Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grade names part 3

The kids were pretty adamant about using computer game levels for the curriculum titles, so that's what we did. I had to dig up some new ones, though. I wasn't really happy with what I'd found so far.

You can see the result on Learning Lynx Classroom: http://sites.google.com/site/learninglynxclassroom.

What do you think?

Culturally-established or not?

We've made no effort to reinforce OR tear down gender stereotypes in raising our children. There are dolls and trucks around the house. Nobody ever talks about what boys do or what girls do.

So it's been really interesting, taking a "neutral" (as much as possible) stance, to see how our boys have grown and what "boy" things are truly "boy" and what are probably culturally enforced.

For example, Elijah, given equal access to all kinds of toys, really truly prefers balls and hotwheels. Anda never did that. Most of our boys, though, have gone through stages where they want a doll to cuddle and love (and we give them one). I guess being a parent is instinct?  Boys love playing dress up. They don't care much for ruffles and feathers and beads, though.  They want to dress up as heroes, warriors, defenders of the weak, people who get to use a lot of physical action in their play-role. They hate getting their hair fixed and consider clean faces a necessary evil--but so does Anda. As far as my family is concerned, caring about your appearance is apparently a taught skill. We're trying really hard to teach that one right!

Interestingly, "pink is a girl thing" is totally cultural (not genetic). Given the option of many brightly-colored toys, at least two of my boys choose pink, and Anda usually chooses yellow or blue.

But the love of big, loud machines, construction stuff, hand tools and power tools, anything with wheels, and anything that can be thrown--that seems to be inborn.  Also inborn, but often beaten out of boys, is a need for frequent reassurance, for hugs and appreciation, to love and be loved.

Hard for me to judge what's inborn by Anda, though. She's wonderfully unique and doesn't do the "girly" thing. But I hear from other parents that a love of pretty, of graceful, of domestic, and of adornment is definitely inborn for most girls.

Now I'm wondering how much of what I see as inborn in my boys is truly inborn, but related purely to their family genes and not their gender?

Live Webclasses for Homeschoolers

So I woke up this morning with the coolest idea.

I could teach webclasses live online for homeschooled kids using Google+ Hangouts. Me plus up to 9 families (I figure even up to 3 students per family can fit comfortably on a webcam, although not many families have that many kids who would want to work on the same level). That's a full classroom size.

And--here's the cool part--we could teach online and use a screen capture program like cam studio to FILM the classes while they were happening, and then we could post the videos to YouTube for anyone to watch later and learn from.  Like Khan Academy, but with a live teacher on screen interacting with real students.

I'm all abuzz with ideas of what I could teach...all the writing and English classes I taught before, for starters. And I did some AWESOME classes in the 6 years I taught junior high and college. (I happen to be a rather good teacher). The Saxon Math classes I teach my kids could go up on YouTube (which would give you a whole saxon math course online eventually). Science stuff. Caleb says Ancient Egypt! Astronomy!  Science courses.

Of course, writing. Duh. Except I think I'd make the homeschool kids' parents correct their work. I love teaching writing, but I'm not too fond of grading papers.

And with the text chat functions on Google+ Hangouts, I could put in links to collaborative documents in Google Docs, which we could all have access to edit at once so we could work on projects together....

I need to start messing around and see what's not just possible, but most effective.

And then I need a couple of webcams--one for me and one for the kids--so I could actually teach. That's our main hangup.  Otherwise, I'd start tomorrow! Once a week, meet me online for a group homeschool class.

Other parents could teach, too, sharing their expertise. It would be awesome. You could do anything a real-live class could do--art classes where the students actually can watch each other working in front of the computer. Science classes where the teacher actually does experiments or takes you on location to look at, oh, trees or rocks or whatever. American Heritage class where some brave teacher travels to the actual sites of the events to teach about them  (gosh would I love to do that!). Ooooh--art history where you actually stand in front of the actual paintings, and then put links to them online in the text notes so students can study them more closely later....

The possibilities are so exciting!

Did I just read that?

"Per the St. Petersburg Times and Politico, Bachmann said, "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending.""

Wow--did she just make the American people God?

I  have a pretty high regard for the American people, but I stop short of turning them into Deity.

And, while I do believe that God warns us with disasters, I seriously doubt His message comes from the Tea Party Manifesto. He seems to go more along the lines of sending the message that we each individually need to repent, last I heard.

I don't have a lot of respect for politicians who play the God card--especially so blatantly. I respect politicians who are religious--but to use God to spread their own personal message?  That bothers me a lot. And I even agree that we need to rein in the spending!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Renaming Grades, pt 2

I finally made a chart of all the grade name possibilities.

Most of them didn't end up appealing to me, even though I thought for sure they would. But it turned out I wanted something that made the curricula sound fun. Like a title.

So, after listing out what I would call each grade in different systems, I've settled on two options that I really prefer.

One is naming each year's curriculum after a different computer game level. This seems counter-intuitive to the anti-screen-time crew, but it actually works really well. I watch my kids play games, and they use skills in games that should be applied to school--they are persistent, figure out challenges, do research online or collaborate (or both) to find answers and solve problems, they use repetition to master skills, they go back and do it again and again, adding a little challenge each time, until many hours later they've finished the game. They learn, they practice, they master, they think, they puzzle, they work together, and they apply the knowledge and "publish" their results. Isn't that what school is, too?  Then they take what they've learned from it and make their own game. (I know most kids don't do that part, but mine do). Besides, the entire curriculum is on the computer!

