Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Aegrescit medendo

(~It grows worse by the remedy)

Those who know me well, know that at best I tolerate public school. I must tolerate public school because I have two sons who attend. This is our third, and hopefully last, year in public school. Next year, I will bring them home to again homeschool them. I will feel so much better about their academic and moral progression when this is a reality.

Today I picked up my boys from school and my 5th grader complained that he was so hungry because the lunch lady wouldn't give him lunch. We have four children (two stepkids) who attend public school, and the kids qualify for free lunch. Dylan had forgotten his ticket at home, uncharacteristically. When he realized his mistake, he borrowed a dollar from a friend and got in the cafeteria line. The lunch lady wouldn't take his dollar. "You're supposed to have a ticket," she said to him. He explained that he had forgotten it and so would just be buying lunch, but she wouldn't let him. She knows which children get free or reduced-price lunches. This is not the first time that this has happened, where a child is denied a meal because his ticket is missing. This is why I had to call the school in a mild parental rage: "Did it ever occur to you that for some children who qualify for free lunches that that may be the only meal they receive that day?" Honestly, to deny food to a child because of no ticket? And then refuse to take his money because he is supposed to have a ticket?

And yesterday my 1st grader was punished for running at recess. That's right, you read it correctly. The children are not allowed to run at recess. Someone might get hurt. So, Aiden was on the track doing his laps, which were supposed to be walking laps, and he was "walking too fast, almost running". Because he's a BOY, and it's RECESS. So, as a very fair punishment, he was benched from the rest of that recess, from the next recess, and then given yard clean-up duty. Boy, oh boy, it's hard for me to teach respect for authority under these conditions. I've actually seen the principal of the school, Dr. Steinbeck, standing with her hands on her hips and scowling at over-anxious KINDERGARTENERS after school saying, "Now, do we run at Apperson Elementary?" Is this the Twilight Zone?

Now, I have many other foundational reasons for being unenthused about public education. My opinion does not stem from cafeteria food and recess rules, but these infractions sure don't help butter my bun. I heard on the radio the other day that some 4 TRILLION dollars was needed to get CA students up to par on reading, writing, and math to make them college-ready. That's $250,000 per student per year. And here I am homeschooling my 7th grader, who is already taking Algebra, reads voraciously, writes eloquently, and is in her third year of Latin, all for $300 this year. Throwing money on the problem doesn't help, people!

I heard of a Showtime movie called "Reversal of Fortune" in which a social experiment was conducted by a filmmaker here in Los Angeles. He wondered what would happen if a homeless man was given $100,000, no strings attached. Well, long story short, he blew it. Because you can't throw money at a problem! Not at a spoiled child, not at homelessness, and not at public school! So, there's my rant for the day. Solutions another day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Helluo librorum????

(~an out-and-out bookworm?)
I used to think so! My goodness, I'm always surrounded by books, in every room of my house! I spend time every single day reading from at least one, but more likely two or three books. My true literary friend over at www.novembrance.blogspot.com is playing this book list game, so I thought I'd be a good sport and play along, but I'm only doing so with my tail between my legs. Some of these I am embarrassed to admit I haven't read. I guess the pile by my bed just got bigger!

Take a look and see which ones you’ve read. Then, if you’re a blogger, post it on your blog. If you play, leave me a comment so that I can come visit!
Here’s what you do:
* Bold the ones you’ve read.
* Italicize the ones you want to read.
* Leave in normal text the ones that don't interest you.
* Put in ALL CAPS those you haven’t heard of.
* Put a couple of asterisks by the ones you recommend.

