Monday, November 30, 2009

New Concept I'm Excited About

Doing research on homeschooling gifted children (because that's what I'm doing), and I came across this cool new "label" for kids: 2e (Twice Exceptional).

Apparently, I'm not the only one homeschooling children who are both gifted and challenged, and I (like so many moms) don't want to call my children "difficult" (which is what the school systems call them). And now today I discovered that they are often called Twice Exceptional children--children who are gifted and challenged with something like a learning disability, ADD/ADHD, mental illness, etc. They're called 2e for short. And apparently bunches of them homeschool. I can totally understand this--these are the children that, given good loving care, will become incredible adults but who absolutely do not, cannot, and will not ever fit in public schools. Or private schools. Or, in fact, any lengthy large-group learning situation.

The problem is schools can't double-label these kids--and often can't even really see them. They tend to see the disability and want to put the kids in resource classrooms with other disabled or LD kids (which is totally unfair to gifted kids), or they see them as gifted kids who are lazy and working below their potential (since giftedness OFTEN masks things like ADD--it did for most of my siblings) and try all kinds of motivations and interventions that can actually make the ADD (or whatever) worse.

This is exciting to me because once you have the proper label, you can start connecting with other people who have the same challenges you do. And that leads to support, understanding, and chances for the kids to interact with other children like them.

I have my hands full of 2e kids--kids who are unusually gifted even compared to other gifted children, but we also have ADD, Tourette's syndrome, social phobias, and who knows what else. School? No. Homeschool group of other 2e kids? Summer camps for 2e kids? Online forums for 2e kids? I would be in HEAVEN!

A song for the season

I just wanted to post one of Tim's songs here with a suggestion to ponder.

During this season of joy, excitement, and unusually busy-ness, consider those who might be left in the corner alone, neglected, at a time when the joy should be sufficient for all. The elderly, sick, and disabled want the joy as much as we do, and often we are the ones that need to take action to step forward and share it with them.

So Merry Christmas, and please take time to help it be merry for everyone!

(Hopefully the music player thing shows up and works. It does when you look at this post through google reader, but doesn't show on my blog straight up. If you don't see the player, listen to the song here: In the Corner All Alone, by Tim Y Jones )

What would you report?

I found this quote by Elder Ballard, and it really struck me:

"What will you say to the Lord when He asks you what you have done with the precious gift of life and time? Surely you will not feel comfortable telling Him that you were able to pass the 100,000-point level in a challenging video game." ( )

(Actually, that whole article is well worth reading).

I have wondered if there could be a parallel question the Lord might ask, like "What have you done with other gifts I've given you, like your talents, money and resources?" I think I'd be ashamed if I were to say something like, "Oh, I got a nose job" or "Three houses. I bought three houses and seven cars." I just don't think I could look the Savior of the World in the face and say that.

So this has been a mild change of view for me. Not that I was doing really horrible, time-wasting things. But now I find myself asking when I start an activity, "Would I be ashamed to tell the Lord I spent my time/talents/resources on this?" I am relieved to find that often, the answer is no.

Obviously, this has to be approached with reason. Does the Lord expect us never to sing and dance? No. Does he expect us never to watch TV, never read novels, never touch a computer game? No.

Read all of Elder Ballard's talk and you'll see that isn't the case. We're supposed to enjoy our lives. We just aren't supposed to WASTE them. Relaxation is not a waste. Having fun is not a waste. Even the prophet enjoys recreational reading and watching shows (musicals are one thing he specifically mentioned).

There just needs to be balance.

But it is very worth it to stop ocassionally and ask, "Would I be ashamed to report I'd done this?"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Homeschool Resources: Owl Language at Purdue

Very cool online writing lab, with sections for parents, teachers, students, and the rest of us.

Homeschool Resources: Complete Unit on Online Research

More cool homeschool resources

Clickable online atlas

Current Events for Kids

Homeschool Resources: Higher Ed Online Learning Centers

This one is a little complex to find at first, so bear with me.

Go to the Higher Ed Page on McGraw Hill's website:

On the LEFT side there is a box labeled "Browse Catalogs". Go there and click either main or specialty and choose a category from the bulleted list that opens.

That will open a list in the main center box on the page. Choose a sub-category. This should open a list right there below the subcategory. The number in parentheses tells how many books are in that subject. Choose a subject from the list. A list of books with cover art pops up. Choose a book by clicking on the title. Now look at the left side, below the "browse catalog" box. For some (but not all) textbooks, there will be an additional box that says "supplements and resources". For some (but not all) textbooks, on the list of supplements and resources is an "Online Learning Center". Click there. (don't click on "Online Learning Center" on the right side of the page. That link takes you to a page teaching teachers how to make OLCs)

The Online Learning Centers vary--some books have AWESOME ones full of useful resources (like the Astronomy one: ). When you click on Online Learning Center, it will take you to a home page for that textbook. On the left side will be a box. In that box, choose "Student Edition". That's where the good stuff is.

Once you click Student Edition, you'll get a mostly blank home page. On the left is a tab, sometimes big and sometimes quite small, with content links in it, including a box that says, "Choose a chapter." Do that. Choose a chapter and check out what's available--quizzes, web links, animations, activities, etc. Very cool and useful stuff. The Astronomy section, for example, includes a chapter summary that, combined with the web links for that chapter, are a complete astronomy course for children. It might not be sufficient for a college course without the complete text book, but it's great for pre-college work.

You have to explore some. Some of the textbooks have GREAT online learning centers, others have interesting ones--an American Music text's OLC includes a listening library with links to songs on iTunes and complete listening guides in Word format--again, not, perhaps, a complete college course in American Music, but more than enough for pre-college and introductory courses.

