Thursday, December 31, 2009

Boxing Day / Week / Month (or How Long Is it Gonna Take Me to Clear All This Junk Outta Here?)

We started on the clutter removal the day after Christmas- Boxing Day. Ideally, we would have done a big de-cluttering before Christmas to make room for all the new stuff, but we didn't. I lean towards the “better late than never” attitude in life, so rather than lament my delay, I'm getting busy now. We started on the worst room in the house- the one occupied by my 9 year old son. I knew it would be a big job, but my goodness, I really had NO IDEA what I was getting into. I don't think many 9 year old boys are tidy, but in addition to his age and gender, my son is an inventor, a creator and a collector of oddities. He love tape, and very thoroughly attaches the strangest things with it.

When he was younger, he actually asked Santa to bring him “lots and lots of tape- duct tape, packaging tape, electrical tape, regular tape- all kinds of tape.” Santa came through that year, and my kid spent weeks after Christmas taping together assorted household items- my hairbrush had quarters taped to it, action figures had nails and old keys taped to their heads, etc, etc. The fascination with tape has continued, and he also developed a passion for tying knots and taking apart old, broken electrical appliances.

When he first exhibited this curiosity, the inner homeschooling mom in me thought “What a great learning adventure- he can take apart that old broken TV and VCR in the garage, and I'll bet he'll get a lot out of it.” He thought it was great, and I'm sure he learned something, but I made the mistake of telling friends how much my son enjoyed taking things apart and taping together new inventions. Kind hearted folks started bringing us old broken stuff for him to play with. He loved it, but after a while, I didn't.

My husband is also a collector of cr@p (he swears it's all “good stuff and maybe it is, but a lot of it looks like semi- rusty metal parts to me) and you can only put so many things someplace before it starts looking a tad bit trashy. Between the two of them, my yard started looking a little too much like a junk yard for my comfort zone. I started hearing the theme song to Sanford and Son in my head every time I walked out there. I tried arranging some of it at pleasing angles, and telling myself it was artistic “assemblage” which made the “sculptures” hip. If I keep telling myself we aren't hillbillies, then we won't be, right?

Anyway, back to this year- I never imagined it would be easy, but we moved his bed, and oh my- the myriad of weirdness. It was the same in the closet, in the dresser and on his shelves. What makes a person tape together a half dozen bottle caps, a little plastic dog, a screw and the remote control and tie it with a piece of yarn with 14 million knots in it to the bottom rail of a bed? Is this art too? No matter how much I appreciate art, I can only house so much of it, so a major purging was in order.

The little guy was an amazingly good sport about helping with the project, and spent the first couple of hours saying “This is kind of fun!” Where he got that idea, I don't know, but I tried not to squelch it with saying or showing how much I disliked having to do it. He would make different game show noises for items he wanted to keep, give away or trash, and I had to guess them. They were pretty obvious- a little “ding ding” was good, “a loud buzz was a reject- but it did make it slightly more entertaining. Eventually, he lost his enthusiasm due to the physical and mental exhaustion of going through multiple mountains of stuff, but we kept on and on the 2nd day, his room was beautiful. The car was full of donations, and the trash and recycles can were full and we had a backlog while we awaited pickup. What a blessing to have so much stuff leave my life! I celebrated with a glass of sparkling wine.

Next is dear daughter's room. For some reason, after living through my sons room, I initially thought my daughter's would be easy. Once again, my cockiness got the best of me. She is better at making her stuff look more aesthetically pleasing, but there is still a whole lotta weird and random stuff to go through in there too- like neatly folded candy wrappers- that could probably should get out of my house. Then, there's still my room, my studio, the dining room cabinet full of homeschooling stuff, and twenty five million bookshelves crammed in every corner. I can't even bring myself to think about the garage at this point. My little de-cluttering project has gone from Boxing Day to Boxing Week, and may just end up being Boxing Month. It would have been nice to have it all done and all the junk out of here before we ring in the New Year, but that isn't going to happen. Again, better late than never.

I'd love to hear other people's ideas on how they tackle clutter build up. I seem to have a magnet for stuff and then it seems to breed rampantly in my presence. I can use all the help I can get.

I hear kids stirring now, so I know they're up for the day. Another cup of coffee, and I'll be ready to meet my daughter and see what we can clear out of her room. Maybe my kids at least will start the New Year without clutter, even if the whole house can't.

Happy New Year! Hope everyone has safe and festive celebrations.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More Christmas Craftiness- Glitter Everywhere

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday week. I meant to get this part 2 post on Christmas Craftiness up before  Christmas, but punctuality is not my strong point, and I was too busy actually enjoying the holidays with my family to write about them. So, I'm a day late- but better late than never, right? (I tell myself that a lot.)

After the chaos of Christmas, my house is more of a disaster than usual, but the nice thing is, that there is glitter everywhere. It's a good thing that I love sparkles, because for the last couple of weeks, we have been finding stray glitter pieces everywhere- on our cheeks, in our hair- my son found some in his soup the other night. He decided it wasn't toxic, ate it anyway, and told me about it later. At least he didn't come up with any ideas about waiting for it to pass- glittery poop is the kind of thing that kid would find hysterical.

The source of the glitter was Christmas craftiness. We made cards and ornaments for the grandmas...

 I'm also still finding stray bits of wrapping paper and packaging, separating paper from plastic, and  marveling that this time of sharing and love is the one week in the year that our trash can is actually full when we drag it to the curb. Maybe I can use some of the paper for my belated solstice bonfire that never happened, unless the colored wrapping paper is full of lead or some other toxic chemical I don't want to burn. I guess I'll have to google it.

Anyway, I do feel very blessed that we were able to continue the traditions for us that make the holidays special each year. We read our favorite holiday books, and we watched our favorite movies. My mother-in-law has a wonderful tradition at her holiday gatherings that each guest must provide some sort of entertainment. The "talents" vary widely- we've had songs on the piano, poems, magic tricks, dances jokes and more. Of course, some have more actual talent than others, but all are fun, and entertaining, it is. Last year, my little family did a rousing rendition of the Heat Miser song from The Year Without a Santa Clause. For those of you not familiar with 1970's era Christmas specials, here's what I'm talking about...

It was a hit. This year, I opted for "Quirky Science Tricks" as seen below....

I don't have a British accent, and not all my tricks worked perfectly, but it was well received anyway.

