Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Socialization Myth

One of the things homeschoolers hear most is, "What about socialization?"

One of the questions homeschoolers hate most is, "What about socialization?"

If you are already a homeschooler, you know this is a non-issue. I have one homeschooling friend who won't even discuss it. She says, "It's already been settled. It's a stupid question."

For those who do not homeschool, it's a valid concern. Before I started homeschooling, I wondered if my kids were going to grow up emotionally stunted from being home with me all day instead of being with their peers in the social atmosphere of school. What if they turned out "weird"?

I needn't have worried.

If your kid is a "weird" homeschooler, then he probably would be a "weird" public schooler as well. Weird is weird. Geeks are geeks. Jocks are jocks. No matter what situation you put them in.

Ben and Katie are both extremely social kids. Emily is quiet and introverted. I can't say that they would be any different if they went to traditional school. They are who they are. At least at home they haven't been forced to adopt a personality to suit others.

We see many kids throughout our day (neighbors, teammates, church friends) who go to school. My kids are not insulated from them and they listen to them talk about what their school day is like.

My kids have not been inspired to attend school after listening to these conversations. I always thought that by the high school years, my kids would be begging to go to "real" school. That's where the fun is, isn't it? That's where everyone else is!

Apparently not so much. My kids have listened to other kids talk about being bullied, unfair teachers, stupid assignments, broken hearts, drama, wasted time, you name it. They've heard their friends talk about being pushed into having boyfriend/girlfriend relationships too soon for fear of being labeled gay. They hear about the pressure to have the right clothes, wear makeup, have the coolest phone, try the latest thing.

And they don't feel they've missed out on anything by not having these experiences. They've gotten doses of it at scouts, at playgrounds, playing sports, etc. And believe me those experiences have been enough so far to make them not want a bigger dose.

I'm baffled by people who think school is the best place for kids to have social interaction. When I was in school, we got in trouble for talking during class. We had five minutes between classes and a lunch break during which most of our "socialization" consisted of separating ourselves into our cliques and talking about each other. I learned no grand lessons about working together as a team. I didn't learn about getting along with others.

I learned not to look anyone in the eyes if they weren't part of my particular clique or I risked being picked on relentlessly. I learned how to pretend I didn't care when someone insulted me (loudly) in front of others. I learned not to stand up for myself because it would only make things worse.

I learned that those with the most money and the ability to buy the best clothes, jewelry, and cars were the most popular. If you weren't popular, you didn't count, you didn't matter, and being a nice person was not enough.

I learned to be invisible.

Not exactly the social experience I want for my kids.

A Big Shake Up

Kerry's base was hit by a rocket last week. Two soldiers were killed and six injured.

Luckily, Kerry was the one who told me about it. I didn't see it on the news and then worry, worry, worry until I heard he was okay. I already knew he was all right before I knew there had been an incident.


After we talked, I looked up the info on the Internet. It was front-page news. Top story of the day. I read about it and a wave of nausea took over. I couldn't believe how sick I felt even though I knew he was all right.

It's hard knowing they are in danger. It's hard knowing other people are getting the news on what is about to become the worst day of their lives. There are parents, spouses, sibling, children whose entire lives are changed from this day on.

It's hard knowing that could still be me, any day.

I've been very complacent about this deployment. He's on a very secure base and he doesn't take convoys to other bases all the time like he did during his last deployment. I've felt very secure that he is safe and will be home soon.

That rocket really shook me up.

Kerry said it shook all of them up too. He said they all felt fairly safe and secure and this reminded them that they are in a war, actually.

I finally overcame the nausea but then the tears kept popping up for a couple of days. It's hard not to imagine what could happen. I try not to think about it usually, no good ever came of imagining a horrible scenario and stressing myself out.

But my brain doesn't know this and while I can control what I'm thinking about in the day time, at night my mind decides to visit these horrors on me.

I had a dream that I was in a room full of folding chairs with blue seats with a chaplain and an officer in dress greens. They had just told me that Kerry had been killed. Then (because even in my sleep, my mind will not accept this) Kerry walked in to the room full of folding chairs with blue seats (what was THAT all about?) and told me that it was a mistake, he wasn't dead after all.

The next morning Kerry called on Skype and I was tearfully telling him about my dream.

His exact words: "Yeah, but how did I look in the dream? Was I all buff and sexy? Because in my dreams, I've been working out."

Bless him, for making me laugh even when I'm crying.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Which An Ear Is Pierced

Back in ancient times (when I was a pre-teen) girls had to get their ears pierced at the doctor's office. Boys did not get their ears pierced. Period.

