Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knitting Update and an Attempt to Add a Picture

OK, so first things first, if you've read previous blogs you know I'm technology challenged. This is my attempt to add a photo (digital, even!) to this blog. If you are reading this and see an image, I guess things worked out OK.

This is also an update on my summer knitting. I have two bath mitts made and six face cloths. I need to make a bunch of mitts for gifts, so I have a feeling my stash will be lighter by the next update!

BTW One of these days I'll quit playing with my layout, color and template. I haven't found one that satisfies my every changing moods. I think I like this one.

FYI A second attempt was needed, as I didn't check the "terms of service" button. I'm still learning!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grounds for Growing Up

My eldest son, who recently turned 9 (and will be referred to as N in this blog), has been aching to do “big boy” things. Of course it is natural, and if you looked at my kid you might think he was 11. He is 4’9’’, and 91 pounds. He’s grown out of the size 4 ½ shoes I bought him just a couple of months ago. I think he feels older than he is and he wants to be grown up yesterday. Over the past month, he has asked to order pizza himself (and pay for it), shift the gears on Grandpa’s pickup, make and grill his tuna sandwiches, and work out on the treadmill.

After running on the treadmill for about 20 minutes, he announced to me that he had sweaty armpits and would require deodorant. I went along with it and let him use some all natural stuff I had stashed away (read: all natural=does not work in desert heat). How cute, I thought, he’s itching to be a big boy!

Well, the need to be big just keeps coming. Last night, he was moping around and I asked him if everything was OK.

“I want to do more big boy things,” N tells me.

“Like what?” I ask, bracing my self for having to explain why he can’t go swimming by himself or have a credit card.

“Mommy, I want to drink coffee.”

Thank goodness! This is something I can say “yes” to! I know he won’t like it, and even if he does, so what? A little caffeine will hurt him a lot less than the potential of danger in other things he has asked to do.

“Sure, honey, I will make you a cup of coffee in the morning,” I say with relief and enthusiasm.

“REALLY?” (he was expecting a NO) “ I can have coffee?”


“Will you pour it for me about the time you think I will get up and, Mommy, will you put in in one of the red cups?” And off to bed he goes knowing in the morning he will magically be a big boy.

I pour him a half a cup about 8:30 so it will cool off a little before he gets up. He greets me in the kitchen and I tell him that his coffee is waiting.

“I really get to have coffee?”

“Sure, do you want some sugar in it?”

“Yes, Mommy. I think that would be good.”

I put a spoon and a ½ of sugar in and give him the coffee. I settle back to answering emails as he sips at he coffee. He makes comments:

This is a little bitter. (I add some cream and a little more sugar)
Hey, I think I’m waking up!
I think I would like the flavored kind.
This is kind of bitter, ya know.

It’s been about 20 minutes now. I walk past the kitchen table and see that more coffee has evaporated than N has drank. Obviously, he does not have a taste for coffee.

“Ya know N,” I say “drinking coffee does not make you a big boy. There’s lots of grown ups that don’t even like coffee. (Here comes my mistake!) Lots of grown ups drink tea instead.” Immediately I see his eyes light up and I realize I've opened a new can of growing up worms.

“Mommy, tomorrow, will you make me a cup of tea?”

“Sure buddy, tomorrow, you can have tea.”

Now I have to get to the cupboards and put away the 3492750235 different kinds of tea I have, or I see hours of tea tasting in our future!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Need for Very My Own Washcloths

So as you now know, I have two sons who are in the stages of icky gooey boyness (7 and 9 years old). I also love knit. It is summertime in the desert. These three things that I love do not intertwine. I need a project to knit over the summer. Because I live in a desert climate, even a cute cotton cardigan is out of the question in the summertime. My boys will wear the occasional knit hat in December, but that's a 2 hour project the night before the cold hits. So my project for the summer is to knit myself a set of washcloths and bathmitts. And yes, the need for these does intertwine with my boys.

