Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Mom, do you believe in Santa?"

Ah, nuts.

I don't remember ever questioning Santa's existence, and when my mom finally broke the news to me when I was 9 years old, I was crushed. Absolutely heartbroken. I honestly had no clue. I don't fault her at all - she just naturally assumed that by the time a kid hits the fourth grade, surely they must have some grasp of reality. The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa - I never had any reason not to believe in them. When I did find out, I felt betrayed by dishonest grown-ups everywhere who insisted on perpetuating the lie of the jolly, all-knowing, fat man in the red suit to naive, unsuspecting children. That very night (out of a need to right those terrible wrongs) I made sure to break the news to my younger sister that Santa was nothing more than a ruse, and that parents are liars. Did I mention I took it kind of hard?

So naturally I evaded the question as much as possible when the kids brought it up while we were running errands today. These things never go as smoothly as I hope they will.

Natalie: "Mom, do you believe in Santa?"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Natalie (with mild irritation in her voice, like "duh, mom"): "Do you believe that Santa is real?"

Well, crap. I don't want to outright lie. Lying by omission is one thing, but blatant lies are something else, right? I essentially ended up answering an onslaught of the kids' questions with more questions, and eventually wore them down. The kids brought the conversation back around to rememberances of Christmas past, full of clues of Santa's undeniable existence. I mean, who could possibly have eaten all the cookies and egg nog every year? And what about the hoof marks out in the barkdust in the front yard last Christmas? Who can argue with proof like that?

I guess what it comes down to is that I need some kind of magic words to tell them that the magic of Santa Claus, and Christmas, and Hope, and Love are always there whether there's really a guy in a red suit with flying reindeer or not. Some way to tell them that won't destroy their innocence, and take away their sense of wonder. Or maybe I'm making too much out of the whole thing, and my kids care way less about this then I do! I'm obviously not ready to give up on Santa - maybe I can hold them off a little longer...?

Monday, November 26, 2007

What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation...

We were getting packed up to leave town the next morning when hubby got a call from his mom that she'd been run over by a mad cow and broken her collarbone (not one of her own cows, but a neighbor's cow who was had already been in labor for two days). She's about to turn 67 and runs her cattle ranch by herself, while taking care of her aging 93-year old MIL. She's got her hands full, but now has one of them out of commission. Our presence ended up being very much appreciated by the time we left there at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

It's a 7 1/2 hour drive down to MIL's place, so we high-tailed it out of town after dropping the rat brothers off to be boarded while we were away. We got down there Wednesday evening in time to bring in some wood to the backdoor pile from the main woodpile (their only heat is the woodstove), and get dinner ready.

I started out Thanksgiving day with my hand down the inside of a still-frozen 17lbs. turkey. Brrrr. Once the bird was in the oven, hubby, MIL, BIL and I started out in search of firewood to stock the main woodpile. We took the truck out to an "emergency" pile out in another field about a quarter mile down the driveway, and filled the back up to the gills. We dropped off part of the load for an elderly neighbor up at the end of the driveway, and then took the rest back to the house to split and stack on the main pile. Then I came back to play chef's assistant to MIL's friend who was in charge of the big meal. I even made my very first ever whole cranberry sauce! It turned out really good, and I felt so grown-up eating it instead of the jellied stuff that falls out of the can.

While I was in chopping, peeling, and dicing, the brothers were out repairing a fence. Turned out it needed a little more than just simple repairs. A series of fence posts had rotted out, and that whole section of fence was laying on the ground in pieces. They boys went out to cut down suitable poles, while their mom came back to the house to grab a lawnchair so she could properly supervise and not strain her bruised rib and broken bone. As the afternoon was getting late, I thought I'd go out and offer my assistance (I like to think that I'm a fairly capable individual, in spite of my decidedly citified upbringing). It turns out I was the perfect candidate to peel poles! MIL came out to remind us that the sun would be going down soon, and the fence absolutely had to be up before dark or we'd be taking turns staying up all night making sure none of the cows got loose. How's that for incentive to get a job done? At about that point, the dinner bell rang (yes, a real dinner bell). Hubby dropped his tools and was ready to bolt for the house while the rest of us stared at him like he must be nuts if he thought we were really going to let him leave us. We managed to get the posts in the ground, and a couple of railings on, and called it good for the night as the sun dipped down behind the hills, and the cook walked out with a stern look of annoyance on her face to drag us in for dinner. We assured her we were ready to eat! We were joined by some friends from down the Creek, and a small music party followed after the delicious meal.

