Wednesday, April 2, 2014


When he was little and I devoted countless hours of time and effort to creating interesting educational projects, I dreamed of this. When I insisted that yes, he did need to finish his math each day, I dreamed of this. When I took him on field trips to pique his interest or deepen his knowledge, I dreamed of this.

As I sat in the park every Thursday for Homeschool Park Day for all those years, I thought about this. Talking with older, more experienced homeschool moms, I thought about this. As I took workshops and courses on education, I thought about this.

Driving untold hours to fencing practice, I hoped for this. Traveling to umpteen tournaments, sometimes watching him win, but more often watching him lose, I hoped for this. Chauffeuring him to Shakespeare workshops and plays at ungodly hours, I hoped for this. Arranging a French tutor for him for French 3, I hoped for this.

Each time there was a glitch with registration for a course at CSM I ground my teeth. Seeing him procrastinate or turn in half-rate work made me worry for him. When he refused to write, I cried in my room and despaired.

As I spent who knows how many hours in front of my computer planning for his high school, I aspired to this. When I asked, begged and cajoled for him to study for the SAT tests, I aspired to this. Investigating and becoming a semi-expert at high school and college prep requirements, I aspired to this.

When he really began to think for himself, I took heart. When he told me that calculus was "juicy", I took heart. When the final SAT score results came in, I took heart. When he was thriving in the honors program at CSM, I took heart. When I knew he would be just fine no matter what happened with college acceptances, I took heart.

The months between college applications being submitted and hearing back were hard for me. I am an impatient person. And I had worked and dreamed and aspired and waited for this since he was about four years old.

I don't mean to take away from ARG's achievement - not at all. But this is my little celebration for myself. This is me rewarding myself for many years of hard work and dedication.

UC Berkeley
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Santa Clara University (merit scholarship)
Whitman University (merit scholarship)


Yeah, baby.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I love the Internets!

I thought I was becoming more aware and enlightened when I saw two viral videos recently. Both videos made statements about our messed up culture which I appreciated.

The first was the Dove Soap commercial - the one where women see drawings of themselves, one that is how they see themselves, and one that is how others see them.  Along with many others, I was moved and saddened to see how many women don't see their own beauty, how they carry negative ideas about themselves.

But then I read a blog responding to the Dove commercial. And it made me think about it in a whole other way. The blogger questioned the whole premise of the Dove commercial - that womens' value comes from their beauty. I couldn't agree more with the bloggers critique of our culture's obsession with image, especially women's. With my own girls I have tried to teach them that how they look is just one part of who they are. Their heart, mind and character,  how they treat others and how they respond to the world are so much more important! I do NOT want them growing up believing the message that society sends: girls are not valuable without beauty. 

The second video that made me think was the rebranding of A&F clothing stores by a guy who bought a bunch of A&F clothes at thrift stores and gave them to homeless people. I took the video as a severe critique of A&F's culture of elitism and exclusivity - especially how they won't make XL and XXL sizes for women (but they will for men). I appreciated the impulse to take something awful and try to make it into something good by giving clothes away to those in need. And I will never take my girls into that store for clothes.

Not so fast, say several rebuttals to the idea of giving douchey, date raper clothes to homeless folks. If the brand is so disgusting, so reprehensible - why are you giving these clothes to the homeless? Because they are disgusting and reprehensible too? Did you ask them if they wanted the clothes? Did you get their permission before putting them in your video? Your impulse might be good, but the strategy is offensive.

Hmmm.....I don't think I would have thought of all these angles without the blogs and online articles responding to the viral videos. And I wouldn't have thought about the issue much at all if I hadn't seen the videos in the first place!

I love the online world. There is so much freedom of expression - it's just busting out all over.

Friday, April 19, 2013

3 kids

It is a pretty strange and paradoxical feeling - wanting your oldest to rocket off into the world successfully, and the hurt in your heart because you miss him so much. My guy is so independent these days, I hardly ever talk with him. So I miss our connection. At the same time, I want him to separate and leave the nest, as is appropriate. I'm all mixed up. I want to help him, but he needs to make his own mistakes. Holding on is not an option.

