Thursday, December 31, 2009

Very important Sleep Info

Dunno why this was published in Business Week, but it's a really important bit of information about sleep and sleep deprivation in kids.

The sleep issue is one of the main reasons we've kept at homeschooling (to great advantage in other areas). I personally believe that my child's health is MORE important than public schooling, and I know that for my family especially, but for most families to some degree, the early start hours for school are detrimental to kid's health, both physical and mental, because starting early causes three problems: 1) too little sleep; 2) no time for healthy breakfasts; and 3) starting the day with stress, which sets the tone for the day, dumps your magnesium supply, and inhibits clear thinking. I, personally, believe that the morning schedule is one of the main reasons kids grow up hating school--too often they arrive tired, hungry (or sugared up on cold cereal or other fast breakfasts), and stressed and are then condemned (and publicly humiliated) for not being at the top of their game.

I'm sure some families have it all together and get up early enough to do things leisurely and right and still get to school by 7:00 or 8:00 am. But I doubt it's a majority.

A nice description of Tim's songwriting process, from Tim

I didn't even know this existed! Shows you how much time I don't spend on the moosebutter website....

Caleb's and Anda's game yesterday

Yesterday, Anda and Caleb came to me and said, "Mom, we're playing at being evil doppelgangers of ourselves. You are, too, okay? Could you give us some ideas of how we could trap ourselves? And could you do it in the most evil voice you can?"

I tried my best, and they said, "Oh, mom. We don't KNOW we're the evil doppelgangers. We think the real us are the evil doppelgangers and that we are perfectly justified! Now do it again."

No wonder they have no interest in playing with the kids in their primary classes! I doubt their classmates would even know what my kids were talking about. Even if they knew what a doppelganger was, I'm fairly certain the other kids in their classes would have a hard time grasping playing at being the bad guy who doesn't realize he's a bad guy but thinks that the good guys are the bad guys. Especially if all the guys are just us in various forms!

Shoot, I just recently understood that concept (that bad guys don't always know they're the bad guy--they think they're perfectly justified for whatever reason that we might see as twisted, but they accept)--and I came about it by learning how to write villains for novels. As a 30 year old.

Oh, and I've now been informed that "evil voices" are lower than your normal voice.

Other funny thing that happened yesterday: Anda and Dan were having a discussion in the living room, and I was in the kitchen only half paying attention, and when I tuned back in, they were arguing in jazz scat singing, not English. We don't listen to a lot of scat singing (I find it tedious unless it's brilliant, and most of it isn't brilliant), so I'm not sure how they learned that--maybe from the one or two songs we heard with scat in the last few days? It was kind of funny. And no, it wasn't a made up language (I've heard them do that before, too). It was honest-to-goodness scat. Good scat, too--very expressive.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Last Post on Giftedness

So, lest you think I've taken to huge bragging here, I want to make something perfectly clear.

Highly Gifted, Exceptionally Gifted, and Profoundly Gifted, as applied to children, are CLINICAL DIAGNOSES, not bragging rights. There are specific qualifications for these "disorders," just like there are for autism spectrum disorders.  Further, while everyone thinks of "exceptionally gifted" children being so rare that there are almost none (and you surely would never actually MEET one), there are over 60,000 of these incredibly bright kids in the US (possibly as many as 340,000 kids). Granted, the number of profoundly gifted kids (with IQs over 180 before age 8) is in the hundreds instead of hundred thousands, there are still hundreds of them in the US alone.

And, while parents of these kids say the cardinal rule is "Don't Talk About It" (because it makes other people feel like you are showing off or criticizing them), I'm going to discuss it here (maybe just this time only) because I've found two things since discovering the whole concept yesterday: 1) I've had a MAJOR paradigm shift that has affected everything (and nothing--that's how paradigms shift) and 2) knowing there are other parents with kids like mine--and resources for them beyond "gifted programs"--has been hugely liberating.

2 months ago, I sent my brother (who is studying to be a doctor and was entering a pediatrics rotation) a list of characteristics of Caleb. For years I've known he was different from other kids his age, and that the teachers thought there was something wrong with him in the 6 months we were in school. I was sure that there was a big-picture diagnosis for Caleb that would include all his talents and challenges, but neither I nor my brother could find one.

Until yesterday.

The list I sent Ben was just the same as the list of these extraordinary (and almost always hypersensitive) kids. I cried for hours yesterday as I read about these PG (profoundly gifted) and  XG (exceptionally gifted) kids--there were my children, in all their glory and weirdness. But there, also, was my husband--talents and challenges both. And there was the typical mom of the gifted kids--me!--the mom with the messy house who is one minute explaining algebra and the next despairing of ever teaching her child how to tie his shoes! In one fell swoop, I wasn't alone anymore. Suddenly, I am virtually surrounded by moms with messy houses (gifted kids can tear apart a house in an hour), parents who not only think it's normal to send 9 year olds to college but have practical advice about it (advice I didn't know I needed but was immensely grateful for), parents who are homeschooling successfully in this special way that XG and PG kids require.

One of the things that was amazing and startling to me about this was how many parents are like me and don't realize their kids actually are extraordinarily gifted. Sure we laughed that Caleb and his also PG cousin had a knock-down drag-out fight about whether it's a dash or a hyphen in her name....when they were 4 years old. Sure a couple of the kids learned to read before they were potty trained. Sure they play involved, imaginative, complex games that other kids don't understand (a favorite is to be "our own doppelgangers", plotting our own destruction. Another is to take a computer game they've mastered, each choose a character to narrate, and play it again with the morality reversed--so Sonic is the bad guy and the boss is the good guy--or play it again with the on-screen characters being doppelgangers of the original). It never struck me how odd it might be that I had a hard time explaining carrying and borrowing because the kids already had a firm grasp of negative numbers--at age 5 or 6. I thought it was endearing and cute that the answer to most questions begins with "It depends...." and the kids don't have a gray area in achievement (Caleb refused to ride a bike after he tried ONCE unsuccessfully)--you either succeed or fail, that Caleb answered his Grandpa at age 5, "The answer to 8+2 is the same as 5+5," and that Daniel and Anda have been known to argue in jazz scat singing instead of standard English. It's not startling to me to hear this: Me: "Tell me what you're planning to work on on the computer." Caleb, age 8: "Well, that's hard because I have a multitude of projects I'm working on at the same time that are hard to separate from one another." I thought it was charming.

But I didn't think it was THAT unusual.

Here's why: XG and PG kids tend to have siblings, parents, and grandparents who are also XG and PG peoples. And, me being Mormon, that's a lot of people. So many, in fact, that I was surrounded all my growing up by parents, uncles and aunts, siblings and dozens of cousins who were as smart as or smarter than me. In the world I grew up in, XG and PG were NORMAL. So of course I saw my kids and husband as normal. After all, I know people who are lots smarter than I am--people whose IQs are WELL over 180 (people who are as much smarter than me as I am to someone with an IQ of 100).  In addition, I lived in a college town and went to school with kids whose parents were genius college professors. I had no trouble finding friends--lots of friends--who were XG and PG. None of us thought anything of the fact that one of my friend's dads solved a math puzzle that had stumped all the top mathematicians for decades. Of course he did. Duh. Or of the fact that we knew many families made up of half a dozen musical geniuses (families that went on to be nationally recognized acts). Or of the fact that we (my siblings, cousins, and a dozen friends) were, on the whole, smarter than our teachers, and had been for years, and we all knew it (something our teachers didn't like much). Nor did we think anything was unusual about the fact that we all knew people who got perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, skipped grades, or dropped out of top colleges like MIT because they were bored. I thought it a reasonable goal to read every interesting book in the library and to be able to talk to any human being about their area of expertise on a competent level.