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)**
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)**
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)**
9. OUTLANDER (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)**
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)**
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)**
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)**
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)**
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)**
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)**
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)**
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)**
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)**
34. 1984 (Orwell)**
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
37. THEPOWER OF ONE (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. THE KITE RUNNER (Khaled Hosseini)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible **
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)**
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)**
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)**
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. FIFTH BUSINESS (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. CATCH-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
73. SHOGUN (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson)**
76. THE SUMMER TREE (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. THE DIVINERS (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)**
81. NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. REBECCA (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. WIZARD'S FIRST RULE (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)**
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. THE STONE DIARIES (Carol Shields)
89. BLINDNESS (Jose Saramago)
90. KANE AND ABEL (Jeffrey Archer)
91. IN THE SKIN OF A LION (Michael Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. THE OUTSIDERS (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)**
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Ubi mel, ibi apes

(~where there is honey, there are bees)

So, since finding these bees that have taken up residence inside my box of Easter baskets, I've been rather bee-brained. Aren't they magnificent? I go outside several times a day just to watch them. We couldn't possibly destroy the beautiful hive they've created, so we're trying to find a local beekeeper's club to come and take them off our hands (hopefully before Easter so we can have our baskets!) They are a wonderment, to be sure, these little creatures who work so diligently all the day long, each attending to her duties, each a part of a magical little community in this world. I have such respect for the honeybee!

But this phrase, 'where there is honey, there are bees'...what does that mean? I have two possible ideas: first, it could mean that where there is sweetness (ie, temptation) there is also danger. It's very easy in this world to overindulge in the "sweet" things of life. Addictions to almost anything are abundant. A moderate appetite for pleasure can get the better of one if not kept in careful check. When we give our will over to our indulgences, they become the master, and the 'sting' is most like the chains of hell spoken of in the scriptures. I am reminded of the principle of "opposition in all things" as I watch the beautiful honeybee hard at work creating her golden nectar, yet wary of threatening her into using her sting.

My second musing of this phrase centers around the principle that nothing worth having comes easy in this life. How often have I spread creamy, golden honey on a slice of homemade bread without thinking of the delicate life that was spent creating it? That warm, dripping honeycomb represents lives spent in perfect harmony with the measure of their creation, working all the day long, doing what they were put here to do. A great deal of busyness and hard work and long hours were spent so that I could have that honey. This leads me to think about my duties as a mother, wife, friend, sister, and servant. The end result that I want to claim as my prize will require many hours--the entirety of my life, in fact--and much dedication to fulfilling the measure of my creation. I hope that I spend more of my time doing what I was put here to do, and less time indulging in the sweet things to excess. I've been stung before!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto

(~I am a [wo]man and think that there is no human problem which does not concern me.)

This noble sentiment has been increasingly on my mind lately. I watched Oprah's "Building a Dream" special last week, where she debuts her new Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. What a moving show! We take so much for granted in this 'land of the free' where opportunities are so readily available, we hardly notice them as opportunities. We recorded that special and will be having a family viewing of it, complete with a traditional South African dessert called Malva Pudding. I hope our children will not only be alive to the suffering and injustice present in so many parts of the world, but that they will view their educational opportunities as the blessing they are, and cherish them a little more.

Last night, my husband and I finally were able to view Al Gore's Academy Award winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth". Wow. Wow again. My dear friend, Luisa Perkins has been gently prodding me in Al's direction for many years, and I must say how impressed I was with him and the passion with which he teaches what he calls his life's work. Regardless of political views, he is right when he says this is not a political issue, but a moral issue. We are stewards over this Earth, and we have not been responsible with her. Each one individually can have an impact on reversing the damage of global warming, of that I am certain. I believe in the power of one. Thanks to my hippie parents, I am already an ardent recycler, and I walk rather than drive when possible. Our family doesn't eat much meat and our thermostats are programmed to be as efficient as possible. Now we are unplugging appliances not in use. Next step: replace our lightbulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Future dream: buy a hybrid car for all this LA traffic! Thank you, Al Gore! Thank you, Luisa! (I wish I knew how to post links to these sites, but visit www.climatecrisis.net for more info, or go pop over to Luisa's blog at www.novembrance.blogspot.com) Oh, and the Malva Pudding recipe is on Oprah's site. Do a search.

Friday, March 9, 2007

O, matre pulchra filia pulchrior

(~Oh, daughter more beautiful than your beautiful mother)

I miss her already. My sweet, beautiful jewel of a daughter, Lyndsay, headed to Kentucky for a week to lend a hand to her postpartum Aunt Abby, who just sent her husband to Afghanistan five days after giving birth to their second baby. Their first baby is 17 months old. Lyndsay to the rescue!