The other option I'm really liking is to just make up titles for the different years, based on the thread that runs through each year. Yes, I'm THAT kind of curriculum designer. Even though each year, each kid does different, standard subjects, I find that I've grouped them in ways that have a kind of knowledge theme running through them. For example, the eighth grade year covers the inner workings of things--and the student takes Human Biology and Anatomy for science, US Government for social studies/history, Linguistics for the languages course, audio technology and reinforcement for the music class.....all subjects that deal with the workings of things (bodies, countries, languages, sound technology). The second grade year is about how small things add up to make big things--the science is a course I've written that starts with sub-atomic particles and zooms out until the study is ecology and the interactions of organisms, the language arts is how parts of speech and punctuation function to make writing easier to understand, the social studies is the tools historians use to gather information and how those tools can be used to write my personal history and find the history in the world around me. Using tools or parts to understand the world I interact with regularly. Every year has a something that ties it together. Fourth grade happens to be subjects Benjamin Franklin was heavily involved in--Physics, US History, and the fun things about words and language (idioms, word roots, etc).

So I have two lists now that I might use. Trying to puzzle it out and decide which titles to go with.

I'm interested in what you think:

The public system:  Joy School (which I call Playschool), Preschool, Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade, Fifth Grade, Sixth Grade, Seventh Grade, Eighth Grade.

Computer Game Level Names: The Bear Basics, Well of Wishes, Awakening Wood, The Engine Room, Emerald Hill Zone, Magma Opus, Omegamatic Warp Drive, Island of the Wicker People, Curse of the Pharaohs, Ancient Catacombs, Perfect Chaos (or maybe Castle of the Grand Intellect or Fribbulus Xax).

Names I made up: Playschool; Preschool;  A Child's Garden; Pieces, Processes, and Wholes; Zooming Out; Thereby Hangs a Tale; Benjamin Franklin's Pies; The Dichotomous Key; The Museum and the Lab; Artifacts; Inner Workings.

Names I stole from Shakespeare, just for fun:  A Summer's Day; Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On; We Happy Few; What a Piece of Work; By Any Other Name; Thereby Hangs a Tale; Method in Madness; All the World's a Stage; Her Infinite Variety; The Short and the Long of It; Foregone Conclusion. I'm not planning to use these, though.

Again, I've revised my thinking. These won't exactly replace the names of the grades. Instead, we'll do grade names the same way public schools do: exclusively by the child's age.  These are names of the curricula, so they can be divorced from the grade level and the calendar. Think of them as titles, rather than levels. What would you use? Or would you use something else?

She thinks SHE is tired? Oh boy....

One of the various gifted homeschoolers feeds I follow on facebook linked to this blog post, so I read it. http://watchoutforgiftedpeople.blogspot.com/2011/08/exhaustion-2e-style.html?spref=tw

Almost any time I leave the house I do that times 3 (so with six kids). And one of mine has about ten times more intensity and energy than both of hers together. That one has as much energy and intensity as all five of my other kids, plus Tim, put together. He's the one who is 4 years old and still not allowed to get out of the cart at the store.

And I DO often shop at midnight so we can get through the store without maiming or distressing anyone else.

What struck me when I read her article, though, was that if she considers that above and beyond normal, then all kids aren't like mine (and hers). And that thought was a little baffling to me. I mean, I know most kids aren't like Benji. That kid is one in ten billion millions. But there are kids who don't talk all the time? There are kids who don't want to put the books in the book drop, and who don't scatter all over the library all at once? There are kids who don't whine and touch everything at the grocery store, don't fight in the car, don't question every move you make and expect explanations for everything--in detail and with sources cited--right here on the spot in the middle of WalMart? There are kids who don't correct your grammar when you're talking to the cashier? Or try to explain the entire plot of their latest book--the one they're writing--to the guy who is greeting people at the door? Kids who don't require mom to keep up a running stream of talk (commands, requests, explanations, "where's so-and-so, oh, there you are"s) for 2 hours while they do what should be 20 minutes of shopping?

Kids who don't wear you out every single day, and who make you roll your eyes at people who suggest you get some exercise or do something outlandish like fold the laundry instead of retreat into your own book (the one you're writing) as soon as you get a second to sit down and stop talking (but you never get to stop listening--not even when you're supposed to be sleeping, and so are they).

Where are such children? I'd love to go observe their moms and see what a bored mommy looks like.

Because everything that woman described in her blog seems like a pretty tame, relatively easy day to me. (Although, now that you mention it, I don't get school or dinner done on the shopping days, either. Too worn out. And I rarely do more than one errand on any given day. I can't physically do it!).

My Brother compares me to Han Solo....

In carbonite.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great Quotes for Gifted Minds

LOVED these.

Actually, the whole webquest is pretty cool.


Einstein and Picasso and Corrie Ten Boom were my favorites.....

Motherhood=victimization?! I think NOT

I found this article so deeply offensive on so many levels. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/world/europe/24iht-letter24.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&src=recg

Here these German women are, making the right choice to put their children first and raise them themselves, and they are being condemned for it! Condemned for sacrificing for family. Condemned for embracing a system that rightly has half-day school for everyone instead of full-day school (EVERYONE should do half-day school; who are we kidding?!)

Here they are, glorifying nanny culture and condemning women who embrace the ultimate womanhood: being a mother.

And nobody ever even considers for a minute that the women are telling the truth that they WANT this, that it makes them happy, that mother hood is fulfilling and good and benefits society.

What is UP with these stupid feminists, out actively destroying other women's choice to be be mothers, to embrace what that means, and to do it right instead of relegating their womanhood to some other woman so they can go earn money?

It makes me so mad I could swear.

But I won't.

Because my kids read this blog.

On a side note: Judging by what I'm reading lately about Germany, I think they are the next world power, but this time in a good way. Why? They're doing the kinds of things that lead a country to be blessed--staying out of debt, putting traditional nuclear family first, going forward with cautious optimism but without accepting all the crap the world is throwing around and calling "culture."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Renaming Grades

So I've been working on Learning Lynx Classroom  a lot lately, trying to get things ready for the kids to do school there this year instead of all the other sites we've tried.