Now, on this leisurely morning after the Christmas chaos, while being thankful for all the goodies that came our way this holiday, I am contemplating Boxing Day, and the idea of boxing up some of this excess stuff and passing it on to someone who needs it more than me. My younger child just finished reading our beloved old copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas aloud to me in bed, and I think I'll close with my favorite line from that Dr. Suess classic...

"And he puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas....perhaps...means a little bit more!"

I hope everyone's holiday was full of blessings and glittery good things!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas....

Despite the hecticness, consumerism and overall frenzied insanity of the month of December, I love the Christmas season, and all the fun activities that come with it.

We started off the month taking the kids, dogs, hot tea and hot soup on a drive to find a little snow and a Christmas tree.

We hiked and searched and debated, until we finally found a tree we could all agree was "the one." I think it is actually the first Christmas tree in at least 6 years in our home that has not been a complete Charlie Brown affair.

I still have fond memories of the year we chose a manzanita Christmas bush rather than a tree though.

We've been busy in the kitchen....

making and baking goodies- like these chocolate bugs and coconut mice...

We've been plotting, and sneaking, and whispering. I love how excited the kids get about surprising loved ones with gifts. We've made lists, and lost them and gone shopping and forgot what we were in the crowded store for. We've been packing and wrapping and mailing. I've ordered a few things online, meant to order a few more, missed the shipping deadline, and cursed myself for blowing it. Of course, like everyone else, we've stood in plenty of lines, and seen a few Grinch like shoppers as well.

No matter how we try, I don't see how we can escape the rushing and crowds and other such things that have just become another part of Christmas in America. But, the part of the holidays that I treasure is the time spent making and sharing things. I'm so glad I have artistic kids who like to create as much as I do. We've been doing a lot of crafting, and I'm hoping to post about it, and other holiday traditions this week.

For now, I've got cards to address, and ornaments to paint with my kids. I think I'll change into yoga pants to be more comfortable while I have another cookie and some cocoa while I'm at it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice and the Season of Lights

I am so very happy that the Solstice is here and gone. Even though it's only the first day of winter, and we probably have a lot more cold weather and dreary days before spring, I can already feel the shift toward the light. I have really been feeling the lack of light and shortness of days this year.

On some mornings when I go in to work early, I leave the house in the dark, and I come home in the dark, not having seen my farm or any of it's non human occupants at all that day. I know that plenty of people have that kind of schedule all the time, and they are fine with, or at least used to it. I personally think it stinks. I like seeing what is going on on my land and with my animals- not to mention the time exploring it all with my kids. It is certainly making me appreciate, and protect the uninterrupted days we do have to enjoy the outdoors here together.

I don't know how people in Alaska and the far north manage. I backpacked there for a few months one summer many years ago, and while the midnight sun was something to get used to in a tent, I cannot imagine the near complete darkness they have in winter. I remember a woman telling me that alcohol consumption, domestic violence, and suicides all go up substantially there in the dark season. I can imagine that is probably true.

I guess that shortage of daylight hours is probably why so many cultures and religions have recognized that we all seem to need a little extra light and celebration at this time of year. I could use a little extra light and celebration myself. Although it poured down rain all day here, dampening my idea of a Solstice bonfire party, I'm lighting candles, and enjoying the light and warmth that I do have. The darkest day of this year has past, the window of daylight hours will be growing again, and soon I'll be enjoying long days, evening walks with my family, and plenty of sunshine to play, explore and accomplish things outside. In the meantime, I am feeling awfully thankful for a cozy fire to cuddle up by, people I love to cuddle up with, games to play, stories to read, music to listen to, and hot toddies to celebrate with.

Happy Solstice everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Craftiness- Part 1- Advent Calendars

Despite outside obligations calling us in too many directions, I am feeling blessed that we have been able to squeeze in lots of Christmas craftiness around here. The house is a messy disaster, and we are finding stray glitter in everything, but it's fun anyway. It started the last week in November with Advent calendars. My kids have wanted to have one for years, and I have fond memories of my own childhood holidays, opening little doors each day to find a new miniature surprise. I also remember opening doors ahead of the day and sneakily eating my future treat, without ever really thinking what I was going to do when that day came.

Anyway, back to my kids and this Christmas... my younger child is always anxious to get started with the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving, but since his older sister has a birthday the first week in December, I keep the holiday decorations away until after she has had a chance to have her special day celebrated without a Christmas tree taking up half of the living room. But, both kids were excited about the idea of making Advent calendars, and it seemed a small and unobtrusive enough thing as to not take away from the birthday excitement.

We started with a large square of felt for each kid. They came up with their overall design- one with a tree theme and one with a stocking theme, and cut out and sewed on the shapes and all the little pockets. This was great experience on the sewing machine for both of them.

They numbered the pockets with fabric paint, and we hung the finished calendars with clothespins on a ribbon strung across the wall. Since the Advent calendars go through the 24th- Christmas Eve we will take them down, and hang the stockings in their place. It took a few hours and we ended up with a couple of cute calendars that are reusable for next year.

Due to the memory of myself as a child eating my treats ahead of schedule, trying to blame it on my brother, and ending up making my mom annoyed with both of us, I decided not to fill all the pockets in my kids calendars in advance. I thought I'd do it each night after they go to bed, and they'd find their surprise every morning. Unfortunately for my kids, they have a slacker mom who isn't all that on top of every day kind of things, so sometimes (OK, maybe semi-often) I don't have the present in the pocket before they get up. Sometimes, I don't even have the present itself, or any idea of what it will be, so it ends up being a surprise all around. I don't want to do a chocolate kiss or candy cane every day, so in theory, I was going to be creative with non sugar surprises too. The kids started joking that “It's not really today yet” when they get up and see the empty pocket. After my coffee, when my brain is functioning at a slightly higher level, I come up with something, and they always like it. Once though, we left early in the morning and completely forgot about it until late that night, so they had two pockets full the next day. There was a chorus of “Yay- It's yesterday and today!” around the calendars that morning.

Maybe next year I will be organized enough to have the treats in mind and on hand before the actual day, but then again, maybe I won't. Either way, I hope when my kids are grown that they will remember the fun of the projects they made. And I'll continue clinging to the ideal that in the end, the overall happiness of the season is more important than precise punctuality anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Puppet Challenge

While perusing the goodies on a past issue of the Hands On Homeschooling Carnival, I came across a link to this great blog Think! which is all about fun, hands-on challenges for kids to solve. The whole idea is creative thinking and problem solving, and of course enjoying the process, which scores major points in my homeschooling theory.

