Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Notes from an Airplane

"It's like an Italian train now, everybody brings their own food on the plane," my Mom said as I was packing for our trip to the Rockies. Her comment brought back pleasant memories of the 6 months I spent in Italy during college. Traveling by train was quite an experience; the trains were mobbed all the time, by people of all ages, and not only did everyone bring their own food, but they offered it around to everyone else. I had never seen a blood orange before the day I was offered one by an elderly Italian on a train and, while I was reluctant to try it - it looked like a mad scientist had injected it with, well, blood - it remains the best orange I've ever eaten.

The sharing of food when traveling the Italian trains created cameraderie, made friends of strangers. I could never imagine that same kind of experience here in the US, where everyone is so into their own lives, talking on the phone, working on the laptop, earbuds closing out the world. But I was pleasantly surprised by our trip out here; while no one shared food, our fellow passengers took the time to be friendly, offered to help with bags, complemented my two (good-as-gold) flying boys.

Here are a few I-wish-the-camera-wasn't-packed moments:

When Luke found his suprise Star Wars Gameboy "chips" (as he calls them). The Gameboy has been out of favor since it committed the grievous sin of lacking two screens, but has been granted a reprieve during our trip!

Owen fell asleep while reading the flight safety brochure, the one that describes in pictures how to inflate the exit door slides, use an oxygen mask, etc. The flight attendants, jaded people if there ever were any, each stopped by to ooh over our little one, fast asleep and presumably dreaming about seat flotation devices.

For myself, I kept it together during the trip, I'm proud to say! My only non-Zen moment had to do with the safety brochure; Luke asked how we'd get home after jumping from the plane with our seat flotation devices... I just couldn't tell him the odds of survival in that event. His face looked so beautiful and innocent, aglow with the simple trust of childhood that, somehow, we'd get home after evacuating from a plane. It was very moving.

Final wish-I-had-the-camera moment: driving into my folks' neck of the woods, I saw the most amazing view! A smallish, snow-covered mountain ringed by many larger ones, and in the background a horizontal-striped sunset sky that (to my jet-lagged brain) looked like the rings of Saturn. A nice way to arrive!

Monday, February 25, 2008

I Wanna Sing That Rock n Roll

Life in a family where Mama's learning the guitar can be loud...

And very often involves songs not necessarily in good taste. Here, the darlings sing a rousing rendition of "Deck the Halls." It is really, really loud.

But, it seems, that when Mama learns the guitar, everyone else wants to, too! And that makes for good fun.

I'll be posting from the Rockies for the next few weeks, wish us luck getting there!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Too Old for Superbad

Let me just say, I LOVED American Pie. And South Park, especially the first episode I ever saw, Cartman Gets an Anal Probe. There is something really funny to me about cartoon characters that swear, and I still laugh when I hear the words, "and one time? at band camp?"

But, 3 minutes into Superbad, I knew that whatever magic this genre once had for me is utterly gone, and I'm so sad!

I had really hoped that Michael Cera might be the redeeming feature here, high hopes based on his awesome character, George Michael Bluth, in Arrested Development. But no.

And now, even Ben has shut it off. He actually called it "super bad."

So, I will come up with a few favorite moments from movies that totally cracked me up:

Spaceballs, when Dark Helmet is playing with the little Star Wars action figures and makes Leia say: "Oh, Dark Helmet, I hate you, I hate you! And yet, I do feel a strange attraction..."

In Fletch, he tries to speak into a little tape recorder but inadvertently presses play instead of record, and a woman's voice says "oh yeah, oh Fletch, ooooooh - are you recording this?"

My favorite Seinfeld episode ever: The Contest, in which the 4 main characters each bet $50 that they can go longest as "master of their domain" - and Elaine is the first out, because she took an exercise class with JFK Junior and can't resist the temptation to go home and... I'll let you figure it out.

In When Harry Met Sally: "I'll have what she's having..."