What I realized is that Grades Playschool through first or second are really sequential. But from 3 up to 8th, you really could do them in any order, the way I have them set up. They really are just sets of information, not leveled, since really once you can read, the only leveled instruction you need is in math, and I don't do math there (because it needs to be individualized and I like Saxon).  Everything else is mostly exposure to information that you adapt as you go to be on whatever level you happen to be on (and this varies widely for gifted kids).

But calling the grades by numbers practically demands you do them in order.

Further, I don't like the idea of the kids dropping a curriculum and moving up without finishing it simply because September rolled around again. I want them to be in "grades" by their year in school for the social simplicity of it (both the homeschool group school, Options, and the greater society find it convenient to say, "What grade are you in?" and want the answer to be related to your age and where the public schools would place you--and I want that social convenience for myself and the kids). But I don't want their social grade to be tied to their learning experience at all. It's too confining. The idea would be that, regardless of what grade they are in, they work steadily at the curriculum they are on until they finish it, and then they move on to another one. (I give them a month off in between as a reward for finishing, plus $3 worth of candy that they get to pick at the store, but that's a separate issue).

So I'm toying with the idea of renaming all the grades, making it easier for you to engage with a curriculum that seems interesting for a year, rather than feeling forced to go forward in order or stop and start based on the public school calendar. So Caleb, for example, would be in fifth grade and doing the _____ level/set/curriculum on Learning Lynx Classroom. It's what to put in that blank that I'm puzzling over.

I already have a "you're ready for this level if....." section for several of the years, and already have a summary of the content of the year on each start page because I was having trouble remembering, while I'm sorting links, what went where.

So what would you call them?


Precious stones and metals?


Notable people from history?

Mythological beings or creatures?

Greek letters?

Nintendo/cartoon characters?

I've strongly considered colors. They're relatively neutral in their connotations and cultural-linguistic valuations (red is not more important, better, or more desirable than yellow, culturally).  I've also strongly considered gemstones/precious metals because of the association it makes with knowledge being precious and school being valuable. I've also considered using tree names because of the association with the organic nature of  growth and strength, and also because all trees have value, but they are different.

What do you think?

If you were going to rename the grades to make them non-sequential, what would you call them?  And why?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Did I just read that?

"The number of children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder rose more than 30 percent over the past decade, with much of the increase likely due to more awareness and diagnosis, according to a new government report." http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/08/19/attention-disorder-on-rise/#ixzz1VWBaJbNS

So, to simplify and restate, more children were diagnosed with ADHD because there was more diagnosis of ADHD.  That's what it says. Only with too many words. Did nobody ever teach these people how to write?!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Daniel is one in 110 children in America who has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and those numbers are climbing, according to AutismSpeaks.org, making autism more common than pediatric AIDS, juvenile diabetes and childhood cancers combined." http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700170899/With-support-autistic-students-find-greater-success-in-college.html

So like 30 kids have diabetes in the US? And only 40 have cancer and 30 have AIDS?  Wow.

Only 110 kids have Autism. The rest are faking it.

Great marriage advice

I love collecting good advice on marriages. I have a great marriage, but it's not from neglecting it. I work to enjoy my marriage and time with my spouse every single day--deliberately, not just by accident or when Tim is instigating interactions.

These are some great tips:


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Motivating School

Homeschooling six kids means I can't sit down with every single child for every single lesson each day. The kids get slighted because I rush to finish so I can get everything done, and I get NOTHING done for me or the house. Just school.

That's why I started looking for low-impact homeschooling systems early on.  It's easier for me to create the whole curriculum for each kid than to teach them one day at a time, one lesson at a time, myself. Especially since the kids refuse to sit and read a textbook (and I don't blame them).

So we finally got settled on a free, low-impact homeschool system.

Then the problem became getting the kids to do it. They are not particularly motivated to stop what they are doing to do what's on the list. I totally understand this. How many times have I preferred to sit writing my novel to getting up and folding laundry?

But school is not optional. (I guess laundry isn't really, either).

The problem is, I have an unschooler streak in me--I have a really hard time telling the kids, "Stop writing that song for your computer game you're designing. I need you to take another timed multiplication test." It's not that I think multiplication tests are worthless--I try not to put things on the kids' curricula that are worthless. It's that I can also see the immense value in kids pursuing their interests and developing their talents. (For the record, I have no problem saying, "Shut down that computer game and do school.")

So I was searching for motivators. They have no trouble whatsoever finishing and staying on task once they get started (I created really good, interesting, engaging "school" for them, so they don't have to get bored or learn that learning is dumb.). I just had to find a way to get them started.

I tried reasoning with them.  They understood, but it didn't motivate.

I tried threatening them ("School is mandatory by law, so if you don't do it here, I'll have to send you to public school!"). It didn't work. I don't think they believed the threats.

I tried getting them started with me doing it with them. They just walked away to let me do it alone.

I tried forcing them. They sat there, but they didn't engage. Clicking through pages with your brain turned off is a waste of time.

I tried making a rule: You have to do school first, before you start anything else, so you don't get distracted . Nice try.

So I tried bribing them. "If you finish all your lessons for the year, you get to pick a bag of candy at the store. and when you finish the math book, you get another bag of candy from the store."

They were excited about that, but it didn't motivate them.

I needed something more immediate. So I tried weekly bribes: If everyone does school every day, they can play nintendo on Saturday.

That sort of worked, but not enough. So we started daily small bribes.

That worked. Sort of.

The specific bribe was "If you finish school, you get to choose a single treat from the candy bin." (Like one small tootsie roll). That worked. For 2 weeks. Then they started putting it off until bedtime, which really messed up our sleep schedule even worse--I was constantly being forced to decide between the value of sleeping on time and the value of getting school done.

So I added a bribe. You can have a treat if you finish school AND you can have another treat if you finish before it gets dark outside.

That sort of worked.  But I was still having to harass, threaten, plead, beg, cajole, nag people to get doing school.  They just didn't remember until after the sun went down, and then they weren't motivated because they missed the reward.