As firm believers that learning (and life in general) should be as fun as possible, we love this kind of stuff in our house! I immediately got my kids set up with this puppet challenge.  It was posted weeks ago, and we are late on the bandwagon as usual, but who cares? It's educational and entertaining at any time, right?
The challenge was basically to make a puppet using 24 inches of string, 4 straws, 2 objects of your choice, 4 paperclips, and 4 index cards. They had to use all of the materials, (markers were allowed, scissors were not) and the puppet needed to have at least 3 moving parts.

My kids got busy right away, and were happily occupied with it for a bit of time. I was able to use this time to catch up on a little writing, and not feel like I was neglecting my homeschooling duties. They were independantly engaged in creating and problem solving- homeschooling at it's best!

I love seeing how differently people will solve the same problem using the same materials. My two very different kids came up with different shapes, different sizes, and different moving parts for their puppets.

The pictures aren't the best, but the challenge was fun nonetheless. We are definitely looking forward to more of these challenges in the future! Check out the link to Think! to find challenges for your family.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The BEST Birthday Party Ever!!!

My daughter recently had what was called by a distinguished guest, “the BEST birthday party EVER!” Yes, I am shamelessly tooting my own horn here because it was a bit of work to organize and set up, but the excited, giggling girls made it so very worth it.

The birthday girl had decided that she wanted a murder mystery type theme for the big day, and after doing a bit of research, looking at what was out there online, and talking to other parents, we decided to write our own mystery. There are a lot of pre-packaged parties available, but she wanted the flexibility to create the characters, and did not want the whole thing to be scripted. So, my budding young writer decided on 5 friends who she thought would get into the spirit of their roles and play along (as well as her little brother,) and she came up with a character for each of them. The characters were very funny, with names like “Suzette Twallette,” “Yo Mama,” and “Madam Kazoo” and with each having several ridiculous traits. After deciding that what called these characters together was “The Disappearance of Cynthia Silverspoon,” we had to somehow tie them to the missing woman. So, we added connecting details to their character sketches- one became her bodyguard, another her personal trainer, the owner of her favorite restaurant, her singing coach, and a snooty French cousin. Just for fun, we added details to each character that made them a suspect and gave them reason to dislike (and therefore potentially set up) one or more of the other suspects. Each character received a summons for questioning from a private investigator (me) along with a sheet describing each of the characters. I needed some adult help to pull this off, so I added in a gardener / chauffeur (Jonathan Brownthumb) and baker / maid (Miss Muffins) who were played by my husband and mother-in-law. My daughter didn't want to know who did it, or any other big details, so she handed it over to me at that point to come up with the rest. Now, this all came at a very busy few weeks in my life, so I was running on very little sleep, and as a result, there was a whole lotta silliness involved. Luckily, her scout troop leader passed along some ideas from a mystery party she had done, and that was great for getting ideas flowing.

Before the party, I secretly enlisted the help of a friend who lives up the street to play the part of Cynthia Silverspoon, and while my husband took our children on an errand, we made a video recording of Miss Silverspoon dressed in faux fur coat and pearls making a dramatic plea that she “just knew someone was out to get her...” While she was putting the directions to her secret bank accounts in the safe, she is knocked on the head by an off camera villain, and the video goes out.

Fast forward to the day of the party, the chauffeur picked up the girls (in costume and character,) and brought them to the estate for questioning. We took fingerprints, and mug shots, and then sat the suspects down to watch the video of the night of the disappearance. Starting at the scene of the crime, the kids had to follow clues which led them all over our property and pointed at every one of them at one time or another. There were messages in Morse code, flag code, maps, invisible ink, and more. They had to do quite a bit of thinking and looking things up while working together to figure out the clues.

At one point, they were called to pull up a file on the computer which contained another surprise video of our Jack Russel Terrier interrogating the animals on the farm. Our animals have quite a bit of personality, and since we spend a lot of time with them, my kids and I regularly make up goofy conversations between them with each animal having it's own recognizable voice. The kids thought this was hysterical!

One of the final clues led them to check the phone messages, one of which was from the “neighborhood watch” asking them to call about some suspicious activity. When they called the number back, they were directed to get to the missing woman's vacation home (shown on the map as the friend who played Miss Silverspoon's house.) We rushed up to her house and inside they followed a trail of items to an upstairs closet where they rescued Miss Silverspoon (she tied herself dramatically up when she heard we were coming) The final clues strewn around her house pointed back to the gardener and the maid, so we had to rush back to our house. The kids found the suspects trying to escape and nearly tackled them in their excitement to save the day. My mother-in-law is one hip grandma, and she did a great job hamming it up with a Scooby Doo inspired “We would've gotten away with it, if it wasn't for those meddling kids!” The kids loved it, and one proclaimed it was “the BEST birthday party ever!” All of that mystery solving made us hungry, so we ate pizza and cupcakes, and the girls had a sleep over in which lots of giggling, and very little sleeping took place.

I'll admit, it was an effort to think up the clues and put it all together, but it was totally worth it. The kids had so much fun, and so did the adults. Unfortunately, during the mystery, one of the girls fell while running for a clue, but got right back up and kept going with barely a tear. Maybe it was the excitement and adrenaline because she barely complained, but the next day we realized the poor girl had sprained her ankle. Luckily, she is on the mend, and she still had a great time.

I'd love to do one of these kind of parties again. I'm not opposed to buying a packaged one, but did have another friend warn me to check the ratings. She had purchased a mystery game for a family party last year, and was unpleasantly surprised as the game went along and very adult themes popped up all over the place. I'll definitely be on the lookout for that if I do buy one.

Now, I'm just on the lookout for when we'll be having our next celebration, and what the theme will be. No matter the work and mess, we love parties.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Busy, busy

My goodness, I haven't posted here since before Thanksgiving! This time of year is busy for everyone, and I feel like it's been especially hectic around here. I have had a good opportunity land on my lap, but the timing (or lack of time now) is causing me to really evaluate and lament my remedial time management skills. I've been working very part time teaching childbirth classes and helping new moms with breastfeeding for quite a few years, and my office recently got a nice big grant to increase our services. In turn, they asked me to increase the hours I work. Of course this is a blessing monetarily, but I haven't quite worked out the logistics with the family. First and foremost come my kids, and homeschooling them is my most important priority. We have been really fortunate to have found a style of homeschooling that is a lot of fun and works really well for us. We don't use a curriculum, but we do a lot of really cool stuff. The thing is, it takes a quite a bit of work on my part, finding fun stuff, activities, crafts, books, videos etc. It's work I really enjoy, but it does take some time, and now I'm feeling pinched for time. My husband is a great guy, and does try to help out. He is actually better at getting the kids to their classes on time than I am, but he is not the type to go on a field trip and think “Hey, I saw a book about that at the library- let's check it out!” He isn't going to start thinking that way any more than I am going to suddenly start thinking “Hey, the front wheel in my car is making a noise- I better get under there and see what it is.” I'd leave that to someone else, just like he'll probably continue to leave the gathering of outside resources to someone else (that would be me.)

