Monday, October 31, 2011

No, No NaNoWriMo

I'm a writer and a writing teacher, and I have confession. I don't do NaNoWriMo. (That's National Novel Writing Month). Every November, lovers of writing take to their computers en masse to try to pump out an entire novel in 30 days.  That is, to try to pump out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

And I don't do NaNoWriMo.


Well, I have six kids. But that's just an excuse. Even with the kids, on a good day I can pump out 10,000 words. I don't have those days very often, but I could do 5 in a month if I made a point to do it. My record is 11,000 words in one day, three days in a row, while still caring for the kids. I can put out 1,000 words on the most heinous day. In fact, I write at least a 1000 words a day in my journal.

And it's not that I have no ideas. I have the first chapter written for six novels, outlines for at least a dozen more, and ideas for hundreds more. You can give me an object--any bizarre or mundane object--and it's likely I could come up with a plot, characters, and a setting for a novel based on that. Ideas are candy to me. (Not to say they are good ideas, but I have enough that I can afford to pick through them).

In other words, I have no trouble producing words or stories.

But I have a serious problem with someone interfering with the process. Sometimes I spend a day writing 11,000 words in my spare time. Other days, I spend all my free time pouring over a single sentence, trying to figure out how to get it to have the impact I want. Other days, I don't put my fingers to my keyboard at all, but spend the whole day wondering about a character, thinking through what would they do if ____ happened, or what it is about them that makes them a Bella (cardboard cutout placeholder in a story instead of a compelling, loveable/hateable person). Some days I spend time reading the first line (or middle aha moment, or climax, or introduction to a setting or character, or whatever) from every book I can get my hands on. Some days I sit and read influential novels, or great novels, just to take notes on how the great authors do it. Other times I spend a lot of time reading agents and publisher's blogs, getting tips on the business side of writing. Sometimes I edit (but never for friends--I'm a nitpicky, somewhat harsh editor, and I value my friendships too much. The question is always "Do you want to be my friend still, or do you want a good manuscript instead?").

The point is, all of these are important parts of writing, and I can't afford to have the process messed with so I can say I wrote a manuscript in 30 days. I already know I can do that, if I wanted, but why would I want to? What benefit would it have other than messing with the rhythm of my writing style?

Bottom line: I'm too busy writing novels to take time off to write a novel in 30 days.

The other reason I don't do NaNoWriMo is so petty that it's almost not worth mentioning, but it's a big deal to me. They define a novel as 50,000 words.

The problem is that's too long to be published as a novella by 20,000 words (and novellas are hard to get published anyway--nobody's reading those). And  it's 25,000 words too short to be published as a novel. So unless you write middle grade fiction, you are completely wasting your time writing something unpublishable. And it's not just the publishability of it. People don't sell 50,000 word novels (except in genre romance, actually) because 50,000 words is not enough to truly develop the "comic throughline" of the characters or the problem/solution or the mystery/quest or the conflict/resolution or any other aspect of a well-developed plot.

The 50,000 words makes the "novel" seem do-able to most people. If I did it, it would also make the final product half-baked.

So I don't do NaNoWriMo.

But for you who are doing it, have a fun time and good luck!

Benji says

For Halloween, he wants to be a butterfly. If he can't be that, he says he wants to be a cactus.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The religious question in marriage

This Archbishop has the same questions I do about the whole same-sex marriage debate: what about protections for religion and religious people?

Everyone says there isn't any threat to religions, but his experience (churches being threatened with lawsuits if they don't rent their facilities out for gay marriage ceremonies) is what I think is in the cards. That is, if we don't fight for our rights as religious people.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Snowstorms in fall=not good

That was an insane few days.

Ice and heavy wet snowstorm before the trees had dropped their leaves wreaked havoc in our city. At our house, an enormous branch fell off our giant cottonwood tree--12 inches or more across at the break, 50 feet up, covered a fourth of our yard, and the "Fringes" of it landed on Daniel with all the heavy snow that pulled it down. Somehow, it knocked him over but didn't hurt him. I, of course, freaked out because it could have killed him, and when all I could see was falling snow, coming down right on top of my son, after hearing the crack of the branch breaking....well, let's just say it was like living in one of my worst nightmares.