So I added one more bribe: If you start school without me reminding you or telling you to, you get a treat. That's a total of three potential treats per day of school finished (and the kids can do extra "days" of school if they want) if they do it without being asked before the sun goes down.

This was magic. The kids get up and race to do school before I get a chance to remind them so they will get their three treats.

I hope it lasts!


I am a sucker for funny photos--always have been. The internet makes it easy to feed this addiction.

Usually I get a nice chuckle and then move on.

This one had me laughing out loud for DAYS.

If you must post a sign, pray you don't live near competing copy editors.....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New VoIP system

So I've liked VoIP phones and have been using them for years now. In fact, I haven't had a landline on a phone since Tim and I lived in Salt Lake City 10 years ago. We did cell phones exclusively for a couple of years and then shifted to VoIP when we moved to Colorado in 2004.

We used Vonage for a while and were really pleased with it. But I didn't want to keep paying $30 a month for phone service--as far as I could see, the point of VoIP was having a cheaper phone with free long distance. Cheaper being the key here.

When we moved to Vegas, I ditched the Vonage device and bought a Magic Jack because I could pay $70 for the device and 5 years of service.  The problem we ran into was that none of our computers were new and fast enough to really keep that Magic Jack going strong. The Magic Jack uses the computer, and it competes for resources with whatever is running, so if you don't have a computer dedicated solely to the Magic Jack, the call quality is pretty terrible. Even when we got it running on my laptop, the call quality was terrible. After a half hour call (and I make LONG calls when Tim goes out of town), the Magic Jack would turn me into a robot and drop every other syllable other people said. It also tried to block background noises, but would mute the whole phone whenever the kids squawked. And there was this annoying pop-up softphone that insisted on popping up over whatever I was working on whenever I called someone or they called me.  For a while, Magic Jack disabled my screensaver for me, and they wouldn't fix it when I complained--I guess enough people eventually complained because they stopped doing that after a couple of months.

Next to the terrible call quality, the biggest problem with the Magic Jack was we had to keep it plugged into my laptop all the time if we wanted the phone on. Which we did. It got bumped and tugged on by kids every day, and finally it just broke a year before the subscription ran out. What good is paying for 5 years of service if you can't get five years out of the device?!

I was going to buy a Nettalk Duo as a replacement--it's basically a magic jack that plugs into your router instead of your computer.  Otherwise, it seemed to be the same. And you could plug it into your computer if you wanted--like if you were travelling.  It costs about $70 for the device and first year, and then $30 a year after that.

While I was doing research on all that, though, I decided it would be nice if I could just plug a phone into my computer and use Google Voice as my phone.

And then I found Obihai. They released a new little device this year that is an Analog Telephone Adapter. It allows you to plug a phone into the internet and use Google Voice as your phone service. And, while the reviews of every other device I've ever looked at were mixed, this one had fantastic reviews. It was so well-reviewed that tech-heads bought 85,000 units the first few weeks it was released, and the company had to produce a whole bunch more than they anticipated needing.

And it was a pay-once device.

Since I'm partially into VoIP for the cheap phone, that appealed to me. There is one other pay-once device on the market that is widely used--the Ooma Telo--but it costs $200 and it's not really pay-once (you have to pay taxes and fees once a year). They say it pays for itself, but if I were using the Nettalk Duo, it would take me over 5 years for that to pay that much.

So when I found the Obi100, it immediately caught my eye. You really pay just once for the device, and then never anything again as long as it lasts and Google Voice stays free.  And it only cost me $44, not $200.  And it plugs into your router instead of your computer. And the voice quality was "comparable to Vonage." That was my list of requirements, right there--better voice quality, plugs into router, inexpensive for life.

So, with fantastic reviews and instructions that sounded easy from NerdVittles, I decided to try it.

Bought one from Amazon.com. It shipped free and arrived today. It was easy to set up (hardest part was finding the long ethernet cable so I could put it on the opposite side of the room from the router).  It's tiny (about the size of a deck of cards).

And the call quality is Fantastic. Better than Vonage. Better than a landline, if you can believe that. Better than any cell phone I've ever used.

I am very very pleased.

Apparently this little Obi100 device does a lot of things that I haven't delved into at all--you can call it from your cell phone and route calls through it, but talking on your cell phone, for example. Not being a cell phone user, I'm not sure why you'd want to do that, but you can. If you get the upgraded Obi110, you can also plug your landline into the device and connect all your phones--soft phone, Google Voice, cell phone, land line....again, I'm not telco talented and don't know why you'd need to do that. I just want to pick up the phone and talk to my siblings or husband. I want to be able to make doctors appointments for my kids, call the ladies I visit teach. You know--have a phone.

And I finally think I do! And, now that I paid for the device, the rest is free. For real. I never have to pay another phone bill ever again. Can't beat that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Spoon Theory


People with Fibro have different challenges, but we have to do this, too.

So do people with ADHD.

So do people with sleep disorders.

So do introverts.

It's worth considering.

Ah, the labels question:


"Fame is a drug"

"Always keep in mind the difference between passion and fame; wanting to be famous just to be famous is a sure sign that something is missing from your child’s inner emotional world. Fame for the sake of fame is a drug that quenches one's need to be seen, to be heard, and to be important. Make sure your children feel seen, feel heard, and feel important in their own home life." http://www.themortonreport.com/celebrity/notables/child-stars-if-its-not-one-thing-its-your-mother/

Or yours, I might add. Not just parents should be asking this. Every person who thinks they want to be famous should be asking.

Honestly, the more I learn about fame, the more I see it as a curse. Why would anyone want that?!

Greek Yogurt

Since Greek Yogurt was on sale this week, I thought I'd buy several varieties and see what they were like.

It was astonishing the variety of products that are called "Greek Yogurt."

Some companies (Oikos by Dannon, Lucerne) seem to think that regular yogurt plus a little extra protein equals Greek Yogurt.  Not so.