This is an incredibly valuable free resource for homeschoolers, even if it takes a little exploring to find the good stuff.

Homeschool Resources: Humanities Studio

This is an incredible site. If you want to teach your children about the humanities, I recommend you explore it thoroughly. There are e-book guides to film, theater, and museums, visual illustrations of concepts from dance, art, music, etc.

Go see.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


People ask me all the time "What is fibromyalgia and what does it feel like?"

I never can describe it. I actually don't like talking about it much because then you see my disability instead of me (except I was in one ward where I told the Relief Society sisters, and they were SOOO kind--they offered to send sisters over to pick up toys, never ever ever judged me for my messy floor, supported me in my weird sleep schedule, etc. I was overwhelmed with love and understanding instead of labled "strange").  Fibro is a weird disability because it is invisible. I look normal and act mostly normal (just a little squirmy and just a little quirky), and then I'll have a messy floor, cry easily, or totally lose my mind over something and nobody can understand it!

So I'm putting up a little information here.

For one, there is always the look on people's faces when I mention pain. They look a)like they don't believe me because I seem pretty normal and don't wince when I walk or move or b)like they have deep concern and pity for me like I need to be coddled and not allowed to move for fear of tolerating immense pain. And I have never successfully helped anyone understand what I mean by "pain" (just like it's really hard to describe to people what labor and childbirth feel like). But, thankfully, this lady described it:  When I read that, I first laughed and then cried. It's me.

Also, here is a list of symptoms many people have. With fibro, the symptoms "cycle", meaning sometimes I'll have them and sometimes I just won't. I haven't had all of these symptoms, but I've had enough that I laughed when I read this list.

And, if you recognize yourself in these lists, here is some more heavy-duty information:

If this is you, then you might want to read this, too:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"How do you do it?"

I get that question all the time. "I don't know how you do it. I can't stand it when my husband is gone for even one night, and yours travels all the time."

So I had made a bunch of notes of how I do it.

And then this week hit. Tim was in Las Vegas for one day, home one day, and then in Indiana for 5 days. I was home with the kids.

And by the end of the week, I had cried or shouted or both every day, the floors were coated with crumbs, nobody had done any schooling, I hadn't managed to make any meals that people would actually eat, every toy and most of the canned food in the house were heaped in the stairwell blocking the front door, there was crayon on the walls and some floors (all new this week!), my computer started freezing randomly, the phone computer stopped working all together and my attempts to set up the phone on Caleb's computer made it so that one won't stay on either, the dirty laundry was piled in little heaps around the house, the clean laundry was draped over the entire basement drying (we have no dryer right now), the dishes were piled in the sink--all of them--dirty (of course), there were bits of broken up styrofoam scattered everywhere (which I kept fishing out of the baby's mouth), Benji had a severe diaper rash, Nathanael wouldn't let me put him down without screaming (both of us, most of the time), we missed church entirely, our schedule was worse than ever with some kids not actually seeing ANY daylight, I had to wire my rocking chair back together, and just about everyone (including me) was whiny, bickering, and absolutely miserable. Chaos, disorder, and unhappiness reigned.

In short, the answer to "how do you do it?" is "not very well."

This is why we usually try to go with Tim on tours whenever it is even moderately feasible.

But still, I look at it like childbirth. Once you're in labor, there's no backing out, so you do the best you can, try to stay calm and distract yourself, and somehow manage to survive.

To be honest, it's usually not this bad. When I can talk to Tim for a couple of hours on the phone every night (and we do, too), and when he's not sick so he can stay awake for the conversations, we handle things much more happily. But it's really close to not working at any given moment, obviously. Only one thing really went wrong initially this week--the phone breaking--but that cascaded everything out of its delicate balance so that I couldn't handle the everything elses.

So there you have it.

How do I handle it?

Same as every other mother:

Any way I can.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Re-doing Homeschooling YET AGAIN!

So we moved to a state with less-friendly homeschooling laws. I can understand where lawmakers might have thought these were a good idea: public school staff think that homeschool parents all just use their older kids for free babysitting (and somehow don't see that most parents see public school as just that!). So the laws here are intended to make sure kids are actually being educated, which they define as testing at the 13th percentile. Yup. 13th.

They do require testing every 2 years "starting in 3rd grade". I'm sure this made sense to the educators, who really have a difficult time grasping that kids actually are usually on different levels in different subjects. So, along with my "intent to homeschool" letter, I sent a "how does this testing thing work?" Here's my problem: Kids have to be tested in the odd years. So, they say, when your kid is in 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc.  But do I test them before or after those years are done? Also, what happens with someone like Anda? Age-wise, she's in 1st grade. But one law says, "When they reach 3rd grade", and Anda is in 3rd grade in some subjects. So technically, she reached it. But only in Language arts and Science. In Math and Social Studies, she's still in 2nd grade. Or do they mean, "when your child is the same age as children who are in 3rd grade"? Because that's something different. I'm inclined to lean toward that last interpretation simply because then I'll KNOW my kids will pass their tests (Caleb will be tested for 3rd grade this year that way even though he's in 4th and 5th).

Anyway, I've had to re-think schooling because a) I now have to keep records for attendance and examples of work completed and b) we now have to do school for 4 hours a day, 172 days a year.

One of my friends recently posted her homeschool day schedule, which includes waking at the same time every day and following "steps" no matter how long they take (or short). It was a beautiful, structured, orderly day.

It was a day I could NEVER succeed at.