That night a calf was born. The kids named him Frosty due to the deep freeze that was taking place during our entire visit to the ranch. Hubby and MIL got Frosty and his Momma up into the barn for the night, and we all went to bed.

Friday I had big plans to go join in the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness with my good friend who was up the road visiting her in-laws, too. I awoke at 4 a.m. before my alarm had a chance to go off. I could hear the sounds of the one-armed MIL stoking the fire in the woodstove, and gathering more wood from outside the backdoor. I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs, only to see my MIL's bed empty, with her sling lying off to the side. With a sigh, and a roll of my eyes, I went to go round up hubby to let him know that his mother had flown the coop and was out wandering around in the dark without her sling. Most likely she was chopping down some large tree with an axe, or pulling calves out with her bare hands - something against the instructions she'd been given which were more along the lines of taking it easy, and keeping her arm immobilized. Sheesh - parents - they just don't listen. ;P

When I returned from the Black Friday outing, it was time to finish building the new fence. That took a couple of hours. When that was over, I wandered up to the barn because MIL had said that one of the other cows was in labor but hadn't delivered yet. I was fortunate enough to get there just a few minutes before the calf was born. The mama just laid herself down at the top of a little hill in the barnyard, and out slipped the calf... toboganing down the hill. At first the calf didn't move, but within a few seconds she started moving, and the mother went down to start licking her off. I ran inside to get MIL, and eventually we had the kids out there, too. If the calf was a boy, the kids wanted to name it "Shark" but it was a girl, so they named her "Fish". Below are some videos of Fish's first hour.

Fish's first steps:

The fun continued right up to the end of our visit. When we were packed up and getting ready to say our good-byes, MIL came down and asked if we could stay just a little longer, as it looked like Fish's mama was showing signs of infection. MIL wasn't sure she could do the antibiotic injections one-handed, so we got the kids back out of the car and went inside. In the end, it turned out MIL's cows are quite comfortable with her, and she was able to walk right up and give two injections with no problem at all. By the next day, Mama was back up on her feet and doing much better.

All in all, we had a blast. Hubby and I dream of moving down there some day. He says that just as soon as medical and retirement benefits, and decent pay, come along with working out in the boonies, we can look into it. For now we'll have to settle for being city slickers, and enjoy being periodic weekend ranchers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Borrowed this from my sister - I couldn't resist!

11/29/07 UPDATE:
My 8-year old was sitting here next to me and saw the Happy Thanksgiving cartoon. "What's that?" she asked, and then a mortified look of understanding came over her face. With a tone of utter disdain in her voice she exclaimed "Who would think that is funny???" LOL - poor kid!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Shocking Announcement...

I have a shocking announcement to make. (This line is only funny to me, and maybe one other person. Inside jokes are the pits.)

Anyway, as I was saying... I have a shocking announcement to make: We joined WAVA. It's okay! We're just part-time, and we kept our home based status. I only turned to the Dark Side a tiny bit.

Most of you are probably going "huh? that's not shocking." (ha, ha, ha... again, inside joke. I'm slaying myself here!)

Well, here's the deal: WAVA stands for Washington Virtual Academy, and they use the K12 curriculum. We used K12 years ago when we lived in California (through CAVA - I want to live in Jamaica so we can join JAVA. Is it late? Am I sleep deprived? I'm just loopy tonight). Anyway, K12 is inherently evil. They've mastered the art of marketing themselves to homeschoolers and enticing them with a great curriculum, but then charging ridiculous amounts of money that most nearly-broke homeschool families can't afford on their own, so they join these public school (or charter school) programs. In the process, homeschoolers usually have to give up their homeschool status (something I refuse to do because I'm stubborn and it just makes me feel more in control), but the rest of the world still sees them as homeschoolers (you educate your children at home, that must mean you're a homeschooler, right?). The whole thing really muddies the waters and blurs the lines between what is homeschooling and what is public schooling. The virtual academies actually piss off the NEA and the homeschool activists about equally. Anyway, here in Washington state, homeschoolers have the legal right to access any public school offerings in their district that they want on a part-time basis, and I'm choosing to take advantage of that.