Yoplait made a great Greek Yogurt--except the strawberry flavor was so hideously awful that I actually emailed the company with a complaint, which I almost never do. It was inedible. But the blueberry was great so....just don't buy strawberry?

FAGE was, hands down, the best Greek Yogurt out there.

So here's the kicker. I realized much much after the fact that there are two products on the market out there. Greek Yogurt, which is actually just thickened regular yogurt, often with cornstarch or powdered milk, isn't really that good. It's also high in sugar and carbs still, and is usually nonfat and tastes nonfat (and you know how I feel about nonfat yogurt--waste of space!).   This is not "Real" Greek Yogurt.

The other product is Strained Greek Yogurt, which is lower in sugar, lower in carbs, higher in protein, and still thick but without the help of thickeners. This is a whole different product than the thickened "Greek" Yogurt.

Really, the FDA should regulate the name "Greek Yogurt" to mean a single product like they do with everything else. In the meantime, read the labels. If it doesn't say "Strained" or if it does have cornstarch, pectin, or gelatin in the ingredients, don't be fooled. It's just regular yogurt. And they put so little thickener in it that once you stir it, it's just the same as other yogurt, but with fewer artificial colors and fewer preservatives (but still some).

The other thing I discovered in the process of all the taste-testing is that the fat content does matter, no matter how much the yogurt makers claim it doesn't. In fact, the cream top yogurts, unstrained but made from whole milk, are actually creamier and more satisfying a treat than the fake Greek Yogurts.

Also, I discovered that I really really prefer the fruit on the bottom yogurts--and then I just eat the yogurt part and throw the fruit part away. The subtle flavors are so much nicer.

Also discovered that plain Greek Yogurt, with a little sugar or honey added at home, is way better than the pre-flavored stuff. Although you have to beware. Some companies add sugar to their plain yogurts!

Potassium, the wonder-drug

I took potassium the other day. I have hesitated because when I talked to my doctor, she said she puts people into the hospital on a regular, almost weekly, basis for potassium overdose.  It is necessary for proper nerve function, but is also deadly if taken in high enough doses, especially if you have heart disease.

You can see why I stalled.

But the other day I was frustrated, frazzled, and angry. I had eaten sugar, and that almost always leads me to lose my mind and my temper (even though I love sugar).  I didn't want to yell at my kids because I had made a poor dietary choice, so I just took 2 potassium pills. Just two. Some people take up to six at a time.

Within ten minutes, an amazing thing happened.

Hard to describe, though.

It was like I had been able to see the light bouncing off in all directions, and suddenly I couldn't.  Like my senses were in overdrive, and they suddenly calmed down.  Like the world was a movie that had gone from being cut together from film taken at different angles into being shot with a single shot on a steady camera.

All my life, I've seen shadows skittering around in my peripheral view, like I just missed a mouse running by. All my life, every time I've closed my eyes, I could still see, etched inside my eyelids, the entire scene I'd just been looking at, rendered in light; and when my eyes were open, I see visual echoes of the thing I was just looking at when I look elsewhere. It makes for a lot of subtle, visual "noise" all the time all around.  It's really difficult to describe--almost like I can't see the light bouncing off the objects in all directions, but my eyes are aware of it anyway. Actively aware, not just passively.

When I eat sugar or breads (carbs), it gets much worse. MUCH worse.

And I became aware of it when I took the potassium because it went away. Just like if you always had listened to music on a record player, you wouldn't be aware of the scratches and residual noises that were playing along with the music--that record-player noise of needle on vinyl--until you heard the music on a CD. Suddenly, you'd be aware of the extra sounds. That's how it was for me when I took the potassium. Suddenly I was aware of visual and auditory "noise" that had been there all my life, so I didn't know it was abnormal. (I mean, really, who ever questions how you SEE the world and if that's normal?). I imagine the tactile senses were all calmed down, too, but I was so amazed at the visual sensations--that the world could be so calm and visually quiet--that I didn't bother to notice anything else.

It's so much easier to think when your brain isn't trying to process a million extra stimuli all the time. And that's without changing the children at all--they were still going everywhere, running and playing.

This is the third instance I've discovered that Potassium helped me. The first was when I needed moles removed, and the novicaine worked for once--after I took potassium. The second was when I discovered that exercising doesn't have to shut your brain off so you can't learn anything, and that it can be pleasurable--after I took potassium.  And now this.

I think that makes it fairly definitive. I have hypokalemic sensory overstimulation--a rare, hereditary metabolic disorder that, under certain conditions, causes your cells to suck up all the available potassium, so you're running at a severe deficit. The result is your nerves and senses all go into overdrive, sending way too much information to your brain. In practical terms, this means you cannot learn, you get grouchy and flustered, you're easily overwhelmed. Sometimes you experience temporary partial paralysis (my hand stops working for about 3-5 minutes), but this is a better-known disability called hypokalemic partial paralysis. Oh, yeah--novicaine doesn't work.

What are the triggers?

Sugar. Big time. In fact, my dad and I both find we just "need" a milkshake before bed--perhaps to shut our brains down on purpose so we can sleep?

Salt, apparently. I need to pay attention to this one in my life, but I have found I don't seek out salty foods (I never crave potato chips, for example, and never add extra salt to french fries), and I consistently add too little salt to food I cook.

Exercise, especially interrupted exercise (like jogging and then having to stop to wait for a light to change; or dance classes, where you dance and then stop for instructions and then dance again). I've found over the years that I love dance, love dance classes, and half way through every dance class my brain shuts off and I cannot any longer comprehend what the teacher is asking me to do or how to do the dances, suddenly I'm clumsy and flustered and emotional and I usually walk out because I can't function any more because I'm overwhelmed, angry, and my usually agile brain is just gone. (Potassium cures this!).