I've always thought homeschooling should be organized like that, with classes starting at particular times or in a particular order and lasting particular lengths, etc. That's my 8 years of formal teaching experience cutting in!

What I realized is that we already do many more than 4 hours of schooling per day, and that I need to do things MY way for My home school, just like my friend needs to have structure.

So I made a list of 8 topics I want the kids to cover each day. I'm going to assume each takes half an hour, and if some take more and some take less, that's okay. If the subject got covered, we'll record it as half an hour. I'm also going to assume that each subject is 10 minutes of actual instruction and a 20 minute "guided" activity (guided so it counts under the law, but only loosely--as in, I'll sit and nurse while they sit in the same room as I'm in and make star maps). I'm making a sticker chart that the kids can sticker each subject after they do it--that will count for our "attendance" records each day. And I bought the kids each a bin to toss their work into as they finish it--that will count as their "portfolio" I have to keep, and it will help keep the junk off the floor!

My 8 "dailies":

1. Math for 3rd and up
      They have to do one lesson in each of 5 subjects; this might take an hour depending on the lessons, but usually takes half an hour and is aligned to state standards, making my homeschooling look acceptable. This includes the most necessary subject that homeschoolers often fall short on: MATH. Must be done daily. Period.

2. Reading
     They do this for an hour or two every day anyway; might as well count it. Plus I enjoy reading children's classics to them at bedtime. Oh, and as a former English teacher, my philosophy is (and always has been) that reading ANYTHING is okay. They can read the super mario brothers wiki if they want. They can read emails. They can read the newspaper. They can read books, comic strips, the phone book, recipes, etc. They just need to read to improve their skills and learn about the world and discover their own interests and talents.

3. Science
   We do this as a group lesson. I'm posting the lesson plans and activities on as we go. It's a heavily online-based program (because Caleb does better with online learning) and uses only free resources online. Hopefully it will be helpful to other parents, too.

4. Humanities
    We haven't started this yet, but it will be on Learning Lynx, too. It's a comprehensive, period-by-period history/art/language/literature course that covers first what life was like in whatever period we're studying and then what happened in that period. I intend it to be heavily hands-on, rather intensive, fun, and also drawn almost entirely from the free resources available on the web.

5. P.E.
    Really this is just loosely disguised "Get out in the sunshine" time. The kids need vitamin D, and they need exercise, so every day I send them outside to play and, as Anda says, "experience nature!". Public schools count PE, so I'm going to count this time, too.

6. "Weeklies"
     This is a class that is different every day. Mondays they do typing (online); Tuesdays we'll do a group cooking class/practical arts class; Wednesdays they have to make something (anything; I don't care what and I won't be assigning it); Thursdays they have to write something (again, I don't care what and I won't be assigning it); Fridays they have to watch something from a list I'm compiling online (right now "anything nonfiction in my Hulu queue" is the list; eventually it will be on a google doc and include educational stuff from YouTube,,, etc).

7. Personal Research
     I want them to spend some time every day learning about something they want to learn about. It can be anything (Caleb has said he's going to learn to program computers; Anda wants to learn about animals) and doesn't have to follow through more than a day. I won't assign it. I want them to learn how to follow their interests, develop their talents, and learn on their own. That's the skill that can best help them as adults that is NOT taught in school. When I mentioned this to the kids, they were TOTALLY excited about it and started right away. I will probably have them give me a minute-long verbal report of what they learned because reporting on learning helps it stick. I might also encourage them to post a note about it on their blogs because that will help, too, and will count as "record keeping".

8. Click List
     Every day, if they haven't filled 4 hours already, I will have each kid get online and do something from a list I'm compiling (will be on a google doc when it's done linked from the sidebar of Learning Lynx so they can access it easily). The list will include movies and activities online (for example, they could explore the Library of Congress YouTube channel one day, play games related to Space at NASA's kid's site the next, learn writing at Scholastic's website, do online worksheets or coloring pages, watch the webcams in the national zoo, etc). This can be different things each day and should be fun, relaxed, and varied based on whatever they are interested in that day. It's like personal research time but is intended to introduce the kids to new subjects to explore that they might not have thought of (and that I might not know anything about so wouldn't think to teach them).

I'm thinking about including 5 minutes each day for handwriting, a "daily oral language" exercise which my kids call the "what's wrong with this sentence" game (and they LOVE that game), and some gospel/scripture study time.

Obviously we'll have no trouble filling the 4 hours, if we just do it.

I see this as loosely-guided pseudo-unschooling. Unschooling purists would scoff at me, of course, but my basic philosophy as a parent is that the kids came with the skills, talents, and gifts they need to live successful, happy lives, and my job as mother is to help them discover what they are, not to define or mandate or mold my children. Too much structure would hamper that for us (not to mention make it so we never do any schooling), but there must be some level of "I'm going to expose you to new things" so they can discover.

The Time4Learning makes me feel confident we are getting the basics covered, which I have hangups about. The Group science and humanities classes give me a chance to teach (which I LOVE), and give the kids a chance to learn how to politely interact in groups (important if they are ever going to have a job), and it gives me a chance to model good teaching (I am a very good teacher, if I may say so myself, and I have some kids with budding teaching skills that are best developed by watching really good teaching happening). Besides, the kids LOVE learning as a group, it builds family unity, and is really fun to have a body of common knowledge to talk about and experience together.

For us, this is a fine mixture of structure and free learning. And then, naturally, the kids will be involved in (and count for school) things we do together anyway. When I build cupboards for the living room, that will be our school for the day. When we go grocery shopping, that will count (economics lessons!) because we always spend that time talking about money, wise shopping, how to select products to buy, how to not be tricked by advertising, etc.