I was already over halfway through my semester of online classes through my local college when this opportunity for more work came my way. I've been doing well with my classes, and was handling the workload just fine before I started working all these extra hours. Now, in the final few weeks of the semester, one of my professors has started piling on the essays- and unfortunately for me, they are academic style essays with citations in MLA format. It would be one thing if it was just extra writing of a style I enjoy- opinionated or sarcastic essays would be fine, but the academic voice is not one that comes easily to me. I have a brand new wrinkle in between my eyebrows, which is not what I wanted for Christmas. Maybe someone will send me some wrinkle cream.

The first two weeks of adjustment have certainly brought some turmoil to our normally happyish home. There were some tears and outbursts- I'll admit that some (but not all) were from me. I still haven't quite figured out how to make it all work, but I am trying to be thankful for my blessings, and open to finding a way. We are resourceful people, and pretty flexible too- we'll manage- I know we will. While convincing myself that this chance to become more organized and focused is actually a good thing, I am realizing how very grateful I am for the big chunk of time I have had to goof off and learn alongside my favorite people in the world. Even with my increased hours, I'll still get a lot more free and fun time with my kids than so many mothers do, and when I do work, it is work that I enjoy, and I hope makes the world a better place. So, I am consciously counting my blessings, and trying really hard to stop my whining, so I can get on with the business of enjoying life with my family.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

Since it's Thanksgiving week, I wanted to share a few of the many things I am thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Arranged Marriage?

I've been reading quite a bit about marriage lately- the good, the bad, and the too often ugly of it. When the topic of "arranged marriage" came up, I felt like most modern western people might- that it sounds a bit archaic and unimaginable. But, come to think of it, arranged marriages have probably been the basis of the majority of marital unions throughout history. I knew that some arranged marriages are forced, like when a 12 year old is married off to some old man, which is appalling and gross, and should not be allowed anywhere in my opinion. But, I hadn't realized that in other cases, the couple actually has some input and choice in the matter- it's like a family decision. In most cases of arranged marriage, the union is really important to all the families involved, and there are whole host of implications socially, culturally, and economically that go with it.

Chitra Divakaruni's book Arranged Marriage, gives interesting insight to the importance of marriage for an Indian woman. She tells of a few unions that are happy, and of others involving violence and intimidation. I think many victims of domestic violence have difficulty leaving in any culture, but I would guess it might be even harder to stay away in a place where a woman is ostracized socially for not sticking with her husband, no matter what, and where she is not considered to have any worth or value on her own. Divakaruni may not blatantly disapprove of the custom of arranged marriage, itself but she sheds a strong light on the intense social pressure Indian woman are under to get married, and stay married. I think she acknowledges how deeply the social customs are a part of her culture, and the conflict people experience because of it. She seems mostly to disapprove of the part of her culture that gives women so little power, and so few options. As a woman, and the mother of a daughter, this makes me really count my blessings.

Anita Jain gives a very different look at the topic in her New York Magazine article “Is Arranged Marriage Really Any Worse Than Craigslist?” Jain is a well educated, unmarried Indian woman in her 30's living in New York. She tells comical tales of her parents attempts to find her a match using modern online arranged marriage websites, with her father embellishing her description and making exceptions to his religious expectations for men who make over $200,000 a year. As she has gotten older, her disdain for the matchmaking has lessened, and her willingness to go on those blind dates has increased. She says, “Undeniably, there’s a lack of mystery to Indian-style dating, because both parties are fully aware of what the endgame should be. But with that also comes a certain relief...With other forms of dating the options seem limitless...The not-knowing-where-something-is-headed can be wildly exciting. It can also be a tad soul-crushing. Just ask any single woman in New York.”

While I don't think I would want to choose my children's future spouses, I can think of certain cases where I might wish I could disqualify potential mates who have loser qualities, or give bonus points to the ones I like. I guess it's the same way I'd like to hope I can have a positive influence in any of their life choices. But that's just it, it's their life choice, and as much as it pains me, I don't get to make everyone else's choices for them. I do hope I can be a trusted guide, but they are the ones who are going to have to make the choices and live with them. Thankfully, my kids are still young, and that's all a ways off, but I know it will sneak up on me.

I can't even begin to imagine who my parents would have chosen for me to marry had they had a choice in the matter. Would I have the husband I do? I really don't know, but I do think after some of the guys I dated, my parents were happy with the one I ended up with. Somehow I don't think my parents were as impressed with long haired drummers in rock bands as I was back then. I distinctly remember one occasion when the man I later married came to pick me up on his motorcycle, and my step father said "well, at least he's a nice short haired young man."  My poor parents. Thinking back on my dating years is really not making me look forward to that stage of parenting- at all. But, instead of succumbing to the anxiety and wrinkled forehead those thoughts could give me, (and since it is too early in the day for a glass of wine) I am mentally reaffirming that my children will continue to have better logical thinking skills than I did at their age. Parents of teens will probably tell me I'm being delusional, but do you really need to burst my bubble? I am trying to use the power of positive thinking here!
In any case, in the end, any marriage, any relationship for that matter, whether arranged by outside parties or self chosen, is going to take work on all sides if it's going to have any chance at making it. Just ask anyone who's been married more than ten years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Love Writing About People Like This...