A few hours later, the power went out, and it was still snowing. Within 10 minutes, Tim left for Utah for a tour, so it was me and 6 kids with no car, no phone, and no electricity. By 3:00 yesterday afternoon, there was still no power, and it was getting cold in the house, so we prayed for the power to come on quickly and for us to be warm enough until it did. Five minutes later, a friend from the ward knocked on the door and said she'd come to take us to her house for the night. Phew. Rarely is a prayer answered so quickly and so dramatically.

Apparently the storm broke trees all over the city, knocked out power to 1200+ people, and they could only restore power en masse to 500 of those. The other 700 were in groups of 1-20 houses with no power, and they had to deal with each of those outages one at a time. The estimate for our house was 3 days, so it was another miracle that we got back into our house before 48 hours were up.

So we spent the night at our friends' and managed to get the kids to school, even, and sometime in the middle of the day, the power came back on at our house (but went off at another friend's house).

So we're back at home. And, by a series of several miracles, none the worse for the wear. Also very grateful and very determined to get emergency candles and a prepaid cellphone for emergencies like that. (We have a 911 cell phone for emergencies, but we need a "call a friend" and "call the power company" cell phone for emergencies, too--one of those $15 ones would work fine).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Business "cards"

Tim's new business cards came today.

They are kazoos with his web address printed on them.

He got them from Kazoobie Kazoos. Kazoobie are sponsoring Tim, and I'm glad. It means he has kazoos for his videos, in all colors. Plus an electric kazoo (for real!). And they are really really good kazoos. They are well-made (and all in America, too--the only brand of kazoos that aren't imported), and they have the best sound of any kazoo I've ever heard (and we've had lots of kazoos around here!).

So, to celebrate, a kazoo video:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Missing WWII Airmen to Be Buried at Arlington With Full Military Honors"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making Websites

My project for the last few months has been learning about how to make a website. I'm already fairly well-versed on design principles--I've taken design courses and Tim and I have spent hours analyzing design.

So Tim and I have spent the last month in fairly intense website redesign for his Mister Tim site.  I've learned how to edit HTML, and how to embed gadgets, pictures, text, calendars, mp3 players, and links on webpages.

The place I got hung up was finding a free mp3 playlist player that would work with google sites (where I'm doing all my design--because it's easier than WordPress--and then we'll attach the site to Tim's regular URL).  There are a lot of playlist players, and a lot of playlist creators, and nothing seemed to work with google sites because of their weird limitations on Java and Flash.

After hours of working on this, I finally figured it out!  You can pop out the music players on facebook band pages, and that gives them a unique url, which you can then plug into an iframe wrapper on google sites, and you have the same player running in both places! The big plus of this is you only have to update it in one place, and it automatically updates the player (including the picture) on both Facebook and the website. Phew.

Now on to the next challenge: Getting the dishes done.

Did I just read that?

"America's Declaration 'Illegal,' U.K. Lawyers Say" home page today. And the actual article's headline: "Declaration of Independence Was 'Illegal,' Grounds for Treason, British Lawyers Say"

Wow. Have they been pondering that for 235 years?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Did I just read that?

This is tricky. The caption under a picture on an article dated Oct 18, 2011: "Oct. 28, 2011: Ali Reza Shahsavari, 29, of Indialantic, Fla., is escorted by Amarillo Police and FBI officers after causing a disturbance on a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Kansas City."

Apparently Fox News can tell the future! This is a photo taken next week.

Caleb says the greatest things!

Today at Scouts the boys were paired up to work on passing off requirements. Each pair was working with a leader, and Caleb and his partner worked with Tim.

Tim later told me that other boy in the pair, who is just as strong-willed and bossy as Caleb, was struggling to pay attention through the activity, so he was, when asked a question, tending to just repeat what Caleb had said, but he hadn't been paying much attention, so he repeated it imperfectly.

And apparently it frustrated Caleb--first that he was being copied, and secondly that he was being copied imperfectly.

So later I asked Caleb about it and he said, with a resigned tone in his voice, "Oh. Yeah. It was corrupted redundancy."

That phrase just made my night. Corrupted redundancy. I just love that phrase.