I have conflicting feelings about my middle child as well. At times I swell with pride at the creative way she thinks, and how she excels at things that I can not do. Other times I wish I could figure out a way to shake off the (protective?) shield she has placed around herself. I wish I could get inside her head. Alas....not possible. She remains a bit of a mystery. She thinks like her Dad.....

Youngest child, while annoyingly talkative, is still sweet and loving. She is (I think) the most like me and we get on like a house on fire. I understand her completely, and she gets me too. We are friends. I am holding on to the last moments of her childhood as best I can, without hindering her from growing up. She loves for me to kiss her left cheek, right cheek, forehead, chin and nose each night. Sigh.....

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tea Time

Once in a while I set the table with the lacy doily and fancy china. I brew tea and set out delicious goodies. The kids and I don't just sit around the table, sip tea and nibble on treats. We read poetry too. I got the idea from a homeschool writing curriculum, Brave Writer, some years ago.

We haven't done Tea Time very regularly since ARG started spending more and more time at his classes. But once in a while when I know he'll be home, I make an effort, and we have a lovely time together.

It has been a pretty easy way to introduce all three kids to the joy of poetry. We started with lots of Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends) but now enjoy all types of poetry. A book of classic poems makes it easy to find good ones. I have come to especially love Dorothy Parker, a poet with a laser sharp sense of humor and keen sense of human failings (like Emily Dickenson with a laugh).

Often ARG picks depressing or military poems. Rosie is beginning to lean that way as well, but also likes the epic/tragic/romantic ones. MiniMe still goes for the animal or funny poems. I am eclectic - I like them all. Though Robert Frost is growing on me. We even find poems and songs from the literature we are reading: LOTR, Arthurian legends, even the Hunger Games books.

I like that we can talk about the words - sounds and meanings and rhythms. It has been an easy way to introduce poetic devices without using a curriculum. Tea time is my shining example of unschooling - something I do very little of - so I have to play it up.

The kids mostly like the treats, but I think a little poetry is getting in there too.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Too Much Chocolate

In my world, too much chocolate seems like an impossibility. I am a chocolate aficionado. A connoisseur. A lover of all things chocolate. Some say I have even perfected the chocolate chip cookie. I can't disagree.

But last night, I had too much chocolate. It was a desperate case; a wonderful dinner but no dessert planned. Hubby, being the gem that he is, knew I'd be desirous of something sweet and brought home two fancy, shmancy dark chocolate bars. I think one had pepper in it.

I indulged in a few pieces of each (it was late and I'd had a few glasses of wine). They were delicious and I didn't think a thing of it. But later, oh later, I paid the price.

As I was watching Mad Men with hubby, I began to feel an ache all across my chest. Then my tummy began to feel all quivery and yucky. My heart was pounding and I felt nervous for no reason. I thought I was having a heart attack!

Let me tell you, there is nothing like a heart attack (or cancer, or any serious illness) scare to put your life in perspective. It made me want to burst into each kids' room and hug and kiss and hold them. It made me want to turn off the TV. It made me want to do something important, or at least special. I remembered the donation I'd been meaning to make to a certain charity.

By the next morning I felt fine, thankfully. I learned the hard way that my (less than youthful) body can not handle that much chocolate/caffeine in the evening. But in a way I'm glad, because it made me refocus my priorities - something that I need from time to time.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The dreaded SAT

Did you know we call the SAT test in our home? The Stupid A#$ Test.

I have loathed the test and dreaded the time when my kids would have to take it for several years. It is a tricky test, as any high school student who has recently taken it will tell you.  What does it measure? Reading, writing and math skills, but mostly it measures how well one has prepared for the SAT test. Creativity in writing? Artistic inspiration? Spatial reasoning? Passion for (insert field of choice)? The SAT ignores all of them and more. It only recognizes and rewards prowess in the mechanics of language, algebra 2 level math and the ability to write a cogent, one-draft essay in 25 minutes (don't get me started on that ridiculous essay!)