My point is, I'm not a prude. I'm happy to laugh at funny, bawdy jokes, but I think what bothers me about Superbad is the message behind the humor. It's like somebody said, "let's figure out how many insults we can come up with about women and sex, plan every sentence of dialogue in this whole movie to include at least 3 of these, and call it funny."

Because that's really the problem for me; to be considered a joke for this movie, the dialogue must insult women. And my other problem: every girl or woman in the whole movie is thin, pretty, and dressed sexily - but the two main characters are totally geeky.

It really bothers me that pop culture gives the message that it's okay for guys to be sub-par, but we women must look our best all the time or else we're not worthy.

How many young, unshowered guys with Cheeto-stained shirts watch Superbad and think, "hey, I'm all right - anyone would want me, just the way I am!"

Now, how many young women watching would get that same message? Not many, I'll bet.

And this concludes my rant about Superbad, a really awful movie.

The Mountains

Unlike yesterday, when I was able only to think of the risks involved in air travel (and, let's face it, life), today I'm inclined once again to think of the rewards.

Specifically, I'm getting ready to visit the Rocky Mountains:

My first landscape quilt, this one hangs on my folks' wall, and reflects the view out their windows. While it does have some flaws, I get a tingle up my spine when I'm out there looking at it, and the view it represents.

It seems impossible that ten years have passed since my Mom called me up just after my Dad got his (extremely well-deserved) Golden Parachute, and said, "Your father and I are putting the house on the market and moving to the Rockies!"

While I miss them now that they're so far away, it's also pretty cool that they just up and did it, and in such style. Dad teaches skiing, Mom writes, they travel extensively, and visiting them is always an experience.

The boys and I can't wait!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Warning: Super-Mondo-Depressing Post. Come back tomorrow if you don't want to think about death!

Well, I'll have to write the more cheerful post I'd planned for today tomorrow, because today I got some sad news about an acquaintance, who went in to the hospital one day to have a C-section, a new baby, and ended up nearly losing her own life. The buddy who emailed me about this wrote, "I will never complain about anything again, ever."

It's gotten me thinking about mortality, which (for me, anyway) is always pretty close to the surface - and even more so now just a few days before my boys and I fly halfway across the country to visit my folks.

I hate flying. I hate being in such close proximity to others, I hate the tension in the airport, I hate feeling that I must grow my fingernails really long so as to have a weapon, just in case. I hate the sounds coming from the engines, I hate thinking of myself so high above the earth in a little tin can. Hate. It.

The worst thing of all is taking my boys on the plane. They're great, don't get me wrong - they enjoy the flight, they're happy to be there. My problem is more that I'm the one who makes the decision to get them on the plane in the first place; as minors, they have no say. So, if the big "if" happens, I'm the one to blame for their demise.

Such are my thoughts leading up to a plane trip, but they don't occupy me all the time. Mostly, I think happily about seeing my parents, and skiing, and enjoying the Rocky Mountains. But just tonight, I guess because of the sad news I mentioned earlier, I am thinking about the big "if."

So if it happens, here's what I'll be thinking: Love. I'll be hugging my boys, and repeating (possibly out loud), I love you, my Ben. I love you, my boys. I love you, Mom and Dad. I love you, brothers, brother-in-law and sisters-in-law. I love you, nephews. I love you, Mom-in-law. I love you, my dear friends. Love. Love. Love.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sick Kid

So far so good with Owen, keeping his brother company here in this picture. But Luke spent the weekend really sick, first with throwing up which started, of course, at 3:30 am - at Grandma's house. Because, what's the point in getting sick during the day, in the comfort of your own home?

He then proceeded to barf a few more times at Grandma's and, once we hastily made the trip home, got the high fever that seems to follow every stomach bug around this winter.

But the thing is, he is so cute when he's sick! After his second round of throwing up, he happily announced "I just threw up - where are my clothes? I'm ready to get dressed."