My 10 yo says the best things!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Interesting article on Bible Translation

He lists 5 legitimate reasons English bible translations are often wrong.

What he illustrates but does not include on his list is the biggest one: incorrect doctrinal understanding coloring your interpretation of the words.

He says it's a problem to translate the phrase "God's hand" because God doesn't have hands! Well, there's your problem. If you lack understanding of the true nature of God (he, in fact, does have hands), or any other doctrine for that matter, you can really mess up the translation big time in trying to force it to make sense according to your understanding, instead of just telling us what the words say and letting us parse it out.

He also fails to address the fact that most modern English "translations" of the bible are actually translations of other, older English translations, which makes them multiples removed from the original text. So no wonder they're terrible translations!

There is also the issue of who is translating: a linguist or a religious expert? Are they translating the words or the doctrines according to their understanding? There's a lot more to it than just cognates, metaphors, historical traditions, etc.

He also doesn't give people enough credit for having brains. Nobody is going to misunderstand Shakespeare's "Juliet is the sun." It is not a lost metaphor in our culture. In fact, it's a very effective metaphor--we all know the sun is the source of light, of understanding, of heat, and of nourishment. We also know that saying something is the sun puts it in the highest esteem as the most important thing in your life. Any confusion there is imposed by a desperate writer struggling to find an example of a metaphor that no longer makes sense. (I might suggest the references to the angels troubling the waters at the pool of Bethsaida as a better illustration of what he ought to be talking about--not metaphor specifically, but all the loaded cultural references that make it so we don't get a joke from another language, even when it's translated, or so we start searching for metaphor when, in fact, all the locals at the time the text was written recognized common geographical locations, slang, objects, etc.)

You have to realize that translation is an effort of someone to express in their own language (including all its cultural references, etc.) something in another language. To "get" the King James Bible, then, we have to truly "get" both the original language and Shakespearean English. In other words, it helps to know what a cucumber frame is if you want to read Isaiah. And you have to remember that "turtle" was a dove in England at that time.

And you have to know that God has hands.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Did I just read that?

""We're the country that built the intercontinental railroad," Obama says. "So how can we now sit back and let China build the best railroads?""

Did we do that? I wonder how we got the tracks to float?

Today's project: DIY printing press

Okay, so it's not really a printing press.

I explained to the kids how a printing press worked in the good old days (like Gutenburg through the industrial revolution).

Then we got out abc noodles that I bought for $.80 at the grocery store (in the Mexican food section for some reason!).

We glued them onto paper backward and in reverse, and let the glue dry. Then we inked them with stamp pads and pressed a clean fresh paper down on the inked letters. The noodles are not all the same thickness, so you  have to press down pretty hard--hard enough that the paper gets a sort of reverse-embossed look to it. But the letters printed out nicely.

Fun projects!

You could print cards this way. Or make letter stamps by glueing the letters onto blocks. The hard part is that you have to press the paper onto the letters (instead of the letters on to the paper) that you want to print on. If the kids were older, I'd set them to carving new letters out of wood blocks, and we'd make a printing frame. But they're too little.

Did I just read that?

"Helping Hands collects milk from mothers who produce excess milk to create the fortifier, Estler said."

Perhaps if they had known it would be used in that sentence, the company would have picked a different name. As a nursing mother, I find that sentence rather...uncomfortable. What do those hands do again?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Campaign Finance Reform

If the Occupy movements can focus their ire on campaign and other political finance reform, I might just join up. That part of their message resonates with me and with a lot of other people.

I think there are a lot of problems. Poor people really can't run for president, or even congress, for example, because it costs too much.  But if you force all donations into a pool that it split evenly, then people don't feel like they are supporting the candidate who best reflects their own values and interests (and people should be allowed to do that). Lobbyists are another problem.  Earmarks are another. Taxes are another. Social Security and Medicare are another. All these money-based problems that we can't just keep putting bandaids on. Even outside problems, like Education, are tied tightly to funding issues. And when the funding is coming from someone with special interests, they expect they are paying for their way to be THE way, and in a lot of ways that's what's happening. Anyone with money can get things done in their favor, even at the expense of what's good for the nation, and that's what has Occupy mad. And in that, I agree with them. (Not so sure about their methods or lack of suggestions for solutions, though, and I'm still pretty sure they're throwing too many things into the pot and refusing to identify precise issues that can and should be I'm still not joining them.)