Even now, most of my nieces and nephews (dare I say ALL? Probably) are as gifted as my kids are. Or more so.

So I've hesitated to talk further about this on my blog because I've gotten nasty emails from parents accusing me of putting my kids on a pedestal (and criticizing them and their kids in the process). But here it is because it has been a life-changing thing to learn all this, and because I've also gotten emails from other parents, relieved to find out that not all gifted kids are math-science gifted, or that (just like I'm discovering) on some plane, we're normal.

Nice advice on parenting

Although I seriously doubt the kids said, "Discipline me. It makes me feel loved," I do agree with the idea that kids DON'T need outside activities and DO need more play time and more mommy/daddy time doing nothing scheduled.

I've had a grand paradigm shift today

And this article was the last I read on the subject, and has good advice for all parents.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Laughed and cried at this one, too

A mom describing her lack of "seeing" that her kids were profoundly gifted: "Not that I was displeased with most of these things. I could have used more sleep, and I knew my children possessed a phenomenal ability to disorganize a house, but mostly I thought they were cute. All children are cute, aren’t they? And all children are full of energy, and they all make a mess. I knew my neighbors had neater houses, but I blamed myself rather than my children."

It never occurred to me that my messy house was a sign of having gifted children!

Laughed and Cried when I read this

Caleb is like "Alex"--maybe not quite as brilliant, but pretty darn close. So when I read this I laughed and cried, and saw yet one more reason we must homeschool that boy.

I tried cyberschooling for Caleb, even--and no teacher there could even comprehend what I meant when I said "gifted"--because they knew gifted kids, and Caleb is not that. He is somewhere between Highly and Exceptionally Gifted. I'd guess. He's smarter than me, and I had an IQ of about 145 when I was 8 (which makes me only Moderately to Highly Gifted on this chart.

According the their descriptions of the characteristic development of the profoundly and highly gifted (sitting independent at age 4 months, speaking a hundreds of words, clearly and with perfect grammar, by 12 months, very early onset of reading), my kids have IQs of over 150. And, as the article points out, these kids dealing with their "age peers" is like a regular old smart kid dealing with an intellectually handicapped person with an IQ of 70. No wonder Caleb struggles to make friends (and other kids mock him). They are really about 8 years apart--it's like a 16 year old being expected to make friends with the 8 year olds at church.

These 2 paragraphs actually were really reassuring to me about Caleb: "Differences between moderately and extremely gifted children are not, of course, confined to the cognitive domain. Hollingworth (1926) defined the IQ range 125-155 as "socially optimal intelligence." She found that children scoring within this range were well-balanced, self-confident, and outgoing individuals who were able to win the confidence of age peers. She claimed, however, that above the level of IQ 160 the difference between the exceptionally gifted child and his or her age-mates is so great that it leads to special problems of development which are correlated with social isolation. These difficulties appear particularly acute at ages 4 through 9 (Hollingworth, 1942).
DeHaan and Havighurst (1961), examining the differences between what they termed second- order" (IQ 125-160) and "first-order” (IQ 160+) gifted children, reinforced Hollingworth's findings. These findings suggested that the second-order gifted child achieves good social adjustment because he has sufficient intelligence to overcome minor social difficulties but is not “different” enough to induce the severe problems of salience encountered by the exceptionally gifted student. Janos (1983) compared the psychosocial development of 32 children aged 6-9 with IQs in excess of 164, with that of 40 age peers of moderately superior intellectual ability. The findings of Janos emphasized that the social difficulties experienced by this highly gifted group did not stem from a pre-existing emotional disturbance, but rather were caused by the absence of a suitable peer group with whom to relate. There are virtually no points of common experience and common interest between a 6-year-old with a mental age of 6 and a 6-year-old with a mental age of 12."

Great Quote

Working on a cool new thing--a hyperlinked timeline history of astronomy for kids--and I came across this great quote from Johannes Kepler:

""As long as the multitude does not err, I want to be on the side of the many. Therefore, I take great pains to explain to as many people as possible.""

Sunday, December 27, 2009

'bout time!

For once, it wasn't the mom with kids who were asked to leave the plane!

The hit was coming....

And it came.

See, with fibromyalgia, there are several kinds of pain that haunt me.

The first, and most obvious, is an achy, nervy kind of pain that results immediately from certain physical actions, or triggers. For example, if I hold my arm up for more than about 10 seconds (say, to lead a song or hand someone a glass of water), my whole arm hurts, compelling me to lower it. If I sit on a hard chair or bench, I feel within seconds like I'm sitting on legos or marbles (I know that's what it feels like because once I sat in my rocking chair in the dark to nurse a baby and kept wondering why my usually soft rocking chair was giving me fibro pain--and when I stood up I saw the legos and marbles scattered around the chair!). It's a very clear kind of pain that isn't related to any other kind of pain, so it's hard to describe (like mothers can't describe labor's its own unique thing). This is a clear kind of pain I call fibro pain. It comes and goes, and can be relieved quickly by just not doing what triggers it. It also cycles--sometimes for a year or more I can push a shopping cart with no trouble at all, and then I'll have a month when it hurts my palms to push the shopping cart, and then it won't again for 2 years.

There is also a whole-system kind of "rattle nerves" pain that hits when I have emotional stress (like when someone gets mad at me, or I have any kind of negative encounter, or I see police lights go on behind me--even if it's not my fault). This feels like low blood sugar, or like every nerve in my body is buzzing slightly, and like every muscle in my body is trying to decide if it should contract or relax but can't quite get there. This kind of pain is only relieved by serious, laying down rest (like sleeping all night). Unfortunately, it can keep me from sleeping! It also leaves me short-tempered, emotional, grouchy, and anxious for up to several days. I, personally, think this pain has something to do with the fact that the body, under emotional stress, tends to dump its supply of magnesium, which takes several days (up to 2 weeks) to build up again.

And then there is the delayed pain. The pain resulting from any given action (if it's going to cause pain) can be delayed by 24-48 hours. For example, when you start to exercise after not doing it for a long time, you get stiff muscles the next day, or even a few hours later, right? I do, too, but I get a day between the exercise and the stiffness where I feel perfectly normal. It's a delayed response. It took me a long time to identify that this kind of pain had a cause because it is usually a whole-body response (but focused more strongly in the stressed parts of me), and because it is sufficiently removed from the trigger that I forget I even DID something.

Emotional stress, physical stress, and doing physical things my body is not accustomed to are among the things that cause me delayed pain, but it's sometimes hard to find the trigger for the pain because the trigger was usually a day or two ago.

So this morning as I was going to bed, Christmas hit me.

There was the emotional stress, the sitting on the floor for hours wrapping presents, the "bend and reach" position that always causes me grief, the late hours....and this morning by 6:00, I was a wreck. I was in so much pain I couldn't sleep. Couldn't stay asleep. Achy everywhere. I had to take ibuprofen to fall asleep, and then I woke up 6 times in the 4 1/2 hours I got to be in bed before I had to get up for church.