At home later, curled up on the couch looking pale and sickly, eating white rice and drinking tea with honey and lemon, Luke read out questions from the Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit game (that I recently snagged, brand new for $3 from Goodwill!) and, although he's never seen the movies or read the books, he took a stab at answering them, too.

I've been reminded these past few days of the winter two years ago when he needed surgery, major enough to require a short stay at the hospital. Hours out of the OR, Luke was wide awake and very interested in his surroundings. He loved all the attention, and each time a doctor, nurse, or aide would ask how he was, my 5 year-old son would reply, very seriously but somehow cheerfully too, "Well, this is the first time I've ever been hospitalized."

I can't help but wonder if his happiness while sick is partly because of the one-on-one time we make for him. Rare is the normal day, even in our homeschooled family, that we sit together and ask each other trivia questions just to while away the hours.

In my heart of hearts, I must have recognized this lack as I planned out the week's homeschool checklist: it's full of games, like Monopoly and Master Mind. This way, even once Luke feels better, we can still do stuff together just to while away the hours.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Light Sabers

I just love these little light sabers that Luke made, the product of an Ingredients Project where I put out a bunch of different ingredients, and he used them to create something.
Here's what I put out for the project:
Uncooked pasta
Copper wire - which ended up as the tiny buttons on the light sabers, in case you're wondering..
Now, someone else might have used copious amounts of each ingredient; I had imagined Luke gluing pasta to the posterboard, or stringing it onto the wire, making something really big. But that's not where his mind is, I guess, and the result showed me (for about the hundredth time) how important Luke's ideas are to him, how right those ideas are - even when they differ completely from my expectations.
Perhaps, especially then.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Since November, when we became a homeschooling family, our non-homeschooling relatives and friends have worried about our kids' academics and, more importantly, their socialization. How in heck do homeschooled kids meet anybody, or have a life?

While we keep in touch with (and see, as often as possible!) our non-homeschool buddies, we essentially make our own community. This has become the best and most important aspect to homeschooling, one sure to be explored in future posts.

But, that's not how I percieved it would be back when we were considering homeschooling as a viable option. Back when Luke melted down daily in his 2nd-grade class, woke up screaming nearly every night with the most awful night terrors, and went off to school in the morning with the look of a child falling down a well in slow motion.

Back then, I wanted to get him out of school only so that he could regain his confidence, stop his own inner implosion.

As good as homeschooling has been for Luke, I would argue that we are better off now - all of us - than when he was in school. Here's why:

1) We run on our own schedule.

This gives us time for luxuries such as Luke's favorite, breakfast in bed. Ironically, the breakfast-in-bed mornings are the easiest days to get him out of the house. It's as if feeling he has all the time in the world somehow gives him... all the time in the world.

2) We learn in a non-linear way, and our curriculum choices are arranged so that we can enter wherever we want, learn specifially about what we want (Pi? Metrics? Puzzles? The original Greek Olympics? The Clone Wars?) - and then move on.

As the grandpa says in The Princess Bride, "When I was your age, television was called books!"

Much of our learning begins with or is supported by copious reading. Without school, Luke has the time to read - and best of all, he chooses what to read; this is Chaucer's Canterbury Tales interpreted for kids.

Did you know that you can get balloons to do this over a humidifier? Sometimes when I walk by there'll be two balloons floating around up there, and once there were even three.

3) Often, community and learning intersect - we're at the library all the time to browse, take classes (anything from Kitchen Science to the Chinese New Year), research subjects of interest, and meet up with friends.

I'm learning new stuff, too - blogging is a brand-new thing for me, as is learning the guitar. After 3 months, I'm beginnng to realize what it means to be in a homeschooling family; learning is a state of being, and not just for kids.

Also, I've learned that "homeschooling" is a misnomer; it's about a lot more than home. We feel more embedded in our community now than ever before, because the community is of our choosing.

I hope that this blog will mark the starting point of a new community, one in which we debate ideas, gain friends, and come to a new understanding of humanity, and technology.