And any solution meets with resistance because the people who are benefiting from the corruption are the ones who make the laws. Hard to combat that! No wonder Occupy is mad.

I have begun to wonder if the solutions aren't deceptively simple.

What if all donations to all political candidates and parties were required to be anonymous and all donations had to be made via the internet or direct deposit into funding bank accounts--so no more fund-raising dinners, etc.? And what if the candidate ever found out who the money came from, they would forfeit it? I don't know enough about how the government works to know if this would cause other problems, and it doesn't solve the poor people can't get elected problem, but it would make it so candidates were not beholden to any one person or corporation. (Would it be too hard to enforce? What would stop someone from getting a phone call at midnight?)

What if all political candidates were limited in the amount they could spend, and all excess they raised (from their anonymous donors) was put into a fund to benefit poor candidates--or all candidates--in the next election cycle? Or the excess was all donated to reducing the national debt? (This would only work if the total raised for each candidate was kept secret until after the election cycle was over--so that people would keep donating to their chosen candidate even after they reached their limit).

What about a flat tax?

What about banning paid lobbyists? Or requiring lobbyists to only talk to their own representative or senator, who represents the area they actually live in?

Personally, I was delighted to get my municipal ballot in the mail this year (we do mail-in voting here, and I LOVE it!) and to find that there was no mention of political party on any of the candidates on the ballot, or on their own websites. So instead of having a bias based on their party affiliation, I was able to just look at their proposals and their qualifications to make my choices. It was refreshing! Is there a way to get that on a national level? Is there a simple, straightforward way to reduce the power of the political parties--because right now they have as much or more sway over the candidates in office as the corporations who fund the campaigns. Obama was totally a pawn of his party, as are most of the people in office right now--and Obama's attempts to think for himself have caused him serious problems. It almost doesn't matter what candidate you vote for because the party and the party bosses are actually in charge. So is there a way to minimize that power?

While I disagree with a lot of what Occupy does,  I think they will have done a great favor to the nation if they can get enough ire up to get these things changed (even if the ideas are coming from people who actually believe in solving problems instead of just complaining about them, and even if the change ultimately comes from people who occupy the polls and their representatives' inboxes instead of the parks). Because, really, do any of us like the good old boy system? I think only the good old boys do.

My new favorite brownie recipe

I've always been a box brownie girl. I make almost everything from scratch, but I just couldn't get the right brownie recipe--they were always too cakey or not chocolatey enough, or just too expensive (cream and baking chocolate? Sorry.).

But Dan was bored the other day, so I handed him a cook book. It happened to have a whole chapter on brownies, and the first recipe he picked came out pretty good, so he decided to try another. It was called "Marshmallow Brownies." No doubt he was thinking Rocky Road brownies, minus the nuts (since we don't do nuts around here).

What we got was something akin to fudge, in a brownie form. It's not a sticky-chewy brownie (although I love those), and it's definitely not cakey. It's just a nice, dense brownie with a fantastic dark chocolate flavor. No marshmallows in sight.

And no added sugar! But never fear, these are far from healthy. The main ingredients are marshmallows and chocolate chips. As the processed food industry has discovered, not adding sugar as an ingredient doesn't mean something has no sugar in it!

With marshmallows in the recipe, this sounds like a kids' treat, but it comes out quite elegant and not really  kiddie at all--in fact, it's too dark and rich for some of my kids.

So the recipe, modified. (I didn't change the ingredients, but I did change the process significantly. The recipe book was a pre-microwave one and the process was much more difficult. We use the  microwave to simplify things. I also changed the name. "Marshmallow Brownies" is accurate, ingredients-wise, but not accurate in regards to the final product or the "eat".).

Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies

1 1/2 c mini marshmallows
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c margarine or butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
dash salt

Put the marshmallows, chocolate chips, and margarine in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or minute, until everything is smooth. Let it cool. Then add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well mixed. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, in that order, and then stir until it's mixed. Pour this into a greased 9x9 pan (a perfectly square one, without sloped sides--these are usually old metal ones--makes a better brownie by FAR). Bake for 20 minutes at 350.