One of my favorite writing gigs is the "Be The Change" column for NorthState Parent magazine. It's a monthly column celebrating folks who are actively making the community a better place for families, and I get the honor of writing it every few months. In the process, I get to meet and talk with some really neat and inspirational people who definately make a difference. This month, Heidi Hillesheim was featured for some of the great work she has done with a community writing project called Books That Cross Borders, as well as her creative passion for education in all kinds of settings, including helping families with homeschooling, and organizing activities for homeschoolers in her area.While I already knew Heidi through homeschooling circles, it was so nice to sit down and chat with her over cookies and tea. Being around inspirational people with such positive energy really makes you think the world is a pretty nice place, and that is a great way to feel.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Library Woes

Last night I was checking my library account online- something I do on a pretty regular basis since we usually have about 25 items checked out at a time (we're homeschoolers after all) and the late fees can add up in a hurry. I am not usually surprised to see a few 20 cent charges here and there, but I was more than a little shocked to see that I have a new $15 fine for a magazine. That's right- I said $15- for a magazine! Back in September, I am 99.9% sure I returned the magazine in question into the drive up library return drop box. When it first started showing up as late, I emailed the library right away, pleading my innocence. I also stopped by and spoke to a librarian who filled out a claims check on it, and said someone would scour the library to look for the missing magazine. I wondered what would happen if it didn't turn up. I mean, it's a pretty big library, and one little old back issue of National Geographic Kids Magazine could easily get lost or even tossed among all that paper. The librarian wasn't sure the procedure for a lost magazine. It's not like it's a big new hardbound book or something- she said so herself.

Well, I didn't hear about it for over a month, so naturally, I was hoping the problem just went away. Then, out of the blue, I see this whopping fine- $5 for the lost material, and $10 for the “processing fee.” What the heck? I guess that $10 processing fee is for the poor sucker who had to run around unsuccessfully looking for a lost magazine in a multi story building full of paper. But, isn't that what the volunteers are there for? Now, I love my library. We use it all the time; it loans our family a huge portion of our homeschool materials, and I am happy to pay my couple of bucks now and again, but I just find this just a tad bit excessive. They want me to pay $15 for one back issue of a kid's magazine? Give me a break. You can get a 1 year subscription to National Geographic Kids Magazine for $15, which only makes this more frustrating. I like to support having a nice community service like the library, but this just annoys me.

So, I emailed my case again. Apparently, I have to call “the supervisor” on Tuesday. Maybe I should just pay the $15 and get it over with. After all, my family borrows books, videos, and obviously magazines, all year for free. I probably will end up paying it in the end, but in this case, it's the principle. I have to fight injustice and oppression when I see it. I can't just let a government agency get away with bullying and wrongfully over charging. So, Tuesday I'll call “the supervisor” and plead my case. Wednesday, I'll probably be dropping a couple of late books by the library, along with some money to pay for the fines and our $15 lost magazine. I need to get myself off the bad patron list, or they won't let me check anything else out, or even renew what I have now. Oh well, at least it's all for a good cause.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Don't Students Like School?

Here's an article from Psychology Today that is sure to ruffle some feathers. Peter Gray tackles the question "Why Don't Students Like School?" Since he is a professor at Boston College, a specialist in developmental and evolutionary psychology, and a textbook author, his opinion probably carries more weight in academic circles than the opinion of a homeschooling parent like myself, but I have a feeling that the educational big whigs aren't going to appreciate the commentary in any case. Gray says the answer is, "well duhhh" that children like freedom, and no matter how fun you try to make it, or how normal it seems to do, or how much it is for their own good, the majority of kids have no choice whatsoever in school.

Now, not all schools are created equal, and I know some kids enjoy their time at their institution, but I guess that is the big difference right there; they want to be there, and would choose to be if they had a choice. I also think that sometimes when people get so used to having their days organized by someone else, that they lose track of what to do with themselves, and fall into the "I'm bored" trap. With all the access that most Americans have to books, games, computers, crafts, and a million other things, it isn't usually a lack of things to do, but a case of lost initiative. In any case, I'd say a whole lotta kids don't have either the desire or the choice about school.

It makes me glad for the big batch of freedom my offspring have in our mostly happy homeschool. They seem to value it too. They like their free time, and the flexibility in what they do with it.

I'll be interested to hear what other people with kids both in and out of traditional school think about it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Ghost in Your Genes

I've watched a bunch of interesting videos lately for my psychology class. The Ghost in Your Genes was this very fascinating, yet mildly alarming video that looked at the things that we inherit, not only from our parents, but our grandparents, and great grand parents. It's not just the color of your hair and eyes either. Scientists are looking at how factors like nutrition deficiencies, exposure to toxins, and even stress of grandparents can be encoded in DNA, and the grandchildren can have repercussions decades later. It's actually a bit scary. In studies with mice, extremely stressful situations produced anxious offspring even three generations later! It was like they were encoded to be little freaked out stresser mice. This does not make me feel very reassured for what kind of things my children will be prone to.

All this makes me think about things like the pesticide DDT which has been illegal in the US for decades, but is still found in soil, animals and even humans who were not even born when it was being sprayed. I wonder what effects will be seen in future generations from the array of drugs and technical interventions now being used in almost every birth in the US. Synthetic hormones, narcotics and antibiotics are used as routine procedures surrounding hospital birth- and there isn't any way to definitively know how these will effect the babies later on other than waiting and seeing. By then it will of course be too late; the damage will have been done. What about the processed foods and chemicals that make up a large portion of the American diet now- how will those effect our grandchildren? There's also the obesity rate, and the immense amount of prescription medications people regularly take these days.

This all leads me toward gloom and doom feelings over the future of our species, and the mess we are getting ourselves into. But, I am making a conscience effort not to be a freak about such things, and rather look at my own life, and see what I can do. Besides, if I am a constant stress case, what will that do to my future grand babies? At least my kids didn't get all the drugs and trauma at their births, and we do try to live a pretty relaxed life and eat good whole food. In general, I am a bit on the skeptical side with a lot of things- I'm not a big fan of waiting to see if the harmfulness of something is proven. I'm more likely to hold off or skip it, but I do need to work on my verbal negativity about the world, or I'll raise little cynics. I'm sure there will be some weird things my kids will inherit anyway, and while this research does make me uncomfortable about all the damage from the past, it also sure makes me glad for my current sheltering habits.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Quick Few Days in Monterey

We just got back from a great couple of days away. It's just one more thing I love about homeschooling- I can call my mini vacations field trips, and go fun places mid week.

One of my kids has been on an ocean life kick, so I'm trying to facilitate that as much as possible. It works out nicely that I also really like lounging at the beach, so I can incorporate that as well.

We were lucky to get in on one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's awesome homeschool field trip days. It's an incredibly generous deal- they offer a limited number of free admissions to homeschool families and groups to their facility each year. Of course, you have to sign up months in advance, and we didn't get our first choice of days, but I'm not about to complain about a free deal. We ended up being there for some of the loveliest weather that town has seen all year. It was so sunny, we were actually almost hot, which is a rarity on northern California beaches.

