Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When We First Decided to Homeschool

I often have people ask me if I "always" wanted to homeschool.


I didn't ever want to homeschool. I know people who plan to homeschool from the moment they find out they are expecting a baby. They research curriculum, join message boards on-line, and start lessons when their kids are barely toddling.

I was not one of those people.

I wanted my kids to be normal.

And homeschooling is not normal. Not mainstream. Not what everyone is doing. Especially not ten years ago when we first started.

Ben actually went to a year of preschool. The entire year he was in preschool, I worried about which school I should send him to the next year. The preschool was independent, not attached to any school. So we had the choice of sending him to the local public school, the local private school, or putting him in another year of preschool since he was one of the youngest kids in his class.

I had one friend who homeschooled. She told me, "Ben is really smart. You should consider homeschooling him."

"Oh that's nice for you," I thought. "But I could never do that. I want my kids to be normal."

I started talking to other moms who had kids in school to find out what they thought of their kid's schools.

Actually I learned very quickly not to ask them about their schools outright. If you tell someone you are thinking of sending your kid to their school, they will tell you how much they love it. They will recite all the wonderful things their kids have learned and the projects they have worked on and the field trips they have taken. You will hear nothing but glowing reports about their school. Because then, if you choose their school as well, you have validated their choice.

What I did was stand in a group of women at any event I attended and just listen to them talk without telling them I was considering schools for the future. Invariably, they would talk about having to go in and argue with a teacher/principal/other parent about all the problems they were having with the schools. Kids were bullied, unfair punishments were meted out, homework was overwhelming, dirty rhymes were learned, classrooms were crowded, etc. etc. etc.

I would come home from these gatherings in agony at the thought of sending my angel faced baby off to these war trenches.

And all this time I kept hanging out with my homeschooling friend and her kids were so polite! They were mannerly, respectful, and actually looked me in the eye and talked to me when I was around. My friend's children who attended "real" school avoided adult contact like the plague and answered all questions in monosyllabic mumbles.

So, we started to consider it. I asked around and checked out curriculum. We thought about it some more. I listened to the homeschool moms talk. We prayed.

And then, we received a sign from heaven.

We found out that the state of Alaska would give us a computer and pay for our Internet if we decided to homeschool.

Now we weren't totally sold on the idea of homeschooling, but we really wanted a computer.

We decided it couldn't possibly ruin Ben if we tried homeschooling for a year. If it didn't work out, we would just put him in kindergarten the following year and it would be the same as if he'd had another year of preschool.

Decision made with full confidence!

Then one day I drove past the local elementary school and saw a sign out by the street that read, "LAST DAY TO REGISTER FOR KINDERGARTEN".

I nearly hyperventilated.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Story of Creation - Youth Group Style

Ben's youth group was given the task of thinking up skits to show the creation story. They divided into two groups: boys vs. girls. Let's see how they did:

The girls took the time to come up with costumes representing the days of creation. This girl represents the day animals were created. See how she's wearing a cute little cow mask? And she's holding a stuffed cow and a stuffed frog!

Next to animal girl is fish girl (they weren't standing in order at this point). She has little fish cutouts taped on to her shirt and represents the day all the creatures of the ocean were created.

Next to her is the girl representing land. She's holding an earth colored rectangular thing and.....a hat. God created hats the same day he created land. It's in Genesis, I think. Look it up.

The next girl is wearing wings. She represents the creation of all birds and flying things.

The girl who has yellow construction paper taped to her represents the creation of light.

The last girl has blue paper (representing water) taped to her lower half , and cotton balls taped to her upper body (representing sky) to show that God separated the waters and the sky! Isn't that imaginative?!?! Did I mention that they only had 10-15 minutes to come up with this skit? They scrounged around in the church and came up with all these very creative costumes to go along with their skit!

Here's what the teen boys did:

They turned the lights off and on to represent day and night.

God made water (blue construction paper on ground).

God made sky (blue construction paper held in the air).

God made land (boy collapses flat onto ground to represent land mass).

God made growing things (fake plant put on collapsed boys back).

God made animals (add stuffed elephant on collapsed boy).

Ben says he thinks the boys should have won.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Termite Tent

A house in our neighborhood is being tented for termites. I've heard of it being done, but I've never actually seen it. I always had in mind that if a house were covered in a tent, it would be a sort of whitish covering, like wax wrap. But no.....