We topped these with the "frosting" suggested in the original recipe. It wasn't really a frosting, though. It was more like half-way between a frosting and a glaze.

Here's the recipe--again modified to make it easier, and also to use chocolate chips instead of baker's chocolate squares:

1/2 c mini marshmallows
1 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp chocolate chips
4 tsp milk OR orange juice
3/4 c powdered milk

Microwave the marshmallows, butter, chocolate chips, and liquid (milk or orange juice) for one minute. Stir. Heat again at 30 second intervals, stirring between, until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Add the powdered sugar and stir until smooth. Spread or pour onto the warm or cool brownies.

Let the whole thing cool and set up for a few minutes. You can still serve them warm--just not piping hot, or the frostinglaze runs off.  These were really really good with ice cream and fresh raspberries, although the chocolate flavor completely overwhelmed the raspberries. A good fresh raspberry sauce would have worked better.

Easy and worth it! These are so rich, though, that you really can cut them into 1" or 1 1/2" squares and it's big enough.

Worth Reading!

"The first dreams we ever had were to be held. And loved. And to explore this amazing world with love in our lives." Read it. Changes how you see parenting, doesn't it? Family IS the dream.

Read it. It's short.

"Because when we give up something for a time to make sure we're putting enough focus into our families, we're not giving up dreams. We're committing to our biggest, deepest ones."

"Make those dreams happen. And don't let anyone make you think you can't. But along the way, keep in mind that the best, most amazing, most rewarding and, ultimately, most fulfilling dream is the first one we all ever felt."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Did I just read that?

From here:

I guess that's why kids graduate from elementary school not knowing their math facts.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Baby formula causing diabetes and obesity?

I had not heard of AGEs before, but this seems like a legitimate scientific study, not some crackpot review by a guy selling his own herbs:

A Mommy Salary?

I don't know about the mommy salary thing, but I think this woman gets it:

"WL: I don't think they are, I just think that we need to create an environment that allows women to make the choices that they want to make. If women choose to have children, they must be able to have the support structure that they require to do that joyfully, so that we can bring up children who are healthy, because the opposite side of that is we have children who are growing up without parents.... Who are raised by nannies and that creates its own problems in society, so if I had to choose I would choose a society where women make the choice to be at home to bring up their children, because they know that contribution will be valued and secondly when they go back to work they won't be penalized for having taken some time off to go and bring up children. So it's really an idea that needs to be embraced by society, not so much for the benefit of women, but because we recognize that creating a society where children are properly brought up, preferably by their mothers, would create a much healthier society, a more stable society."

I love this quote, too, even if the editors at CNN used a comma where they should have used a semi-colon:

"The world was never changed by people who have normal ideas, the world is always changed by people who have absurd ideas."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sometimes you wish you'd google searched first....

Everyone who is going to be naming a band should do a google search first.  Seriously.

For example, there is a really great vocal group called SONOS. But when you do a google search to find them,  the first results are all for an audio technology company with the exact same name. The wikipedia page and twitter account both go to the tech company, not the vocal group. Oops.  It's not that anyone is going to think they found the band page when they find the audio equipment site--it's just that it's harder to find the band page, and that's not a good thing. When you name a product, you don't want to make people have to think to find you.

Another group I recently found that should have thought carefully before they named themselves: Karmin.

For one thing, even their die-hard fans don't realize the girl's name isn't Karmin. It's Amy.
For another, it's hard to spell. If someone says the word, "Karmin" to you, and you want to google search it, you're going to look for 'Carmen' first. If you know it's spelled with a 'K,' you're going to search Karmen first (and get a russian marriage agency as one of the top results), and Karman second. There are very few words in English that end with "-in"--especially compared with -en and -an endings.  Again, hard to find. They're going to get past it--they signed with Epic Records recently (if rumors are correct). Still, if people are finding a russian marriage agency before they find you when they are actually looking for you, you have a problem.

