle block from the previous picture. It was supposed to be green, but the baby's room will be blue and white, so I wanted the blue to be more prominent. I don't think I'll have time to work on it today, though because...

I'm having a sweet 16 tea for my niece, Summer. Our knitting group friends are coming over and we're going to have lunch and cake and stuff. It should be really nice.

I found out that the guy who was responsible for bringing eight police officers and their weapons to our street is going to be evicted. It turns out that he was arguing with his mother, who also happens to be his landlord, and he pulled a gun on her! The guy who lives directly across the street from us told me that he was minding his own business at home when there was a knock at his door and he opened it to find six police officers standing there with all six weapons pointing at him! He told them they had the wrong guy and then left town for a few days. He said it was really scary. Anyway, I'm relieved to know the crazy guy will be leaving because every time I look up that driveway I can't help but think about that gun.

And now the pizza story: Jerry is a really "selective" eater. There are about 11 foods that he will eat (not including m&ms, and ice cream) and he has eaten the same thing for lunch and dinner for the past four or five years. You may think I exaggerate but, if anything, I'm erring on the side of caution. So, the other night when he said, "I think I'd like to try pizza," at 9:45 pm, I rushed to the phone to order a pizza. Actually, first I said, "Now?" And he said, "Yeah." And I said, "Could you try it tomorrow?" And he said, "I probably won't be in the mood to try it tomorrow." And then I rushed to the phone.

Twenty minutes later the three of us were seated around the kitchen table. Warren and I were eating pizza. Jerry was eating crust (the only part of a pizza he's ever eaten) and kind of poking at the rest of the pizza on his plate with a disgusted look. He did not try the pizza. But, thanks to Ronnie and her talk on shame at the LIFE is Good conference, I did not say what I was thinking (which was "I rushed out to get you a pizza at 10 pm and now you won't even take a little bite!?"). I just said, "That's OK." And ate my pizza. And it was fine. Thanks Ronnie.

June 14, 2010

Summer Break!

My last class is over! Woohoo! I'm officially on summer vacation. :)
And, I'm liking the quilt so far. I was a little worried about how it would turn out, so I was relieved once I got the blocks made and laid it out. I think it looks nice. And not too baby-ish.

That's all I have to say, really. I was going to tell you about how Jerry decided he wanted to try pizza, but I have to meet someone at 7 tomorrow morning and it's after 11, so I guess I'll have to save that story (and the one about the guy with the gun–yes, I have details!) for another day.

Good night!

June 13, 2010

Telsa Coils, Quilts, and Fans

I recorded ArcAttack's stellar version of the National Anthem played with Tesla Coils at the Maker Faire. But I couldn't figure out how to save it as a Quicktime file (yes, I can build a computer*, but I can't save a video) so I was all bummed that I wouldn't be able to share it with you. But, then I found this!

Also, I'm making a quilt and I wanted to show you the "before" picture. It's for a baby shower we're going to next weekend. I know it looks a little wacky now. But, I'm hoping that by a week from today, it will have come together (Magically, perhaps? Or is that asking too much?) to make a really cute (but not too baby-ish) quilt.

*By the way, Jerry's PC (the one we built) was broken and we took it to a fabulous PC repair guy who was able to get it in working order. But guess what was causing the problem? Well, you know how I said I can build a computer? It's only partly true. I can build one, but not exactly the right way the very first time around. It turns out that we didn't install the fan correctly (it wasn't latched) and we didn't put the hard drive in the right slot (in front of the other fan), so the computer has been overheating all this time! The guy said he was surprised the mother board hadn't burned out. Luckily for us, we just needed to replace the hard drive. So it's up and working and now Jerry and I know how to properly install a fan and where to put the hard drive for the next time we build one. Ah well, live and learn!

June 11, 2010

Paeff Family Yearbook 2009-2010

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Jerry's Yearbook 2010

Every year our homeschool group makes a yearbook for the kids. Today I learned how to make a photo collage on Picasa and this yearbook page is the result. Really, Jerry was supposed to do his own page, but I completely spaced it. So, since I have to turn it in by the end of the day and Jerry slept right up until the time I was supposed to take him to a friend's house, I'm doing it for him. I'm going to do a family page,too. It'll probably look very much the same, but with different photos. Still, I'll post it when I'm done–just because I can. :)
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New Look/New Blog

I have a new look. And I've started a new blog (again). This one is different, though. It's for Jerry. I'm always finding things I want to share with him online, so I e-mail a link to him, but he never checks his e-mail, so he never sees them. My solution is the new blog. It's called, I Thought You Might Like This. And it's full of awesome. Or it will be before long–there are only a few posts right now. Jerry's pretty happy with it, though.