It cooled off quite a bit when the sun went down, which gave us a chance to view some of the monarch butterflies coming in for the night to rest over in their wintering grounds in at the Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove. The hard core migration of these delicate butterflies is an amazing story in itself.

Bargain hunter that I am, I found a smokin' deal on a room through the TravelZoo Top 20 email newsletter. My ocean life kid was really into helping plan the trip. She figured the mileage and gas cost, mapped out our route, planned a food budget, and packed; all great life skills.

We stayed at the Deer Haven Inn, which is located in a quiet area right across from Asilomar State Beach and within walking distance to some lovely dunes and beaches. There were deer walking down the road, and some of the biggest raccoons I have ever seen came out at night. We got a clean and comfortable room, and the continental breakfast wasn't bad either. The kids thought the push button fireplace was such a cool luxury- especially the kid who just spent a couple of days stacking firewood with is dad.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is just an incredible place. My favorite exhibit is probably the beautiful jellies, but the newest exhibit, the “Secret Lives of Seahorses” is amazing as well.

This amazing creature is not some kind of sea plant- it's a sea dragon- a relative of the sea horse. Pretty cool, huh?
In addition to the beautiful sea life, they had some fun hands on lab stuff, chances to view animal feedings and talk with the scientists, and some interesting presentations. One thing I really appreciate about the homeschool days is the high adult to child ratio. Because they don't schedule school field trips the same days, there aren't ten times as many children as adults. I like children, mind you, but when they've been cooped up too long, and they outnumber the adults by a long shot, their energy and volume can be a bit intense to say the least. It makes it a little hard to concentrate or learn anything, let alone relax and enjoy yourself. It's a whole different experience when almost everyone has their parent there- and a much more pleasant one. We were able to spend the day in peace, marveling at the beauty and diversity in nature.

The trip was quick, but my kids got plenty of time to run around and be crazy on the beach, and my husband got plenty of time to look at boats, and dream of sailing away. It didn't matter that we had to do a whole lotta driving, and wanted to stay another night, but had to rush back, or that the free field trip ended up costing a couple hundred dollars. In the end, we had a great time, learned a bunch, and enjoyed each others' company, and that was the whole point after all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

How could I not love a holiday that is all about dressing up and eating chocolate? I pretty much enjoy any occasion to celebrate, but Halloween definitely ranks as one of my favorites. There just aren't very many occasions where grown ups wearing costumes in public are considered socially acceptable, and I for one appreciate the opportunity.
Being the good mother that I am, I have the chance responsibility to save my children from consuming all that sugar on their own. I do this by raiding the candy stash while they are sleeping, and pretending I have no idea where all the good chocolate has gone. Eating their treats may be slightly tricky of me, but I am doing it out of love, and the reality that I pay their dental bills. Besides, I consider it my commission for years of costume design and assistance.

And in the spirit of the holiday, here are some spooky snacks whipped up by a craftier friend than me.
Happy Halloween Everyone.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Almost NaNo Time!

It's almost time for NaNoWriMo! If you aren't familiar with it, November is National Novel Writing Month. It's "thirty days and nights of literary abandon!" NaNoWriMo is a ridiculous name, but a fun thing to try, and the whole family can get involved. Someone, somewhere had the grand idea to challenge aspiring writers around the world to attempt writing a 50,000 word novel in one month. Now it's a big annual to do, and every year, tons of people participate. Obviously, 30 days is not a lot of time to write a book, so you're going for quantity over quality in this case. There's no time to edit, revise, and perfect. It's a mad rush to get out all your crazy ideas as fast as you can. Some people may wonder what's the point? It's not like they have some awesome grand prize, like an all expense paid tropical vacation or anything. I guess the point is just to see if you can do it. There's not a lot of glory, but it's an experience. Maybe, somewhere among the piles of drivel you churn out, you might find a gem that you can use. Chances are, it'll get your creative juices flowing, and I think it will be entertaining.

At first, I considered trying to combine Nano writing somehow into my blog, imagining myself diligently writing and publishing daily. Then, I considered the fact that most of what I write at that speed will probably be complete nonsense, and it probably isn't that great of an idea to publish large quantities of nonsensical writings on the internet under your own name if you plan to continue doing any writing for a living. Hopefully, I'll be able to come up with enough to write about in both places, and blog readers will at least get a semi edited version of my ramblings. I'm not making any promises though.

There's a kids, or "young writers" challenge, too. They can choose their own word count- my daughter and a couple of her friends are aiming for 10,000 words each. There are writing exercises, forums to toss out questions, and kids can connect with other writing buddies for advice and support. It seems like a great way to encourage some creative writing, and I can't wait to see what my daughter comes up with this year. Last year, we all did our own independent versions, and it was amazing to see how motivated they were, and much writing they churned out.
I'm curious, is anyone else up for the challenge this year? Check it out here, and if you try it, let me know how it goes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not Everyone Can Write Right

Why is it that whenever I make fun of other people, it always comes back and bites me in the butt? It really takes the fun out of mockery and any form of smugness.

My latest slice of humble pie started with the classes I've been taking online through my local community college. They've really made me feel secure about our family homeschooling for the long haul. This isn't because I am suddenly feeling more well educated and capable of teaching than I was a few months ago. Although I am certainly learning some interesting things, and enjoying the process, what has boosted my confidence is seeing first hand the wide variety of abilities from people who have had a typical education. To think that we can probably accomplish something in this range is not really all that intimidating, at all. A person can graduate high school, and probably even pass college classes with really bad spelling and grammar. Lots of people don't follow written instructions, or work within timelines well. While these skills would certainly be helpful to them, and they will hopefully be attaining them in college, there are plenty of people over the age of 18 who never learned them in traditional schools. While I'm definitely shooting for my offspring to be equipped to be academically competitive before they reach college, if there is an area that they struggle in, they surely won't be the only ones.

As homeschoolers, we always get the question, “How long are you planning on homeschooling? What about high school?” People act like it's rocket science or something that we should be terrified to even consider attempting. I feel like if I really learned anything while I was in high school, I should be somewhat capable of passing it on to my kids. Actually, there are plenty of things I learned in high school that I don't want to pass on to my kids, but that's another story. There's always the “What about chemistry?” type of questions too- as if most people really need to know chemistry in everyday life- as if most people who took chemistry didn't forget all of it within a year anyway. I think if my kids want or need chemistry, or any other class I am not “qualified” to teach, that is what the local college is for.