I keep expecting an elephant to come trundling out of there.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Latest From Kerry

Here is an update from Kerry. I cut out all the mushy stuff:

I just saw Toby Keith in concert from 50 feet away! It was a great concert and he was very entertaining. I went to the bazaar and hit a home run for your anniversary gift. OK...it is a new fishing pole...I could not keep the secret...if you don't like it I will use it! :-)

The food here is not too hot. There is a huge European influence here since the majority of the troops are NATO (North American Treaty Organization - our European allies). I got some sausage links yesterday that looked like a kielbasa. All right! I love kielbasa! I bit into it and it was like eating a pudding pop with a hard sausage covering. Let's just say that I made quite an indelible impression as I, the ugly American, had to spit this concoction - that looked and smelled like sausage but was obviously a cleverly disguised Taliban weapon - back on my tray in front of several hundred of our curious allies. It was either that or save face and try to swallow whatever was in my mouth. I chose the more embarrassing route, but most likely prevented an international incident if I had swallowed it and then, kicking and screaming, died in the middle of a crowded dining facility. I think I did the right thing! For countries that have existed so long, you would think they would have learned how to cook their food!

There is a dining facility right beside our headquarters where I work that has an oriental flavor to it. Everything is stir fried and there is lots of rice. That is pretty cool...except when you make the mistake of going there for breakfast. I guess they do not know what scrambled eggs are. However....they do know what fish heads are. Yes, there were two types of fish heads on the morning menu as well as much sushi and nothing even vaguely resembling American food except for the cereal section. I have never been so grateful for a bowl of corn flakes in my life as I was that morning. Needless to say, I don't go there for breakfast now.

I love you. I will see you soon.

Love, me

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Homeless? Check Yes or No

Different states have different rules regarding homeschooling. Hawaii requires that you register your children with the school system and then officially withdraw them. That way they have a record of a child within their district who is not attending their school.

I don't question, I just accept.

I filled out the forms and mailed them in. Each of my kids would be attending a different school here, so I had to send in three different forms to three different schools declaring, "Here is the child I am not sending to your school."

Today I got back a form from Emily's school....mailed to me at my address....wanting to know whether or not we are homeless.

I have never been given a form where I had to check boxes for "Homeless" or "Not Homeless". It even gives guidelines on what qualifies as homeless in case you are not certain. You know, in case you are thinking, "Well, this cardboard box may not be much but it is 'home' to me, so I'm going to check 'Not Homeless'."

One definition states, "children and youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings."

The one after that says, "children and youth who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings".

Really? It has to be spelled out that clearly? People who live in a car, or a bus station, need it defined for them that they are homeless? I wonder if the school has received very many calls saying, "Well, we stay in this abandoned building - until someone finds out we're here that is - so should we check 'Homeless' or 'Not Homeless'?"

And why would I be homeschooling my child if I was homeless? Wouldn't it make more sense to send them to school for the day where they could get fed and I could crawl out of my cardboard box and go, say, hunt for a job?

I know these questions are asked because sometime in the past something has actually happened to make this information necessary. There was probably a lawsuit and some lawyer saying, "At no time did they ask if the homeschooler had a home to be schooled in! Shame!"

So I have dutifully filled out the form stating that we do indeed have a home and I am using actual books and not just drawing pictures in the sand in order to teach my kids.

Don't question. Just accept.

Buried at the Beach

On Sunday we went to the beach with a group of people from our church. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was absolutely the right temperature - not too hot, not too cold. We really had an excellent day.

The youth decided to bury several of the teens in the sand. They spent quite a while digging holes deep enough to hold an entire person.

Of course, Ben volunteered to be buried.

He showered TWICE after he was finally freed, and still had tons of sand in his ears.
I hope he doesn't get an earache.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Honkin' Snail

We found this huge snail crawling out back around the garbage cans. I've never seen a snail this big in my yard!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


The kids are rehearsing for the musical they are in.

Rehearsals are long and tiring. The songs change, the blocking changes, the choreography changes. It's sometimes difficult to keep up with what's going on if you've never been part of a play. If you have been part of a show, you expect regular changes and you know everything will come together in time for the actual performance.

Katie has a hard time with this.

Katie knows where she is supposed to be, and where everyone else is supposed to be, and she has no qualms about going over to another child and moving them if they are slightly out of place. She sings at the top of her lungs because she doesn't feel everyone else is singing loud enough and she is trying show them how it should be done.