This is the first time that Lyndsay has flown all by herself, and it's a big one since it's out of LAX first thing on a Friday morning, and finding a connecting flight in Atlanta. She sweated it out, but in true Lyndsay style, faced her fears head-on and steeled herself for the adventure that awaits. My sister will be there to meet her in Louisville around 8:30pm, lugging two babies and so happy for an extra pair of arms, I'm sure. The two of them will have a magnificent time. My only regret is that I could not join them for this girl time.

I wrote Lyns four letters last night, one for each leg of her journey there and back. They are sealed in envelopes with instructions not to open until on each particular airplane. I hope they will be a pleasant diversion for her. In them, I tell her how incredibly proud I am of her for her competence, responsible nature, unselfishness, grace, poise, cheerfulness, sweetness, capability, trustworthiness, beauty, maturity, and wisdom. It is because she is so exceptional that I felt she could handle this trip alone. Sometimes sending a 12 1/2 year old into a situation like this could just mean more grief for the one needing help. But Lyns is a professional, trust me. She can multi-task with the best of them. She can cook more competently than many mothers, she bakes the best brownies from scratch, plus she can clean anything, quiet newborns, sing every great baby song, make intricate origami creatures, perform all kinds of amazing string games, and then in her spare time she'll knit, weave, read...and call her mom. She is so much fun to be with, never a bother, very unobtrusive, and always helpful. I absolutely live in awe of her. She never says anything she regrets, like I do, because she has this skillful poise with which she can express herself truthfully without hurting anyone's feelings in the process. She's a leader without being overbearing. She's beautiful without being intimidating. She's smart without being arrogant. She's gentle in every way. She would make any mother proud. How in the world did I, of all people, get so lucky? Once when asked who I would most like to be like in the world, I replied, and I mean it, "my Lyndsay".

So, I will endure another week without my sweet Lyns. She is so good I simply can't keep her all to myself. I must share her so she can brighten more of the world. Look out, Fort Knox, Kentucky. You'll never know when night falls!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Pueri, pueri, pueri

(~Boys, boys, boys)

You gotta love them, or you'll hate them. Or at least be driven absolutely batty by them. (And by the way, I forbid my children to use the word 'hate', but I will here use it only with the acknowledgement that 'hate' is NOT the opposite of 'love'.)

I have four sons. I have five brothers. I've had two husbands. Many, many boyfriends(but before the husbands, of course). Six uncles. One dad, a sort-of step-dad, and all kinds of brothers or boyfriends-in-law. I know all about BOYS! Today, I must give a shout-out to the four boys who call me 'mom'. Good grief, they're going to kill me.

When the boys were young, they were so easy to brainwash. They would (mostly) think exactly the way I wanted them to. Now I see remnants of that Pollyanna-ish influence I tried to submerge them in, but with all these other fragments of individuality jutting out all over the place and poking me in the eye. For this, I'm grateful, but sometimes only secretly.

Let's take one son. He shall remain nameless, but his Sunday School teacher sure knew his name when she came to complain to first me and then his dad about his behavior in class. She is a little tiny, 60-something Filippina lady with a thick accent and not much of a sense of humor. Pretty literal in the language barrier. Apparently, she was trying to teach a class of 11-year old boys about the law of circumcision in the Old Testament. I don't know why. But this son squirmed. He knows all about circumcision from talks at home, but I think it caught him off guard at church. Understandably. So, when the "lesson" began, he sat bolt upright and blurted out, "Yo, this just isn't cool." At least he didn't say 'ain't', but though I wasn't proud of him, per se, I did chuckle. When I confronted him about it and told him he needed to not be silly in class, he said, "I'm sorry, Mom. That's just who I am." He apologized to poor Sister Filippina. His journal entry (which yes, as the mother here, I have license to read on occasion) is really, really funny.

Let's take a pair of sons, who walking through the airport stopped someone and said, "Spell 'I CUP' and add 'ness' to the end". This was less funny to me. As are the burping, passing gas, and poop jokes that I am on constant vigil to keep out of my house. Oi. Please tell me I have not failed as a mother.