Flexible must be the name of my game because I am at heart not terribly structured--but also intensely creative. Might as well take advantage of our gifts and not dwell on our shortcomings, right? I mean, isn't that why we homeschool?

Pics of Tim Teaching Master Classes

After looking at these pictures, for some reason I wanted to call my husband "Dr. Jones" and examine all those women's eyelids.

Seriously, though, some FUNNY pictures of Tim teaching. It looks like the Master Class was a LOT of fun.

Did I just read that?

from craigslist today: "Pregnant and Breastfeeding Model Wanted For Art Project - (Denver) <<talent gigs"

That's a high order to fill. Most women who might be qualified are either one, or the other, but not both.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Did I just read that?

"... new TV show called "The Sing-Off" where contestants have to rely on their voice to get through the next round. , the ex member of boyband 98 Degrees, has been tapped to host and he explained the rules. "There is nowhere to hide when you're doing an a cappella song," Lachey told People. "There's no band behind you and dubbing. It's just you. It's just them naked on stage and what they have done to prepare is what will show through in that moment.""

I have been laughing about this for an hour now. Just a few a cappella groups performing nude.....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This calendar cracked me up

How can a calendar make one laugh, you ask?

Scroll down to moosebutter. Then go further. See who else is on there?

I never thought those two groups I am related to would show up on the same calendar ANYWHERE.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kids Say the Funniest Things

Daniel, fighting with Anda: "Anda! Look what you done to my feelings!"

Did I just read that?

This one blew me away. From google news today:

"Police Murder Suspect Released from Hospital

KLAS-TV - ‎5 hours ago"

Wow. Police in Vegas can be brutal! I knew that place was corrupt..... 

What Tim was doing while I had H1N1

Sorry that one cuts off in the Sweet Dreams Medley. Fan Vid (thank you! I was sad I missed this show!).

And more:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Did I just read that?


"Cook recommended Bustamante be tied as an adult. Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem agreed, saying the killing was vicious".

I suppose that might solve prison overcrowding issue--tie them all up as adults. Better use good strong rope, though. 

Did I just read that?

from Fox News tonight: "Noggle said Tuesday that officer Dustin Bradshaw went to the girl's home after her mother called police woman called police."  

"Police Woman" is a funny name for a mother. Or any other woman.,2933,575494,00.html?test=latestnews

It was actually an outlandish article. A 10 year old threw a fit and "refused to follow her mother's instructions and the mother told Bradshaw to use his Taser. Bradshaw carried the girl to the living room and told her she was going to jail, according to the report. "

When my kids throw a fit, I send them to their room, not jail. I'm surprised the cops didn't send CPS after the MOTHER! And the idiot cop, actually.

Good article on health care reform

This is what I'm afraid of: "Currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by overregulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern."

Read the whole article here:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A letter to loved ones who suffer....

My cousin's husband's job just dissolved overnight (like ours did recently), and I couldn't sleep for worrying about her, so I got up to write her a letter and thought I'd post a copy here because it includes things I've wanted to tell a number of people I love who are suffering right now.

"Dear E----,

I hope you're doing okay. I couldn't sleep for worrying about you. I have been in your position more than once, and it's ulcer-inducing! It's cry-myself-to-sleep territory.

But here are a few things I've learned that help me (you probably already know all this stuff and aren't as stressed, scared, and discouraged as I was/have been, but it makes me feel better to say it.):

*God CAN give you another job overnight. I've seen it happen. If he doesn't, it doesn't mean he doesn't love you. He DOES love you. And he has a plan. Trust him. Even when it's hard (like 2 years of going to bed lonely and hungry in Vegas hard). It won't stay that way. (If I hadn't waited on God's plan, I honestly would have missed getting to know you again--and that would have been a huge tragedy for me!)

*One of the best pieces of advise my mission president ever gave me was, "When the bills come and you just can't pay them, throw them away. They'll come back next month."

*Elder Holland told a story once of being young with small children, trying to move away to go to college and being penniless and having his car break down not once but twice on the trip, and him feeling so discouraged. And then years and years later driving by the same spot and looking back at his younger self and saying, "Don't give up. It gets better. There's joy ahead."

*I have learned to stop thinking about tomorrow quite so much. Many many days when I couldn't see how we'd possibly make it through, I stopped and asked myself, "Am I okay right NOW? Then that will have to do." And it did. And I was okay the next day, too.

*Blessings are miracles. They might not put bread on the table, but they put it in your heart.

*Read this talk. It quite literally changed my life about 2 months after Tim lost the only job he'd ever had that he truly loved and that paid enough to keep us alive and in shoes. Your sis, C---, said it changed her life, too.

*This one is mighty powerful, too:

* And, finally, this one, written by a righteous  relative:


I came across that last talk near the back cover of an old magazine from my collection one night as a teenager when I was sorting my antique books, and I read it and cried and cried because I had just been disappointed in something and it spoke to me, and then I discovered it was written by my grandfather's uncle, and that cemented the talk in my mind forever. Even now when I read it I cry. (Same goes for the other two, actually).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Penny Pinching Tips: Carefully Consider what constitutes a need.

I have had SO MANY friends in financial distress try to justify their cell phones, cable TV, rec equipment, or whatever as a NEED.

Is it really a need?

Let me rephrase that:
Will you physically DIE without that?
Will your health be compromised?
Will you lose your job?

Then no, you don't actually NEED that. As convenient as it might consider saving money by getting rid of the second (and third, and fourth) cell phones, and cable TV, and (for some people) internet.