I remember going to watch my sister get her ears pierced. She actually had to lie back on the exam table and the doctor had to wear rubber gloves. I can remember Sherry hissing air between her teeth as the needle went in. It looked like it hurt.

Me? I got my ears pierced by the next door neighbor using a sewing machine needle.

It was probably cheaper.

My ears got infected and grew shut.

So I got them pierced again. I'm not sure who did it that time. I just remember that they got infected and closed up again.

The third time was the charm. They remained healthy little holes in my ears and I could happily wear earrings.

Until I discovered that I am allergic to pretty much every earring ever made and my earlobes turn red and scaly if I wear earrings. I still tough it out and wear them for special occasions, but then I have to deal with irritated ears for a few days afterward.

Then, when I was pregnant with Emily, I touched my earlobe while I had some salt on my fingers from some french fries I was happily consuming and my ear got infected and the hole closed up. Again.

Three years ago, I decided to get my ears pierced again (some of us never really learn from our mistakes). I went to a place in the mall where they use a squeeze gun to project the earring through your ear. The girl who was doing it it squeezed really S-L-O-W-L-Y instead of doing it quickly and it hurt. A lot.

Emily has sensitive skin, and I have really made her hold off on getting her ears pierced. As much trouble as I have had with my ear lobes, I just didn't want her to have to deal with infected lobes before she was old enough to know how to properly care for her ears. I had told her years ago that she had to wait until she was twelve to get her ears pierced.

Well, her twelfth birthday is rolling up and I figured we'd better go ahead and get it done so we would know if we should get her earrings for her birthday. It would be a shame to get a bunch of earrings for her birthday only to have her ears get infected and close up.

We went to the mall, and an attack of nerves hit her.

"Does it hurt a lot?" she asked me.

"Yep," I told her.

I believe in being honest.

I also believe in reverse psychology. If she is prepared for a big, huge pain, it doesn't feel so bad after all. If she's expecting it not to hurt very much, the pain seems much worse than expected.

She finally worked up her nerve and decided to go for the gusto.

The girl performing the piercing was wearing a tutu and a tiara which made me rethink our choice of pagoda until I realized she was wearing official latex gloves which then gave me complete confidence in her ability to shoot my daughter in the ear with a nail gun.

Emily said she heard a "crunch" when the earring went through. That freaked her out more than anything.

She didn't cry though.

She said it didn't hurt as much as she expected it to.


So now she can't quit looking at her ears in the mirror and she can hardly wait for the six weeks healing time to pass so she can wear some of the new earrings I bought her.
I bought myself a new pair too and tried them on when I got home.
Only I discovered that my left ear lobe had closed.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ben's Father's Day Message to Kerry

Hi Dad! Happy Father's day! I can't wait for you to come home so I can own you at AirSoft with my new AK-47. Then I have to watch you wipe out on a surf board. Then I must fight you at HeroScape. Finally, I have to grow taller than you. This is all very hard to do with you so far away, so you need to hurry up and come home.
Love, Ben

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Kerry loves football. I mean, he Really. Loves. Football. When we moved to Virginia, we had not only a channel showing current football games, there was also an entire channel which showed old football games. Kerry could spend hours parked in front of the television watching games whose outcome had been determined years earlier.

He knows everything there is to know about football. I like to spend my time looking up obscure football facts on the Internet to see if I can stump him.

I have never yet succeeded.

He knows every player, every stat, every team, every play that it is possible to know.

When Ben was born, Kerry was ecstatic that he now had a son with whom to share his vast knowledge and love of the game. He waxed rhapsodic about the games he and Ben would one day play (and watch on television). I remember saying to him once, "But what if Ben doesn't want to play football when he's old enough?"

"He will," Kerry replied with assurance.

"But really, honey," I continued, "What if he doesn't want to play?"

"He WILL," said Kerry sternly. There was no further discussion.

In later years, Ben started showing a preference for soccer. He had no desire to play football. Kerry was still convinced that eventually, Ben would develop a desire to play football. After all with Kerry's genetic material in him, how could he not?

One day we were riding along chatting about it and discussing how many people we had known who had been severely injured playing football. Kerry himself had three holes drilled in his knee and the ligament scraped after a football injury. He spent a month on crutches. This has never inspired me to encourage Ben to play football.

"Well, it won't bother me if he never plays football," I had the temerity to say.

Suddenly we whipped into the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.

"Get out," Kerry ordered. "I thought I knew you!"

Unfortunately for Kerry, Ben has never developed that burning desire to play or watch football. However, occasionally his friends start tossing a football around and Ben will join in. That happened last week, and I snapped some pictures for Kerry.