How about another son, who took that delightful green slime stuff (that surely another BOY invented) and threw it up into the ceiling fans in not one, not two, but THREE different rooms. Now let's talk about how he scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the walls, fans, and ceilings. Then this same son ripped open a down comforter and threw every single feather into the air in some sort of imaginary surprise birthday fantasy. Fifteen months later I am STILL finding down in that room.

Then there was the time this collection of boys put "squishies" in the toilet of the girls' bathroom. For those uninformed, a 'squishy' is a packet of ketchup, or taco sauce, or mustard, or whatever other contraband the boys can steal from the cafeteria's condiment counter, carefully positioned under the toilet seat, so that when someone sits down, the pressure explodes this packet and sends it flying all over the legs and bottom of the one sitting down. And on the walls. Don't get me started on the practical jokes going on around here. They've watched "Cheaper by the Dozen" one too many times.

But there is this undeniable thing about boys too. Moms of boys know just what I mean. They sure do love their mamas. My oldest son always comes around and opens my car door for me. Without fail. I'm not even sure where he learned this. He was also present when his youngest brother was born, here at home, filled with emotion and cheering me on through pushes. They are all tender and sweet with babies, which I just love. All of my boys, when asked to do something, will always respond, "Yes, Mom." It may not be in the happiest tone of voice, but it's there. All of them have been loyal and loving and sympathetic to me. My occasional tears bring them to their knees. They are open with me and will confide in me, which I absolutely cherish. And they think I'm pretty.

Boys are on my mind today because this morning when I went to drive them to school, I found a dent in the hood of the car and these weird rubbery smears and when I inquired about the possible cause of them, it was confessed that one of them was climbing on the hood of the car last night, and oh, if the back windshield wiper is broken that would be his fault too, because he was hanging on it. Not broken, thank his lucky stars. But then, after I got one little sweet son down for his nap, I decided to tackle a drawer of old papers and I came across a water color painting only a mother could love (and keep). On the back, it says:

"Dear mom,

I want to let you know that You are the best mom

EVER. I couldn't ask for a better one cause.

There isn't.

love Dylan"

See what I mean? So, something's going right I guess. I catch myself getting caught in the trap of "you used to be so sweet!" But boys will be boys, and there will come a day when all that sweetness returns and a future wife thanks me for raising a really great man. Who still loves his mom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I Wanna Dance with Somebody...ANYBODY!

A party! A cyberspace party! People all over the world having fun visiting from blog to blog, making new friends, learning new things, awakening to new ideas, even winning prizes...who would have thunk it? Ah, the blessed internet! This invisible world linking us all. I was marveling this morning at the blessings the internet has brought into my life. I met a best friend on the internet. And if that can be topped, I met my husband on the internet! Maybe those stories on another day. For now, let me dwell on "letting loose". This IS a party, right?

It's sometimes hard for me to let loose. Maybe I'm just not yet comfortable in my skin, but I'm definitely riddled with insecurities and inhibitions. It's my least favorite thing about me, and the thing that people find most difficult to believe about me. Here comes a confession: I've never danced. Never. I WANT to dance, oh, how I want to dance! But I can't break free of the cement casing that binds fast my body. Growing up LDS, I attended every Stake dance. Every single one. I was fairly pretty and popular enough with the guys. I don't think I ever sat a slow dance out. But when the beat would accelerate, and I would feel that rush of blood and adrenaline course through me, somehow the excitement would come to a dead halt somewhere between my head and my feet. I just couldn't do it. I have a natural sense of rhythm, that isn't it. It was more, "what if I look dumb?" I would watch the other kids on the dance floor and envy their sense of abandon and fun. I would carefully watch the moves their bodies did and try to memorize them. I can remember vividly trying to will up the courage, and battling between this intense desire to just go have some fun and let loose, and the defeating voice in my head reminding me that probably everyone will notice my inept sense of dance style and will stop and stare....and think less of me. One of my very favorite songs of that era, ironically, was Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody", and every time it would play I would think, "okay, okay, I'm gonna do it this time. Okay, next phrase. In just a second. Well, the song's almost over now. Next song." But I never did. Years went by like this. Years are STILL going by like this. It makes me mad! Sure, there have been occasions when I've been pulled out there by a frustrated and well-meaning friend and I've done some stupid two-step to the beat just to appease. The whole time I'm running this tape in my mind that says something like, "Move your arms, dummy! Yeah, like that. No, that's dumb. Try this. Too forced." Dying for the song to end. Faking a good time. Just enough to keep suspicions low. Many times I went home from those dances and cried in my room, or blasted some Debbie Gibson and tried to let loose privately. Even THAT couldn't happen.