So today is pretty much a loss because I'm going on not enough sleep, and I feel like I got hit by a truck.

MerryChristmas, right?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What we're doing with leftover Christmas wrap:

Did I just read that?

"The mystery behind the most famous mutilation in art history may finally have been solved."

The most famous mutilation in art history?

How many mutilations are there in art history? 


Everyone should be throwing FITS about this:

The Scrooge Report. Don't read this if you love Christmas. Or do. Whatever.

Christmas was a success. Everyone is happy. What more can I ask?

I was blessed to inherit from one (or both?) of my parents a very practical mind. That, combined with the physical disabilities involved in fibromyalgia, has led me to a life of looking at every situation and saying, "What is the purpose of this? What are we trying to accomplish? Is that valid? What SHOULD we be trying to accomplish? And how can we do it faster, cheaper, easier, and more effectively?"

That actually is a blessing in most situations. For example, I can teach a whole Relief Society lesson without feeling guilty that I failed to make cute handouts for the sisters (because it takes a LOT of time on my end and they just throw it away or clutter their houses with it at theirs, and it doesn't increase the spirit or the remembering of the lesson, so...what's the point?). I get along really well with teenagers because I'm willing to see the stupidities adults impose on them and also explain what's going on, why, what they can do to make things go more their way, and why sometimes they just need to go along.  I can look at a non-performing nursery or family home evening and improve things for next time.

Sometimes, though, it's a curse.

Christmas is one of those times.

It's not that I don't see the value of tradition. I LOVE tradition. I think it is incredibly valuable in building family and community unity and helping us understand and remember truths. It's not that I don't see the value of building good memories for your children. It's not that I don't see the value of doing things together. I can even see the value of making things festive.

It's just that I think Christmas is a) over the top, b) WAY too focused on Stuff and appearance, c) the cultural expectation is too expensive, d) Santa might be fun (and I did love believing in him and magic as a child), but to perpetuate the tradition, we outright lie to our children and d) we tied Christ's name to all of this.

Honestly consider this question with Christmas as it stands in America today in mind:

Is THIS how Jesus would want to spend his birthday?

Consequently, it's hard for me to really get into it.

What Christmas is to me is a whole lot of work and a whole lot of expense for an end that doesn't justify itself. Christ wouldn't want us to break his commandments (like by going into debt or teaching our children to focus on things--getting or giving, it's still focused on things--or by spending two or three weeks lying to our children or by spending a lot of time eating unhealthy food) to celebrate his birthday.

So a couple of years ago, I sat down and thought about it. What is the good about Christmas? All the family stuff. Anything you do with your family is fun, and family fun is IMPORTANT. Decorating the house and the tree....making candy houses together...caroling...visiting friends....making zillions of treats and even more good and getting gifts (it's fun. I admit that. It's actually a bonding time for families. It's a fun memory)...seeing cousins and grandparents....Christmas music....sending updates to everyone you know....connecting and re-connecting with people...having time off from work and school to be together....and yes, spending some serious time thinking about Christ.

Being me, I had to think through things and decide how to best accomplish the GOOD things. And how to avoid the bad things (commercialism, moneymoneymoney stuffstuffstuff IwantIwantIwant, lying, mixing Christ with decided un-Christian things).

First, I realized I was not capable of making Christmas the kind of day I think Christ would like his birthday to be and still go along with all the Christmassy stuff. So, to get the chance to spend some serious time thinking about Christ, worshiping, celebrating His birth, and teaching our children about him, we added a holiday to the year. Logically, we ought to celebrate Christ's birth on his birthday, so we hold April 6 as "White Cake Day"--it's a day we spend all day doing things we think Christ would want us to do to celebrate his birth, we have a little party for Him (the same way we have birthday parties for our kids, using the same traditions). We make a favorite cake, symbolically red and white, and talk about why Christ was born. It has turned into a very sacred day for us. Very VERY Christ-centered. Very much a time to spend some serious time thinking about Christ and celebrating (and being grateful for) his birth, life, and death.

That was a good thing. Unfortunately, it had an unintended consequence for me. Since I now already have a day of the year that I celebrate Christ, Christmas has begun to feel more like Halloween does--someone else's sacred holiday that is more about fun family memories than about Christ for me personally. I don't want you to think I on purpose sat down and took Christ out of Christmas. It wasn't on purpose. And we still do the nativity and talk about Christ and let the kids tell us why we use a star atop the Christmas tree (except I have an ornament of Jesus in the Garden atop my Christmas tree....). We do forget a lot of the pseudo-religious crap (sorry) that people use to try to justify the trappings of Christmas and the reality of Christ's birth (the candy cane....the glass balls on the tree....killing a live tree and watching it die in your living room.....).

Still, I try really hard to focus on the good of Christmas. I sat down and thought, "What am I trying to accomplish?" If the "end" we are aiming for is not a full understanding of Christ, but rather to build family unity, good memories, and a sense of belonging in our ward, community, and family, the the means should point to that end. So I work really hard on that.

And I've learned a few things about that. First is that tradition counts. Nobody remembers every single individual Christmas. In fact, the only individual Christmases that people remember are usually the sad ones. BUT we do remember Christmas as a kind of conglomerate of fun and family joy. SO we've followed traditions. But not just randomly. We pick traditions that further the end we have in mind--we make candy houses together out of graham crackers, candy, and frosting. We do gifts under the Christmas tree. We very carefully don't lie to the children, but let them believe in Santa if they want (my official story is this: Santa is real. He is Daddy. No magic. But, since I really loved believing in Santa, I let my kids believe as much as they want, not telling or refuting the stories, but always answering questions as honestly as I can).  We trade names and buy something for someone else in the family. We wrap presents together. We have a Christmas tree and we decorate it (but entirely by the children with what we have on hand--nothing fancy or elaborate or themed or tied to tradition because I can't handle maintaining it with my disabilities). We do a very haphazard job of decorating the house--all kid-organized--because I see it as just more messes I have to clean up. So that part is up to them. We drive around and look at Christmas lights. We put on Christmas music--but mostly only on Christmas day because (you might be surprised to discover) we don't really play music much at our house (with 5 kids making noise in the same room as me all day every day and music coming up from Tim's studio in the basement many days, I can't handle the extra layer of noise it adds--fibro leaves me noise-sensitive). We make treats, drink eggnog, make rocky road "fudge", eat "eggnog bread." So we do those things that we can do, taking our disabilities into account and focusing on things that build good memories and good times with family (which implies, I might note, family interaction. We ALL make candy houses together at the same time, for example). And we do them every year. And it is INCREDIBLY satisfying.