This was a really hard decision for me. I became president of our local homeschool group this fall, and I've been on the board of directors for over a year - I felt like I needed to set an example for new homeschoolers out there, and that the best way to do that was to take a "pure" approach, free from any ties to the school system. But I kept feeling drawn back to K12. I always liked using their curriculum before, and I really think it's a good match for N. I finally decided I needed to pursue enrollment with WAVA. Hubby thinks it's an outstanding idea (except that he knows that all the paperwork and reporting is going to make me ultra-cranky) - I still wasn't so sure. That is, until I found out we could enroll part-time even though we're from out-of-district. That sealed the deal for me. I needed to make this decision based on what's right for our own family, not based on how that decision is going to be perceived by people I barely know. My friends won't turn away from me - they'll just snicker. LOL

People keep asking me why I felt the need to make this change in our homeschooling right now. There are a lot of reasons. One is that K12 has always called to me. I'm constantly coming back to it, multiple times a year, and trying to figure out how to make it work for us financially. N. still doesn't read fluently. While I'm sure that will come in time regardless of what we do, and many of my friends have had the patience to wait it out longer with their own kids, I found myself losing that faith. Adding more structure seems like the solution for now. N. is going to be 8 1/2 soon. She's a fantastic kid, with a vivid imagination and wonderful ideas - I feel like I'm doing her a disservice by not taking our schooling to a higher level and opening up more of the world to her. I don't feel like I have the self-discipline to see that through on my own. I need the push of an outside "voice" to breathe down our necks and tell us to get our butts in gear. So I'm making myself do this, and I'm going kicking and screaming, and I'll probably compain loudly, but it feels like the right thing to do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's a Calgon day

It's not even 9am, and I feel like I'm in that old "Calgon, take me away!" commercial! LOL!
Andrew is trying my patience. In his defense, he spent the last 3 days having a tummy bug, and is obviously still feeling a little out of sorts. But he's been crying since he woke up two hours ago. First he was sobbing because his nose is stuffed up "and I'll never be able to breathe out of it again!". I reminded him that crying usually makes noses more stuffed up. Does he want to blow it? No. More sobbing. Goes to his room, mad at me, and strips down to his underwear.

Now he's hungry. I thought he said he wanted waffles. Apparently I was wrong. He wants oatmeal. More crying. And he'd like apple juice. No problem. But now he's cold, and there are goosebumps on his arms - crying. I suggest clothing. NO!!! It's not because he's not wearing clothing that he's cold (silly me), it's because the sun isn't out enough (let me get right on that...). And he's hungry, because he's so cold that he can't use his arms to lift his hands to raise the spoon to his mouth. And he wants the bumps to be off his arms.

So he's sobbing, actually a full-blown tantrum right now. There's nothing that I can do. He chooses battles that cannot be won, or refuses to let be solved. And so he cries. And then he sits in a corner and sings from the song Ugly Bug Ball "I've got nobody to hug. I'm such an ugly bug." And he doesn't want anyone to talk to him, hold him, or comfort him. He wants to be alone to stay in his funk.

Vent, vent, vent. sigh.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On those days when you're feeling just a bit snarky...

This "Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List was sent to one of the homeschool e-groups that I'm on, and hubby and I got a good chuckle out of it. You can click on the link for the full text of it (and check out the new Secular Homeschooling Magazine), but a few of our favorites were:

2. Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

3. Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.

4. Don't assume that every homeschooler you meet is homeschooling for the same reasons and in the same way as that one homeschooler you know.

5. If that homeschooler you know is actually someone you saw on TV, either on the news or on a "reality" show, the above goes double.

7. We don't look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they're in public school. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we're doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

10. We didn't go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

12. If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.

16. Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.

17. Stop saying, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" Even if you think it's some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you're horrified. One of these days, I won't bother disagreeing with you any more.

19. Stop asking about how hard it must be to be my child's teacher as well as her parent. I don't see much difference between bossing my kid around academically and bossing him around the way I do about everything else.

20. Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

23. Quit assuming that I must be some kind of saint because I homeschool my kids.

24. Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.