Sunday, February 28, 2010

The kids say:

Anda: "What kind of an alien are you?"
Dan: "Um....the kind of alien...that' ALIEN!"

Benji, singing the hymn book to himself: "We thank the Father graciously for blessings la la kill the wabbit kill the wabbit!"

the decline of empires and chaos theory--a warning,0,2697391.story?track=rss

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Prepping for the competition season

Tim's had two rehearsals in a row today, two different groups. I think three of his groups this year are competing in the Harmony Sweeps.

The Denver competition is going to be crazy. There is a small group of men out here who sing in just about every  group in town, it seems. And a bunch of these groups are competing against each other even though their members cross over.  It's a little crazy for the guys who are trying to learn rep (repertoire) for all these different groups! Tim usually tries to double or even triple cast his groups to make it easier to deal with the scheduling issues groups always have, so he very deliberately used DIFFERENT casts of his groups--partly because most of the "crossover" guys who sing in all of Tim's groups plus others in town also happen to be in the Hosting Group this year because they won last year! Of the 8 groups that will be there,  4 have crossover members, some of whom were hired as local professionals to coach a 5th group!

Gonna be exciting!

What I want to tell my congressmen and senators

Here's what I wish I could tell my congressmen and senators. It's not that there's no methods set up for talking to them. It's that last time I did, I got a seriously condescending email back explaining why I was wrong.


So what I wish I could tell them is that THEY represent ME, not their political party, not the president, not their personal ideology. We hire them to tell the federal government what would be good for us. At least, that's the theory.

I also wish I could get them to sponsor some anti-pork legislation. Pork is just a way of bribing congressmen and senators to go against what the people in their states want.  Here's what I would do:  Make a one subject/one bill law. If something can't reasonably shown to be directly connected to the central issue in a bill, it wouldn't be allowed to be included--you'd have to put it in a separate bill. The other thing I would do is make a states pay for their own projects law. If the project can't clearly be shown to be for the benefit of the entire nation, then the state shouldn't be allowed to take federal money for it unless it is in response to a mandate from the federal government (so you can take federal money to work on national projects, like build a defense plant, or to obey federal law, like in education). National Money should NEVER go to pay for something that benefits only a locality, like their city arts center.

I wish I could remind the senators, congressmen, world, and American public that the US government is not a piggy bank.

I wish I could tell the government to have an Americans First policy. It sounds horrible, but it disgusts me that the US government is the biggest financial supporter of many of the UN's projects, and the money is being used to remodel people's second apartments, etc. If the project is so important, we should do it ourselves and forget the UN--they have proven themselves untrustworthy.  Also, it has become abundantly clear that giving other nations money (or other aid) doesn't make them our friends, and when our own people are starving, jobless, dying of preventable illnesses, etc., it seems iffy to be spending millions and billions in foreign aid, especially through systems where the money becomes unaccounted for. It's not that I'm against foreign aid. I'm totally for it. I'm just sick of the world considering us their piggy bank, and I think the government should consider the American People it's number 1 priority. Selfish? Maybe. Realistic? YES.

This country has been living in a constant state of BLOAT for a long time, and it amazes me that the people know that its over, but the government insists on closing their eyes to the realities around them and continue as they were.

What happens when a government goes bankrupt, anyway?

Friday, February 26, 2010

This is fun

Did I just read that?

Lovely little item from facebook today.

You know, I can't say that teaching my children to pee on (or collect poop in!) something with the school's name on it was high on my list of ways to show support for my alma mater.

And I'm not sure about the message they're sending. Every time your child poops in the potty, it sings, "Rise and shout--the Cougars are out!"?

A great gift idea for whom?

Perhaps this was designed by someone at the U of U?

Drawing with Chocolate--SO FUN!

We made this awesome cake:
Wanna know how we did it?

I got the idea from the Dad's Big Red Cookbook. I don't actually know what the real name of this book is--it's just one my dad used for a long time, and I managed to find a copy, so I use it all the time, too. It has a recipe for chocolate butterfly garnishes. We took the general idea and went with it, using (as usual) the ingredients and tools we had on hand instead of the ones listed.

Here's how we did that. We made a normal cake and buttercream frosting. And then we put 1/2 c (or so) of chocolate chips (we used milk chocolate, but you could use any) and 1 tsp of shortening in one of mom's old teacups (yes, that's what we really call them--they're the old corel teacups that hold exactly 8 oz and that I use in cooking ALL the time). We microwaved it for about 30 seconds, stirred, and, when it was smooth (we had to zap one batch a second time to get it thoroughly melted), we spooned it into a ziploc baggie.  We sealed the baggie and snipped a corner really really close to the end. Then Caleb drew a wolf design for his cub scouts project, and I used the leftovers to draw random whatever shapes I could onto wax paper. 

Then we popped them into the freezer to set up and about 5 minutes later, they peeled from the wax paper like stickers and the kids used them to decorate the cake.

I had a lot of left over chocolate still (we did 2 batches, but one made all of the designs you see there, plus the wolf design I cut out of the middle to put on Caleb's scout cake), so I freehand drew a bunny shape on more wax paper and then spooned the rest of the chocolate into it. Presto! We have chocolate bunnies for easter at a fraction of the cost.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reviewing Past Tense, and Caleb says:

I was having Caleb review his past tense verbs today, just to be sure he gets it (like I had to worry about him on a language thing!). I said, "Show" and he said, "Showed." And I, thinking to introduce a fun trivia thing, said, "And what was the old past tense?" "Shew," he said, not skipping a beat.

Seriously. Next week I think we'll be starting Shakespeare. That kid is ready for college.

Leaky garage. Crap.

So today, I got up, showered, dressed, and then, armed with a snow shovel and an antique butter knife, I went out on the garage roof (which is flat) and shoveled 4 inches of snow and 2 inches of solid ice off so I could get the water to pool in a different place and put some wet-dry roof seal down.

I got the ice off. It shined my old silver knife up nicely, too.

I was so tired when I was done that I didn't have the energy to dig through the piles of stuff in the garage to reach the roof sealer.

I guess there's always later, right?

Education Firings and what not

Big news around the country this last week: the poorest and smallest town in RI is firing 93 staff members (in other words, all of them) from their High School under an Obama plan meant to help the schools turn around.

Apparently Obama believes it's the teacher's faults that the kids are dropping out at a high rate, and that their test scores are low.

It's an interesting approach, but it's all wrong.

Look at it this way: Suppose a pediatrician's office trains all its own nurses and front desk staff, and it's own physician's assistants. They have all the patients meet with the PAs and nurses primarily, and get instructions from the front desk staff. Then they leave it up to the patients and their parents to implement their instructions. The patients and parents don't do much, don't come to follow up appointments, and many of the things they do try don't work, so they are not terribly motivated to continue with the recommendations.  One day, the government realizes there's a problem and all the kids are sick, so they swoop in and fire all the PAs, nurses, and secretaries.

Yeah.  That'll solve the problems!

No. It won't. Really.

If we want to improve education in this country, firing the TEACHERS isn't going to help because the teachers are just doing what they're told. They have their curricula chosen for them, they don't have the time or freedom to really teach, most of them were trained wrong from the get-go, there is no money to really improve things. The teachers have been forced into a role of "relayers of information using only prescribed methods."  If the methods they are taught and forced to use by law are faulty, or the information is wrong, firing the messenger is not going to solve the problems.

The problems really are centered in the two ends of the spectrum--the ones who train the teachers and the families who have to use the programs.

I usually don't condemn families, and I really don't know what's going on in that little town, but I can't see that it's the teachers' fault when a student drops out of school. That is a family problem, or society's problem, or maybe a drug problem....not the teachers' faults. The teachers can't make kids come to school. That is the parent's responsibility and the student's responsibility.  I think it's wrong for parents and students to say, "It's YOUR job to educate me. So do it." and then sit passively and wait for the system to educate them. Becoming educated is an active process that students have to choose to take part in, and that requires a great deal of support from intact families--and students don't have the support (sometimes because the family is in such great distress financially, emotionally, etc) and they aren't taking the responsibility. Nor are they expected to.