June 9, 2010

Spitball Warfare

When we were at the Maker Faire I bought some awesome books. So far, our favorite is Mini-Weapons of Mass Destruction: Build Implements of Spitball Warfare by John Austin. After the cops and helicopter left the other night, Jerry and I ventured out into the front yard and he made a catapult out of clothes pins, rubber bands, a plastic spoon, binder clips, and tape.
Charlie watched from the sidelines. (So did Warren, but I didn't take a picture of him.)
Here's the finished product.
And here is the opposing army (as you can see, they have no weapons–we took them by surprise).
And, just for the heck of it, here's Jerry peering through a roll of duct tape.
The other books we bought are also really cool. They are The Way Toys Work by Ed and Woody Sobey and Stomp Rockets, Catapults, and Kaleidoscopes: 30+ Amazing Science Projects You Can Build for Less Than $1.

I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that I have a new laptop! I had been waiting for Warren to get another job before I bought a new one. My previous computer was really old (in computer years) and was almost completely out of space. Actually, it did run out of space while I was working on my group project, which was what inspired me to make a trip to the Apple Store to upgrade. We got a free printer and iPod Touch in the deal. So, Jerry was ecstatic and so was I. And now that I have space on my computer I can put photographs on my blog again! Yippee!

In other (sadder) news, our dog, Patsy, has Cushings Disease, which isn't deadly but is deadly expensive to treat. I found a natural remedy for it online, though, so we're going to try that out first. She also has a urinary tract infection, poor thing. And is now taking two different meds for arthritis. Needless to say, I'll be on the look out for discount veterinary pharmacies online–just as soon as I recover from the shock of paying for this first round of medications.

Sorry, I'm even boring myself here. I was just about to tell you about the minor surgery Jerry will be having on his big toe very soon but, lucky for you, new computers still have delete buttons. I won't bore you (or gross you out) with the details, except to say that we love his podiatrist because, not only is he a fabulous doctor and a nice guy, he's also an XBox gamer.

And now, finally, I will say something about unschooling. I know. You forgot this was as an unschooling blog, didn't you? Well, I've been reading the most wonderful, unschooler-friendly book called The Mathemetician's Lament by Paul Lockhart. You can read the first half of the book online here, but I highly suggest you buy the book so you can underline key passages and share it with family members who worry that your children will not be able to function in the world without taking a math class. The book is informative, funny, scathing, and explains the beauty of mathematics (something I've never quite understood until now). I love some of the things Lockhart writes about teaching:
"Teaching is not about information. It's about having an honest, intellectual relationship with your students. It requires no method, no tools, and no training. Just the ability to be real. And if you can't be real, then you have no right to inflict yourself upon innocent children."
"Teaching means openness and honesty, an ability to share excitement, and a love of learning. Without these, all the education degrees in the world won't help you, and with them, they are completely unnecessary."
I won't quote anymore of it here, since you can read it online. But please do read it! You won't regret it.

Well, I could go on to tell you about my tennis elbow, but I think you've had enough excitement for one post. I'll just leave you with one final quote from The Mathematician's Lament. He's writing about trigonometry as it's taught in school:
"Two weeks of content are stretched to semester length by masturbatory definitional runarounds. Truly interesting and beautiful phenomena, such as the way the sides of a triangle depend on its angles,will be given the same emphasis as irrelevant abbreviations and obsolete notational conventions, in order to prevent students from forming any clear idea as to what the subject is about."
Sad, but true.

Now I am off to study!

June 8, 2010

Blog? What Blog?

Sorry. I know it's been a while, but there's been a lot happening. However, I will now bring you all up to speed. First off, the Maker Faire was awesome, as expected. The one hitch was that a friend of Jerry's was supposed to fly up and go to the fair with us and two days before we were meant to leave he canceled, claiming he was "too stressed" about school. Of course, he wasn't too stressed to attend two concerts during the week before the fair and one that weekend (the dark side of Facebook--you know when people are lying to you). So that was really hard for Jerry because this boy has been his best friend since preschool and he's not being a very good friend lately. And it was a bummer for me, because if I had known he wasn't going to come with us, I would have invited Summer, but since we didn't know until two days prior, it was too late to buy a plane ticket at a reasonable price. Luckily Jerry didn't dwell on it while we were at the fair and we all ended up having a terrific time. There was so much to do and see!