Second is that presents on Christmas morning matter, but if you follow a few rules, you don't have to spend a lot of money (we spend less than $200 for everyone, all 7 of us). First is you have to unwrap something to do on Christmas day. This year, the big hit present was balloons (I got one bag for $1.50 and divided them up into everyone's stockings). They have been batting balloons around all day. Second is that there has to be enough stuff to open that you feel like you got to open something. It doesn't have to be fancy or cool. I wrapped water bottles for everyone this year. They have been drinking water all day now. Not fancy. But something to unwrap is important.  In fact, a largish pile of dollar store (or party favor section items, where you get 4-8 items for less than $3) somethings is more satisfying to kids than a small pile of expensive gifts. Third is there has to be a treat to eat. Big candy bars, handful of leftover halloween candies, fruit snacks....just something sweet. Fourth is that big kids need to be able to answer the question, "What did you get?" without being embarrassed. Nobody wants to say, "new underwear and a bunch of books." Again, this thing doesn't have to be expensive. It just has to SOUND cool ("I got a bike!" Who cares if it was second-hand? or "I got a cat purse"--a very faddish item for 6 year old girls this year--doesn't matter if it cost $1 at DI). Fifth is that the "present pile" has to be visually balanced--2 or three big things (Anda got a huge bag of wild birdseed--which she is very satisfied with) and a handful of smaller things, plus an overfilled stocking, which is mostly padding anyway. The final rule is that EVERYONE (even me) needs at least ONE thing to unwrap that is a surprise.

If you follow those rules, everyone's happy. Notice that nowhere in there is any mention of spending a lot of money on new things. Or having dozens of presents. Or getting expensive presents. Or any kind of fancy wrapping or elaborate set-up.

Finally, the thing I realized is that "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." And, since Christmas is, like all holidays, a WHOLE LOT OF WORK for mommy, we try to minimize the "hit." What that means around here (taking my disabilities into account) is no Christmas dinner. I can't figure out who thought it was okay to make mom (and Dad, in some households) find, wrap, hide, and set out (and set up) presents all night, wake early with kids, and then produce ANOTHER Thanksgiving dinner! Obviously NOT the woman's idea. So we don't do that. Soup and sandwiches, cold cereal, or crock pot meal is what you get around here.  We had beef stew today because my crock pot is in storage and I had stew meat. Nothing fancy or work-intensive.  Christmas dinner is one of those things that I can't see that the end result justifies it. So we just don't do that.

Oh, and we have to work everything around Tim's performing schedule. Christmas is traditionally a REALLY busy time for performers, so NOTHING we do as a family for Christmas is tied to the calendar. It's all loosey-goosey in that respect so that we can do things with Tim (since, after all, the REASON for the traditions is to build family unity--so why would we want to do something without Tim there just because it's a tradition to do it at a certain time?).

Because of all this, I like to do Christmas at home. No waking early. No stuff emphasis. No trying to fit into someone else's schedule. No visiting on Christmas day except by phone. No having someone else's kids' expectation of what Christmas is imposed on my kids. And you know what, we all have fun.

We had a GREAT Christmas.

Christmas Eve some of our favorite people here in Colorado invited us over and we had SO much fun being with them. Then we made candy houses together, and the kids watched Ratatouille while I wrapped presents. We told the Christmas story at bedtime (and the whole reason I have separated "Christmas" and "Christ's birthday" was very apparent--Anda and Caleb were alternating telling the story of Luke 2--but not reading it--and I was keeping it all within the bounds of what the scriptures actually tell us, and finally Anda looked at me and said, "Mom. Stop that. I'm telling the story. I can tell it however I want!" You see the problem? We've made Christmas into a fantasy land of ice and snow and wishes and dreams--all that "magic of Christmas" stuff. Anda correctly, if unconsciously, identified it as a fantasy time and grouped all of Christmas into that, including Christ. If it's all about magic and elves and Santa and Christ, why can't she just tell the story the way she wants to this time, with gifts of lambs, and all the elaboration she wants? And how am I to say, "Well, the magic of Christmas is good and all, but Christ is real, even though Santa isn't" and have her believe me?)

Anyway, Tim and I both wrapped presents well into the dawn hours (not so bad as it sounds, considering we plopped the kids into bed at 5:00 am and considering we'd gotten out of bed at 4:00 pm on the 24th). Then Tim cleaned the living room and I filled stockings and stocked the tree, and then off to bed. Dan woke at noon, opened his stocking, and then was willing to be sent back to bed and to sleep until the rest of us woke up.

We got up at about 5:00 pm, and woke the kids, "Santa came!" and Caleb groaned, "We know," and rolled over and went back to sleep. Eventually everyone drifted out and we opened presents, ate candy. Ate more candy. Opened more presents. Nathanael kind of got it. Benji still doesn't understand opening presents and couldn't be coerced to do it. (This is another of those things I don't buy into. It's REALLY hard to wrap presents that I know are going to get unwrapped again in a couple of hours. I do it for kids that care, but we didn't for kids that don't--not wrapping all of my, Ben's, or Nathanael's gifts because, really, what's the point?). And it was FUN.

Everyone had something to do all day. Everyone had something to play with. Thanks to a friend answering my prayers, every single kid had something under the Christmas tree (we got paid, after 6 months of almost no income, on the 22nd. The 23rd, Tim had the car. The 24th in Longmont, everything was closed. And at 11:00 pm Benji and Dan still had 2 presents between them (vs the 4 or 6 I needed). And then Laura called at 11:00 pm and filled the boys' present lists and our stockings. What a blessing!) The kids had good memories, good fun, and good times.

Oh, and Grandma--they LOVED the karaoke machine. Benji sang and danced for hours today, and Nathanael had a lot of fun pushing all the buttons.

So there's the Christmas Report. We had it. We had fun. I'm glad we did it. Nobody cried.

And I'm glad I survived.

So it was a success, right?

Did I just read that?

"Nestle misleads on nutritional claims on its products
The Swiss company landed in a soup again when on Dec. 4, another letter was issued by the FDA that criticized Nestle for claiming that its ‘Juicy Juice’ helped in brain development in children below 2."  And then  further down in the same article, "It may be noted that claiming things that are not true, especially for foods manufactured specifically for kids, is considered unlawful, gauging by the FDA guidelines."

Huh? Nestle landed in a soup? Was it split pea?  Children below two what? And I think they meant "judging by"......

Later, in the SAME article, "Pam Krebs, a spokeswoman for Nestle Beverage headquartered in Vevey in Switzerland, acknowledged receiving the warning letters and this is what she says, “We are intending to fully cooperate with the FDA in bringing this matter to a conclusion.”" 

Yes, well....things tend to come to a conclusion whether you cooperate with the FDA or not. Conclusions tend to, you know, happen.

The conclusion of the article? "consumption of wrong nutritional foods and beverages can impact the mental and physical health of their child."

Did I just read that?

And now, back to a more typical "Did I just read that?"--a typo. But it's a winner. From craigslist:

"Movie will be called the gravyard shift and is about the zombie Apocalypse so be prepaird "

In other words, no single people need apply. Unless you come pre-paired to another person (or Zombie). We won't be pairing you up once you get here.

Did I just read that?

Don't know what universe this guy is living in. From an ad for a magician's assistant in Denver, CO, on craigslist:

"We will perform at birthday parties,bachelor parties,Bar Mitzfah's,roller derby's and weddings etc....
You must also be ok with partial nudity.
Since the 2008 election, you'd be surprised at how many people have become more liberal in their thinking and are ok with partial nudity. Mind you, it's NOT full frontal nudity.
Partial nudity(topless) is certainly ok for kids these days. "

I don't know many birthday parties, weddings, or Bar Mitzvahs that are okay with topless magic acts.  And having the political Liberals in charge of the government isn't the same as being liberal with your sexual morality. I don't think Obama wants his daughters at a birthday party with a topless magic act. I might be crazy, but....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Now that Christmas is over....