I know, it's soooo old lady. Dishcloths, washcloths,'s the kind of stuff Grandma used to knit or crochet. What I have to take into consideration is that my wonderful boys get very dirty and have yet to learn to clean themselves properly all the time in between bathing. (Don't give me that look......if you have kids you know full well that skid marks are a common occurrence on laundry day!) I need a set of washcloths of my very own!

I have purchased some inexpensive (over 900 yds for $8.00) yarn to make a big ol' stack of washcloths for my evening face cleansing ritual (and because I have been doing this religiously for 25 plus years now, I have the skin of an angel...well, not an angel, but of a chick that used to have the skin of an angel!). I also will be making a big ol' stack of bathmitts for my self and also for quick gifts for friends (be forewarned).

I've tried in the past to have MY OWN SET of washcloths. It would only last until I forgot to do laundry and one of the kids was already in the bath. I figure this way, they are hand made and I am much less likely to share. Yes, I am selfish. As a mother, there are very few times I get to be selfish. I have to give up my fries when the boys want more. I'm the last one to sit down to dinner. I'm the last one to sit down at the end of an evening...and there's probably still a load of laundry to fold. I have to give up the last glass of wine when my husband is tired from work (unless I promise some hanky panky....then he's happy for me to have the last glass!) And I am happy to accommodate my loved ones.

But for now on, I am now declaring my refusal to give up my lovely hand knit, pure cotton washcloths and bathmitts. It is my prerogative to have something special, just for me in the house. I am very excited about my new special things. I think it will give me that sense of simple abundance. I will share my progress.

Thus far: 1 bath mitt for my mother on Mother's Day
1 bath mitt for me
1 washcloth

Its only been a week. I figure by the end of the summer I should have stacks in all kinds of cute stitch patterns!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Some Thoughts on Technology

Technology. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love when it simplifies my life. I hate when it’s just one more thing I have to learn when I was completely happy the way things were before! Seems most the time the latter is true.

I say sometimes that I’m a little Amish when it comes to technology. I don’t mean that in a prejudicial way….it’s just they have chosen to live in a time before technology was king and I can relate. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE electricity and don’t get me started on the wonders of indoor plumbing! I can‘t imagine my life without the internet, the cell phone is my friend and my relationship with Tivo is one I should be somewhat embarrassed about.

About 3 years ago I won a digital camera in a raffle. I took it out of the box, loaded the software and took a handful of pictures. Then it sat in a drawer for two years. I thought about getting it out, but why should I when my old friend Olympus was here. You have to understand, I was a bit of a photography buff when I was younger. I loved setting the camera functions and developing my own film and photos. The darkroom was quiet and serene. In high school I found a way to spend 4 hours of my school day in some form of photography. As a mom, I fell in love with scrap booking all those pictures of my babies. Accepting a digital camera into my life seemed to be disrespecting of something I loved. I love real photos and the smell of film fresh out of the canister. What my printer duplicates is just not the same. If I happen to shed a tear while looking through old photos, it could well ruin that printer inked memory for life.

So after two years in a drawer, a vacation looming, and a dead battery in the old Olympus, I broke down and learned to use the digital. I thought I was all smart and hip until I learned that my technologically advanced camera only held about 20 pictures and I would now need something called a memory card. What? Isn’t that what film is for? To hold our memories? So I hustled on down to Target and bought a memory card for all my digital memories. *sigh*

Now I can take pictures and I figured out how to load them into the computer. I can even send you a picture via email, but I would warn you: it will take up the full screen. I can’t seem to figure out how to make them small! My computer savvy aunt sent my a digital organizer for all my photos. I loaded it up and organized my photos by theme, date, people, pose, holiday, good smiles, bad smiles, with teeth , without teeth, at Grandma’s, at the soccer field….the list goes on and on! Honestly, I think a shoebox works better. Even so, when it comes to cameras, I have reluctantly come over to the side of technology.