Here you go honey:

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dingo Ringo

The weather is usually so very nice here, many houses do not have air conditioning. We usually just keep our windows up and let the breeze blow through.

However, we've had record breaking temperatures for eight days straight this past week. Suffice to say, it's been warmish.

I decided to turn on our air conditioners.

Turning on the air conditioners requires closing all the windows.

Ringo does not realize there is a difference between an open window and a closed window. He simply hears someone outside with a dog, decides they need to be barked at.............

...................and smashes his head right through the glass.

"Hey buddy! Come back here and say that to my face!"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Waimea Bay Beach Park

Today we tried out Waimea Bay Beach Park on the North Shore. You have to go early because parking is limited; we arrived at 8:30 and had no problem finding a place to park. When we left at noon, we were stalked by people who wanted our parking spot.

See this rock? This is called "Da Big Rock"
or "Jump Rock".

People like to jump off of it.

There are lots of different spots where you can take a flying leap. I chose the second highest area. I figured if I could make myself jump off the next highest, then I could move up to the highest spot after that.

I was wrong.

As you can see in the picture, the spot we were jumping from slopes downward. I have to tell you, this was pretty scary. There is nothing to hold on to, and you inch forward to the edge knowing that if you slip, you will slide off the edge and possibly bounce off the face of the cliff all the way down.

Then, once you make it to the edge, you look down and the water is so clear, you can see the bottom. It's like looking into a swimming pool. The water is plenty deep enough but it doesn't look like it from up there. It looks shallow, and waaaaaay far away.

It took all the nerve I possessed to actually jump from Da Big Rock. I knew if I thought about it for very long, I would scare myself silly and not do it. So I didn't look for long, and I just went for it.

There is one absolutely sickening second when you are leaning out so far that there will be no pulling back and you know you are committed to this jump like it or not.

The fall lasted only a second or two, but it seemed like a long time. The image of that clear, green water coming up at me is pretty firmly etched in my head.

When I hit the water, I went much deeper than I had expected.

I also got an unexpected saline flush straight up my nose and out my ears.

Next time I'm heavily congested, I'm going to go jump off this rock.

Even Emily got up the nerve to jump which really surprised me. She's not normally a daredevil and let me tell you, it takes a lot of nerve to make that leap.

This is an unretouched photo out of my little point-and-shoot camera.

No fancy camera, no fancy lens.

It really is that beautiful here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In Memoriam

We were at one of the beaches on the North Shore on Saturday. When we arrived, a really large group of people with surfboards had gathered and I assumed it was a paddle board class. They all headed to the beach and posed for a group photo. Most of them had on fresh leis.

Then they began paddling out into the ocean. I realized it was definitely not a paddle board class because many of the adults also had a child or two on their surfboards with them.

Once out in the ocean, they formed a tight little group and floated there for a bit. It was then that someone near me explained that it was a memorial service to scatter someones ashes in the water. The family had a little memorial service out there on their surf boards, then they scattered the ashes and put their leis in the water.

I wish I had known what was going on before they started paddling back, I would love to have had more pictures of what they were doing. It was a wonderful idea for a funeral service.

I think I would like to be buried like that. Calm, peaceful, beautiful. What more could you want?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Microscope 101

The kids and I went to a really cool science class this week. I had asked Ben's science teacher if she could teach us all about our microscope and she set up a class for all four of us!

We were really excited to be greeted by two of her nine dogs. They always stand on the roof and bark at anyone who is walking up to the house. I have watched Ben enter every week, convinced that one day one of these dogs would take a flying leap and land on his head. The Pomeranians probably wouldn't hurt so much, but she has Rottweilers up there sometimes too.

The class was really awesome. We learned all about how a microscope functions and then we learned how to set up slides. Depending on what you are mounting on the slide, you can add water or oil, and sometimes a drop of a coloring agent if you need to make the cells visible.

The kids had to set up their own slides and look at them through the microscope.

Sometimes they had to adjust the amount of light....

Or just fine tune the focus.
But we all learned pretty much everything we need to know
about using our microscope.

We cut pieces off a cork and viewed that under a microscope. The pieces have to be really tiny - I mean really, really tiny. If I had been doing this at home on my own I would have cut a small piece and it wouldn't have been nearly as small and thin as what was actually needed. It's cool how we could see all the individual cells of the cork.

Then we plucked a stem off a plant in her house and shaved a super thin piece off of it with a razor blade and prepared it on a slide. We actually saw some of the cells dividing.