Back to my humble moment... when I started noticing chronic errors in other college students' work- errors that my 6th grader was able to find, and correct- I got a bit cocky, and may have even made a few jokes about it (being the cynical and sarcastic person that I am, it is hard for me not to joke about things.) Well, within a very short time, I found myself making embarrassing typos in public forums. They were all mistakes that I could glaringly see were wrong after I hit “enter,” but had missed in my hurry to go on with my life. I did this on multiple occasions too; I actually considered that I might be losing my mind, getting some form of early dementia in my 30's. Then, I realized that it was probably just one of life's little lessons teaching me humility. I am just hoping I won't have 5,000,000 more public typos here to reinforce the lesson. So, in order to not jinx myself any further, I want to be clear that I'm not making fun of anyone here. I'm just noting that the idea that everyone comes away from their formal (and in many cases forced) education with the same abilities and knowledge is false. Maybe most of them were exposed to similar ideas, but what they absorbed and retained varies a great deal.

As my husband pointed out, writing is not everyone's strong point, and it doesn't need to be. I agree completely. I may be good at spotting other people's typos, but I am painfully remedial when it comes to mechanical things. In real life, the ability to fix a broken car or washer might actually be more useful than the ability to spell well. In the end, everyone has their own gifts. I am just very glad that my kids have the opportunity and time to explore and develop their own strengths, as well as their weaknesses, on their own timeline. They can bloom into what they are meant to be, when they are ready, and that is something to be grateful for.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Even the Cat is Coughing Up Science Lessons

Since I've been on my current science theme, I am seeing science lessons everywhere on our little farm. Just this afternoon, we had a gross little piece of science shoot out all over my daughter's favorite blanket. It was one of those fascinating in a disgusting way kind of things, and I guess it was technically more of a chunky pile than a piece. Our dear CatCat was lounging in her usual foot of the bed spot when she began out of the blue gagging. Well, my daughter picked up the cat to put it out, since it seemed on the verge of vomiting and all. The cat stopped retching, and daughter put her back on the bed. Immediately, Miss Meow Purr hacked up a smelly mess. Of course these things never hit just one blanket- it skimmed several. As I'm sure you can imagine, even a splash of cat vomit goes a long way, so everything has to be washed. On the way to the washer, we accidentally dropped some of the mess, and spread the joy even further. This was when we saw the interesting part. CatCat apparently swallowed a baby lizard- whole! The poor thing was only a few inches long, and was perfectly intact, except the missing tail. Well, we scooped it up and took it outside to check it out. After we poked around to get the cat hairball off of it, we discovered the little lizard had a beautiful blue patch on it's throat, a lovely pattern in its' scales, and tiny, perfect little fingers and toes. I considered bringing back in and looking at it under the microscope, but the whole mess smelled too bad for that.
So, we got online to see if lizard eating could be hazardous for a cat, and it looks like it's possible. I went back outside to see if I could get another look at the lizard, in order to identify it, but I can't find it now. I am thinking that my #1 chicken, Miss Puffy Cheeks, may have cleaned it up for me. Well, Google gave me about 12 million sites on cats vomiting lizards, most of which had no connection to anything remotely official, so I'm not exactly sure of the credibility of the information. Heck, any goofball blogger, like me, can post things on the internet. In any case, the cat seems fine now though, and is recuperating outside, so we won't be rushing to the vet to check for lizard toxicology. I am just hoping chickens are immune to lizard toxins.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Challenging Science Fun

My science pick for this week is the Kids Science Challenge. We are so glad it is back for it's second year! It's a fun and inspiring contest to get kids in grades 2-6 thinking about science. It breaks down into a few chosen areas of science where kids can submit an idea or experiment to real scientists in that field, and possibly meet the scientists and win cool prizes. This years chosen areas are sports on mars, bio inspired design and detective science. The website has games and projects to get you in the mood; but be warned, there is a loud and rather overstimulating musical lizard intro that comes blaring at you on the home page. You might want to reduce the volume there, but once you get past that, there is lots more to enjoy.

Last year, both of my kids enjoyed brainstorming ideas and experimenting with outcomes. My son entered an idea in skateboard technology, and my daughter submitted her idea on water quality and conservation. She was a finalist and won a really cool digital microscope, along with some science kits and activity books. The microscope has given us hours of marveling at the beauty of ordinary objects magnified. We've been looking at just about everything under this thing- bugs, leaves, flowers, rocks, our skin (warning- magnifying wrinkles is not good for parental self esteem) and there's a constant "wow" or "eeeeew" going with it. We had read that butterflies have spiral tube tongues, but to see one in real life was just amazing. In many cases though, magnification leaves us repelling in disgust- a scab on a child's knee for example is really gross at 40 times it's normal size. Either way, we are continually fascinated by the natural world.

Of course winning fabulous prizes is always a bonus, but we enjoyed this fun contest in and of itself. We'll definitely be spending some time on it again this year. Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Science Fun

I am a firm believer that education should not be boring. Kids start off life wanting to learn, and in an effort to keep that spark alive rather than smothering it with formalities, I spend a lot of time researching (goofing off on the internet, browsing library shelves, crafty catalogs etc.) finding cool things to enhance our homeschooling journey. It keeps it fun and interesting for both my kids and me, which is, after all, why we are doing this.

In the spirit of creativity and learning fun, I'm going be posting links to some of the many wonderful resources and awesome goodies that our family enjoys. I'm starting off with science, since there are so very many free and cool tools available online. Science is an experiment waiting to happen just as much as it is a series of formulas. My first pick is "The Happy Scientist."

I think everybody should be familiar with this guy- he is great! He's like a semi mad, but happy scientist who is really good at explaining things. The guy can even make boiling water interesting. He regularly sends out really fun and facinating science experiments, photos and videos, many of them FREE! If you love the free stuff, you can join for a very small fee, and have access to lots more science goodies. You can also follow him on Facebook!

We've tried a number of his experiments with mostly successful results. He has a great way of explaining concepts and making them understandable, without sounding like he is dumbing them down. (We really appreciate this) The kids love the videos, especially the bloopers- seeing professional adults mess up on camera is endlessly amusing for them. Although we don't check them every day, we check out several of his Science Photos each week. They always capture some amazing part of our natural world, and he poses a question about each one. After exhausting our ideas, we can check his explanations, which almost always lead us to some interesting new bit of knowledge.