Another area that I have slight problem with is that $2000 map in your car they call a “navigation system”. Who am I, Captain Kirk? Navigation is for sailors and pilots. I’m going to the store, it’s down the block. If I get lost, I probably shouldn’t be driving anyway. If I don’t know where I’m going, I look at a map first and jot down a couple of notes to help me get there. OK, I will admit the map I look at is called Mapquest , and I have it bookmarked, but I think I already clarified that I do love the internet.

I learned to read a map when I was fairly young. We took a lot of road trips, Sunday drives and moves across the country as a family. Since reading a book in the back of the Plymouth Fury made me a little nauseous, I took pleasure in glancing at a map. I loved getting out the Rand McNally, figuring the mileage to the next Stuckey’s rest stop, and telling my Dad which exit to take. $2.95 at the gas station, free on the internet, or 2 grand to be recessed in my dashboard…..hmmm, that’s an easy place to be Amish!

I like things that I can use for more than one purpose. Multitasking…good! But a phone that is a camera, a music player and can send email? I’m overwhelmed at that much technology in an 1/8 inch thick metal box. To begin with, you already know how I feel about cameras. Putting into a phone, just twists the knife a little further. I still haven’t completely gotten over the fact that I had to replace all my albums with CDs. Now I’m supposed to download my music?? AND put it in my phone? That means I have no cover, no art, no liner notes, nothing too hold onto that relates to my music. It makes no sense to me.

I’ll tell you a little secret. Back in the recesses of my closet, I have a stack of albums. Every album I ever owned (except the few that a roommate’s boyfriend permanently borrowed) is stacked in the back of my closet, with liner notes intact. I have the art from every album cover memorized. And thanks to all the bands who printed their lyrics, I can sing along confidently (although not in key). I’m still not sure about the second line in the chorus of Blinded By the Light, but that’s because I own the 45.…(that’s old speak for a single, you youngsters). Unfortunately, lyrics didn’t come with 45‘s. Which bring my to another deep dark secret. I also own a large box of 45‘s .

As you might well have guessed, my phone doesn’t take pictures and I don’t know how to text. I do not own any form of an MP3 player. A blackberry is something I pick along the creek on my Grandma’s house.

I do like modern conveniences. I like progress. I think it’s cool we can fly far into space and send pictures back to earth. I’d just prefer that technology be used to make things simpler, not more complicated; that it stay out of my art and music; and, until it can figure a way for me to eat anything I want without gaining weight, it better get out of my food! (that’s a line for a future post, I think!)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On The Modern American Classroom

Somewhere in the early stages of homeschooling, most people will be introduced to John Taylor Gatto, either through a friend or pure chance. I read Dumbing us Down last fall, along with a bunch of stuff by Holt. That was the point when I became more than just a mom who taught her kids at home. That's when I came to understand the real problems with the modern classroom, the politics involved, and the need to keep my children out of the government's little conspiracy. When asked, I simply tell the rest of the "schooling world" that I homeschool because I think I can give my kids a better education. No one can argue with that, although the "socialization" comment is soon to follow. I try not to get into that, because for some reason most people think that getting teased on a playground is supposed to be a part of life to be savored.

When I requested from the library the books I read last fall, John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History of American Education was not available, and that is true today. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this book at his website: . You can download the whole book for free on this site.

I spent hours yesterday reading and am even more convicted in homeschooling my children.The problem now is, when people ask about homeschooling, do I educate them on the real reason for the modern classroom? Do I let them in on the fact that the curriculum is designed to keep the masses dumb? That children are intentionally not encouraged to question or challenge ideas because it would be undesirable to the powers of industry? And should I tell them that the American school system is nothing more than an always expanding Government Jobs Program?

I seriously think that information is too much for most people to handle. What has been ingrained in our lives for generations as something good is simply nothing more that a way to keep the elite in power and keep the masses under their thumb. I have never been one to join in conspiracy theories, I generally trust that our government has our best interest at heart, and I am a capitalist. But I am the first to be willing to say I was wrong when the facts are so overwhelming. I believe that our modern school system does nothing to advance our country and is in direct conflict to the basic freedoms on which this country was founded.