Katie gets very frustrated when choreography changes. When they first started staging "Oklahoma" all the kids in the chorus slapped their hands on their thighs in time to the music. Unfortunately, it just wasn't coming together, so now everyone is to just stand there and sing behind the dancers. Katie keeps slapping her hands on her thighs, not because she forgets they aren't doing that any more, but because she thinks they should still be doing that. She even told the director that it looks better when they do the hand pat and came off stage crying when she was told no.

A little while later they were working on a different song and Katie was having trouble learning the choreography. She stomped over to me in tears, "It's too hard!" I encouraged her and sent her back on stage.

A little while later she was upset because she thought she should be in front where people could see her, but she had been moved back a row.

The last time she came crying to me (when they had not taken another of her suggestions), I had lost all sympathy for her.

"Katie! You do not control everything that is going on here. The adults are in charge. They know how this is supposed to work. Just do what they tell you if you want to be in the show. You are not the director!"

"Well I should be!" she snapped and stomped off back to her spot.


Ben spent the weekend camping with his Boy Scout Troop at the oldest scouting show in the U.S. - The Makahiki.

All the scout troops from around the island meet for this weekend. Each troop brings one activity or event and the family members come on Saturday to try out all the activities. Some of the troops do demonstrations. Ben's troop was demonstrating all the different ways of making a fire depending on the materials at hand.

One troop had set up a tee pee.

One troop brought a real working trebuchet and let people try it out. Instead of flinging rocks, we flung Ziploc baggies of water which the boy scouts would try to hit with a bat.

There were MP's there with their attack dogs. We watched an incredible demonstration of how the dogs will attack a suspect when ordered to. I would not have wanted to be the guy who had to let the dogs take him down over and over for our entertainment. Yes, he is yelling in this picture, but it was just to make the dogs think that they were doing a good job. Don't want them feeling inferior.

Katie got to climb into a Coast Guard boat and play with a gun. If they only knew her desire for world domination, they might not have let her on there.

One of the girls favorite demos was the lava tube. Each person got to mix oil, water, food coloring and glitter in a large test tube with a screw top. The food coloring mixes with the water but not the oil and makes a colorful "wave" in the tube.

We didn't get to see Ben for very long. We stopped by his camp site and watched him make some grilled cheese sandwiches. This is far beneath his cooking ability and usually annoys the heck out of him. He likes to cook in a dutch oven over a fire using about fifteen ingredients.

I think I'll let him make dinner when he gets home tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Camels and Goats

I talked to Kerry one day recently and he had been fielding dozens of phone calls from all around the world. Apparently an officer at another base in Afghanistan had been trying to impress his family with a hardship story and he sent an email that his unit was out of food and that they were reduced to eating camels and goats.

The soldier's father-in-law, upon receiving this email, was incensed that the Army wasn't feeding the soldiers properly and contacted his senator. This in turn, led to a congressional inquiry which led to Kerry getting dozens of phone calls. Kerry is a logistician and his job involves getting all supplies (beans and bullets) to each base and making sure there is enough for everyone.

Kerry was not particularly happy about this.

"I talk to the soldiers at that base every day and their main complaint is that they are out of a certain flavor of ice cream, not that they are eating camels and goats!"

I'd love to know if they told the father-in-law that his son-in-law is an idiot and that there was no validity to his claim. Or do they just say, "We've investigated the claim and feel that the situation is resolved satisfactorily"?

I hope they tell him the guy's an idiot.

This reminded me of a poem my kids heard somewhere along the way:

Mary had a little lamb
You've heard this tale before.
But did you know she passed her plate
And had a little more?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Magic Box

We were watching a magic show on television Monday night. The magician showed the audience an empty box, closed a curtain around it, spun it around, opened the curtain, and revealed that flowers had magically appeared inside the box.

Then he closed the curtain again, spun the box around, and opened the curtain again to reveal a scantily clad woman inside.

"Wow," said Ben. "I've got to get me one of those boxes."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Future Veterinarian

We were eating lunch today when Katie piped up and said, "I think I might be a veterinarian when I grow up. You know why? Because I tried dipping a potato chip in lemonade and then I ate it, and I thought it tasted pretty good."

Now, I'm usually pretty good at following Katie-logic but I have to admit this one had me stumped.

Ben and I both said at the same time, "You'll have to explain that a little better."

Katie replied, "Well, veterinarians do gross things, and most people think a potato chip dipped in lemonade would be gross, but it didn't bother me! I can do gross things and not be bothered!"

Ah. Katie-logic.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Busy Day!

On Thursday, we went to a rehearsal at our church. During a rehearsal break, Ben asked if he could have the keys and run out to the car for a minute.