This is so much more fun than a textbook.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Understanding Human Behavior

As part of my life long learning campaign I have been enjoying taking classes online through the local community college off and on for a couple of years now. I'm not sure when or how they will all add up to a degree but I am enjoying learning new things in the mean time. This semesters picks include a psychology class called “Understanding Human Behavior.” Since humans behave in all sorts of odd ways that are quite a puzzle to me, this ought to be interesting. I thought I'd be analyzing everyone around me, but we seem to be starting out by looking at ourselves. While it might not be nearly as fun as thinking about other peoples bizarre issues, I suppose it will be more useful in the end to understand my own.
Besides analyzing my own behavior, my dear family members are getting a big dose of my newfound knowledge and analytical skills. I am finding plenty of entertaining opportunities to throw out phrases like "Hmmm, it sounds like you might be displacing your anger and projecting it onto inanimate objects." Although people who are yelling at a printer that won't work or cursing at a shopping cart with a bad wheel don't seem very appreciative of my psychological assessments, it is still very amusing for me to make them. I should probably try analyze why I find so much humor in messing with already frustrated people, but that sounds like a little more deep thinking than I'm into tonight. I could probably come up with some way to rationalize it, but in the mean time I think I'll just keep having fun with it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not Back to School

Now that fall is here, and most kids have gone back to school, we are getting plenty of curious questions about our homeschooling adventure. Learning happens year round for us, but that's a hard concept to explain to folks with a standard view of education. It's equally hard to explain the concept that education should not be forced or boring, nor does it need to take place in a classroom or make your head hurt. While most of the questioners are friendly, I can often see a look in their eye that says despite the smile, they just can't help but think that what we are doing is a little weird. I doubt many of them will come around to my way of thinking and suddenly let their children be free during the course of a 5 minute conversation at the dentists office, but at least we are a presence, hopefully normalizing the face of homeschooling. I don't wear denim jumpers, and while I am a Christian, I am far from a religious extremist. My kids are not dressed like they are on Little House on the Prairie, and although they are smart and mostly well behaved, they are not timid, or ill adjusted and neither is a prodigy. The idea of homeschooling really isn't that strange, and neither are most of the people doing it. We're a mixed bag of all kinds of people who chose this path for different reasons and go about it different ways. So, I try to be glad to answer the questions, and to show the side of homeschooling that is out having fun, learning and enjoying life. I certainly choose my moments to mention homeschooling. If my children are running through the store being exceptionally loud and crashing the shopping cart into each other, or worse, the wine shelf, I am not about to tout what a great educational alternative we have going on. I can't convincingly pretend I don't know who they belong with, since one of them looks like a miniature version of me. Fortunately, most of the time, I think (or at least hope) we are pretty good at containing obnoxious behavior in public. So when a stranger takes the time to ask us why the kids aren't in school, or what grade they are in, we probably seem approachable and normal. And hopefully, if the strangers have never met a homeschooling family before, they will at the very least see that we are real people, and not just stereotypes. Maybe they will consider the idea of home education or life learning a little less odd, and maybe they won't. Either way, we'll still be out in the world, doing our thing, and answering questions as they come along.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Would Jesus Do About Health Care Reform?

It's a question I have been thinking about for weeks, and one I would like to pose to other people of the Christian faith. What do you think Jesus would do about healthcare reform? I am not trying to start an argument, although based on how heated the recent debates over this subject have become, I will probably offend someone. But, that really isn't my intention. What I'm hoping for is some serious thought about the question. I don't quite understand the anger and fierce resistance to the idea of making sure every citizen of our country had access to healthcare, particularly from those who are followers of Jesus. Along with feeding the hungry, and caring for the poor, I am pretty sure we are supposed to be taking care of the sick too. Is leaving it to private companies who are clear about their primary mission being monetary gain and who regularly cancel or refuse coverage to the sick the right way to show we actually care for each other? While there are arguments about the exact number, by all accounts there are tens of millions of Americans who have no health insurance. So tens of millions of people in one of the richest countries in the world can't necessarily get the treatment they need if they are sick or injured, or to keep well for that matter. The reason most people I know don't have insurance is cost- unless you have an employer who pays a portion, it is just too expensive. There is a huge gap of people who are not poor enough for Medi-Cal, but don't make enough to pay insurance premiums, especially if they are unlucky enough to have a pre-existing condition. The private companies don't seem to have a big interest in making it affordable, so that leaves many of us with nothing.

In the same newsletter in which Congressman Wally Herger shoots down the idea healthcare reform that includes any public option because it would cost taxpayer money, he touts the reasons we should use our taxpayers money to build a fence along the Mexican border. My Representative's attitude does not represent me in the case, nor my family, and certainly not the Christian faith in my opinion. My primary concerns in life are not illegal immigration or homeland security. Sure, they are problems too, but the possibility of losing everything if one of our family members was to have a serious illness is much more of a concern for me. I think the lack of access to healthcare is something that actually does affect many more American's on a daily basis than those other priorities. How can a country with the wealth and resources we have not consider the health of it's people as a priority?

The fear of a public healthcare option is something else I am not understanding, particularly from people who have no issue whatsoever sending their children off on a daily basis to be educated in a publicly funded school. The government has access to most of our children's minds every day, but people are terrified at the thought of government involvement in healthcare. Most people drive every day on public roads and I don't hear anyone yelling about the evils of socialist highways either. I think the key word is option, we want an option for people who have none. Will lots of people take the government up on the option? Probably so if they like it better than what they have now. But if what they have now was so great, why would they switch? Many people still choose private schools, charter schools or homeschooling for their children, but every child has access to education because we have publicly funded schools. I privately homeschool my children, but I definitely want the best possible public programs out there for the millions of kids who use that option.

Back to my original question; What would Jesus do about healthcare reform? While I am far from a Biblical scholar, I do know that he unequivocally told us to love one another- in fact to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I don't think he would spend his resources building a fence to lock out the poor rather than using that money to make sure the sick were taken care of and trying to keep people healthy. I think he would support working together for change (even with your enemies, which some people seem to consider anyone they did not vote for) I think he would want us to find ways to show we care about each other, not just ourselves. I think he might just be sick over the hostility and anger as well. While I firmly do believe in the separation of church and state, if a person is of faith, then they should be considering that in their choices, their words and their actions. Sometimes the loudest voices representing Christians don't seem to follow in his footsteps. I hope I am not completely off base with this long winded rant, but as I said, it's been on my mind for a while now. I am just really hoping that people who believe will prayerfully consider the path that Jesus would take here. I hope that soon we can figure out a way to stop yelling, and start figuring out ways to make things better.