The questions raised here will be discussed at length in the future, I’m sure. It’s a subject I am passionate about.

But for now, this question remains: as homeschoolers, do we share this tidbit of information about the real reasons for the modern classroom with the masses? Or do we keep it to ourselves and, within a generation, become the elite?

On Raising Boys

I have boys. Two energetic, rambunctious, scraped kneed, noisy, sword fighting, rock throwing, pig tail pulling, quick tempered, potty humor appreciating, outdoor peeing, authority challenging, sleeve-instead-of-a-napkin-using, chest pounding boys.

This was not my plan.

When I though of having children, I envisioned my girly girl self with two or three perfectly coiffed daughters, hand in hand smiling sweetly as they follow my through the store. Primping, cooking, knitting, sewing, flirting, gossiping, giggling, and just plain being a girl….those things I know. Those are things with which I am comfortable. But God thought having boys would be a better plan for me. Instead, I have two little mussed up monkeys, climbing, running, touching everything in their path while defeating some imaginary alien as they follow me through the store. In the beginning, I questioned that plan. But once I go over the idea of raising boys with the same mindset that I would raise girls, I came to embrace all them in all their goofy boyness. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them even before they were born. I just wasn’t sure I’d understand what I was supposed to do with them!

As we have learned as women, men’s brains are not the same as ours. They think differently, they emote differently, and many times they seem very hard to understand. As wives we learn to cope with this and if we are lucky, we unlock the secret code. I’ve been told by men that it’s really not so secret. They are simple creatures and have simple needs. Ask your husband. If you feed him, love him, keep his ego intact, and don’t erase sports, The Godfather or any Bond movies from the DVR, you’re probably going to have a fairly successful marriage. Unfortunately, far too many mothers forget to apply this same theory to raising their sons. We are pretty good about loving them and feeding them. But it’s keeping their ego intact that gets tricky.

As strong as it can be, the male ego is a fragile thing. I want my boys to have a strong ego. Not egotistical, but a strong sense of self. I see boys all the time who have a broken spirit. You’ve seen him, too. He walks with his shoulders rolled forward as if to hide his wounded heart. He has sadness in his eyes. Many times a mother has broken his spirit. The person who is supposed to nurture him, is threatened by his natural response to challenge her authority. He end up being nagged and berated until he does what he is told so she doesn’t scold him any more. Sure, he is obedient, but at what expense? They sigh deeply and watch the ground while they walk across the playground, aching to be able to be a little man. There are other boys out there, chasing, wrestling, challenging each other. He doesn’t get a chance to release his frustration, to learn how to interact with other boys, to challenge authority in a safe environment. He is afraid of being beaten down, again. When he is older, he is the child with pent up anger. He releases it in one fell swoop and the expense of many. Or he is the weak father, whose wife and kids see failure in his eyes every time he walks through the door. He is the man who trudges through life trying to avoid conflict and goes unnoticed.

I want my boys to become men. Real men. Not wimpy, browbeaten men afraid of the world. I want them to feel comfortable standing up for themselves regardless of who may be challenging their manhood. Sometimes, that person is me. It is natural for a boy to feel that his mother is threatening his manhood. His nature says he is the protector, the provider. His environment and age say different. I try really hard not to let it get to me when their feathers ruffle and they challenge my authority. I know it is their nature. I know I have to absorb some of it if I want them to be strong men. They argue, they negotiate, they try every tactic to get their way. I have to say, I admire their tenacity. If the situation allows, I let them argue their point and at times they get their way. That is fine when we are at home, when judging eyes are not present. When they challenge my authority in public, it’s a different story. I don’t want them to be afraid to speak their minds, but it’s a fine line between that and being disrespectful. Although it is slower to resolve the matter, many times I let things go until we have a chance to calm down about the matter. I give them the look, or I whisper in their ear the consequences of their actions . It has taken a while, but these days a look and a whisper usually puts an end to the challenge. I try to do it while respecting them as little men. After a challenge, I usually get a very big hug and sometimes a tear and I know they are sorry with out saying the words. While to some I may look like a weak mother, I have let them save face. I try to keep their ego intact.