So, blanket statement (and I realize blanket statements are not really good or helpful): Parents and students have to feel some responsibility for the child's education. And once you get to high school and everyone's not doing it--it might be too late. This has to start on day one and include more than forcing kids to do more homework.

Also, if you're gonna fire anyone for a breakdown in the system, you should be firing the education departments at the colleges. THEY are the ones teaching the teachers how to do their jobs, and they should have to be responsible for what they're teaching. If you persistently train doctors to do things that are harmful to patients, you'd lose your accreditation as a medical school. Further, medical schools are NOT allowed to just make up treatments that seem reasonable and then teach all the doctors to use those. We don't experiment on patients based on some professor's idea of something that might work, no matter how reasonable the professor's thinking is. Why do we do this with students?

Nobody is talking about the sources of the problems in education. They're talking about changing the message company, but if you use Fed Ex or USPS, if the contents of the package are faulty, it won't make a difference in the long run!

If you want to fix education in this country (and it desperately needs to be fixed), you're gonna have to go back from the teachers and fire their teachers, fire the guys who wrote the texts (editorial staffs at publishing companies, mostly), fire the guys who created the theories (like new math, and whole language), and stop experimenting with the kids!

This might sound harsh. But it's harsh to fire all the teachers, too. And it's not gonna work. You're just gonna replace them with more of the same, except perhaps ones that are more talented at forcing test scores (which all true teachers know are not valid judges of true learning).

The reality I experienced in education classes was that the professors really didn't know which way was up. They were just re-teaching what they'd been told, regardless of veracity or practicability. For example, when I had been teaching junior high English for 3 years, I signed up for a class on junior high literature at the local university. The teacher's first statement: "Junior High kids LOVE coming of age novels."

It's not true. In 8 years of teaching junior high, I had ONE student who liked coming of age novels. ONE. And she probably grew up to become an English teacher because the truth is that ENGLISH TEACHERS love coming of age novels. Most of the rest of us don't even tolerate them. And junior high kids hate them.

But all the teachers in that class were going into the system because they liked coming of age novels, just like the professor did. It's a self-perpetuating system that isn't based on reality, on what students need or like, or on anything except that everyone finds it so distasteful except a few--and those few become the next generation of teachers because they're the only ones who can stand the training system.....It's an awful cycle. But it's not the classroom teachers' faults.

If you want to fix education in this country, stop trying to do it tomorrow. It's not gonna happen. In fact, we might have just lost a whole generation of kids and changing their teachers isn't going to solve that. But we could possibly improve it for the next set.

First and foremost, there needs to be a sit-down, think-through period in which we define the purpose of education. Is it to beat the test scores of students in other countries (cuz that's what the purpose appears to be right now)?  Is it to train everyone, regardless of talent, ability, or interest, to become businessmen or professors (cuz we're doing that, too)? Is it to get everyone in a position where they can make a LOT of money and get famous (cuz that's what the students believe the purpose of education is)? This has to go beyond "The purpose of education is getting it so every child can read at grade level." You have to start asking "Why do they need to read at grade level?" and keep asking until you know--and then design your education around THAT. (I have some ideas about this, but they don't involve money or fame or changing the world. They involve training children to be thinking, analyzing adults, productive and participating citizens, good stewards, and developing and using their own talents to benefit themselves and those around them, and they involve training children to be able to get jobs using their talents that will support their families modestly and comfortably and reasonably).

Secondly, there needs to be some serious research done--not by changing the entire education in California to follow someone's pet theory, but by doing some real science on education methods, the way children learn, classroom set up, etc. REAL research, based on REAL science, that tells us how kids think, how their brains develop, how they learn best.

Finally, you need to then throw out not the teachers, but the education training system--the education departments in colleges--and replace them with people who know something--preferably something true--about teaching, learning, and kids.

This is a tragic statement:

Reading about an Olympic bobsled team that pulled out of the competition because the driver didn't feel safe doing it, I came across this:

""This was my last chance to do something special," said the 33-year-old, who competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics and the 2004 Summer Olympics on the track team."

I know that feeling, and it's one of the things that's wrong in the world today.

How can someone as young as 33 think a) he'll never ever have another chance to do something special and b) the only special, important things are big, fame-inducing things like the Olympics?

Personally, I think the Dad who made the decision, who said he had to consider his children over his chance at Olympic Glory (which is fleeting), did the more special thing.

I truly believed when I turned 21 and "hadn't done anything" (wasn't famous, I guess) that I had failed and my life was a waste. And I wasn't the only one of my friends who thought that about themselves! It's a tragic world where youth and fame are valued so highly that we don't have the chance to plan for our whole lives--all 90 years of them--to accomplish, live, love, and do "special" things.

It's also a tragic world where "special" things are the ones that give us a chance at fame and fortune, instead of ones that give us a chance to serve others, improve the world, raise a know--the eternal things.

Maybe one of the reasons motherhood is so denigrated in our world is that "now or never" attitude--"I HAVE to do my career NOW while I'm YOUNG or I'll NEVER get a chance at fame and fortune!"

Ironic, because you actually can do a career and get fame and fortune at any age (if that's what you really want--my experience has been that fame is an UNdesirable thing). But you actually can't start a family at any age.  There's a real true biological time limit on that one.

Turns out Faith actually makes a difference, but.....

But only if it's faith in a caring God, or faith in the truth. Interesting, isn't it?

Also the article below says that 93% of Americans believe in God. Why, then, do I feel like I'm in the minority? Is the media that powerfully anti-religious that the majority (massive majority, no less) feels put down for their belief?

Tim redid the bathroom!

I'm not the only person working on fixing up this house. Tim has been working his tail off, too, taking a storage room and turning it into a functional music studio/rehearsal space, fixing up the bathroom, and making plans for building shelves everywhere (we need them!).

He had been frustrated that 5 years ago, the contractors put a tiny mirror/medicine cabinet in the bathroom that was too small and too low for him to shave with. Now, with our new "make it how we want it instead of fussing about what we lack" attitude, he tackled the bathroom.

We searched through all our stuff and came up with an old, long mirror that was taken out of the master bathroom when the house was remodeled when we bought it and a vintage mirror that's been in my family for at least 25 years (and was vintage when we got it). Tim took the vintage mirror apart and sanded and refurbished the frame and then put the mirror back. And then he tackled the bathroom.

Here is the result. He picked the colors in there, too, back when we had it painted in 2005!

I love how the refinished vintage mirror (the one with the frame) matches the shower stall that it reflects!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

So Excited About This:

Alternative content


Did I just read that?

From the inside of the lid of my washing machine:

"No washer can completely remove oil. Do not dry anything that has ever had any type of oil on it (Including cooking oils). Doing so can result in death, explosion, or fire."

HA! Double problem!

First, when I read, "Do not dry anything that....", I started wondering how you can keep something perpetually wet? Things left to themselves tend to dry, one way or the other.

THEN I got to the next line. Nice. So you leave your shirt that has a grease splatter out on the clothes line and go into the house and start making pancakes, and then WHAM! You die. Just like that. Oh, they say you had a heart attack, but little do they know you were drying a oil-infused cloth. It's like some sort of black magic! Random explosions in your yard? Same cause. Your house burned down? No that wasn't faulty wiring......

On a more "writerly" note, it also made me laugh that they got the order wrong. SOMETIMES you put the worst first, but in a short list like this, the power position is the LAST word. So either they were confused, or that's a fire worse than death!

Homeschooling update: How it's going part 2

So, Part 2.