He came back about five minutes later, "Hey, Mom. Something funny happened. I locked the keys in the car."

Ben is quite a prankster and often pulls little jokes likes this. I know better than to fall for it.

"Ha ha, Ben. Give me the keys."

"Really. I locked them in the car."

"You did not."

"Yes, I did."


"I love you, Mom."

"You're lucky I love you, because it's the only thing keeping me from throttling you right now!"

Turns out he had taken a couple of his friends out to the car to show them the knife Kerry sent him from Afghanistan. He was so excited about the knife, he set the keys down in the car and then forgot them. But he did remember to lock the door when he was done (so no one would steal his knife probably).

Long story short: a locksmith came and got the keys out for us. I offered to give him my first born child as payment, since he's the one who got us into this predicament. The locksmith considered it briefly, but declined my offer.

Luckily, we were at the church when this happened and we still had to be there for quite a while. It would have been a lot worse if we'd had someplace we needed to be and couldn't get there because it took the locksmith forty-five minutes to get to us. We were with friends and having a good time. Look for that silver lining.

After the rehearsal was over we dyed Easter eggs.

Then we came home, did our usual routine, and went to bed.

At 4:30 AM, the smoke alarm went off in our house. I have the worst karma with smoke alarms of anyone I have ever known.

I had to call 911 and they sent three firemen over. I, of course, ran around making the kids clean up in case the house wasn't clean enough to suit the firemen. Ben did not understand why he had to unload the dishwasher when they wouldn't be seeing anything in it anyway. I didn't know why either, but I made him do it. I don't think clearly that early in the morning with a fresh load of adrenaline in my bloodstream.

The firemen came over, decided there was an electrical issue with the smoke detector and dismantled it. The dogs decided the firemen in their uniforms looked big and scary and offered to dismantle them. I was mortified that my dogs were behaving so viciously and that I couldn't get them to be nice.

Katie slept through the whole thing.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


When Kerry and I had been married for two whole weeks, he was sent to Korea for a year. He was a Private First Class and we were busting with pride that he outranked somebody (regular Privates). We still giggle about that.

It was hard spending our first year apart. I thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. We loved each other more than anybody ever loved anyone in the whole history of the world and ripping us apart like that was the most cruel, heinous thing that could have happened. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on us.

Back in that ancient time (1991) people had never heard of home computers. Well, maybe some people had, but I certainly hadn't. And even if I had heard of them, only rich people would have had them. I was married to a Private. Computers did not exist in our universe.

No, back then we had "AT&T Reach Out World". This allowed us to talk once a week for eighteen whole minutes. Our phone bill was around $200 a month, an astronomical amount at that time at that pay level. I lived for Thursday mornings when I could call him. We wrote a lot of letters that year.

When Kerry deployed to Iraq in 2003, things were better, but still not fabulous. We had a computer in our house and he had a computer in Iraq. His connection was sketchy though and I was lucky to get an email every few days. He was able to call about once a week but there were phone Nazis who chopped the call off after 10 minutes. Many of our phone conversations consisted of me trying to wrestle the phone away from one of the kids when their two minutes were up.

Now, in 2009, separations are looking up. Kerry has his own computer in his own room and we have Skype (if I had a way to make a chorus of singing angels descend around the word Skype I would use it here).

Skype is an amazing program which allows us to see each other and talk to one another through our computers. And, wait for it, here it comes - it's free. That's right folks you heard me say it and it's true. Free. We've been using Skype for about four months now, and it really truly has not cost us one penny. We talk almost every day and being able to see each other and talk as much as we want has made this deployment so much easier.

We can each sit and talk to him as long as we want (or until one of us has to use the bathroom). We've had conversations that have lasted over an hour. Technology is really helping families survive deployments. It is so much easier today than it used to be.

Thank you Skype!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Katie's Looking for a Man!

Said Katie this moring:

"Daddy's not going to be home for almost a year right? Will I be dating by then?"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rigger Finds a Soft Comfy Seat

Sit, Rigger. Sit.

Good boy!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pictures from Kerry

This is called a "Jingle Truck" because the Afghanis paint them bright colors and tie things all over it that make jingling noises.

This is the view of the mountains from his base.

Ready to go on a convoy.

Ariel view of an Afghani compound.

An Afghani house.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Joys Of Boogie Boarding

Ballet Katie

Katie had her first dance lesson this week. She used to take ballet and tap when she was four, but then decided she wanted to take gymnastics for a year. Then she switched to Tae Kwon Do when we moved and forced her to.