The profound weight the SAT carries in college admissions, the way it reduces our children to numbers is a tragedy. What's more, good scores on the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests are the only metrics many colleges use to validate the high school learning of homeschoolers. I know there are some small, private colleges that are willing to review a homeschool portfolio - and that's great. But ARG has set his sights high - the colleges his has in mind require all the tests.

Now I will sound like a complete hypocrite when I say that I am over the roof because ARG scored so well on his test. When I saw his scores I actually jumped up and down and hooted. I've been doing little hops ever since and mini claps ever since.

It's not that I have changed my opinion of the test. I still look at the SAT as a bleepity bleepy hoop that ARG had to jump through on his way to college. It's just that he scored well enough to make him competitive for many of the colleges he is considering. To be honest, he scored way higher than he or I expected or hoped.

I confess - the part of me that has doubted and questioned and worried about whether I did a good job as a homeschool teacher feels so relieved now. I did it! I got him through the dang hoop! Is it a real measure of how smart, creative, knowledgeable and skilled he is? Not really. Is it how the world judges the abilities of high school students? Sadly, yes.

The SAT test - a huge hurdle that ARG had to leap over. He did it.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I'm Adjusting...

It was a happy day when ARG got his driver's license.

I was especially looking forward to staying home more with the girls. For the last two and a half years I have been doing a monumental juggling act - homeschooling the girls (which actually requires one to be at home!) and driving ARG everyday to his classes at CSM and fencing lessons. It has been a struggle, to say the least, to find the chunks of time needed to do the kind of homeschooling I'm used to. In-depth science projects and reading out loud have suffered a bit in the last few years.

But that's all changing now! ARG is doing a great job of getting himself out the door, and then driving himself to and fro each day. Now I am spending entire days at home. I have time to read aloud more. Science projects are getting done. MiniMe and I are reading and writing poetry together.

Also, I have time for personal projects now. I have written more blog posts this month than I've written in a long time. Bills are no longer piling up waiting for me to get to them. I can spend time planning ARG's college visits without taking time away from the girls. I am loving it.

However, there is a downside. I haven't quite integrated the idea, "there is no car here" into my thinking. I keep making plans that require the car, without realizing that the car will not be here. A few days ago I moved a playdate for MiniMe to this afternoon. This morning, on his way out, ARG reminded me that he wouldn't be home (ie. I won't have a car) until 8:00pm. Oops. How will I get MiniMe to her playdate (which I have already moved once, and can't move again without seeming like a complete flake)? This is just one example of something that has occurred several times.

So, I am trying to adjust. I am trying to remember. I guess the price I pay for oodles of free time at home, is that my plans for outings will be a little clunky for a while. It's worth it.

Monday, March 25, 2013


There is something so romantic about studying the Renaissance period in history. In our homeschool studies, MiniMe and I have come to that special time in history when European philosophy, science and art burst out of their medieval bounds. Thanks to rediscovered Greco-Roman ideas, the levels of achievement and beauty attained during this amazing time reached new peaks.

I am especially enamored of the way people (OK, let's be real, mostly men) opened their minds to new ideas from every aspect of life. They weren't limited by subject or field of study. They were seeking Knowledge and Beauty and Wisdom. Artists were mathematicians. Scientists were architects. There was a freedom of thought that enabled some of the highest achievements of mankind!

Da Vinci, Copernicus, Shakespeare, Descartes, Galileo,  Michelangelo, Newton. I mean, come on! Getting to spend time learning about these guys, what made them tick, and what they created - how fun is that?

Comparing Renaissance art to medieval art is fun, hee hee!

Reading Shakespeare stories and seeing his plays leads to a lifetime of enjoyment! (I think everyone admits that the first 10-15 minutes are unintelligible. But after that, you start to sync with the language. Boy, did that guy have a bead on human nature. Plus he was hilarious!) 

Looking at the Duomo in Florence, or St. Peter's Basilica in Rome (inside and out) really make me appreciate how much the Greeks have influenced architecture.