Obviously, because of the dangers, I wouldn't advocate trying potassium supplements on everyone. Luckily, there's a test for the disorder--if you go to the dentist, and the novicaine works on you, you don't need extra potassium. If the novicaine NEVER works, you might try it and see what happens. Unless you have heart disease. I mean, seriously--keep your doctor in the loop on this one.

But it is worth looking into--the disorder mimics ADHD, and apparently some people who have been diagnosed with ADHD but don't respond well to the medications benefit from Potassium supplementation. My dad, who has ADD, says potassium taken in conjunction with his ritalin clears his brain right up. And my son who always hated exercising (because it always made him angry or made him cry about half way through) likes it just fine if he's had potassium first.

Worth looking into.

Because who doesn't like a cheap, easy fix for what ails them?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nathanael says,

I was getting Nathanael a bowl of cereal and turned around to find him lying on the floor in the kitchen eating a doughnut.

"Nathe, your cereal is ready to eat here at the table," I said.

He replied, "Yes, but my doughnut is ready to eat here on the floor."

Solar Power

Solar power was the big "cool new thing" in the 80s and 90s. But it never really caught on. Why? There isn't a reliable way to store the energy and then transmit it through the "grid" to homes.

And why didn't it occur to anyone to just eliminate the grid?

It occurred to this guy:

That's a link to a solar-powered phone charger. That costs less than $30.

And here's the solar-powered lightbulb: http://www.nokero.com/products/n100

Nice idea, right?

These aren't perfect. You have to charge them outside, for one. And they are designed to be brighter than candles, but they aren't terribly bright. They don't last all night--only 6 hours.

But still, it's certainly looking in the right direction. It would be a fantastic camping supply, addition to your emergency kit, etc.  And it's also a fantastic starting point, if people will take it. Can they develop more efficient solar panels? Brighter LEDs? What if we all shifted from a local energy grid to a home energy grid, where each house was solar-charged for everything? Could they develop a system that can do that? We could still use the local, traditional grid as backup, of course. Instead of mass-market energy production, we'd be shifting to a make-it-and-use-it-on-site kind of system, and that makes a lot of sense to me.

I would be delighted to install lights in a nice row, embedded through the top of the wall of my house, with the solar panels outside and the bulbs inside, so they passively charge all day and automatically light the rooms all night (until we turn them off, of course). We have a solar light we got for a dollar at the dollar store that charges all day and then lights the front walk (or the car when we travel at night so the kids aren't scared) with a single, reflected LED. Surely you could make a giant one of those and embed it in the wall. And the parts are cheap, right? So I could, theoretically, light my whole house that way, right? It would require a paradigm shift (and a shift in our interior design ideals), but not a very big one. Goodness, with my flat roof, I could install them all over the ceiling, with the solar panels on the roof, and have light all summer (the snow would be a problem in the winter, though....).

Anda said the other day, "Why don't we use the heat that naturally hits the house all summer as the energy source for cooling the house?" Instead of electricity, she was thinking. In sunny places, like Vegas, that makes a lot of sense. She said she would get to work on developing the technology, and we talked about the list of things she needs to learn in order to get started.

The whole concept makes sense to me: there is energy all around us in nature, but it's unreasonable to try to collect it for mass consumption. But is it unreasonable to collect it for individual consumption? Could we harness the kinetic energy of falling raindrops, for example, with thousands of tiny water wheels, to power a generator or battery? Can we capture the heat and light? Can each house have its own windmill, powering what it needs (instead of the behemoths that terrify the livestock and end up being less effective than everyone hoped?).

Perhaps the key, as Anda noticed, is for the energy that surrounds the house to JUST power this house.

I know I'm not the only person who has entertained ideas like this before--Tim mentioned it almost a year ago after reading something somewhere.

I'm just wondering why nobody is working on it publicly?

At the very least, I'm going to be saving my pennies to get the $15-$20 bulb to put in our emergency supplies. That's pretty inexpensive for a really valuable thing to have in an emergency.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Still thinking about beauty

Suppose, for a minute, that what we say all the time is really true: that God grants us everything--all our time, our talents, our bodies, everything we have (including our money).

Doesn't it make sense, then, that He might want an accounting of what we did with the gifts He gave us?

I can imagine sitting down with God and having to report (since you can't lie to Him): "Well, I didn't like the body you gave me, so I spent a lot of my money and time modifying that body to make it look a way that would get me a lot of worldly attention."

I think I would be embarrassed to say that.

God: "What did you do with that extra $5000 I blessed you with? Helped a poor man go on a mission? Helped pay for a temple in a remote place so families could be together forever? Got a father some education so he could support his small family? Saved for a mission in your retirement? Built up your food storage? Paid off your house? Helped a family keep their home? Went to school yourself? Developed your talents? Made a great artwork?"
His daughter: "Uh, no. I got a boob job. The ones you gave me weren't big enough."

God gave us life to experience--as a gift. And our culture lately seems anxious to skip experiencing the childhood part, and then the teenage part, in order to get to the adult part as quick as possible. And then, when we get there, we miss experiencing the adult part because we're too anxious trying to reclaim the parts we skipped--including by doing everything in our power to refuse to grow older (or at least refuse to look like we did).

Do I really want my children and grandchildren to get up at my funeral and say, "Well, she had great breasts when she was 40" or "You know, I can't think of anything lasting my mother accomplished, but she looked young and thin until the day she died, and you should have seen how thick her eyelashes were!"

Is anyone remembered from generation to generation because they looked 30 when they were 65?


Most of the people we revere, or even remember, are people who did great things for other people, people who had developed their talents, people who sacrificed, people who taught us wonderful things that have made us happy (and never have I heard someone say, "Oh, I will never forget my beehive teacher. She taught me how to put eyeliner on to make that cat-eye look."). Do we remember (or even CARE about) their bra size, makeup, skinny thighs, or the shape of their rear end or lips?


What a waste of the chance to experience life. We're missing it. Blink and it's gone, and then what do you have? Silicon implants that will even be there after the rest of your body decomposes. And I don't think that counts as immortality.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Did I just read that--again?