We also looked at an onion root tip, a housefly head (rather hairy), and a slide showing the development of a chicken fetus. We saw lots of cool slides - Ben's teacher has some great resources available to her.

In conclusion, I leave you with this lovely image.................

The Hairy Housefly Head.

(Ooooooh. That sounds like a good title for a scary movie.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First Track Meet

Ben's first track meet was this past Saturday. I haven't been to a track meet since high school. I prepared as well as possible, making sure we had lunch, cold drinks, cold fruit, a beach umbrella for shade, chairs to sit on, and books and games for the girls to keep them occupied.

We had to meet the team at the practice field at 6:30 AM. Now, I don't know about everyone else, but getting three kids up and dressed and out of the house at that time of morning on a Saturday is not a happy occasion around here.

But we did it. We met the team at the practice field and followed the leader over to the University of Hawaii track where the actual meet was being held.

The problem was, the leader was unconcerned that there were twelve cars following him, and he drove like a bat out of hell all the way there. I was the third car in line, and we lost everyone behind me at some point. He was speeding, and changing lanes as though he were dreaming about NASCAR.

We got to the main track, started unloading all of our gear and realized that we did not have Ben's running shoes with us. He had picked them up to bring with him, then put them down to help me load everything into the car, then forgot to pick them up again.

So I left Ben with his team, and left the girls with my friend Susan who was there with her kids and tore back off for the house. Thankfully, I had just made this trip at top speed, and that prepared me for the mad dash back to the house and then back to the field - a trip which took over an hour.

I kept calling Susan along the way, "Has Ben had to run yet? What's happening? What have I missed?"

Finally, just as I was pulling back into the parking lot, Susan told me, "He's just about to do the long jump!"

I dashed up to the long jump and handed Ben his shoes just as the coach said, "Ben! You're up!"

I stood at the end of the sand pit, gasping and panting for air as I watched Ben jump.

I think he did well. I was a little dizzy and couldn't really tell.

Susan told me that when Ben jumped one man standing there said, "Wow. That boy has got some legs on him!"

Ben later said, "Do you think he means I'm strong.... or that I'm sexy?"

Apparently, they called for everyone to line up to run the 100 m while Ben was doing the long jump. We never heard it and he missed his first run. I was rather angry and had a heated discussion with one of the coaches about it. How can they expect us to hear an announcement for line up while competing in an event elsewhere on the field? Huh? Huh? How? I was ticked.

So, we sat around for a few hours in the hot sun waiting for the 400 m to roll around. That was lovely.

Finally, they called for line up. All the kids who were running the 400 met in the middle of the field to stretch together before running. They stretched and they stretched. They called for the youngest kids to run first. They stretched and they stretched some more. The next youngest kids ran. They ran a few sprints and stretched some more. The next youngest kids ran. They sat on the grass in the broiling sun until their coach yelled at them to stretch some more.
After an hour and a half of stretching in the sun with no liquids, Ben finally got to run.

He came in second. I was thrilled!

He came off the track saying, "My legs feel like rubber."

We took him to the shade of our umbrella and got him a water bottle. Note: shade under an umbrella at a track is not cool and breezy the way it is at the beach. It is still mighty stinking hot.

I got him some cold watermelon and Gatorade.

A man came over to tell Ben how well he had done, and noticing how flaked out Ben was told us that there was an ice chest with cold, wet towels in it that Ben could wrap around his head. Ben told me he didn't think he could walk down to where the towels were, so I took off to get him one.

He lay in the pseudo-shade for an hour with that cold towel around his head, slugging down liquids and cold fruit. When they called for line up for the 200 m, Ben said, "I'm not going to be able to do it. My legs are so rubbery, I won't be able to have any speed at all." So he wound up missing his last event as well.

Eight hours in the hot sun to watch two events that lasted just a minute each.

I think I'm going to see if he wants to take up ice skating.

Fast Food

Ben came rushing in tonight from track practice. He has to clean all the sweat off himself at top speed, throw on his scout uniform, gulp down dinner, and head out to his scout meeting. Tuesday nights are always a blur of running from one place to another.

As he came dashing in I handed him his plate and said, "You've got five minutes to eat this!"

"Well, that's four more than I need," he said taking his plate and running off.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Surfing 101

Thursday, for his birthday, I took Ben to a surfing lesson.

The first thing we learned was not to follow the GPS's directions on how to get there. We wound up in some top secret military area, and they radioed around that there was a strange car with strange folks in it and a man with very few teeth flagged us down and led us out of there and sent us in the correct direction.

How embarrassing.