Right now I am here to come to after they have been challenged by other kids, schoolwork, the mystery of the world, or a just a soccer ball. Just as I don’t always understand why certain things are funny to my boys, I don’t always understand why certain things make them angry. What I am learning is not to deal with their anger in the heat of the moment. Why? Because once a boy has that adrenaline running through his body, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Talking does nothing when a boy doesn’t hear you any way. No, they don’t hear you. With boys you MUST make them look at you before you speak. I forget this all the time. I catch myself getting angry because they “don’t listen”. The plain fact is that they are listening, just not to me! When the distraction of emotion is afoot, they are listening to their inner alpha male, their blood boiling, the steam coming out of their ears. That’s some pretty noisy stuff! There is no way I can compete with that. So we talk after we are all calmed down . We talk about what we learned from each experience, what we could have done differently, how we would want to be treated.

I could handle these incidents differently. I could brow beat them, nag them, scream at them, force them to say sorry when they are not, or spank them until they completely submit. Mind you , I have tried most of these tactics on occasion but I was not happy with the outcome. Sure I won the fight, but when would I look in their eyes, I would see sadness. Not a sadness for what they did wrong, but for the fact that their ego was crushed. I feel fortunate that I caught myself early (with the help of my husband’s eyes) and that I could change that path. I slip up more often than I like, but I’m getting the hang of it all. I have to be a firm and loving mother…. in the background. I have to let them make mistakes. I have to let them take the fall. I have to let them learn how to deal with the opposite sex (girls are a huge mystery to them….not having sisters and all). I have to let them size up other boys. Sometimes they emerge as a leader, and other times they fall in line with the pack. Sometimes they fall flat on their faces. They have to live these things in order to be strong men.

I want my boys grow up to be wonderful husbands, the kind who love and support their wives while still remaining strong. I want them to be the kind of father who oozes with love and pride over his kids and isn’t afraid to show them. I want them to love and provide for their families and be proud of doing so. I want their families to know that their Dad will protect them from everything he can. I want them each to be a man’s man….the kind who other men respect. I want them to be passionate about whatever they do in life whether it be their career, a hobby, or the latest music they have discovered.

I like the direction I am going with my boys. At times, this may seem like an uneasy path to some. I like to let my boys be boys….but it’s not what we are used to seeing. Things have changed over the past thirty years. No longer are we supposed to get our feelings hurt. Kids are not aloud to work things out on the playground (which sometimes includes a physical encounter). We can’t play games where someone may be the last to be picked. Children are not aloud to find out what it feels like to lose. If you don’t know what it feels like to lose, how can you learn to be humble when you win? Boys are medicated when they are just acting like normal wiggly inattentive boys. They begin to believe it’s not right to follow their natural instinct. They are taught to always bow down to women, not out of respect and chivalry, but because of an agenda that crushes the male sprit. From this, girls learn that their being matters more than a boy’s. Children have a sense of entitlement never to have a hurt feeling, never to have to lose, not to face reality. I think we see the unfortunate results of these things everyday.

I used to buy into some of that….before I became the mother of boys.

My two compassionate, angelic, chivalrous, helpful, inquisitive, humorous, mama spoiling, strong, best of friends, hugs and kisses giving, intelligent, silly, sweet, lovable, snuggly, authority challenging , growing up waaaay to fast, wonderful little men.

And if your daughters are lucky, (far in the future) they may meet one of my sons.


Today is Thursday. Today, I figured, was as good as any to open my heart, soul and grand opinions to the word. I haven't written in years. My typing is atrocious. My life isn't too complicated. The things I will write about will be simple, I suppose. Homeschooling, knitting, politics, observations on everyday life. That's all it is. Grand opinions about simple things, so I this why I thought that Thursday's Good.