 My nephew, Carson went with us on Sunday and had a great time playing with Legos and making marble runs.
At one point on Saturday, we were standing in a crowd waiting for Adam Savage from MythBusters to speak and Jerry struck up a conversation with the guy standing beside us. Jerry told him about how he watches MythBusters every night until 3 a.m. while he's playing WoW on the computer. I was all ready for a disapproving look from the guy, but instead he said, "Up until 3 A.m.!? Let me take a wild stab in the dark and guess that you homeschool like us." What a relief! 

So, the fair was great. We flew home Monday afternoon. I went to class, then Tuesday morning Warren helped me take the boxes of books for Malawi to the library. So I got those shipped, stopped in for a celebratory breakfast burrito at my favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place, packed the car for LIFE is Good and headed North.

We stayed at my mom's Tuesday night (I skipped class), then left early Wednesday for the last portion of the trip. We made a stop in Ashland and were just in time to visit my friend (another unschooler), Becky, during her few free moments of the day, then got back on the road and made it to Vancouver around 8.

The conference was marvelous. Jerry and his friend, Senna, hosted a Pokemon funshop that was a big hit.
I brought Pikachu cut outs for the kids to make into hats and it was great to see everyone wearing them. Here's Violet looking adorable in her Pikachu hat.
I can't really explain in words how fabulous the conference was, but Ronnie has done just that in a list of nouns from A to Z. I highly suggest you take a look and then make plans to be there next year.

So, LIFE is Good. Return home. Rush to class. Spend the rest of the week preparing for a group project and finals while Jerry played his new favorite XBox game, Borderlands. Jerry was really focused on the game until he beat it and was sorely disappointed in the ending. Still, he thinks he might buy one of his own (he'd been playing a rented copy). Jerry seems to be coming out of the gaming bubble a bit more these days and I really like that.

A couple nights ago Jerry and I had gone into the front yard to start drawing some sidewalk art (because you're never too old for sidewalk chalk), when Patsy started barking. I looked across the street to where she was staring and saw a police officer, with her weapon drawn, heading up my neighbor's driveway. I rushed Jerry into the house, called my neighbor to be sure his daughter was inside, then looked out the window to see another cop with a long range weapon aimed up the driveway of the next building over. Then there were two others, also with guns drawn, inside my next door neighbors trash can enclosure. I took this picture of some of the cops across the street, but it's through the window so it's not very good.

So anyway, we went to the room of the house where we thought we'd be least likely to be caught in the crossfire and just hung out for an hour or so. We cleaned. We played a card game. Warren was home so he joined in. It was a little nerve wracking and it really made me feel for the people who live in the inner city and experience this kind of thing more regularly. We've been in this house ten years and this was a first.

When the police finally left we learned that a couple in the apartment across the street were having an argument and the guy pulled out a gun. Nice, huh? Nice to know our neighbors are packing heat. Ugh. I hate to even think about it, really. Still, no shots were fired and we did really enjoy our time together. We kept the family vibe going that night. Jerry and I did our sidewalk art (partially inspired by the police encounter, as you might guess.).
Then we all ate dinner and watched the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie (thumbs down) because Warren is going start start working on the fourth (yes, there is going to be another one) on Thursday. So, hooray! Warren finally got a full-length job! Yippee! And that's not the only good news. He will be in London for two months! So we're going to London again. Wahoo! And we'll get to visit Schuyler and David and Simon and Linnea. And maybe I'll get to meet some blogging buddies (Lynn?). And we can visit the woman who saved Jerry's life after his bike accident four years ago. And now that we have places to stay for free in Paris, Geneva, and Bern (thanks to the house swapping) we may even be able to squeeze in an excursion to France and Switzerland!! I'm trying not to get too excited because the film business is so changeable, but it's hard to remain calm about it all.

In other good news, I survived the group project presentation in my Library 101 class. Now I just have a final tonight, another one next Monday, and then summer officially begins.

Bring it on!