Suddenly, all of us parents find that Christmas is over and we have a full week we need to fill entertaining kids.

Here are some links we've found that might help.  All of these are educational. My kids like them. Some are actually lists of other links, so you might have to click a few times to find something your kid likes. --click on free to download a free game that feels like a serious computer adventure but also happens to teach the times tables.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Love this quote:

"Alternative Education: For kids who are bright, bored or who have a different learning style.  I've spoken with lots of people who tell me their child's ADD seemed to vanish when they began homeschooling. And bright kids who are falling behind in school often pass their peers when taken out of the traditional school setting. For more information read"

And this one: "Homeschooling
Homeschooling is highly recommended for kids classified as ADHD! "

Every parent should read this page:

Things I'm scared to find in my food:


What is that?

I found it in the ingredients list for Ramen Noodles (which is debatable as a valid food item, anyway!).

TBHQ is a preservative for oils. Wikipedia ( says that it is used to prevent evaporation in perfume and is found in varnishes, laquers, and resins, too.

It also potentially causes cancer: "In high doses, it has some negative health effects on lab animals, such as precursors to stomach tumors and damage to DNA.[2] A number of studies have shown that prolonged exposure to TBHQ may induce carcinogenity."

In really really large doses (like if you could stand to eat over 1500 chicken nuggets in one sitting). it's deadly.

TBHQ is widely used (

"There has been some anecdotal evidence that TBHQ can cause anxiety, restlessness, and aggravation of ADHD symptoms, although there have been no clinical studies that show any link between food additives and behavioral disorders in children."

Judging by my own behavior today, and my kids', after eating a lot of ramen noodles for lunch, I'd go with the anecdotal evidence on that one.  I am usually unbelievably calm and patient in the face of disasters, but today, after lunch, when Benjamin poured a whole pitcher of water on the table (which normally I wouldn't consider anywhere near a disaster--it's just water!), I LOST it.  I was throwing dishes, shouting, stomping around. The only thing that stopped me from overturning the table and smashing plates against the wall was the little voice inside me that was analyzing everything from a non-emotive standpoint, giving me a running commentary, like, "What an odd thing to do. Do you realize you just made three of your children cry because they're scared. You don't have enough dishes to be breaking them. You realize you don't usually respond like this. Have you considered what triggered this?" I stormed out and ate chocolate until I calmed down. 

Then I read the ingredients list on the package. 

TBHQ was the only thing that I don't eat regularly. 

So I blame it.

Here is an interesting web page on the subject:

Pondering Women part 2

So, like I said before, I've been pondering women and society, and how much damage is being done to women--and how to fix it.

I thought about what President Benson said, "The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums."

And I realized the world is speaking pretty loud about women--telling lies that get us all tied up in knots. And many many women around the world realize this and are starting to speak out, too--with blogs like "Bringing Lady Back" and "Classic". And they have some good ideas. But I don't just want good ideas. Even investing in those, I felt like I was missing something. Like there was something more to tell women about who they are, what is expected of them, and their value. Something that would comfort, strengthen, and guide women in a way that would not only bring joy and comfort, but offer them an alternative to the views of the world--and alternative beyond "Go back to before the feminists" or "embrace feminism."

In short, I have been craving the truth. And I knew that, while humans sometimes hit on truth through thought and reasoning, when culture becomes corrupt enough, we begin to lack the mental structures to even reach the truth through our own minds, colored by our experiences and cultures.

But I realized that I know where to find truth. Truth comes from God.

And he's not keeping it a secret. The world isn't the only one speaking out about women. The Lord is ALSO speaking out about women--in the scriptures and through the prophets and apostles.

So (since obviously I don't have enough writing projects already) I have started a collection of quotes about women from prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern. To make it easy for me to access anywhere, I'm posting it on a blog. It can be found here: 

The title comes from a talk Elder Faust gave to his granddaughters in 1985. I was going to call it "Far Above Rubies," but that blog title was taken (and the blog left blank).

Anyway, I'll be posting a quote or two a day. If you happen to have a favorite quote about women by a prophet or apostle, ancient or modern, send it to me and I'll add it to my collection. Please send the quote AND the reference so I can properly cite my sources and stay within the law. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Did I just read that?

from the AP today: "An armed man in a wheelchair took five hostages Wednesday at a post office in western Virginia...."

No errors, just the best first line of a news article EVER. Makes you wonder if it's okay to laugh, if it's for real, and also what the rest of the article says.

 Too bad it's actually a tragedy, huh.

Our Christmas Card for Everyone:

This is kinda fun

Snake Lady Greta collected all of moosebutter's Christmas greetings into one place. Kinda fun:

Also, unrelated note: It looks like we might be on our way to going viral with the Mister Tim/McAfee video. Yesterday at bedtime, we were at about 600 views. Today at bedtime (5:00 am each time, so 24 hours later) we're at 2125 or so. Tim usually gets about that many in a month when he posts a live looping performance video. This video hit about that many in 4 days--and that without it coming up when you search for Mister Tim on YouTube, and without it being connected as a "related video" to any of his, including the Kazoo Man vid (although that might happen soon). Regardless--Hooray!

Been thinkin'

I've been thinking a lot lately about what society is doing to women--and how that hurts society in the long run.

As I see it, society has set up a continuum: on one end, the successful, driven businesswoman--busy, happy, fulfilled, rich, married but independent, highly educated, has a couple of kids (but only a couple) and a nanny to raise them, works out, using her talents, contributing to society.  On the other end, the 50's domestic diva--full-time homemaker with a handful of kids (3 at the most), a gorgeously decorated, spotless house that she takes great pride in and gets great satisfaction from keeping white-glove perfect, perfect cook, kids all look great all the time and are involved in all the "right" projects, has creative hobbies (like flower arranging), makes her husband happy all the time, lives to serve others--always with a perfectly organized whatever complete with a homemade card and matching envelope, plays piano and teaches lessons, fills every minute of her day making her family and home clean, beautiful, and happy; she reads Shakespeare and warm fuzzy Oprah lit, and puts Thomas Kincaide on her walls with cute pictures of her family that she framed herself--and always in the right places; she is dressed perfectly in clothes she made herself, is thin but not bony, always has perfect hair and makeup, and always has a comforting word and a freshly-baked loaf of homemade bread ready, along with a hand-stitched patchwork quilt that she willingly presents to each new baby born that she knows (and some she doesn't); she never raises her voice and sings while she happily scrubs the toilet.

And where do most of us fall on this contiuum?


That's the problem. Neither one of those is a real woman. So none of us can fall on that continuum because all of us are REAL PEOPLE.

But every one of us feels pressure not just to fall somewhere on the contiuum, but to hit both ends and do them perfectly at the SAME TIME.

The result of this is that all women everywhere are stretched too thin, trying too hard to do too many things, most of which are unimportant, and, regardless of how much they accomplish, they feel like failures and can only see their flaws and where they've fallen short.

This is not right. Unhappy, stretched-too-thin mothers are not good for society because the health of society rests in the health of the families. Mothers (even working ones) are the center of the home, the pillar of the family--and when they are unhappy, the whole family and all of society suffers. For a long long time.