From a different paper, a worse version of the same sentence:

"SALT LAKE CITY — When 10-year-old Anna Palmer was killed in September 1998, it seemed as if one minute she was alive and the next she wasn't." http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705389131/Mother-of-murdered-10-year-old-finally-feels-some-peace.html

It seemed that way because it WAS that way. Surprise!

Did I just read that?

"SALT LAKE CITY — When 10-year-old Anna Palmer was killed in September of 1998, it was like one minute she was alive and the next she wasn't." http://www.ksl.com/?nid=960&sid=16780570

Yes, well, that is what death is. One minute you're alive, and the next you aren't. Happens to everyone.

This makes me want to be a feminist


You need to go look at these pictures. No facebook account required.

These women have collected images of women before and after they were published--and clearly showing photoshopping.  The image we see of women all around us is FAKE. It's as fake as cartoon drawings.  And women all around us are going to great lengths and spending a lot of money trying to look like these "people" who don't even look like themselves! Or even like real women.

While I am adamantly opposed to that variety of "feminism" that claims women only have value if they act like men (and run from motherhood, sensitivity, femininity, and woman-ness in general), I am a staunch defender of women's right to be WOMEN. Not men. Not feminists with their mixed-up, contentious, self-serving ideals.

And that includes our right to be shaped like women.  Real women.  Women who have better things to do with ourselves and our resources than spend hours and hours and hundreds of dollars trying to look like photoshopped "ideals" that are naturally unattainable (and, really, undesirable).

(Personally, I think the feminists emphasis on sexual liberation has led, in part, to these phony "ideals").

Regardless of why this happened, I am scared to let my daughter see any of the modern media, with its emphasis on immodesty, selfishness, aggression, violence, sexuality, and unnatural body shapes and colors--and that's all just in women. It's as if we all aspire to be porn stars, and want our daughters to grow up to be that, and think it's great that men want that, even if it means they will never value women as equals.

What a gross, distorted world we live in.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Siblings run from South ends in Colorado crash"  http://www.ksl.com/?nid=157&sid=16670791

Honestly, at first I could make neither head nor tail of this! The crash scared the crap out of them? Literally?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Nathanael says, "

Me: "Sunday, Monday..."
Nathanael, surprising me: "Tuesday!"
Me, now testing him: "Yes! Monday, Tuesday....."
Nathanael: "Innsday!"
Me: "Great! What comes after Wednesday?"
Nathanael: "The sun goes down."

Did I just read that?

Adult at age 2? I wonder if they would require you to be potty trained before you vote? Or get a drivers license?

Christmas Wish List

Right after Nathanael was born, I had a horrible night with no sleep, cried all day the next day, and can't remember a worse day in my entire life. That night, Tim was scheduled to perform at an open mic night. Normally, when I'm a wreck, open mic nights can be skipped, but Tim felt strongly he should go to that one.

So off he went, me in tears with five kids, including a newborn.

He came back later and said only 3 people were there in the audience: the lady who organized the event, the guy who was going to sing next, and a guy who was new to Vegas and just checking out the music scene.  This guy liked Tim's music a lot.

And he happened to be a honest-to-goodness big time recording engineer and producer, just relocating his studios from Boston to Vegas.

He and Tim got to be friends. They met a couple times just to hang out after that. He gave Tim some advice that completely changed the direction of Tim's music career--in a good way.

And then we moved.

A year later, I emailed the man to thank him for his advice, and sent him a few of Tim's new tracks to listen to.  He loved them and said he would like to work with Tim.

Tim wasn't ready for that yet, though, even though I thought he was. His ideas for his music were developed, but they were still maturing (of course, I didn't know that).

So now, a year later, Tim's music has matured, his recording knowledge had grown immensely, and he is ready to put his music out there.

So I thought for Christmas I'd get him some time with his producer friend down in Vegas to record an honest-to-goodness demo that we could possibly use to move Tim out of the regional market and into a national market for his music.

I contacted his friend with questions--how far out do we have to schedule? How much time does it take per song, given that Tim has to record vocals for the leads and possible backgrounds, percussions, etc, all himself? I sent him a couple of Tim's new tracks as a sample, so he'd know what I was talking about.

He loved the songs. He really likes Tim's work. (It's always nice to hear that!--we're so close to it and have heard everything so many times that we sometimes lose track of where we're at).

So now I'm searching out ways to save the money, now that I know how much I need.

Given that we still need to get a big van (or get my parent's van registered and find seats for it), pay mortgage and bills, etc., I'm not sure I can save the money by Christmas. I'm guessing this is going to be on the "someday Christmas Wish List" instead of the "Surprise, honey!" list. But I hope some day isn't so far out!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Did I just read that?

"I’ve been warning about this trend for a long time, noting, for instance, that clothing companies like Abercrombie and Fitch were selling padded bikini bras for 8-year-olds (without any boycott of their stores), that Spanish toymaker Berjuan is selling a doll to little girls that encourages them to breastfeed (while wearing a vest that has flowers instead of erect nipples) and that fashion house Juicy Couture has no problem finding parents who’ll buy their little girls tight velour sweat suits with the word Juicy emblazoned across their bottoms."
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/08/05/vogue-magazine-creates-pedophiles/#ixzz1UCGPiMXi

I have no problem being offended by the sexualization of little girls.

I have a HUGE problem with the sexualization of nursing. This man has issues that go far far beyond little girls wearing heels.

Did I just read that?

"The French edition of Vogue is rightly under fire for publishing a series of photos of Thylane Lena-Rose Loubry-Blondeau, a 10-year-old who appears in heavy makeup and a plunging neckline exposing her nonexistent cleavage and stiletto heels."
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/08/05/vogue-magazine-creates-pedophiles/#ixzz1UCFkqhzX

Either that's a really low neckline, or she wears her stiletto heels on her navel.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Turns out I grew up to be a homeschool geek. Who would have guessed?