The second thing we learned was that surfers should wear a rash guard shirt so they don't rub the skin off their stomachs while paddling along on the board. The surf shack loaned Ben one since we were so remiss as to show up without one. (Part two of this lesson is that if you lose the shirt you arrived in, you can't be taken out to lunch, and wind up going through a drive-thru for your birthday meal.)

Ben likes this picture because the palm tree behind him makes it look like he has a green mohawk.

The third thing we learned was that Ben put the rash guard on backwards.

Rash guards fit like a second skin. They are very tight, like spandex. It is very amusing to watch someone try to take one off, turn it around, and then get back into it.

Ben's instructor, Dustin, showed him how to paddle. Paddling is very important as it takes up a large portion of your time (and energy) in surfing. It takes a looooong time to paddle out to your starting point for a 5 or 6 second ride on a wave.

Dustin showed Ben the proper way to stand. You bring your dominant foot forward as far as you can. Then stand up as quickly as you can - without falling.

When you fall, you have to make sure you "land shallow". The ocean floor at this beach is about 70% rock, 30 % sand. You've got a much greater chance of hitting rock than sand when you fall. Dustin strictly warned Ben not to do anything remotely similar to a dive. He was instructed to do something similar to a belly flop.

Ben had several waves that just petered out on him, several really spectacular falls, and then finally, on his last two attempts, he managed to stay upright until the wave gave out.

Now, he wants his own surfboard.

But he was completely exhausted after an hour of paddling against those waves. This is going to be some serious exercise!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fifteen At Last!

Fifteen years ago today, I birthed a boy young'un into this world......

The seventeen hours of labor and five hours of pushing probably account for the somewhat shell shocked look on my face. I slept for seven hours before they brought him back to me.

Man, we look like babies ourselves. We were so clueless.

Ben isn't really into having a birthday party any more. He just wants a quiet celebration. His big gifts this year are going to be scuba lessons and surf lessons so for his smaller gifts we got him a couple of books and an iHome so he can take the iPod earbuds out of his ears once in a while.

He wanted a cake with as much chocolate as possible on it.

And - okay, I'm mean - I only buy organic cereals. So on their birthdays, the kids get to pick an unhealthy cereal. It's hilarious to me that this has become such a big deal to them. When they were young and they wanted me to buy a non-organic cereal, I would say "no" when they would beg for Fruit Loop or Cocoa Pebbles or something. Finally one day I said, "I tell you what, I'll buy you a box of whatever you want for your birthday."

They took me seriously.

They do not forget, ever, that it's time to pick their cereal. The weird thing is, the rest of the year they do not ask for other cereals. They also are not above trying manipulate each other into picking the cereal they like best. When Katie was younger, I had to make Ben and Emily leave the cereal aisle while she picked to make them quit pointing out the cereals they wanted.

Ben is a Frosted Flakes fella, all the way.

Oh, and I got him an AK-47 too.

*Insert gasp here*

It's an airsoft gun. He is one happy camper today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rocket Science

Yet another cool homeschool project......

The kids in our co-op built rockets this year.

Unfortunately, we didn't live here when they actually built the rockets, so we missed out on that.

However, we did get to join everyone for the launching of the rockets. And since all the rockets were reusable, Katie got to shoot a couple of them off as well.

It's amazing how high those rockets can go. I thought they would just shoot a little way up, but those suckers took off and went so high we couldn't see them. Each time we would have to wait until the parachute deployed and the rocket had floated back down a way before we could spot it in the sky.

The kids had as much fun chasing the rockets and trying to catch them before they landed as they did shooting them into the sky.

One wayward rocket went too far away and landed at a McDonalds across the street.

I hope they weren't alarmed.


I was talking with a neighbor and her twelve year old daughter today.

The daughter was telling me that her mom had taken away her phone for a month because she had been texting excessively (over 2,000 texts a week which I didn't think was humanly possible). When she finally got her phone back, she lost it again within 24 hours for the same reason.

She's twelve.

Then her mom was telling me that the daughter had asked to have a MySpace page, the parents said "no", and the daughter set one up anyway and claimed to be eighteen on it. The parents found out about it, shut it down, and the daughter said (right in front of her mom) that she plans to set it up again.

She's twelve.

Then, the daughter tells me that she "only" wants to have her belly button pierced, two piercings on her back, and to have her own name tattooed across her lower back. She "might" have these really cool stars tattooed around her belly button one day too, but her mom won't let her have any of that done.

She's twelve.

I came home, looked at my kids and said, "You all are really good kids. I'm proud of you. I'm glad you have common sense, and I'm glad you are mine!"

I don't think I've ever appreciated them as much as I do right now.