Will you die if you don't eat out right now and wait an hour to eat at home? Not likely. Will your health be compromised? Probably not.  Will you lose your job? No.

This is a little oversimplified. I might add in also that it is important to consider God's commandments in the mix. Will you die without paying your tithing? Not physically, but failing to pay tithing is not a sacrifice I recommend.  It is also important to consider the health of the family. For example, while I won't die without a dishwasher,  my own personal disabilities (fibromyalgia) make hand-washing dishes extremely difficult--and when I don't have a working dishwasher, I end up not cooking regularly to avoid having to suffer the pain of washing dishes. So that is really close to a need for me to maintain the health of my family. Not absolutely necessary, but close.

So it's not entirely cut-and-dried. But when you find yourself in a position that you have to cut back, start looking around at your expenses....

Do you really NEED that cell phone, or are you just using it to easy anxiety ("I might get in a car crash on a remote road and die before someone misses me"--yes, I've heard that) or for convenience?
Do you really NEED 4 cell phones in the family?
Do you really NEED cable TV? Or can you get your news and entertainment from DVDs and online?
Do you really NEED the internet? Or can you do everything you do online at work or not at all (do you really NEED to play World of Warcraft? Seriously?) We actually DO need the internet--without it, Tim's job would be gone. So there you have it.
Do you really NEED new shoes? Depends on the condition of the old ones....

So every single time you are gearing up to spend some money, stop and ask, "Do we NEED this? Will we literally die without it? Will we lose our health or jobs?" You'll be surprised how much money you can save.

And then use on the things you really want.

Penny Pinching Tips: It is not shameful to buy used

I know lots of people who wouldn't be caught dead in used clothing, think buying used shoes is both unsanitary and unseemly, and who don't even consider used when their dishwasher breaks.

If you find yourself on a tight budget, though, you might consider re-thinking that.

Benefits of buying used:

--You get higher quality stuff for a lower price. If something still looks good in a thrift store, it's likely that it either was never used or was a higher quality item than the same $5 will get you at WalMart.

--It's good for the new, healthier economy we're trying to build. When you buy an item from an individual who is selling (like a car or a washing machine), you not only get the history of the item (unlike at a used car lot or appliance recycler), you also put cash into the hands of another person, which they can then use right away. You don't invest in corrupt corporations, pay people who use credit to weaken the economy while enriching themselves, or spend twice in interest what you spent on the item. You also help a fellow penny pincher (if you buy off craigslist) or a charity (if you buy from a charity-run thrift store). Also it helps your own local economy in many cases (unless you are ebaying it), putting money back into your home town, which strengthens it (instead of lining the pockets of the CEOs of big companies).

--It helps drive down over-pricing in the "new" market. By forcing the producers and sellers of new items to compete with the sellers of used items, the prices for new things (when you HAVE to buy something new) are lower. It's simple supply-and-demand economics.

--It helps the environment. Every item that is bought used is kept out of a landfill. It also replaces an item that would have left a carbon footprint in its production and delivery (the new one you'd have to buy if you don't get the used one!).

--If you love having a lot of something, you can get twice as much. Love shoes? Why not get that pair of Merrells, or the Diesels, for $15 instead of $150? For the same $150, you can get TEN pairs of shoes.

--If you don't need or want a lot of something, you don't have to go without. Better to have shoes than not, right?

If you are convinced that buying used is lower quality, not really that much cheaper, worn out, out of style, ugly, unsanitary, too hard to find what you want, or distasteful, TRY IT. None of those is really true. I remember the delight of a friend who had resigned herself to old, ugly clothes because she couldn't afford new when I sent her over to the local thrift store. She came back with 4 flattering, stylish, new-looking, high quality skirts for less than the cost of one new cheapo one. She felt pretty without breaking the bank.

Places to buy used: Local thrift store, local want ads in the paper or online, craigslist (and sites like it), ebay, consignment shops, garage sales, church rummage sales. Check out what's in your area.

If you're still unsure, look at it this way: everything you own is used the minute it leaves the store in your bag. Wash it once, and it is no different than much of what you will find out there used. You already ARE wearing used clothing, running a used washer, driving a used car. So what's the difference?

Penny Pinching Tip: Don't De-junk

Home organizing experts say the secret to a happy home is to de-junk. Throw away everything you aren't using right now. Don't save the "second best blender".

It's a nice idea.

If you have money to burn.

But if you take the people who live through the Great Depression as a guide in living through poverty, you'll notice they didn't de-junk.  On the contrary--they saved and re-used EVERYTHING.

So instead of throwing away that pair of too-small tennis shoes, toss them into a box for your next kid to wear when they get that size. Or, if they are too beat up to wear, at least remove the laces first and save them for when you need a string, another shoelace, something to mend with, etc.

Those who live in poverty know that if you throw away that second-best blender, and the first dies (which it will because you've had it for 20 years and you got it used initially), then you won't have one. So you save the second best. You box up and put away the extra pots and pans and then, when your favorite pan starts losing its non-stick coating, or the handle falls off, or the kids take it outside and lose it, you still have one. Or two. And, if the lady down the street loses everything in a fire or the missionaries are stocking a new apartment, you have something to give even if you don't have any money.