Is there a Masters degree for that?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Homeschoolers online

My brother connected me to a bunch of homeschooling people on Google +, and they connected me to even more, and I'm really enjoying reading what they all talk about, what they do, how they named their homeschools (ours is "Starlight Academy"), what they do for a "school is starting" party to help their kids not feel left out when all the other kids are starting school for the year, etc.

I've also been interested to find some threads running through the discussions. Like:
    Homeschoolers who have to deal with school districts find the public employees are condescending, ill-informed about homeschooling, resentful, distrustful, and meddling. (My own experience bears this up. There is a lot of prejudice out there--one school district employee told me most homeschoolers do it for free babysitting all day and little education actually happens; I read online a Kindergarten teacher questioning the validity of homeschooling done without a "printed curriculum". As if the schools and their printed curricula are doing such a great job! And what is public schooling but the ultimate free babysitting service?)
    There is a real fear out there of being noticed because so many states try to take custody of your children if you homeschool--or at least that's what homeschoolers hear and are afraid of.
    Many many many religious homeschoolers assume ALL homeschoolers are religious. Or at least tolerant of religion being a factor in the education. (And while there are many secular homeschoolers, they are right about the latter--tolerance is much higher among homeschoolers than among the general population.).
     Homeschooling moms tend to be educated, curious, bright, stubborn, creative, determined.
     Many families were driven to homeschooling by very very bad school experiences. This is not an isolated every-once-in-a-while phenomenon. It's very common.
    Unschoolers are both passionate about their way of life and very defensive about it--even among each other, they spend time defending themselves. They also work harder than other homeschooling parents because they are always the teacher, always in the classroom, always on the spot.
      Homeschoolers tend to be hungry for resources (especially free ones), but not always sure where to find them. (That's where I come in).

I've also learned some things about myself. Like,
     I'm really good at finding resources for people. And I know a lot more than I thought I did about what's out there for homeschoolers.
     I actually have an educational philosophy! Who knew? I realized I believe in doing a split day--half unschooling, child-led project-based learning, half "generals".  Why both? I can completely see value in the unschooling way of educating. It allows the children to discover and develop talents, it teaches them the very valuable skill of educating themselves, it helps curiosity grow and develop instead of squalching it. It also frees children to pursue the things that interest them, that they feel passionate about, that they love, and teaches them that their interests, talents, and questions are valuable and valid.  So why not this exclusively?

Because I truly believe that there is a body of knowledge in the world that every person should have exposure to and that you will not cover completely if you don't even know the questions to ask. Unschoolers would counter that one thing leads to another and you eventually cover everything. That might be. But I want to be sure my kids know just a little (compared to experts, not compared to other elementary school kids) about things they might not know to ask about, like art, or chemistry, or music, or handwriting, or psychology. I want them to try dance, to learn to cook, to have experienced the great literature and art out there, to hear the myths and legends that shaped the art in our world, to know about science, at least a little, so they can understand the world around them. Because, quite frankly, some of us never do wonder how leaves make food for plants, but it's still good to know.

Interacting with the world efficiently requires that you know (or at least have heard of) certain things--how maps work, for example. Or that blood circulates. What the constitution says. What our rights are citizens are.

Life is not all about me and my talents and interests. It's also about how I fit into the greater world, and about other people's talents and interests. It's about building an effective community, learning to understand other people's ideas, becoming a good citizen. And some families can accomplish that with unschooling. I guess it's just the teacher in me, but I like to streamline the process and make sure we've covered what I think children should know.

Also, (again the teacher in me comes out), I want the learning to be efficient. I want it to proceed from one thing to another in a reasonable fashion (not haphazardly with pieces missing like when I try to unschool). I want to be able to show the kids the interconnectedness of knowledge, to suggest things they've never even thought of.

Unschoolers who are devoted to the lifestyle can do all these things, I'm sure. I'm just, in my soul, a teacher and curriculum designer. So I enjoy not only unschooling. And (go figure) my kids enjoy having "lessons," too. They like discovering new ideas and new things. They actually stand around my chair at least once a week and beg me to tell them more interesting things, to teach them and talk to them even more. Left to completely unschooling, Anda would never learn history, and Caleb would spend all day programming computers and never get the broader cultural context he'd need to make them really appealing to people. And neither of them would ever learn a stitch of math, even though both are going to have to take it in college to accomplish the goals they've set for themselves.

So we do both. Trying to get the best of both worlds.

Sure am enjoying interacting the the homeschoolers.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Curious about sugar again

I discovered that, while most Greek Yogurt has little to no sugar, Yoplait Greek Yogurt has a LOT of sugar. Even the plain yogurt, which should be sugar-free, had a lot of sugar in it. Also, it's not strained. So I think it can hardly lay claim to being Greek Yogurt. It's just thicker normal yogurt, as far as I can tell. Probably added more gelatin. That's my guess. Anyway....

That made me curious how a cup of yogurt ("healthy") compares to a snickerdoodle on sugar content. (Obviously, the sugar cookie isn't going to have calcium in it, but if you read the yogurt cup, there isn't much else healthy in there to recommend it. Just calcium; if you have Greek yogurt you also get protein, phosphorus, and vitamin A.).

So I did a little math:

2 c of sugar per batch of snickerdoodles. One batch makes about 5 dozen cookies. One cup of sugar has 48 teaspoons in it. 2 cups times 48 tsp divided by 60 cookies gives you 1.6 teaspoons of sugar per cookie. Kind of a lot. But yogurt is measured in grams. So I looked that up--4.2 grams (or so) in one teaspoon of sugar. That means one cookie has 6.72 grams of sugar. And one cup of PLAIN Yoplait Greek Yogurt has 9 grams of sugar--more than one cookie. And the strawberry Greek yogurt has 20 g of sugar--3 1/2 cookies.

Hmmm. That puts things in perspective, doesn't it?