Other homeschooling plans we made and how they've held up:

I had planned to have "weeklies"--a group lesson on a different topic each day.

I tried to have the kids take a typing lesson every Monday. No good. Their hands are too small for touch-typing. So that's on the list for junior high. It was supposed to be replaced with handwriting, but my kids (like so many gifted kids) almost categorically refuse to hand-write anything, and when they do they  use alternate methods of letter formation (like Caleb writes every letter from the bottom). It wasn't worth the fight for me. Their writing is legible and looks a lot like that of other kids their ages, so I'm not too worried. (Plus, Head of the Class is sneaking in cursive on them--reading it--so they're getting it). So we just kind of forgot about that.

We were supposed to have cooking lessons on Tuesdays. I learned that dry erase marker DOESN'T come off stove hoods (even if they are metal). The kids LOVED the few cooking lessons we had, but I haven't had the energy to plan out a lesson schedule, and cooking lessons are hard to throw together at the last second. So that's on the books, and is a favorite, but we haven't done it for a month (even though we talk about it every week).

Wednesday, the kids actually do make something.

About every other Thursday someone looks up at the list and says, "We're supposed to write something!" and they do. I don't worry too much about this because the kids do quite a lot of writing on their own, so I hardly mention it. I just kind of take note mentally and if I can't remember when I last saw one of the kids writing something, I suggest it. Since they all love writing so far, they just do it. No fights. No pressure. And no formality on this one.

Friday they're supposed to watch something, and the list I compiled isn't really compelling enough in it's structure. "More science videos" just doesn't cut it. The kids have watched a few, but they usually quietly skip this, and I let them.

As for the dailies:

I already discussed the Time4Learning issues.
They read every day anyway, so I have to worry more about making them stop to sleep than making them start. This isn't EVER on my mind in terms of organizing it. It just happens.

The group science and humanities lessons are fun (we made a telescope yesterday!), but they really only happen a couple times a week. I have pondered this a lot and I decided it comes from two things: me planning it wrong, and me getting in the habit of saying, "Just go to this website and learn something" instead of really teaching them something. In other words, I've been doing it all wrong. So I've started beginning school with Learning Lynx, before I take each child on my lap to do Head of the Class, and that works better. I've also decided to try a more exploratory approach, with a little less in-order structure, because the kids are capable of absorbing the universalities of it to a great extent.

PE is totally unstructured. It's more like the writing. I keep mental notes of whose been moving around playing and who hasn't, and every couple of days I suggest they get up and exercise. Caleb runs when he thinks, so he's started getting more exercise. Anda and Dan play all day, inside and out, so they're getting it. STOPPING Benji from running is more of an issue. And Anda and Dan have started to draw Caleb into their games. Everyone gets more exercise when we're awake during the day, even if they don't go outside. I don't know why that is, but I'm happy about it. The kids have also invented a game called supertag pro that they play a lot for PE.

Nobody has ANY trouble doing personal research every day. It was really more my way of saying, "I'm going to count for school anything you do for fun that I can reasonably justify as educational."

And the last thing of the 8 was the "click list".  I have struggled to make the click list appealing. There are TONS of cool things on it, but it's hard to sort through, hard to remember what you already looked at and liked or didn't like, hard to find things you liked to do them again. And I've been refining my ideas of what goes on there, so it's going to be completely reformatted again, taking off a bunch of the stuff (and moving it to my Learning Lynx blog) and focusing on putting on interactives that are educational on many topics. The point of the Click List was to introduce them to things they haven't thought to learn about before, and it works for that. But usually I have to play the game first. They really aren't interested in sorting through the list themselves--it's just too broad. It's actually kind of like asking my junior high kids to do a 5-minute freewrite each day. They HATED it for a long time, and some never really did get it, because kids are actively trained NOT to do things that are completely open-ended but not already a passion. They can't think of something to write for 5 minutes--they want a prompt. That's how my kids are with the click list. They want a prompt.  So I'm pondering this one--how do I make it both more accessible and more fun? I'm thinking the best approach may be to group the click list items into groups of 5 or ten and tell the kids they have to explore one from the assigned group each day, so that it's not quite so open ended.

It's not a total failure, though. Anda often returns to sites to "play" that she first was introduced to on the click list.

So overall, I'd say our homeschool model is working for us. It did not impose order or structure like I hoped, but it did make it so that the kids understand what's expected of them each day, I know what to keep records of (I use a google docs form each day that fills out a spreadsheet for me), and doing school is easier.

Oh, and I eventually went back and made a couple of long lists of educational things the kids do during the day that "count" toward the state-mandated 4 hours of learning a day that aren't on any of our lists, so that I can check the things they've done that count but weren't part of the 8 (like writing songs with Dad, or learning how to pick ripe bananas at the supermarket).

Conclusion: finally satisfied with our schooling.

Of course, now that I said that, everything is going to turn on it's head, right?

Homeschooling update: How it's going part 1

Not too long ago, I wrote up a long post on how I was reformatting our homeschooling system.

And it's time for a follow up, now that we've been trying it for a while. I say trying because we've not been entirely successful. I'm just too random and scatterbrained and unscheduled to do everything I planned. I also have an extremely difficult time stopping the kids from working on legitimate projects (like creating creative content for publication on a public wiki online) in order to learn more about mummies. It's not that there's anything wrong with mummies. It's just that if they're already doing self-motivated educational things that help develop their talents, tap into their interests, and bring them great satisfaction, how can I justify stopping that? It's not like this is the only time they're going to hear about mummies! Or three-digit addition with no carrying, for that matter.

Besides, would I want someone to make me stop working on my project (novel, website, blog, quilt, or whatever) to clean the toilets? No.

So, if you remember, I had set aside 8 supposedly half-hour activities for each day.

Here is where we're at on those:

I have switched from Time4Learning as our core curriculum to Head of the Class because is free, it is actually EASIER (thanks to the parent dashboard and student profile pages) to customize each child's education (and I have TONS more control over what's going on, from what lessons they do, to how many times they get repeated, to what we skip that still can be counted as "Done"), and it's engaging enough. Plus, the kids and I have appreciated that we get the worksheet and I can explain the concept to them as quickly as they can grasp it. We don't have to sit through the animated lesson in order to check off that we know it.  Dan refused to learn to read with Time4Learning because he is absolutely NOT interested in phonemics, and with the Head of the Class he jumped right in and within about an hour was reading.  The math is very straightforward (thankfully!), and I can control how fast or slow we go, and if we use the parent guide to teach it or if we just go for it on our own.  Also, it never tells the child what grade they're working in--it just provides the lessons for them--so there is none of that pressure (either to catch up or to get ahead). It's just all learning, and presented in a fun way.

The being able to go ahead if we understand and still have things marked off is SIGNIFICANT for us because profoundly gifted kids have a knack for grasping the whole lesson with the first sentence and then really truly not needing all that repetition that most kids need. So being able to skip things and just teach them quickly myself has been WONDERFUL. Also, while the Head of the Class is a little skimpy on science and social studies, Time 4 Learning had practically none up to 2nd grade either, and Head of the Class includes geography, music lessons (which the kids are LOVING), Spanish, art (including movies lessons) and a category they call "fun" which ranges from cooking to short movies on worldwide landmarks. And they've divided (appropriately) Language Arts into vocabulary (which they call spelling), reading (skills-based), and writing (so far, mostly handwriting and illustrating sentences, but that's because we're in pre-K through 2 still). Even Caleb and Anda, who have been notorious around here for resisting starting school, are willing to just do it.

The only drawback so far has been that they only go K-2 so far, but their customer service is top notch, and the head of the company has assured me that they're aiming to go K-8, with more grades being released this year.