Strengthening the Family

This looks like a great symposium. My brother is involved with it, and I think it is a good voice in favor of families. It's also inexpensive.  Have a look:

Students for the Family invites you to attend Strengthening the Family: Engaging Issues with Courage and Civility on October 28th and 29that the Provo Marriott Hotel! (See full event schedule here.)  Lloyd D. Newell, Ph.D., voice of the oldest continuous nationwide network radio broadcast in America, Music and the Spoken Word, will offer the keynote address.  Register today!

·   Network with students, young professionals, scholars, and others interested in family issues
·   Support and participate in family-centered student scholarship
·   Learn how to effectively strengthen your own family and community

With pre-registration, the cost is $7 for students (enter promo code "student") and $12 for non-students.  To get a better feel for this unique event, watch a short documentary about last year's conference. Contact with questions.

Interested in helping out?  Sign up to volunteer at!

Students for the Family

Some of the many presentations to look forward to include:

Richard & Linda Eyre (Authors and Professional Speakers)
“Parenting: the Ultimate Career”

Sally Olsen (2011 Utah Mother of the Year)
“Motherhood Matters: Rejoicing in Your Family”

Donald L. Hilton, Jr., MD (University of Texas)
“Pornography and Sexual Addiction: A Disease of the Motivation and Reward Pathways of the Brain”

Jenet Erickson, Ph.D. (Brigham Young University)
“Marriage, the Dream that Refuses to Die: What that Means in a Culture of Hanging Out, Divorce, and Same Sex Marriage”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Teaching Using Google + Hangouts

It worked!

I held my first Hangouts class today, using Google + group video chat feature. It was very cool. We had 5 students on three webcams in Utah, Colorado, and Quebec, and everyone could talk and learn and see each other.

It was a little awkward that if I was looking at the students, it looked to them like I was looking down away from them--for me to look "at" them, I have to look directly into the webcam, which is great except then I can't see them--and I need to see them to know if they "get" it or not.

Still, it worked great. I was a little nervous, but it came out okay and I now have a little bit of a sense of how things will go so I can tailor my lessons directly to the kids.

So we had the visual and audio contact with each other. We also had a "blackboard" in the form of the chat box on the side, which anyone could write on--and that was really kind of cool. We could make lists that way. There are some new features coming out in Google+ Hangouts soon that Caleb and I tested last night that would allow you to share documents and drawings--effectively giving you a blackboard and handouts in class--and you can already share YouTube videos, which you watch right in the Hangout and can pause to talk about. All VERY helpful educational tools.

The class I decided to teach is "The Writer's Toolbox"--pretty much the writing parts of everything I've taught before. It focuses on what other writers do (so we can be better readers, too!), and what we can do--things that work and things that don't, things that create and "experience" in the reader and things that don't. I chose this because I'm confident teaching it, and, since I'm not confident with the technology (and the fine points of the techniques for teaching online) yet, I thought I'd better be confident with the material.

I also made a class website, giving each child a personal web page that only they (and I ) have permission to edit. That way they can post their own writing online to share with each other. My kids were all excited about that. Nobody else has used it yet, and they might not--I wouldn't have been brave enough to share my writing when I was a kid, but my kids were so excited about it they started writing new stories right away to add to it.

This could open a lot of cool doors for homeschoolers because anyone with expertise can teach anyone with interests--real time, live, over the internet.  And free. You could get an expert to give a presentation, a guy in a lab to do science experiments real time and live, give language or music or art lessons--or anything else. Everyone could get their Saxon math books, and a teacher could actually teach the class.

The limitations are in size--you only have 10 "slots"--but can put more than one kid in front of each webcam.  The teacher needs one of those. So there are only 9 slots for students. That's okay, actually, because smaller classes have better results in terms of learning and making friends.

After we finished I had 2 more students ask to join, and one more just emailed me.

As one mom said today, "This gives the penpal concept a run for its money."

Friday, October 07, 2011

Virtual school students failing?

A friend of mine told me recently that there is a big stink going up right now in Colorado because the students at the virtual schools (those half-way homeschooling, half-way public schooling spots) are doing extremely poorly on state tests compared to brick-and-mortar public school kids.

Why does this not surprise me?

Because with public schools, it's very clear who is in charge of your child's education: the teacher is, and the parent is a support.