What I wish is that women could embrace what makes us women (instead of being forced to accept the feminist ideal, which forces us to pretend we are men, or espouse this other, simpy, June Cleaver model that is equally unreal), value and be valued for motherhood, rejoice in marriage and being a wife, get WAY more help and coddling when pregnant and dealing with newborns, and have realistic expectations about what we truly need to do and what really is just too much (spotless house? Unrealistic demand. Eating something healthy every day? Probably a good idea to aim for, with the understanding the sometimes pizza days save our hide. And sometimes pizza months do.).

In fact, I think mothers should get as many accommodations in society as disabled people--not because we're disabled, but because we are doing the most important thing for the future of our culture and nation, and we deserve every help we can get (instead of the constant barrage of "oh you poor thing" and unhelpful suggestions and insistences we keep our houses cleaner/better decorated and criticisms and extra demands and "my wife likes to contribute to our family so she works full time AND raises our children" and pressure to be cute/do cute things/make little "stuff", etc.). (Actually, I have a serious issue with the fact that it has become culturally unacceptable for moms to stay home and focus on doing JUST that job to the best of their abilities. Why do we have to do the most important job poorly so we can be socially acceptable by working outside the home, too? It doesn't make sense!).

Anyway, I want to say "the solution to this is", but I don't know the solution. Our culture has such strongly embedded ideas about women, most of which are wrong, that I have no idea how to fix it. It's not sufficient to say, "Just stop thinking you have to do all those things."

Often the first step in solving problems involved with cultural habits and perceptions is LABELING. When we come across an expectation for women, we should label it as what it is. Perhaps realistic and unrealistic would be good labels? Maybe we should go back to that old Animaniacs mini-feature: "Good Idea/Bad Idea."

But, then again, so many of us are so brain fried from what we are dealing with every day that we may not be capable of looking at situations ("I need to spend $100 per kid on Christmas presents and they all have to be brand-spankin'-new and gasp-worthy") and even think, "Is this realistic?" or "Is this a good idea?"

I'm not sure.

moosebutter outtakes--funny

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas to Us!

Last night, Tim and I walked the house and daydreamed about what we want to do with it. See, we both got this idea that this is OUR house. And it's already weird, and so are why should we do up our house like other people do when we don't use the spaces other people use? Why put in a living room when we're both artists and would MUCH rather have a library/gallery with a few chairs for visiting teachers to sit in instead of a normal living room set? We'd like that better.

Why not take the family room and turn it into the library and a bedroom, and then install shelves on ALL the walls of the bedroom and use it for a family clothes room? That's what we both want and need, so why not? The room used to be two separate rooms anyway--we'd just be putting it back that way, giving ourselves a 4-bedroom house instead of three.

So the thing we came away wanting was wood to make shelves.

Late last night, Tim decided to wake his voice up for recording by going out to check if a couple of tables that had been posted on craigslist were still there. They were. And the family was also giving away wood. The exact wood we wanted. And plenty of it for our shelves.

And free.

Merry Christmas to us! We got what we wanted!

Our Day

Today was good. I got the kids up, fed them all, dressed them all, and we actually sat down and did school. And nobody complained or wandered away or argued or refused. What a relief!

Then, for Family Home Evening tonight, we drew names to buy each other gifts. Originally, the kids wanted just to "buy each other gifts." But then I started thinking about the logistics of that--trying to keep find and pay for 42 MORE gifts than I already had to collect before Thursday night, trying to keep track of who had found what for whom and who was still missing what for whom---it was overwhelming.

So we fell back on the old large-family tradition of drawing names from a hat (or pie tin, in our case, because that's what was sitting in front of me). Each person drew one name and we went to the dollar store. We bought gifts for each other, supplies to make candy houses (from graham crackers and frosting), and I got bunches of little thisses and thats for Santa to give. I was delighted to find they have a large "Party favors" section with bags of small presents for a dollar (like magnifying glasses!). So I was able to get the same small thing for each child for a dollar for ALL of them, instead of each of them. That was fun.

Then to walmart for Christmas presents and necessities (like diapers). Benji's diaper leaked before we got there, so he was wearing a sweatshirt and blanket (he wouldn't keep my socks on).

By the time we left, it was midnight and we were all tired.

We drove home, planning to finish the last details tomorrow, but when we got home, we found that I had unintentionally locked the front door knob. About two weeks after we moved here, I came home from a trip to Utah and the key just turned and turned in the lock but didn't unlock it. We jiggled it some and it unlocked, and we resolved never to lock that door again, and to buy a new one as soon as we had some money.

Tonight, I was walking out and from old habit, I locked the knob. Then, before I closed the door, I remembered it and unlocked again, but....either I messed up and locked it again or it just didn't work.

Either way, we found ourselves standing on the porch at midnight in the cold, locked out of our house. The key only unlocks the back door knob, not the deadbolt, and only the deadbolt there was locked (not the knob--confused yet? Yeah--and it only unlocks the garage deadbolt, not the knob, but neither of those was locked--but there's no door from the garage into the house). Benji had no pants, shoes, or socks. Baby was sleeping, Anda was wearing a knee-length summer dress and sandals. Nobody had coats but Dan and Tim (we all just threw on woobies and sweaters because we'd be shopping, not walking outside, right?).

Door wouldn't unlock. I'd carefully locked all the windows on the ground level. The kids were starting to talk about sleeping in the garage when I slipped in there and examined the back wall. See, when we bought the house, it was a foreclosure, and there was a large hole cut in the wall between the garage and the at-that-time storage room--now Tim's studio. In order to get a loan, we had to agree to let a contractor seal that hole, which was as big as the span across three studs in the wall (two spaces, really, with one stud in the middle), so about 36" wide with a stud right down the middle. What I was looking for was how the contractor had plugged this hole.

Sure enough, the screws were visible. Painted over, but not sealed.

And, luckily, Tim had brought home with us this time a box of random, miscellaneous tools and he had unpacked it into only the garage. I had looked at it yesterday to bring in and put away, but I decided I was too lazy and left it there. So Tim had a utility knife (to cut away the spray-in insulation foam we had put in to seal the cracks the contractor left--he was required to cover the hole with fireproof wallboard, but not to seal the cracks a fire could come through. Doh!), and a few screwdrivers--one of which happened to work.

Still, he had to chip away all that insulating foam with the old utility knife and then clear the screws of a thick layer of paint, and then break into the inside wall (which he wouldn't have the luxury of being able to unscrew, being on the inside of the screws there). Not a fast job. So I took my improperly-dressed children to the grocery store and bought a couple more gifts, and some food stuffs, and got them free cookies, and reassured them that we would NOT have to sleep in the garage but that if we were stuck, we'd call someone in the ward (they could each name a couple people who would help us--Meilstrups, Craners, Rogers, etc). We came home an hour later tired and hungry and found Tim had made it into the house and that, fortunately, he had managed to unlock the door from the inside.

So I guess we're getting new doorknobs for Christmas. 3 mismatched ones cost about $25. Three matched ones (all keyed the same) cost twice that. I'm also pondering what kind of knob I want, and how much to spend on it, and the keying issues....Merry Christmas?

"Hacker's Holiday" (from McAfee) Trivia

Some trivia about the video and the making of it:

Can you guess what they used to stain that new white shirt?