She has been incredibly excited about ballet class. She's been asking me every day how many more days until her ballet class. We got her a cute pink leotard, cute pink tights and matching pink ballet shoes.

When the big day arrived she was up and dressed in her dance clothes by 7:00am despite the fact that her class wasn't until noon. I told her she might want to wait until closer to time for class to wear her outfit, but she was determined.

Then she decided to go water the tomato plants outside.

(You see what's coming here don't you?)

She came back inside with a horrified look on her face and mud all up the front of her pretty pink leotard.

Luckily, it was still early, so I took her leotard and washed it immediately.

The mud didn't come out.

I sprayed it with stain cleaner and washed it again.

The mud didn't come out.

I hand scrubbed it. That was some industrial strength mud. I told Katie at that point it was too late. Most of the mud had come out at that point but not all of it. Unless I threw the leotard in the dryer, it wouldn't be dry in time for class. And if I threw it in the dryer, the remaining mud stains would most definitely never come out.

So we rooted around in her dress-up box and found a leotard that Emily wore in a recital when she took ballet. It was still pink, and actually quite pretty, so Katie was happy after all.

Now I just need some industrial strength mud cleaner.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NYLT - Ben's Version

I just got back from National Youth Leader Training camp, and I am very glad to be back in my own home...

Camp Pupukea is a pretty cool campsite, but it was a kind of miserable week. We arrived and they set us up into our patrols; they put us with random people, so I didn't know anyone. They organized the patrols by color; we were the Lime Patrol. We had to think of a name that matched lime, so we became the Irish Whooping Llamas (yes, that was my idea). Our patrol and the Gold Patrol were unlucky enough to get stuck in the camp site that was half a mile away from everything... down hill... those wimps in the other patrols were right next to everything. And I had to drag a 100 pound cart up that hill about 4 times a day, because the rest of my patrol were a bunch of lazy butt holes. I literally did K.P. for all but one meal, because if someone else had to do it, it wouldn't get done and then we would get in trouble. The classes were OK, they were just talking about different leadership skills. We had MRE's (Meals Rejected by Everyone) for most of our meals and yet the patrol still found a way make there be dirty dishes. We didn't even need dishes! The way we got food was cool, they had a pickup time for food at every meal. If you didn't get there on time, your patrol couldn't eat. And because pickup for breakfast was 6:00 to 6:30, we missed our breakfast most days because we wouldn't wake up on time. I am a lot stronger now from dragging that cart all over the place, so it's not all bad. My tent partner was sick, so I got sick too... not fun at all.

I was one of the only Caucasians there, and being in an all Asian patrol was awkward at times. The others in my group quickly nicknamed us "The Asians plus One White Guy". One of my patrol members promised that he would help me unleash my inner-Asian, but when I chose mashed potatoes instead of rice, he gave up on me.

It says in the rules that there is no wrestling allowed, but every year the staff secretly organizes a grappling match. They had a sentry who would blow a whistle whenever an adult or other staff member was coming. One whistle meant staff, 2 meant false alarm, 3 meant adult, 50 meant Mr. Mac (our scout master who also owns the camp). I beat everyone I faced, until the whistle blew... We all scattered back to our camps, but I was barefoot and, while running, ripped a good chunk of meat out of my toe when I hit a rock. After I got back from the medic's cabin, I decided not to grapple anymore.

At one point, they needed to test how we would react during an emergency, but of course, they didn't tell us it wasn't real. We were sitting in the building where they taught our classes at 10:00 one night when our SPL for the whole camp ran in and yelled, "Everyone get down under the tables! The police department just called, there's a drunk man that has been sighted coming this way, and he's armed!" We got under the tables and they turned out the lights. Suddenly we heard the SPL scream from the other room, "All staff get in here! We have a wounded person!" All the staff ran into the other room with the medic (who is a navy seal by the way), and we could hear "Oh God! It's Ricky!" "Check his pulse!" "Blood is getting on everything!"... Then the door slammed open, there was a gunshot, then the light came on and the SPL told us to sit back down. He explained that it wasn't real and it just a test, and that we did really well. I don't give a crap that we did well! We were P.O.d!

One other interesting thing happened. Another troop that was going on a biking course was a little way down the hill. Suddenly we saw Ranger Mac and a fire truck fly by! The idiots in the other troop had been exploding deodorant cans and had set fire to the entire hillside! We could only guess what Ranger Mac did to the fools. Well, not much else of interest happened so I'll end it here.