In homeschools, it's very clear who is in charge of your child's education: the parent is.

But virtual schools take the power out of the parent's hands, some more aggressively than others. The parents don't decide what to teach or when, they don't decide what assignments actually need to be done and what to skip, or even how the assignments are to be completed. They are relegated to a support role. (In some states, this isn't as true with the virtual schools, and no doubt all virtual schools are different, but in the virtual school we went to here in Colorado, they made it very clear that the parents were not to consider themselves experts on education--they had the same disdain for parents that most public schools do).  This is especially damaging because most of the parents who jump into virtual schools want to homeschool but have some reservations about their own abilities to do it--so they're getting the help of experts, but they don't have the confidence to buck the system and do it their own way (which is usually what makes homeschool work best--the parent doing it in the way that is most effective for them and for their own unique child).

But because the professional teachers are not the ones teaching the kids face-to-face, and they aren't interacting with them on a daily basis (or even at all--most schools require a once a week phone call or email with the parent), and they aren't actually looking the kid in the eyes to see if they get it, they are also relegated to a support role.

That leaves nobody primarily responsible for the child's education.

Is it any wonder the kids fall through the cracks?

Thinking about Fibromyalgia

My mom has fibro. So do I. So do probably all her sisters (some aren't so sure, but the symptoms seem to be there). Probably one of my three sisters does (even though she denies it--but we can see the characteristic "fibro behaviors"). And a handful of my cousins do, but many of my mom's cousins don't. But her paternal grandmother probably did.

Over the years, we've had discussions about what exactly causes fibro--and even what it actually is (metabolic disorder? psychological disorder? overreaction? potassium disorder?). People say it's an adult physical manifestation of the pain from childhood abuse, but that's not true--I was never abused. Ever.

Mom has tried just about every treatment out there, and nothing has worked.

But recent conversations with her left me thinking about what exactly this is.

I've come to some pretty solid conclusions and consistent observations:

1. True fibro is 100% genetic. There is a parallel disorder, a pseudo-fibro, that people can "catch" from car accidents and diseases, but true fibromyalgia is genetic (not even just a genetic tendency that gets triggered by stress or trauma--it's as genetic as your eye color.)
2. Fibro is present from birth but not bothersome until after the hormone shift that happens sometime in a woman's early-to-mid-twenties, about the same time most women put on 15 lbs that they can never get rid of and mostly stop getting acne. Even then, they don't really "notice" it until they hit their first bad cycle, which is usually associated with stress (new baby born, car accident, serious illness) because stress makes fibro take a bad turn. But the stress didn't CAUSE the fibro. It just brought it to the forefront.
3. Fibro is related to hormones. It cycles with a woman's hormone cycle.
4. Fibro reacts poorly to sugar, stress, exercise (too much, too little, too long, or not gentle enough) and lack of sleep (leading to more sugar cravings, more stress, and worse sleep in a nasty cycle) as well as certain physical movements (bend and hold, holding your arm up or out, standing in one place, moving outside the "cone" that extends from your shoulders out and down like a hoop skirt, repeating a motion more than 5 times in a row) and physical stimuli (sitting on a "wrong" chair or getting kicked, even gently, in the ankles, for example).
5. Many women with fibro must eat before they can fall asleep--like eat while sitting on the edge of the bed or while actually lying down to sleep.
6. Fibro also cycles separate from the hormone cycle--good days and bad days "pop up" seemingly randomly (although I have a sneaky suspicion there is a trigger and it's a delayed trigger, so I haven't pinpointed it yet).
7. Fibro causes a bizarre delayed response in some physical things, usually with the reaction showing up 24-48 hours after the trigger. For example, if I exercise too much, my muscles get stiff 2 days later, and the fibro pain increases 2 days later. If I stand up for too long (say, at a doctor's appointment for one of the kids), I pay for it in "fibro pain" 2 days later. Another example--the heaviest day of my period is the second or third, instead of the first, with my body responding to the shift in hormones that triggered the period 2 days later.
8. People with fibro have a strange relationship to energy. I'm not talking "energy work" in alternative medicine. I'm talking actual electricity energy. Science has found the ATP in fibro sufferers doesn't work the same as in normal people. Anecdotal evidence points to people with fibro draining 5-year watch batteries consistently in 1 year. Always. And fibro forums are full of accounts from women who say that street lights go off when they come by way more than would be expected by chance.