Tim actually went down and bought three junk computers from a shop (which Shane had contacted and arranged for). Two of them ended up at my parent's house being used for parts. The third--you saw what happened to it.

The computer pile in the end of the video includes multiple keyboards. Can you see how many they destroyed?

Tim went out for several days before the shoot collecting items from local thrift stores to help. He came home one day and said, "Yeah, I found a bunch of golf clubs at DI and bought them." I had no idea why my non-golfer husband wanted clubs until he got done with the day of filming. I thought he was picking up a new mid-winter hobby!

Originally, at the end of the video, Tim appeared and identified himself and told people to buy McAfee products. The message was great, but the way he said it, and the way it was filmed, made me always want to conclude it with "And remember, this holiday season, don't drink and drive. And check the donor box on your license. It only takes pennies a day to feed an orphan. Register to vote; it's your future at stake. These pets need you; give to a shelter in your area. Once a species is gone, it never comes back."  So I was glad they cut that part.

My favorite part of the video got left on the editing room floor: there used to be a very short scene of Tim explaining something to his "wife" and the door being slammed in his face. I loved that part! (No, that doesn't say anything about our marriage--I just thought it was the best acting in the film).

The "don't let yourself be driven to destruction" at the end I think came from Shane--and I think it's brilliant.

At the beginning, Tim is wearing mis-matched socks. When he got home, he tried to throw them away but Nathanael kept taking the black one out of the trash, and now it's sitting in a box in the living room here in Colorado. Nathanael still won't let us throw it away.

Nathanael (age 11 months) is in LOVE with the video. He watches it, dancing, dozens of times a day. He claps when Tim claps, and bobs his head when Tim does, and flaps his mouth when Tim sings the "aaahhhs". It's really funny. Except when he cries and screams because it's time to turn it off. One time he watched it with Tim standing in the room, and he kept looking back and forth between the screen and his daddy, like he was trying to figure the whole thing out.

For Thanksgiving, my family had "big family" pictures taken. Tim had to be in the pictures unshaven because he was filming in three days and had to look like he hadn't shaved in 12 days.

I LOVE what the top of the blue screen says on it.

Throughout production, Tim and Shane kept having discussions about "using protection," and I couldn't help thinking about the other times people use that phrase.

Daniel, age 4, came to me after watching the video several times and said, "There isn't really two Daddies, right?" "No," I said, confused. "And there's not really 4 Daddies, right?" he said. "No," I said, "there's just ONE Daddy." "So how come there's two Daddies there now? How'd they do that?" Dan asked, pointing to the computer screen Nathanael was re-watching the video on. Ah! I understood. And I explained split-screen film making to him. He was visibly relieved.

The hat worn by the "hacker Tim" was brought back from Russia by my sister. Tim owns one like it, but it's in storage in Las Vegas, so we had to borrow an identical one from my brother.

My kids won't let me throw away the torn paper from the box Tim unwraps in the video, so it's still sitting in the back of our minivan.

There was one specific line that had to be changed in the final days of post-production. It was a week too late to there is a second of film where Tim's mouth doesn't match the soundtrack for one single word. Can you find the spot?

Many people have emailed or posted comments to the video saying they wanted the computer to go up in flames at the end. I guess it was the "gasoline" they poured on in the middle--I wanted it to burst into flames, too. But you know, they destroyed a real computer (not a movie computer). With real sports implements. So now you know--that's what would really happen if you took a golf club/baseball bat/tennis racket/cheese grater to your desktop.

Tim came home with that red "woobie" vest and wore it the next day and I had to laugh. Two of our toddlers have vests JUST like it.

When Anda first saw the video, she said, "You know, I think that scary mask must be what a computer virus looks like." You know.... the klingon?

Most of the costumes in the movie are now in a box in the basement, sitting right next to the moosebutter costumes, the Toxic Audio costumes, and the Mister Tim costumes. Tim and I are talking about building a costume closet into his office to hold all the clothing he has collected.

If Tim would go for it, I'd be willing to take bids on those pajama pants. And that robe. If we still have them.

Not sure about this one, but that hat looks an awful lot like the "reject" hat that's been floating around moosebutter Christmas shows for years. Somehow, we ended up with three matching hats and one that didn't match--it's white parts were far far "fuzzier" than the other hats. We ended up buying the fourth matching hat, but the mismatched one just never quite went away, even several sets of matched hats later. (Of course, now that I think about it, I suspect there were two or more hats involved in the filming of Hacker's Holiday, since one had ketchup on it....)

In several of the scenes, it looks like Tim's white shirt is inside out; in other scenes, it clearly is not.

In one spot, it looks like the computer shatters the baseball bat instead of the other way 'round.

The CPU that gets smashed originally came from a company that was really big in Utah for a long time. Their main selling point for a couple of years was their lifetime guarantee on the computers--which makes it ironic that THIS was the brand of junk computers the shop sold Tim and Shane to smash. I personally know people who bought the same computer and wanted to smash it a few years later when the company stopped honoring the lifetime guarantee.  Can you see the little label? Know where this computer originally came from?

The filming happened at a studio in SLC that backs onto the first place immigrants come to when they reach Utah. So the whole morning, while Tim was smashing a computer with a bunch of lights and cameras surrounding him, immigrants were arriving and walking past on the other side of the fence, watching. I wonder what they thought? Quite a strange first sight in America!

This time it wasn't real gasoline they poured on the computer. I'm hoping, if the video is received well enough, there will be a next one....and that it might involve either real gasoline (and that oft-wished-for explosion) or liquid nitrogen and a John-Henry style hammer.

If you have to go see it again now that you know all this stuff, click here:

"Hacker's Holiday" Video--more info

So, we've had tons of interest in this video, so I thought I'd just post a little more info about it.

Tim was contacted by McAfee to do this. His contact is a brilliant guy named Shane Keats who has a really solid grasp on the concept of spreading McAfee's services from mostly business-class people to everyone. He wants to make their product cool.

Anyway, he wrote an initial storyboard and lyric set. It was his idea to tap into the cultural memes in the video--one guy multitracking the song, putting faces in 4 boxes. It was also his idea to destroy a computer at the end (with some ideas of where to go next....the guy has it all planned out, and I think his ideas are FANTASTIC).  Unfortunately, there were licensing issues with the music, so he asked Tim to write a 2-3 minute song evoking familiar Christmas songs without using them really, and following his storyboard and using whatever lyrics he could off the original sheet (because it was approved by corporate headquarters).

The first draft was good, but we all knew it wouldn't go viral. The new assignment from Shane was to write something like a rock opera telling the story from the storyboard. The second finished draft (it went back and forth between Shane and Tim as the song grew) was about what you see in the video. It's been pared down, and I can't hear the easter eggs Tim wrote into the song (there were, at one point, at least two spots where he had sung a line and then played it backward and inserted it into the song that way--made for some fun sonic textures!), which  means they may have been edited out. There was a closer-to-3-minute version. The final released version was 2 minutes.

Shane directed the film and had an involved hand in both filming and editing the video. Tim did all the performances, both singing and acting. The song is a cappella, with Tim singing all the parts, doing the beat boxing, and doing the claps. The only other sounds in the video are undoctored sounds incidental to smashing a computer. Tim and Shane both collected the costumes and designed the visual looks of the characters.