My daughters are great dancers. Carefree and spontaneous. My oldest daughter, who's almost 13, has taken 6 years of dance instruction in tap, ballet, jazz, and Highland. She has the guts and the self-confidence that I admire so much. I've tried really, really hard to instill that in her. When she would perform in her dance recitals each summer, I would be the mom in the audience crying. Yeah, I was proud of her and had all those mom thoughts of "look how beautiful she is", and "look how my little girl is growing up", but my tears flowed from a much, much deeper well. Those tears were because I wanted to dance. I watched those girls dancing, and any other dancers dance, and I have had this distinct impression that I CAN do that. That I AM a dancer, and I just haven't learned how. I haven't remembered that talent, given to me long before I came to this earth. I have even watched prima ballerinas, and the absolutely infectious Riverdance dance troupe and thought that somehow I belong to those groups. I'm one of them, but nobody knows it. I have this uncanny feeling from the deepest part of my soul that I miss dancing, though I don't know where that would come from.

Just the other day, I popped in a favorite CD of really fun, let-loose music. I tried a few moves, but it was a complete joke. I can't even take it seriously, I'm so afraid of rejection, so I have these ridiculous cop-out dance moves. I even went to the Ellen DeGeneres show and let me tell you how I sweated that one out. She dances! She expects the audience to, also! So, to cover my shame, I worked it with these completely embarrassing, silly, goof-ball, borderline retarded dance moves that I mortify my children with, and don't you know, I was pulled down on stage to dance for the entire studio audience and given an "I Danced With Ellen" T-shirt. What a joke. Everyone else REALLY danced. I was so jealous! All I did was make a fool of myself to AVOID making a fool of myself.

Every now and then I feel those moves trying to bust their way out, but I always stop them. I don't even mean to. My husband caught me in that snare the other day, and he just came over and held me and quietly laughed. "You poor thing," he said. "I saw you almost break free and then you shut it down. You poor, poor girl." He's such a good dancer. Totally uninhibited.

My goal is to dance. Just once I want to break free and feel it flow from my head, through my heart, and fly out through my arms and hands and fingers, and legs and feet and toes, and everything in between. I want to laugh with unabashed joy and freedom and surrender, and I want to sweat and get tired, and keep on dancing. A party is a real good place to start.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Captatio benevolentiae!

(~a bid for the goodwill of readers)

Well, well, well. My very own blog. This will take some getting used to, but bear with me. Once I'm out of my shell, I think I'm a lot of fun. I'm an avid journal keeper (I realize this is not the aforementioned 'fun' part of me.) I have been since I was 4 years old. I find journal writing to be very cathartic, and much cheaper than therapy. I am honest in my writing, but I also try to keep in mind that [one of] the aims in keeping a journal is for my children and grandchildren to one day read. I'm sure I censor. I wonder how this blog will come out. I guess I'll just let it.

I've been toying with the idea of having a blog for some time now. When I mentioned the idea to my husband he thought it was a great idea. He thinks I want to talk too much. I think he wishes it wasn't all in his direction. Then my best friend, Luisa, emailed me and pretty much commanded me to start a blog, and, well, I usually listen to her. Even she acknowledged that I "needed an outlet". So, I asked my husband what I should call my blog. His very first suggestion was "Little Miss Know-it-All". Very funny. (Is that taken?) I had a few Latin ideas with really cool symbolism, but he just turned to me and said, "And you're not a nerd HOW?" Well, only he can say that to me. He gets paid to be a nerd on TV. When a commercial or a TV show needs a nerd, they specifically request him. In fact, he's got a commercial running right now for McDonald's, in which he was cast as the necessary nerd. But even the director said he was "too nerdy". Yikes. I think he's adorable, and if being a nerd makes me fit closer to him, then give me a pocket protector and a protractor and let me tape up my glasses! I think I make "nerd" look really good.

Let the fun begin!