The secret to making this work is organizing. Don't just throw all the saved shoelaces and buttons into a junk drawer. But to get rid of the junk drawers, you don't need to get rid of the junk. You just need to find a way to put it away. For example, save that empty shoebox and label it, "laces and ties" and throw all the extra strings, laces, etc, in there. Take that empty oatmeal canister and label it "buttons" or "old toothbrushes for cleaning and art projects" or "broken glasses for parts". Put it on a shelf in the garage or basement or top of the closet, and then when you need a screw for your glasses, or a toothbrush to shine your shoes, or a shoelace because yours just broke, you've saved yourself both time and money.

Not only that, it's good for the environment. The ultimate green living doesn't involve de-junking stuff into the landfill. It involves using every little thing--and every part of every thing--until there is no possible use for it.

Understand that for the poor, "Use it up" doesn't mean until you're bored with it; "Wear it out," doesn't mean only until it looks shabby; "make it do" doesn't mean trash it when it breaks; "Or do without" doesn't mean you can just run down to the store and pick up another "it only costs $10" item.

We might moan about having to clean the thousand empty, carefully washed and put away coolwhip containers out of our recently-deceased grandmother's house. But we might do better to take a lesson from her.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meteor Shower Alert:,2933,575092,00.html?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a4:g4:r3:c0.000000:b0:z5

The Leonid Meteor Shower is Monday night/Tues Morning. See debris burn up that was left in the sky the year Monteverdi was born and Mary, Queen of Scots, lost her throne to James.

To find out when and where you should watch, google "leonid" and your city/state name.

Did I just see that?

I love the picture google's algorithms assigned this article on google news today:

"Obama Hobbled in Fight Against Global Warming 
New York Times - John M. Broder, James Kanter - ‎1 hour ago‎ 
WASHINGTON - President Obama came into office pledging to end eight years of American inaction on climate change under former President George W. Bush, and all year he has promised that the United States would lead the way toward a ...

Um...yes. That would be Obama's position right now. Clinging to a slippery slope on a weak and melting foundation. Very apt.
Or is that a picture showing the intended end of the sentence? "...lead the way toward a polar bear on a stick"? 

Grandmas sometimes make you sure your parents were adopted.

Today I was reminded that Grandmas can be amazing. Amazingly insensitive.

My one-side grandma had a cruise to foster cousin relations and invited all my cousins. And then uninvited all the moms with  nursing babies (including me). And then scheduled it at a time that uninvited anyone in school. Apparently the memo about the nursing babies thing was only for her own grandkids, though, because the step-cousins brought a nursing baby. Hmmmmmm......

I kinda felt like I was back in high school and all my friends had a party and said, "YOU aren't invited." I thought I was okay until I saw the pictures. Then I cried.

Thank-you, Grandma, for fostering good cousin relations. Among people whose children are old enough to be left at home for a week.

Then my other side Grandma looked at my sister's adorable baby tonight and said, "That baby looks just like my brother Nick when he was a baby.  He was ugliest baby I've ever seen."


I'm just grateful my kids' grandmas have more sense than my grandmas.

Fibromyalgia treatment that worked!

Fish oil.

I started taking fish oil right before bed and have had significantly less pain and less brain fog.

It is by no means a cure. I still can't lead a hymn or blow dry my hair. But I did manage to install mini blinds in my living room (had to rest my arms a couple of times, but it was possible at least!)

Anything that helps is welcome.

Funny things my kids said tonight

Anda: "Free samples! Made by kids with plastic knives."

Benji: "W. I love W!"

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Perks of Tim's Job

Tim's job has lots of perks. We get tickets to events. We get "paid" vacations to destinations people seek out (like Reno). For some reason, we frequently are given toys (usually the most bizarre ones because of moosebutter, but also lots and lots of stuffed animal "mascots").

One of my favorite perks, though, is what is happening right now. A handful of award-winning beatboxers  who also happen to have (to my taste) the best male voices in America today, are sitting around with a sound system experimenting. In my basement. So I get to hear the creation of awesome new things. I woke to the sound we've (me and Tim) been searching for 3 years for one of his groups that he's written dozens of songs for but we couldn't find the voices (until now!). And they just busted it out right as they walked in the door. They are experimenting with mic technique now, using the mics in different ways to get different sounds, creating on the spot a kind of ethereal sound, all improvised. Earlier, they busted out "Harder to Breathe" with no rehearsal and no instruments.

Did I mention that they have no instruments down there? Just voices, mics, a couple speakers and a subwoofer, and some guitar and voice effects boxes (including a looper/delay pedal).

In it's raw state down there, this is mind-blowingly awesome stuff. I can't even imagine when they polish it up. Those of you who have come to identify Tim's musical skills with Organic Vegetable sounds and Star Wars are going to be FLOORED when you see these new things coming out. It's a blend of classic rock, jazz, pop, and (of course, from Tim) choral music.

I call the guys "beatboxers" because that's what people recognize. They call themselves "vocal percussionists" because their approach isn't focused on "House" music. They can do the beatboxing we usually hear behind rap music. But they right now are doing jazz brushes, waaawaaas, brass instruments, and funky random sounds (some modified by guitar effects pedals). They are professional funny sound makers, I guess, but they weave it into beauty, into stuff that forces you to dance, into soul-searing melody.... And yes, they can SING. And, unlike most vocalists, these guys can sing convincingly in any genre. They're all classically trained, choir trained, and jazz trained. And you can request any song, any era, and they can sing it. If they don't know it, they'll make something up on the spot. (Earlier, they were doing madrigals, and just now they were mixing classical voice with rock background to very cool effect).

And Tim records the rehearsals. So I can listen anytime.

These are some of their public performances, but the stuff emanating from my basement right now puts these to shame:

I love Tim's job.