Head of the Class is pretty heavily worksheet-based. My laptop is the only computer hooked up to a printer right now, and I had a bunch of change-resistant children refusing to even try it when we started because they were doing Time4Learning (which was a joke because it had become a war every day to actually get anyone to log in and DO Time4Learning). So, the day I decided we were going to jump in and try it, I put one of the littler kids on my lap and said, "It's your turn." And we sat together and did the activities. It was engaging enough that everyone else ended up gathered around, fighting over whose turn was next. That first day we printed the worksheets and ended up with TONS of papers on the floor. So since then we work them on the screen (you can do this with a dry-erase marker on a traditional glass screen, or we just do them verbally and I have the kids write or draw one of what they were supposed to produce--"Draw a comma here" or "write an s" on a scratch paper to prove they know how) and don't print.

But the printer being connected only to the laptop actually started some very good things. For one thing, I've discovered that the kids respond really well to me just saying, "Anda, it's your turn." Or "Dan, it's your turn." We're flexible. If someone is involved in something, I let them keep at it and we do it at the same time (I know, the educators would have a fit, but it works for my PG and probably ADD kids to do 2 things at once) or we swap to someone else's turn for a minute. For another thing, we've all discovered the absolute joy of taking each child on my lap one at a time and holding them while we do lessons together for 10 minutes to half an hour (depending on what lessons and how much). It's really a cozy, fun, one-on-one time that doesn't take too long (like I was struggling with on other system's we've used). Plus the kids think it's cool to get to use my laptop with me.

So that's one thing that came out different and better than I planned.

More in part 2.

Did I just read that?

From an article on the youngest college graduates and where they are now: "Sidis currently resides in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the South Cemetery. He passed on July 17, 1944 from a cerebral hemorrhage, but leaves behind a considerable legacy of literature, history, patents, and mathematical and transportation research. Some of the work had been published under pseudonyms to protect his privacy, however."

Since dead people need so much privacy.....

Ed. note 2013: the source of this quote asked me to remove the link, so I did.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Anda and I were having a lesson on Plurals

I was trying to illustrate for her that you just add an 's' to make it plural most of the time.

me: "So if you have more than one cow, what is it called?"
her: "Cattle."

hmmm.....that one didn't work.

Caleb Says:

"The hoop was impervious to my basketball."

A Test Run

So I started feeling like all the social connection media were proliferating and eating more and more and more of my time. NOT okay with me.

Plus I was having a hard time keeping straight what I had posted where and with what part of my person (writer? mother? educator? homeschooler? etc).

Then Buzz came along.  I put off connecting to it for a long time--I had facebook right? Then I decided to just try it. And, lo and behold, it's superior to facebook for what I want--to hear the buzz from my friends about what they're doing and thinking, etc. No stupid games. No searching through piles of who is friending whom at this moment. Just "headlines" from people I want to hear from.

Unfortunately, that just complicated things.  I needed to be able to concentrate everything in ONE spot, have it update all of those other things, and still be able to stay connected to people.

I think I finally figured it out. It's a little complex, so I hope no one spot is getting the same post a zillion times.

Here's what I've done:

I had to pick a "hub" where I could post everything and have it show up in each of those places. So I have my blog, twitter, facebook, buzz. As far as I could tell, either twitter or the blog could function as the hub, since facebook is kind of elitist and thinks you want only to post your stuff there and not share it instantly OUT, only IN, and since buzz is mostly connecting IN as well.  But you can publish your blog to either facebook or buzz easily (facebook only easily if you can tease it into showing you the right page). And you can publish twitter to either place easily. And you can publish your blog to twitter.

At first I was going to use my blog as the hub, and have it post to everyone else. But then I realized all my status updates would show up on buzz and facebook as links to the blog, and I don't always click on everyone's blog links because I don't always have time to read that much stuff, so I assume other people also don't click. Also it makes comment discussions difficult.

For a bit I had both blogger and twitter updating everything, but then I realized you'd be getting double- and triple- shots of my posts. No good.

So now, my current plan is to have Twitter run the show. Anything I post on twitter shows up on facebook and buzz, and anything I post on my blog gets relayed to twitter and then (theoretically) also to facebook and buzz.

I'll see if it works. Thus this post. It's a test.

If it doesn't, then back to the drawing board!

This is an angry writer

Also one of the best writers and thinkers in America today: Orson Scott Card.

He has some mighty powerful things to say about education.  And keep in mind--he's not  a conservative Republican.

 "There is no room in a republic for a monopoly of thought."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Denver's Craigslist (thanks, Tim, for sending me this!). No errors, just WHAT?!

"Visit the posting at to contact the person who posted this.

Live-in magician wanted

Date: 2010-02-21, 2:32PM
We're looking for a self motivated live-in magician who can perform basic illusions, conjurations, divinations and abjurations for our entertainment. No experience required but strongly suggested. Serious inquiries only. "

Since you so often just need that magic fix.

The difference between normal kids and gifted kids

Do click on this. It's a one-panel cartoon, and REALLY funny.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Promo Materials

So, I can honestly say now that I've looked at hundreds (many hundreds, probably) of promotional pictures for groups and individuals in the last few years--usually with an eye to analyzing why they do or don't work.

And I can tell you now how to look exactly like every other band out there:

Wear jeans.
Make sure one or more of the guys in the picture has on a black blazer.
At least one person in the picture must have at least one hand in their pocket.
Line up on roughly the same plane as everyone else in the picture (at least make sure there are 2 rows). Better, stand in a line.
Someone in the picture must be wearing black. Preferably several someones, but not everyone.
ONE person should wear either a loud pattern or a bright color to contrast with the black.
Look serious. Seriously. Stare right into the camera and make sure to do your best impression of botox-face.
Tilt the camera at a just slightly odd angle--to one side, just a little low or a little high.
If you only have one girl (or one guy) put them in the center and ring everyone else around and behind them.
If you are a classical performer, hold your instrument sorta casually but not too casually, even if you're in the ocean or mountains.
Someone in the picture should be leaning against something.
Make sure there is an urban-chic wall or a window behind you (but only a window made up of a lot of small square panes).
If your band members are over 40, someone should wear sunglasses.
Keep your arms and hands inside the frame at all times.
Make sure there is a dark, dingy, or greyish cast to everything. And use some dramatic lighting.

Now you look just like everyone else!

And that's not a good thing. Why? Because often, entertainment buyers collect promo materials from dozens of groups at once and lay them all out to decide who to hire. And if you look just like everyone else, you might as well be invisible and inaudible, even if your music really is better.

I understand there are reasons for some of these conventions. There are only so many ways you can arrange 5 people. Hands tend to be awkward in pictures. The press pics, at least, have to be able to be printed in color or black and white and look equally good (thus the limited color palette and dramatic lighting).

You can see why we were excited to find Angie Wilson. She is a local photographer who has the touch. Even her senior portraits look like band photos SHOULD look, not like they do.  You can look at her stuff here:

and see a sample of what she did for Tim here:

See? She really is THAT good.  If you scroll down on the blog, you'll eventually get to pics of Angie and her husband Jim.

They work as a team on shoots. Mostly she's the photographer and he's the assistant, but he's armed with a camera, too, and he swoops in snapping when he sees something great--and he has a good eye. Tim said it was a fun shoot--and I'd say 99% of the shots are usable, which is extraordinary.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

For real?

from Google News today: "White House adjusts strategy on Republicans
Los Angeles Times - ‎3 hours ago‎"

Normally the White House has strategies to deal with, oh, you know....problems. To label half of the country--which Obama is supposed to represent, mind you, even if he doesn't agree with them--as "problems" seems a little egotistical, doesn't it?

Pictures and Audio Samples from Tim's Electronic Press Kit, just for fun

And from his groups:

One of my favorite of Tim's arrangements AND solo performances:

Peter, singing solo here, has one of my favorite voices (second to Tim's of course):

And WonderVoice


Someone finally thinking and analyzing instead of emoting about health care:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Benji says,

"Kaybluh" for "Caleb"

When Benji says, "I want a baba," I always respond, "Go get one and I'll fill it for you."
He always says, "Where is it?"
I usually reply, "I don't know. Check the bed." That's where they usually are.