Previously, I had come to the conclusion that Fibro is a metabolic disorder--something like PKU. I also have thought it is tightly tied to female hormones and energy.

Here's my newest conclusion, based on a cursory family study on my very large extended family:

Fibro is genetic, and based on fairly simple genetics, too (as in, it's a trait controlled by a single inherited gene that could be explored using a punnet square--that simple). It moves in a straight line through families, not skipping generations, but is primarily expressed in the women (so it might appear to skip a generation if the father was a carrier). The gene that controls fibro (or genes) are isolated on the X-chromosome. It is a dominant trait (meaning you only have to have it on one of your X-chromosomes to have fibro). The reason I don't think it's on the mitochondria (which you inherit from your mother and which are involved in cellular energy production) is the expected inheritance/expression isn't 100%--not all daughters of fibro sufferers have fibro, even though all children get their mitochondria exclusively from their mothers.

I suspect the expression of it is hormone-dependent (somehow triggered by/fed by/attached to estrogen, estrogen production, estrogen processing, estrogen receptors? Or perhaps another predominantly female hormone, like oxytocin?--there are ways to begin exploring this. For example, find the men who claim to have fibro and see if their hormones are out of balance, with high levels of the "female" hormones, since all people have at least trace amounts of both "male" and "female" hormones).  Why attached to hormones somehow? It's primarily expressed only in women, and the symptoms very clearly interact with a woman's hormones (in fact, my mom's fibro got a LOT worse after her doctor prescribed estrogen pills when she hit menopause, but my grandmother's seems to have stayed the same or even gotten better after menopause).

In my mom's family, I suspect both her parents were carriers (the stories that they tell of her paternal grandmother sound like fibro behaviors to me), which is why she and all her many sisters appear to have fibro, even though not all her aunts or female cousins or female nieces do. In the rest of the family, it appears to follow the simple ratios you'd expect from a dominant gene using mendelian genetics.

Mom's family is particularly suited to a genetic study of fibro, actually. It is strongly expressed in multiple generations, and there are MANY women in each of those generations. My mom's mother came from a family with 17 children and my mom's father came from a large family (although not that large), too.  Each of those children had many children, and each of those has had many children (3 or more). So there are a LOT of people to test and compare, some of whom have fibro and some of whom don't. (My mom has something like 100 first cousins on just one side, and I have 35 on her side).  Interestingly, I have a large family on my dad's side, too, and none of my 35 cousins on that side claim to have fibro. (I vaguely recall my paternal grandmother saying her sister had fibro, but my grandmother did NOT, so my dad wouldn't be a carrier, which would explain the ratios in my immediate family, with half the girls having it and half not).

Somebody with more expertise and funding than I have should do the research. If I'm right, it would be a huge breakthrough for fibro research, which is still hovering in the "no, it's just female hysteria--it's all in your mind" realm. If they could find the actual gene that controls it, that wouldn't cure it, but it would be a huge step forward. Even if I'm wrong, that would be a huge breakthrough. The more things you can eliminate, the closer you are to the truth.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Did I just read that?

From an educational pdf on rice: "Rice is synonymous with Asians." ( line).

The rice people speak many languages and have many different cultures. Some of the rice's languages share written characters. Japanese, Chinese, and Korean peoples are all rice.

Did I just read that?

From ABC news today: "FDA Proposes New Drug Labeling for Women"

Warning: this woman might get really cranky every 30 days....

I guess some guys might consider a woman their drug of choice. 

Where are they going to stick the drug label? On my back?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Did I just read that?

That animal at the bottom--she's the freakiest one of all.....

Another reason writing is important

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."--G.K. Chesterton

Did I just read that?

"Another in the opposite direction marched against poverty organized by United Way."
Read more:

I guess United Way is keeping themselves in business by organizing poverty as well as combating it.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Did I just read that?

"Color Noxious Weeds are weeds you can color! Each noxious weed coloring page includes information about the noxious weed and a drawing you can color."

Because everyone has a favorite noxious weed....