Homeschooler Resources, sent in by J. Max Wilson

The kids might enjoy learning about computer programming with these free tools:

A visual programming language to create and share interactive stories, games, music, and art developed by MIT for teaching children the basic concepts of computer programming.  Oriented toward 8 years old and up.

Is like Scratch but designed for more advanced object oriented programming techniques and produces 3D animations, games, and videos.  It is geared toward middle school aged children.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Did I just read that?

from today: "China gears up for visit as country will greet Obama with 'Oba Mao' shirts and statue of him that bursts into flames."

No errors there. I'm just wondering how he could be flattered that they're burning him in effigy and naming him after a ruler Americans think was a monster..... 

The Latest Trip

I started this blog to keep people posted on our adventures touring with children, and I've kind of drifted from that but have decided to go back to it. Anyone can post opinions on politics, but how many people can tell tales of touring at all, much less with 5 children in tow? (That's where the title of the blog even came from. We call our van Melody Yellowvan and even have a song about her!)

So, the trip home:

We were warm and comfy at Grandma's house, and trying to struggle through piles and piles of random stuff from the move out of Las Vegas. Slogging through the chaos, we didn't get things together very well (as usual), so we didn't manage to leave Lehi until after 8:30 pm. We would have stayed one more night had we not been racing a snowstorm that was supposed to travel across Wyoming in the direction we were traveling (read: we would have been stuck in it the whole way across). Wyoming is NOT where you want to travel in snow, so we left.

When we were dating, Tim and I joked about some day just taking that "Cheyenne" exit out of SLC and just going....and going...and going. It still holds a sense of promise and adventure and romance for us. Talking about taking that exit when we were teens was exciting--it was the key to leaving the state, and experiencing the world, and being together doing new and interesting things. We loved to travel then, and even now driving along a road we've never been on is one of our favorite things to do together. We like the road less taken.

Leaving from Lehi, we finally get to take that exit.

But then we have to drive through Wyoming. When we moved to Las Vegas, one of my comments was, "Thank goodness we never have to do that awful drive through Wyoming anymore!"  Wyoming might be fine during the day. We always seem to be driving through it at night. Wyoming at night is so dark you can't see anything around but the occasional racoon or wolf running across the road. It's cold and windy, so stopping for anything is an icy, biting experience--and a pain when you have to find 5 pairs of discarded shoes. There are long long stretches with few to no exits (and no services at the few exits), so when a kid says, "I have to go potty" (which they do frequently), it's a serious thing.

So we started an all-night drive across Wyoming. Again. Hoorah.

It wasn't so bad.
Our children travel well. That helps.

Mostly Tim drives and I tend to children and chatter to keep his brain engaged. We never have a car with a working radio, and now is no different. So we end up talking a lot about projects we are dreaming up, how to make music a viable business, what cool things Tim wants to do with his music or I want to do with my novel, songs to put on the next album, how to deal with hiccups in the business, casting shows, what happened in each of his recent workshops and performances, how went the after parties, what we can do with videos, how is working out his latest composing/songwriting contracts, etc. This time I was listing for him albums I want to hear done by him, multi-tracked (an opera album, a ska album, a jazz album) and whether it is professional death or genius to break the "single genre" rule, and also what he's doing with his schedule if a certain contract came through (it did!) or not so I could figure out if we can make it back to Utah for Thanksgiving.

At some point, we had to pull off an exit that said, "Riverside Embankment" to let the kids pee. It was kinda funny seeing all the boys lined up in the shadow of a large sign, peeing with their backs to the wind!

One thing Wyoming has going for it is the stars. Since we're studying astronomy right now, it was fun to watch the sky for shooting stars, constellations, the Milky Way. Those things are all visible in Wyoming and not Las Vegas (which has so many lights that nature is obscured).

Consistent problem in Wyoming: there is no place to find food after midnight. As we drove into Rock Springs looking for dinner at 1:00 am, we both groaned. Once we had to eat sitting on the lawn outside the WalMart. Once we'd promised the kids milk shakes and had to drive ALL OVER TOWN to find some place open, and then their milkshake machine was broken so we had to start over. When we ask where to find food, they always say proudly, "Our McDonalds is 24-hour!" Except only the drivethrough is. And generally speaking I'd rather eat cardboard than McDonald's food. If there is ANY other choice, including the grocery store, we choose the other. (I guess this is a common problem for musicians, who often want to eat after gigs--so, at midnight or so. My cousin is a working musician and she mentioned it, too--you can never find food after the gig, and you need it!).

With the heavy trailer and the stiff wind, we had another problem. 50 miles outside Laramie, we were low on gas and there are no services there. 30  miles out, I noticed and got worried. 20 miles out we switched drivers and almost immediately the gas light ("you have 5 miles to find gas") came on.

And I started praying.

And the light went off. And back on. More prayers. Off. On. More prayers. Off.....

We made it to the first gas station in Laramie!

And then Tim fell dead asleep, which he almost never does when we're traveling. And, even more rare, he slept until we got home. Usually he sleeps about 20 minutes and then is good to go for 5 more hours. So I drove the rest of the way home, with the big kids and I having an extensive, lively discussion of cool language things (okay...lets name all the idioms we can think of and where it came from; I'll do a word, you give me first synonyms and then antonyms; let's name all the homophones we can think of; now let's do all the homonyms; rhyming words!; greek and latin roots to words; can you guess what "pseudonym" means?). One of the kids' favorite games to play while we drive is "What's wrong with this sentence?"--"Someone I know said they were 'cooking and listening to Bocelli'--what's wrong with that sentence? How would you fix it?" They are especially delighted when they find road signs that don't have the right meaning like, "Exit here when flashing" and "road closed when flashing" (both of which you see all over Wyoming).