Originally, Tim had tapped Dio (from Dio Voce) to do the final mixing and mastering of the song, but Shane and the film editor liked the rough mix (no mastering) that Tim did and felt like it matched the visuals perfectly, so the music editing and mixing all ended up coming from Tim, too (which ended up being a good thing, since there ended up being some last-minute details that had to be changed--a word here and a word there--as quick as possible, so having fewer people in the chain was good).

Anyway, the final product looks like it was all Tim, and, in fact, the music was all Tim, as were the performances. But I just wanted to make sure Shane got his due--the idea was his, the story was his, some of the lyrics are his, the video directing and editing were his. (And besides, he pulled some strings in the company to rush Tim's payment to us so we could eat and get our kids some Christmas presents!) And now I'm hoping the video goes viral so that Shane and Tim both get to produce some of the other projects they've talked about (and they do have some amazing ideas!).

So, now that you know more about it, here is the video again, so you can watch it again (and pass it along if you're comfortable doing that!):

Friday, December 18, 2009

Did I just read that?

from google news: "Pregnant women's problems have nothing to do with H1N1 vaccine: DOH"

I guess that's what you get when Homer Simpson is reporting!

Mister Tim and McAfee

Please pass it along!

Homeschooling....why people perceive there are socialization problems

So there has been this big debate on facebook regarding homeschooling socialization.

My experience as a homeschooler has been that there are weird people everywhere--homeschooled, private schooled, and public schooled, but that it's only homeschoolers that get blamed for "making their child weird by their educational choices".  People are quick to assign causality to the homeschooling without considering that perhaps some families (like mine) homeschool BECAUSE their child is "weird" (gifted, have Tourette's, sleep disorders, ADHD--that's one of mine), not the other way around.  Homeschooling doesn't make the weird kids weird. It gives them the best shot they possibly have at living a normal life.

I'm not just making that up. For example, with Tourette's Syndrome kids, the psychologists agree that most of the negative prognosis for these kids' futures comes directly from how cruelly the children are treated by their peers at school.

People argue that when homeschooled kids leave home for college, they often crash and burn, but they ignore the fact that ALL freshmen in college often crash and burn, regardless of their educational background. People argue that homeschooled kids (even those who go to public high schools!) don't know how to meet other people's expectations (like employers). This hasn't been my experience--what do you think? They argue homeschooled kids don't know how to work in groups. This might be true. But I'd counter that kids with ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, or exceptional intelligence also don't work well in groups. And also that MANY public schooled kids don't know how to work in groups--they either get frustrated and do it all themselves to preserve their good grades, or they sit back and let the Hermiones of the world do all the work and figure they've got a free pass. There is no learning to work in groups in public school either. It's all artificial (the kids don't learn how to work in groups; they learn how to appear to work in groups).

Anyway, what I'm getting at is I personally haven't yet heard an example of poor socialization that a) isn't also prevalent in public and private schools or b) can't be attributed to the genetic weirdness of the family (like they're all research scientists, or have mental illnesses/disorders).  BUT, as a homeschooling parent, I am, like all the rest of the homeschooling parents I know, unusually sensitive and concerned that I not screw my kids up in my efforts to give them their best chance. So I'm opening this one up to parents: WHAT are the social skills that homeschooled kids lack? Because if I know what they are, I can teach them to my kids deliberately and properly (vs accidentally and haphazardly like they get in public schools). Is it they have trouble actually going to class in college and turning in assignments? We can practice that at home. Or at least talk about it when the kid faces it. Is it that they do socially inappropriate things (like  be rude to adults)? We can role play and teach that.

The trouble is, I don't know WHAT the "socialization problems" are, other than a myth.

All the socialization problems I know are learned in public school (laziness, hatred of learning new things, manipulativeness, "mean girl" games, selfishness, valuing competition over all else, cheating, lying, distrusting adults, fearing adults, cliquishness, backbiting, emotional and physical bullying, stealing, moral flexibility or relativism, hesitance to question things, fear of excelling, fear of believing anything, fear of liking and disliking based on our own tastes, fear of using talents, pride in all its short, learning all the games that put SELF over SOCIETY and GOODNESS). How does learning to raise your hand before you talk and learning to not rock the boat justify all the bad you learn?   Does "fitting in" really have more value than "being good, even if it makes you an outcast"?  Homeschooling parents say no. And that, in and of itself, makes us "not properly socialized"--even if we went to public schools ourselves. We refuse to be bullied by society, and that doesn't endear us to them.

I taught in a private school for 8 years. It was a little junior high school, and we tended to attract students who had been homeschooled in elementary school, kids who had gone to public school, and kids who had attended other private schools. A good mix. All A and B students. And you know what? In 8 years, I couldn't tell who came from which educational background. There was a good mix of "normal" and "weird"--just like any other school class--and the kids changed throughout the year (the normal ones sometimes got weirder, and the weird kids were ALLOWED to become not weird anymore--which public school socialization doesn't allow). And the mix had NOTHING to do with the kids' educational past (except for the poor "weird" kids who came to us from public schools because their parents wanted them to get a second chance at life after the  "proper socialization" of public schools nearly destroyed their children).

WHY, then do we get accused of harming our children by not sending them to school?

I think it's because we are the mavericks of society. We're the weird ones who are rocking the boat. We're the ones who are saying to society at large, "The public schools stink and I'M NOT GOING TO TOLERATE IT."  Since everyone agrees the public schools stink, our refusal to go along with it is an implicit criticism of all those who DO go along. Although we don't feel like we're saying this, some people see us as saying, "and if you do tolerate it, you're a bad parent." It's not that they are attacking us as much as defending themselves, grabbing on to the only thing they can truly argue (since homeschooled kids function at a higher educational level, and tend to go to college and get decent jobs, and are happier and have more opportunity to develop talents): they say we're "weird." That we have "socialization problems."

I'm not sure even what that phrase means other than, "You have rejected our society. You refuse to act like us. You won't play our games."

And no, we won't. That's why we homeschool.

So maybe the critics are right. Our kids aren't socialized properly. They aren't lemmings. They aren't easily manipulated by the press and their social groups. They aren't slaves to fashion or appearance. They aren't manipulative, sneaky, or lazy.  They are smarter, more confident, more polite, harder working, more creative, more inclined to enjoy learning and be on the forefront of education. They are self-motivated, problem solvers, and years ahead on developing their talents than their peers.

But society has lost control of them, and why wouldn't they protest that? Do we expect society to embrace the whistle blowers and critics? We'd be foolish if we did.

So our kids aren't fully integrated into society. That's not because they were homeschooled. That's because we, as parents, refuse to be fully integrated into a society we don't agree with. We often are forced to live on the fringes of poverty because we have one wage-earner (instead of the more socially acceptable two). We often have more children than the average American (because we value family more than career). We are thinkers who analyze everything and choose based on the facts we have in front of us instead of what the media and society tell us we're supposed to do. We tend to distrust authority who claim the right to power simply because they have power. We tend to care more about our children's futures than our current comfort. And yes, that makes us weird (in the same way the American Revolutionaries were weird according to the British in the 18th century). And yes, that makes us "improperly socialized" (even though MOST of us went to public and private schools). And our kids are just like us. Not because they were homeschooled, but because their parents were maverick enough to choose to homeschool.