I've said it so many times that sometimes he finishes the conversation for me:  "I want a baba." "Go get one." "Where is it? I don't know. It's on the bed!"

So today, he walked up to me buck naked and I said, "Where's your diaper?"
He said, "I don't know. It's on the bed!"

So I built a bookshelf

So, it's not perfect. But considering I've never really built anything before, and I designed it and drew up the plans myself, it's not too bad. Especially considering I made it from "crap wood"--furring strips and scrap wood Tim collected from craigslist. I bought ONE real board--a 1x10x8--and the rest is furring strips and leftover plywood (some of the shelves are two layers of plywood glued together because I couldn't find enough strong boards!).

I will eventually add a couple of curved shelved to the end to bring it to the end of the wall, but not right now. I need to clean up, get back to schooling the kids, and unpack the storage unit first.

But for now, we can put the kids books away. Hooray!

Who writes this stuff, anyway?--a mega-big- Did I just read that?!

I've argued before that cold cereal is nutritionally not much better (and perhaps worse) than ice cream for breakfast. It's also loaded with preservatives and artificial colors that the food scientists insist are safe (studies paid for by the people who benefit most from the preservatives) but that anecdotal evidence comes in truckloads indicating there are problems.

But they have to sell it somehow, right? Even though almost every mom knows sugar cereal is junk food (I haven't ever compared it to a chocolate candy bar.....hmmmm....I wonder....).

To sell, they get kids addicted and then try to make it look like a good idea to parents.

And Kelloggs has gone almost too far this time. We bought a bunch of Kellogg's cereals as a treat because they were seriously on sale. And I have read the boxes in disbelief, and outright laughter, for a couple of days now.

Take this direct quote, from the side of the Cocoa Krispies: "How About a Bedtime Snack? When you pour a bowl of Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies Cereal, you'll be giving your kids something simple that you can feel good about. The light, crispy, and satisfying cereal is the perfect bedtime snack."

Seriously? I had to read to twice to see if it really said that.


Someone thinks Cocoa Krispies makes a good bedtime snack? 12 g of sugar, 15 g of other carbs, 150 mg of sodium, and  next to no protein. And that's for 3/4 c. Most kids eat more than that in a bowl (the FDA, by the  way, is working on changing the labeling from being prescriptive to descriptive so people know what they're actually eating). That's like scooping almost a tablespoon of sugar into your kids' mouths right before bed. A mini candybar has less sugar! (about 10 g).

If I gave my kids 3/4 c Cocoa Krispies at bedtime, they wouldn't go to bed! They'd get the sugar high and run around, then fight, and then fall into bed about 45 minutes late in tears, and me angry from breaking up fights and trying to get people into bed for an hour.

And, since kids my children's age need only 1400-1600 calories a day, the "recommended" amount of cereal would constitute 7.5%-8.5% of their daily caloric needs. Given that the kids likely ate their recommended daily calories during the day, that's an awful lot of calories for a bedtime snack. If you add the 73 calories that half a cup of whole milk (what toddlers are supposed to drink, so my whole family drinks), your child is taking in a bedtime snack that has 193 calories in it, or between 12% and 13.8% of their daily calories. And that's if they eat the recommended amount. I know my 8 year old eats twice that in a bowl of cereal--amounting to a bedtime snack of fully 1/4 the calories he's supposed to eat during the day, which I assume is actually in addition to what he needed, not to fill a lack he had after 3 meals plus 3 or more healthy snacks.

In contrast, there are about 40 calories in half an apple, or just over 2% of the daily calories.

Yeah. That sounds like the PERFECT bedtime snack.

(The same box of cereal recommends rice krispie treats as an afternoon snack.  I'm not sure that Kellogg's understands the difference between "snack" and "treat". Snacks, in my world, as supposed to be light, healthy pick-me-ups between meals. Treats are supposed to come after you've eaten something healthy--more than one bite, and not every time you eat something healthy, either, much to the chagrin of my 4 year old.).

Then--same box panel, mind you--you get this lovely sentence; "Note: For nutrition and other great recipes, visit:"  I guess they think the internet is nutritious? You can now download vitamins and minerals right into your blood stream? That would be cool. But even if that worked, I'm not so sure I'd look for nutrition at That's like going to for dinner. Or here:

And that's not the only ludicrous box.

Most of them say on the front, really big, "Now provides FIBER."  Tim looked at that and said what I was thinking. "What did it used to have in it?"  I mean, really--cold cereal is supposed to be a grain product. You'd think fiber was included in that, but apparently not. (And, in reality, it still doesn't. 3 g of fiber is still only 10% of the RDA.  An apple has 5 g of fiber).

There is also a lovely box on the front of the cereal with a checkmark in it that says, "Smart Choices Program Guiding Food Choices" like eating Apple Jacks is a smart food choice. I hate to break it to them, but sayin' it doesn't make it so.

The side panel of the Apple Jacks has this great sentence on it: "Now Kellogg provides fiber to the great-tasting cereals your kids love!"

This brings to mind a person offering a spoonful of metamucil powder to a cereal box. They provide it to the cereal, but not to the kids, apparently. And what's the name of the company, anyway--Kellogg or Kellogg's? I always thought it was the latter....

Finally, the big text on the side of the box: "Family life is better when your kids are Healthy! Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. That's because fiber helps keep the digestive system healthy so it can absorb nutrients." Aside from the fact that this was printed in 5 different sizes in 3 different fonts, it is a perfect example of the way propaganda works. Advertisers have to tell the truth, and they make the strongest claims they legally can. So they often do what they did here: state some vague truths, like Fiber is important, and hope you'll finish the thought and connect it to their product. They can't claim the cereal is good for you, so they say fiber is and we provide fiber (even though it's a tiny amount, especially when paired with all the junk in there). They also mention nutrients and hope you'll assume that means "from our cereal." But there aren't many nutrients in there, especially considering the amount of calories and sugar you get.....

It also says (in a big oval on top of the box), "Made with 9 g of whole grain." Yeah. In the whole box, that doesn't account for much.

Did I just read that?

This google news headline is fine. But the first line has some issues:
"Man Accused Of Hit-And-Run DUI Struck By Truck
KVVU Las Vegas - ‎3 hours ago‎
LAS VEGAS -- A pedestrian accused of hitting at least one vehicle while he was drunk and fleeing the scene ran across a street and was struck by a truck, ..."

I can't see how they can accuse him of a DUI when he was a pedestrian. I mean, even if he bumps into a vehicle or two...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Did I just read that?

from today: "Flight Diverted to Salt Lake City After Bomb Threat"

Because, quite frankly, if a plane is going to blow anything'd better hit Salt Lake City.

How am I just BARELY discovering this?

Turns out that MIT has been putting complete courses online for anyone to use for years now. There are 1900 classes and more being added all the time. If you want a college education, you have to look no further than here (at least as a launching point). Course List:

You get your standard Chem 101 kinds of classes, of course, but also these:

Costume Design and Construction:

Chemistry of Sports:

Physics of Rock Climbing:

Kitchen Chemistry:

Wheelchair design in Developing Countries:

Cultural Performances of Asia:

Anthropology of Computing:

Ancient Philosophy and Math:

and Lego Robotics:

Among others......

1900 others.

And more coming all the time.

Oh, and there are more in the archive:

and there are high school courses, science movies, AP materials, and more and more. I could spend years here just soaking it all up. And I might. Always wanted more classes in science without the worry of grades.....

Oh, wait.  There's more. MIT isn't the only school that does it:

Guide to How to Homeschool Gifted Kids (NOT just intellectually gifted)

Scroll down in this article. I thought the bulleted lists were a great description of how to set up a homeschool. Note that nowhere does it say to do anything the way public schools do.

I have come to the conclusion that since every person on earth has a talent, everyone is profoundly gifted in some way. Therefore, all of this is applicable to every parent, even though it was written for parents of the profoundly intellectually gifted.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Did I just read that?

from fox news today: " A Haitian judge says he decided to free 8 of 10 Americans charged with child kidnapping after their parents testified they voluntarily handed their children over to the missionaries."

So the Americans were all kids, charged with kidnapping other kids, and then after interviewing the parents of the kidnappers, the Haitians decided to let most of them go?  And how do missionaries fit into all this?

Competition Season is Upon Us

January and February are always competition prep times around our house.

The Harmony Sweepstakes (the "super bowl of A cappella") regional competitions begin in March and go through April. Last year Tim took 6 groups to 4 different regional competitions and every single group won an award. This year, I think Tim is taking only 2 groups to competition, plus another group is hosting the same competition--the one in Denver because we have no travel budget this year.

Springtime is also when Reality TV begins it's yearly head hunt, and this year is no different. Tim has already received multiple invitations to audition for America's Got Talent. Again. This is the 3rd year he's been personally invited by producers of AGT to audition. Don't get too excited--they're just trolling the internet and their "almost" lists from last year and inviting everyone they can. We've gathered that the executive producers say, "We need a cappella groups," or "We need comedians" and then all the peon producers go out and find as many as they can as if their lives, jobs, or bonuses depend on them finding the ultimate winner. We always start getting emails when 2/3 of the live auditions are finished (like the producers start panicking and saying, "Not enough a cappella groups auditioned--go find me some!"), and this year is no different.

Anyway, there are plans in the works for Tim to audition again. I'm not giving you any details beyond that.

We did joke about saying to the producers, "Just use last year's audition tapes, okay?"

So we have rehearsals happening all the time (and sounding really good, I might add) as the groups prepare for their first performance in Denver Feb 20, working their way  up to the competitions they were accepted to  in March.

So far, I can tell you this: look for Wonder Voice and Voxbom at the Denver Harmony Sweeps.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Winds are Blowing

Maybe I'm just weird in this way, but sometimes I just have this sense that something's gonna change....

And the winds of change are blowing out here right now.

Dunno what's gonna blow in, but something is out there.

I hope it's good.

Review of the Year

Tim wrote a review of 2009 (you know, like a Christmas Letter) and I was ASTONISHED at what we survived last year.  The list includes:

Having another baby.

Living in 4 different cities in 3 states.

Surviving a whole-family bout of RSV--a particularly noxious strain that wipes out immune systems--while living in a tiny studio apartment in a city we'd never been in before. It was even a life-threatening illness for our newborn.

Surviving me having a life-threatening case of (probably) H1N1 while Tim was both touring and moving our family out of state.

Having extremely difficult landlords.

Having no job all year except for what gigs Tim could muster--and with the economy bottomed out, those have been fewer and pay less than before (not just for us--for all the musicians we know). It's not that he made no money. It's that adjusting to the self-employed kind of income (irregular) wasn't comfortable for me.

Living in a house in Vegas that was too small and had no working air conditioning with neighbors that were openly antagonistic and a neighborhood that was going to pot before our very eyes.

Moving (gratefully, I might add--I consider this one a blessing even though it was difficult) into our big empty house in Colorado without anything but what we could fit in the car--and living with next-to-nothing and borrowed things for the rest of the year.

Having Tim out of town A LOT (which is also good--means he 's working!).

Our first year EVER of having constant health problems (partially as a result of the immune system hit from the RSV)--first ear infections, first stitches (okay, that was early in 2010), first glasses for a kid, H1N1, RSV, bronchiolitis, Tourrette's, ADD, fibromyalgia, DSPS (Sleep disorder), life-threatening walnut allergy (or is it psyllium? We still haven't figured that one out).....there are probably more that need to be dealt with, but we haven't had insurance (or, therefore, access to medical care) since August 1.

Multiple severe distresses in the extended families on both sides.

It's not that these are all miserable trials only--moving was a blessing, having Nathanael has been a huge blessing, getting back to our own house that we own has been a  blessing, Tim working is a blessing (even if it's by gigging out of state), learning all we've learned is a blessing.

It was just a rough and ragged year.

Allow me a lengthy quote from J.K. Rowling. which nicely expresses how I feel about 2009:
"Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Interesting thoughts on success and women

If success is always defined in male terms, then women can't really have full participation in it. The answer, of course, would be to allow women to feel successful for doing women's things--like having babies. But our society is so power-and-money oriented that it may never happen.

Interesting, though, to consider this--the women who are MOST content and happy in their lives are likely NOT those who are "successful" according to the world. The ones who feel successful instead of like shams are likely the MOTHERS, not the career women.

So the question women must ask (and answer) becomes not "What career do you want" but "Do you want success according to male terms, without the satisfaction but with the social approval, or do you want success according to female terms, without the social approval but with an immense amount of satisfaction?"

Perhaps the nearly universal feeling of guilt women have when they leave their babies and go back to work is a HINT, rather than something we should be "getting over."

You think?

I thought this was REALLY funny

I took a couple of online IQ tests out of curiosity (since I've been reading about gifted people again). The Mensa test didn't give me a number but said, "You'd qualify for Mensa".  The other scores had WIDELY different numbers--132 on one and 155 on another, and neither explaining what system they used (there are a lot) or where it topped out (the graph on the one I scored 132 on topped out at 144.....). Anyway, one produced this as the conclusion:

"Your lowest score was in Verbal...According to this test your verbal skills are the most underdeveloped of all your intellectual capabilities - your capability to use language effectively and to communicate well is your biggest weakness."

Anyone who knows me well will laugh at this just like I am.  Me, not verbal? Seriously?

This is especially funny since their test of  "verbalness" comes in the form of unscrambling words and doing analogies. I've always been terrible at unscrambling words, quite frankly, and I'm good at analogies, unless they are flawed or have more than one justfiable answer, which their analogies did.  Plus they didn't tell me which questions I got wrong, so I can't be sure they were right in their assessment.

The Gifted Household:

LOVED this quote about the natures of profoundly gifted kids and what that does to the family. It so much describes my family life: "Intensity and sensitivity are characteristics that were mentioned in 16 of the 23 parent questionnaires in the Colorado group, and perfectionism was noted in 11 cases. These three qualities appear to be generally descriptive of this population (Silverman, 1983; Kline & Meckstroth, 1985; Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan, 1982). What is it like to live with intense, sensitive, perfectionistic children? And what if the parents also fit this description? One would hardly expect to find calm, peaceful households in these cases. Add to these personality factors the findings that half of these children are "highly energetic," a third of them need very little sleep, and most are argumentative. Welcome to living opera!"

What I've been realizing is there are few descriptions of family life with 5 or more gifted kids, and even fewer when it's the SECOND generation of that.

We should write a book!

And this quote, to which I say both AMEN and Thank you, Mom! : "Another perspective on this issue is presented by Piechowski (in press):
Clearly, it is nearly impossible to invest oneself in a demanding career and equally in raising a talented child, unless we view it as a division of labor between the career-absorbed father and the gifted child-centered mother....The great achievers and the eminent as a role have a parent or mentor especially devoted to them (Albert, 1980b). No doubt it takes considerable dedication and integrity to live for the child but not through the child, to cherish and guide rather than to want to own. Thus the nurturing generations appear to be necessary to the achieving ones. The idea behind this view is simply to acknowledge the great importance of those who nurture the talents of their children. (p. 25, emphasis added)
"We have met many mothers who feel a deep sense of fulfillment in their role as parents, despite the many other paths their lives might have taken. Gifted themselves in many other ways, these mothers have made the choice to become gifted nurturers. Our society has not highly' valued this choice. It is time to recognize the enormous contribution to society made by mothers who devote their lives to the development of their gifted children.

"....More has to be known about exceptionally gifted children and their families. We need to study the personality patterns of their parents and learn more about the extent of giftedness in the entire family. We need to understand the impact of highly gifted children on the family system and on the life plans of parents. And we need to study, acknowledge, and support the generation of nurturers that gives rise to the next generation of achievers. This is a whole new territory to be explored."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Searching Textbook Catalogs

I have been digging through textbook catalogs for Learning Lynx to index the textbook companion websites (which sometimes have great stuff available that is not indexed by search engines), and I've had some interesting observations:

Philosophy textbooks have very few-to-no companion websites.

Business textbook covers and websites all look like they were designed by the SAME PERSON. They are so alike that I have to go by the ISBN number to know if I've already catalogued a site or not.

Psychology and Business texts have an inordinate number of "hits"--companion websites.

ESL textbooks almost NEVER have companion websites--a resource they really should be taking advantage of!

Science textbook websites have AWESOME links and interactive activities--more than any others. In fact, the college textbooks have more engaging online stuff than the K-12 textbook websites do. Hmmmm.....maybe because college textbooks and courses have to compete for students (instead of have them forced in), they have better education available? College is more of a free-market education system (vs K-12's overwhelmingly dictatorship model--even toward the teachers), and it shows in the sciences.

I found the education textbooks (ALL of them) to be inherently untrustworthy to me. It's like they're teaching stage makeup in a course on beauty--they observe talented teachers and then try to teach other people how to do it, but, while everyone knows that musicians can be taught the skills but can't be taught that "touch" that makes them great, nobody seems to realize that education and teaching are the same way.

I found the English texts (still, almost 15 years later) to be so distasteful that I could hardly force myself to search through the catalog. Guess I wasn't born to study literary fiction (even though I WAS born to do so much that ought to be included in English--they have rejected popular writing, popular fiction, genre fiction, and all but the most useless narrative nonfiction. Even the "classics" they study are only classics because they said so, not because those books have any inherent value....enough with my soap box, though. I'll stop).

I suppose Education professors must be dumb because theirs is the only section that is included twice in the catalog. Perhaps they couldn't find it where it belonged?

Did I just read that?

from's homepage today, the TOP headline: "Tough Fight in Afghan".

I imagine. I wouldn't like to fight in an afghan either. Your fingers would get all tangled up in the yarn!

Sometimes an "istan" is a big deal.

Knock Off Wood: PLAN: Playhouse Loft Bed

Knock Off Wood: PLAN: Playhouse Loft Bed

VERY cool bed.

He's not going to say it--ever--but I can:

What this author has perfectly illustrated is the contrast between those who suffer and repent and those who suffer and don't. We see it in the Book of Mormon all the time, and now here (link to full article in previous post):

 "In limited respects, perhaps the recession will leave society better off. At the very least, it’s awoken us from our national fever dream of easy riches and bigger houses, and put a necessary end to an era of reckless personal spending. Perhaps it will leave us humbler, and gentler toward one another, too—at least in the long run. A recent paper by the economists Paola Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo shows that generations that endured a recession in early adulthood became more concerned about inequality and more cognizant of the role luck plays in life. And in his book, Children of the Great Depression, Glen Elder wrote that adolescents who experienced hardship in the 1930s became especially adaptable, family-oriented adults; perhaps, as a result of this recession, today’s adolescents will be pampered less and counted on for more, and will grow into adults who feel less entitled than recent generations.

"But for the most part, these benefits seem thin, uncertain, and far off. In The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, the economic historian Benjamin Friedman argues that both inside and outside the U.S., lengthy periods of economic stagnation or decline have almost always left society more mean-spirited and less inclusive, and have usually stopped or reversed the advance of rights and freedoms. A high level of national wealth, Friedman writes, “is no bar to a society’s retreat into rigidity and intolerance once enough of its citizens lose the sense that they are getting ahead.” When material progress falters, Friedman concludes, people become more jealous of their status relative to others. Anti-immigrant sentiment typically increases, as does conflict between races and classes; concern for the poor tends to decline."

I don't think we're even looking any more

I'm beginning to wonder if a return to one family-one job is going to be necessary for everyone to get their feet back on the ground.

How would the feminists feel about THAT?!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Eczema and the Hyper-Sensitive Child

Read this article and was sad to find that, once again, people who should know better confused correlation and causation.  Now they're going to waste a lot of time looking for how a skin overreaction causes mental illness.

Really, I can tell them all about this. I have one of these kids.

What they've identified as a "cause" (eczema) is actually one of the signs, or symptoms, of a certain type of person that is also prone to asthma, depression, etc.  This is what I call a Hyper-Sensitive Child. It's not a formal diagnosis because, despite the fact that there are hundreds of these kids out there (obviously enough that they managed a whole study on them), nobody has formally recognized these kids (So I'm fighting my own battles when it comes to church, school, etc).

Daniel is one of these.

The Hyper-Sensitive Child has a system that is emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually hyper-sensitive. It goes beyond shy or drama queen. These kids' entire being (I, personally, think it's part of their Spirit, but nobody would scientifically take me seriously if I said that) is filtered through a hyper-sensitive, hyper-responsive system that assumes attack where there is none intended, and then overreacts to those attacks. It's a kind of extreme hyper-sensitivity that makes even the overreactive, hyper sensitive systems of profoundly gifted kids look relatively normal.

It's like having an allergic soul.

Let me explain:  Allergies happen when the body becomes sensitized to some inert thing and interprets that as a dangerous attack on the system.

Eczema is the same kind of overreaction in the skin's immune system (this is not scientifically proven; there is actually lots of debate about it, but Daniel--and I--learned this is the cause when Dan got a blessing once). Dan's skin fights off attacks from all kinds of "dangers" that the rest of us (and our skin) realizes is not danger--like dryer sheets, laundry detergent, and maybe even nylon or polyester fibers (we're looking at that one). (Be aware that I think eczema is something of a catch-all, symptom-based diagnosis that can have other causes, too. But I think this particular cause is what the research in the article identified).

Social Phobia, which Dan was BORN with, is the same kind of overreaction in the child's social system. (To clarify: Social Phobia is not a fear of social situations, but of doing something embarrassing or wrong in a social situation; it's a fear of being socially attacked or maligned. An overreaction to an imagined possible threat.). I've seen Dan refuse to go back into primary after getting a drink because he dripped a little water on his shirt and he was afraid--paralyzingly afraid--that his teacher would notice and laugh or "correct" the "mistake". An overreaction to an imagined potential attack.

So it doesn't surprise me that the study found that kids with this kind of severe, long-lasting eczema (like Dan has) tend to grow up to have mental illnesses like depression. What is depression but an extreme, "overreacting" sorrow system? And if sorrow (intense sorrow, mind you) can be triggered by imagined slights, you can see how depression could be an issue. Other mental illnesses, too, like social phobia, other extreme phobias (Daniel refuses to touch anything made of glass for fear he will drop and break it) that would flash across your mind as a possible negative outcome to the hyper-sensitive child are overwhelming. In fact, I read a study about 5 years ago that indicated that small children, if exposed to trauma, can become predisposed to depression for the rest of their lives--and hyper-sensitive kids can find relatively  normal things (like being left in nursery) extraordinarily traumatic. Hyper-sensitive children tend to feel they've been emotionally abused when you ask them to not bang their spoon on the table during dinner, or wipe their feet when they come in, or when someone else gets chosen to say the prayer in primary (even though they never raised their hand).  They're the ones who want intensely to play the game or try the experiment, but refuse to say so and resent being forced. (I have learned over the years to tell Dan that he's not going to get  a chance if he doesn't act so that he doesn't miss his chance and feel devastated). They are cautious to a fault (quite literally) and hesitant to act even though they've studied it all out and know EXACTLY what needs to be done, how to do it, and how to improve on what everyone else is doing.

After all, mental disorders are simply mental orders that have been disrupted and carried too far, and that's the name of the game for hyper-sensitive children.

It's not all bad, of course. Most things aren't. Daniel is also hyper-sensitive to other people's emotions, making him extremely empathetic. He is extremely creative, good with details, extremely quick on the uptake and on understanding the implications of things (but afraid to answer questions in case he might not be completely right). He responds well to praise because he feels the positives so intensely (I remember him being brought to tears by a compliment I gave him when he was 1 year old!), and is extremely loving, loyal, and fun (although the fun often dissolves into a "wound up" state that he can't break out of or into tears because he runs on high so often). He's a great musician. He's extremely deeply thoughtful. He is very spiritual. He is also peace-loving and laughter-loving (he feels it when people are happy and wants them to be happy). He is inclined to work hard, play hard, laugh hard, and love deeply.

The article cites "psychological abnormalities" and "emotional problems" in 10 year olds who had eczema as small children, and then says that the eczema somehow must cause that. Really, I suspect the psychological abnormalities all fall in the range of "hypersensitivities" and the results of those (like phobias) and that the emotional problems came (and come) from how the hypersensitivities were (and are) treated. Parents of sensitive kids are told, often, to essentially throw them in the pool, and they'll discover they can swim and be glad of it. And I suppose it might work for sensitive kids.

But for Hyper-sensitive kids, it can be devastating, leading to severe and debilitating mental illness that never goes away. Ever. Looking at it like allergies again: If you take a kid who is mildly allergic to something, like milk or flowers, repeated low doses are relatively harmless and, since kids often grow out of mild allergies, can reveal to a child that they aren't allergic anymore. But if you take a kid who has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts, being forced to just eat one really CAN kill them. You get the sensitive and the hyper-sensitive.

So you take a slightly shy child and throw them into primary and say, "You'll be fine. You'll make tons of friends." And you know what? They are fine and they DO make tons of friends, and after one scary encounter, they adjust.

But you take a severely hyper-sensitive child and throw them into primary over their protests and say, "You'll be fine" and it can cause permanent issues in their poor brains, leading (as they are overreactive) to bizarre and unfortunate responses like agoraphobia, or separation anxiety disorder, or the kid insisting on sleeping not only in your bed but draped across you--every night for 3 years.

BUT if you can give them a real, live safe zone (by respecting their way of being, and listening to them, and helping them not be overstimulated too often, and LOVING them and being their safe place and never forcing them to do what is uncomfortable if possible), you make it possible for them to grow up and grow into (and out of) themselves. You give them tools to deal with their hyper-sensitive, overreactive souls so that eventually they can stretch their wings and fly on their own.

Will they ever grow out of who they are? No. Daniel (and the other hyper-sensitive children) will always be the one wearing natural fibers, living with no carpets and no pets, searching constantly for the shampoo and the laundry soap that doesn't cause rashes, watching their diets to eliminate all the stuff they react to (red 40? Yellow 5? BHT, Sodium Benzoate, psyllium, walnuts, etc etc etc....the list is long and different for each child), eating organic, being religious about sleep.

But I don't think it's a condemnation to a life of mental illness and depression.  After all "Predisposed" is not the same as "Predestined." And, given the chance and the nurturing required to develop the confidence they need, these kids have TONS to offer the world.

But no, the extreme eczema doesn't cause all of this, Scientists. Extreme eczema is just the skin's way of warning you that you have a hyper-sensitive child that needs to be treated carefully, like a precious crystal flower, while they grow strong.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Lie our Culture has Embraced

Just like Radical Feminism just may be the worst thing that ever happened to women and family, Diversity (and it's stepchild, Multiculturalism) may just be among the worst things that ever happened to this nation.

The problem is that Diversity is incredibly divisive.

Before I get whipped and beaten and thrown to the dogs, let me explain myself. The problem that people identified and tried to solve with a "new" focus on diversity was (and is) a legitimate problem: intolerance and prejudice. These things divide our nation and make us prone to selfishness, infighting, insular behavior, a gang mentality (even among "adults"). They weaken us as a nation because they eat away at our unity, our cultural wholeness, and our strength. (You know what I'm talking about--there are a thousand epigrams and idiom about this: In Unity there is Strength; United we stand, divided we fall; A house divided against itself.......).

What happened is the solution exacerbated the problem.

Differences, disagreement, varying points of view, and discourse are not innately bad things. They are unavoidable things. In fact, having different viewpoints that lead to discourse is a strengthening thing for a nation because those differences and that discourse (ideally) leads to better solutions to problems--solutions that benefit more people more often.

The problem is we have made embracing and celebrating those differences the goal, and in doing so have discarded what is supposed to be the end result  of those things: a powerful unity where we use our individual strengths and abilities (and our differences) to benefit the whole.

As soon as people mis-defined unity as "sameness", we lost something valuable in our society.

The problem with solving intolerance and prejudice with a focus on diversity is that focusing on how someone is different from me (or you, or us) is not the thing that makes us friends. Friendship is built on commonalities, not on differences, and once we have become friends, embracing the differences becomes not only possible, but joyful. But by focusing on the differences, we skipped a necessary step.

It's the Whole Language/New Math approach to cultural education. ("Good readers read whole words at once, therefore we should throw out phonics and teach kids to read whole words at once"; "Strong interpersonal relationships involve enjoying and rejoicing in one another's differences, therefore we should skip unity and go straight to embracing differences."

Are you inclined to become friends with someone who is only different from you, no matter their race or religion? NO. Anyone who thought that was the way to go was foolish.

And their foolishness has been embraced by a nation that has weakened itself almost to the point of becoming the laughingstock of the world.

The solution to the prejudice and intolerance problem does NOT lie in focusing on all the things that make us different. Instead, it is in focusing on the unities (not samenesses, but unities--like in loyalty to family and country) and commonalities we all have, and then on how the differences (which will always exist) can benefit us all. We need to be able to look at our nation and not see a bunch of warring tribes (which is what Diversity has done to us), but a strong and unified bunch who are proud of their Americanness instead of ashamed.

Unfortunately, rooting out rotten idea that have taken firm hold in a cultural consciousness requires a massive upheaval. Getting rid of the evil ideas that were embraced and culminated in the 1920s mentality (which we seem to have embraced again) required twenty YEARS of massive suffering, lots of poverty, disease, death...the Great Depression and World War II.

Did I just read that?


""There are a flood of irregularities," Cabanas said. "I think this sentence is very illogical.""

And also ungrammatical.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Did I just read that?

From NY Daily "Binge eating and gambling are in, but sex addition, obesity and Internet addiction are out."

I'm not entirely positive, but I think that's one kind of addition they don't teach in school.....

Did I just read that?

From google news today: "6 arrested, 12 vehicles damaged in protest rally in Sri Lanka"

I guess protesting vehicles can be arrested in other countries.

Did I just read that?

Same news story, different source, equally bad wording: "2 Principals Shot At Tennessee School On Snow Day|" and this "Two Principals Shot at Tennessee School|"
Both were from

I guess that tells you how much they love their  jobs--no kids? Great! Target Practice!

Did I just read that?

From the LA Times: "Sen. Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville, said the Legislature honored the principal in 2007 for her work leading the school off the state's list of schools not meeting the goals of No Child Left Behind program. The school of more than 300 students in grades kindergarten through 5 has met annual goals every year since 2004.

"It's obviously a very disturbing situation," Woodson said.

Luna is the daughter of former state Sen. Jerry Cooper, Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. Cooper couldn't immediately be reached for comment."

Well, there you have it. Meeting educational goals is DISTURBING. Or maybe being the daughter of a a state senator is disturbing?