When I get a glimpse into the world changing ideas of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton, I see the roots of all modern science.

Understanding just a little bit about the Renaissance makes me feel connected to people who were and are interested in the progress of humankind. Plus, it gives me a great reason to travel to Florence! That trip is way up there on my bucket list.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We Told You So

I was glad to see this article in HuffPo featuring GOP lawmakers who opposed the Iraq war ten years ago. In a time when war fever was upon the country, opposing the invasion was a lonely position. I was glad to stand in solidarity with the few brave politicians who were willing to incur the wrath of, well, just about everyone, for opposing the Bush administration.

Marching in San Francisco with over a million other anti-war folks was a great experience for me. My six year old son walked alongside his stroller-bound little sister. We saw normal people, and (well it is San Francisco after all) crazy people in the march. The peak moment for me was when someone shouted, "Sue! Sue!" and I turned to see my midwife marching and waving a ways behind us. It was empowering to know so many people thought the war was a bad idea too.

I was convinced my country was making a disastrous decision, and wondered what the Founding Fathers would have to say about it (me being a history major and all). I began a Constitution study group with five other homeschool moms, which met weekly for months, and then monthly for almost two years.

We began with the English constitution, as it applied to the American reasons for revolution. Then came reading and discussing the Virginia Resolves, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist and Anti Federalist papers, seminal Supreme Court rulings, and the writings of many of the Founders. The result of all of our study led (with the help of a very bright friend who had already considered these issues) us to two pertinent questions:

    - What are inalienable human rights?
    - What is the role of government?
    - Why was Patrick Henry so awesome?

The answers I found were:
     - Inalienable rights are life, liberty and property.
     - The role of government is to protect individual human rights.
     - It might have something to do with his uncle being an Anglican minister, though I've not found an adequate answer for this question.

These conclusions did not provide an answer, to my mind, to every single  problem existing in the world today. They certainly are not popular or widespread in the world today. But in terms of the relationship between individuals and the state, they make sense to me. Because if a government doesn't protect your rights, or worse, violates your rights - why have a government at all?

All that is to say I converted from being a Green Party member to a Libertarian. And I decided that I was right to oppose the American invasion of Iraq - they were not violating the rights of Americans, and they did not pose a threat to American rights ( as much as the Bush administration wanted us to believe otherwise). An invasion of Iraq was imperialism - an attempt (probably not successful) to install a democratic, stable, friendly government in the Middle East for economic and political reasons.

So I'm glad to see even a little media attention for the folks who stood up to power and opposed the drums of war ten years ago.  They were right.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Golden Poppy

A few years ago I was walking alone in the Montara valley, when I saw a golden poppy. Just one lusciously golden and orange beauty standing alone on a hillside, amidst the dirt and rocks. That poppy meant a lot to me.

I had been crying and praying and hurting more than I ever had before as I walked down that hill. My life was in crisis and I was spiraling into despair. I prayed angrily and desperately. I was asking for help, for a sign, for anything to keep my fingertip hold on hope for my life.

That's when I saw it. A sentinel of beauty and, for me, hope standing alone on the hillside. I felt like it was shouting out to get my attention. I walk these hills often and pass by the loveliness around me without a glance when I'm thinking hard. But this time I stopped and stared at the flower. My field of vision was 99% dirt, rocks, 1% beautiful California Golden Poppy. It felt like God was saying, "I'm here. You are not alone as you walk through this landscape of pain and confusion."

Needless to say, I cried. A lot. But the tears had a different quality now - a bit of relief and sadness had crept in amongst the feelings. It was not all overwhelming pain anymore. It is surprising how God works sometimes.

Yesterday I took the same walk and saw a single poppy again, on the same hillside. I stopped and remembered and cried a little. The feelings came and went in a breath or two. How grateful I am to remember, but also to realize that I feel so much better about my life now. My heart squeezes a bit everytime I see golden poppies now, but especially when I see one glorious bloom standing alone.