So we drove and drove and pulled into our driveway at dawn, unloaded car and trailer, and went to bed.

Did I just read that?

On our trip home this time, outside McDonalds in Rock Springs, Wy, we saw a sign that said, "Rock Bottom Executive Limos".

Someone thought that was a good name for their business? For real? Doesn't make me think their limos are in great shape...

I guess they provide limos for executives who have hit rock bottom?

Good Idea/Bad Idea

Last night I had it in my head that I needed night light bulbs because we shattered one. So when I was out buying milk and a screwdriver (they cost $.82. I lived without one for a month and they cost less than a dollar. Doh!), I grabbed some night light bulbs.

They make this new kind--LED bulbs that screw into standard night lights! I thought this was cool and bought some even though it costs about the same for 2 of those as for 4 standard bulbs. And they are blue and green. Very cool.

When I got home and read the package, I was floored. It says, "Lifetime guarantee: If bulb ever burns out, please do not return to store. Send bulb to Meridian Electric Co.....for a free replacement."

Seriously? If it EVER burns out? Wow. Good idea!

I was totally excited about that.

And then I discovered all the night lights got left in Utah. Bad idea.

But my sewing machine is here and it takes a night light bulb.....I wonder if sewing with blue or green light will cause me trouble?

Monday, November 09, 2009


This talk, when originally given, quite literally changed my life.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Nice editorial

Kids are watching Chitty Chitty....

I turned on "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for my kids, and I was interested to see the book was by Ian Fleming (I already knew this)--the same guy who wrote all the James Bond novels--and the film was produced by Albert Broccoli (same guy who produced the original James Bond movies).

But here was the great joy--the film script was written by Roald Dahl!

That explains the whimsy, the portrayal of both the kids and the adults, the dressing up as dolls, etc.

Now that I think about it, Dick van Dyke and Roald Dahl are a rather excellent combination, aren't they!

And yes, the movie is rather long and tedious (Dahl was a novelist, remember), but my kids are entranced. He got all the right elements in there!

Great news...NOT

from the AP: "And the unemployment rate doesn't include people without jobs who have stopped looking, or those who have settled for part-time jobs. Counting those people, the unemployment rate would be 17.5 percent, the highest since at least 1994." Or more, depending on the area you live in.

This is why we left Las Vegas. I'm guessing the unemployment rate there is between 25-50%, since most of the city was builders and self-employed people whose businesses have dried up (like ours did--but it's picking up nicely in Colorado!).

My thought on all this: the people DON'T want welfare, and they don't want higher taxes on the employers to pay for it. They want the government to leave the money with the employers so they people can get JOBS. 

Monday, November 02, 2009

New Movies of Tim at Work

Someone made  movies of my husband at his day job.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Did I just read that?

from Craigslist tonight: "I'm looking for some help doing the prep work for painting the inside of our town home. I need the popcorn ceilings scraped, and the walls taped, etc. Can do hourly rate but would prefer to negotiate a flat feel."

 Yeah...that's why we had our popcorn ceilings scraped, too. We definitely prefer that flat feel.

Strollering to Church

Today I got up late, so Tim and the two big kids had left to church long before the 3 littles and I were ready to go.

That left me with 2 strollers and only me and a 4-year-old to push them.

I don't know if you've ever walked with a 4-year-old pushing a toddler in the stroller. They always watch their feet, the stroller wheels, or the head of the child they are pushing--and go off the sidewalk/crash into the mailbox/stroll into someone's driveway. It's not that the poor kid isn't trying. They are serious and sincere in their efforts to protect their sibling and get them to the destination safely. And, while there are bouts of distraction, usually the child is focused and working hard. And they get so frustrated that they end up going toward the street (and stopping before they get there, but only just in time) or gradually drifting until they crash into the neighbor's mailbox or rosebushes. And then just when they get it right, there's a dip in the sidewalk where a driveway crosses, and it sends the stroller all askew again.

Pushing a stroller is an art that takes serious practice. Especially when the stroller is as big as you are! You have to be aware of the dangers around you, but have your eye single to your destination to stroll in a nice straight line.

It was maybe the sixteenth time that I said to Dan, "Focus on where you want to end up, not where you are now, if you want to get there safely," that I realized that the whole walk to church was a nice metaphor of me--the 4 year old pushing the stroller.

How often do we try our hardest and find we are wandering toward the dangerous street or crashing our stewardship into the big oak tree or wandering up some stranger's driveway?

We get distracted. We focus on our feet or the head of the kid in front of us. We watch the cars go by and, in our anxiety to not get tangled up with traffic, we go and push our stroller into the bushes.

Perhaps the message is not so much for Daniel as it is for me: Focus not on where you are right now, but where you want to end up if you want to walk a clean straight line and get there safely.

Did I just read that?

From the Las Vegas Review Journal: "Duensing’s friend said this afternoon that he spoke with Duensing on the phone, who is recovering well from his bedside at University Medical Center."

Wouldn't Mr. Duensing recover better from his bed? I mean, recovering standing by the bed seems silly.

Oh, wait...the sentence says the phone is recovering well from the bedside. Well, I suppose that's where a phone belongs. I wonder what it was recovering from? Ringer too soft? Broken wire?

Did I just read that?

from "Mistakenly Trashed Cell Found at Dump With Ringtone"

I didn't know dumps had ringtones now! Everything has to get connected.....

Happy Halloween!

Now that you have an overload of candy in your house, check out this site for alternatives (besides consuming) that are fun: