Thursday, March 31, 2011

Farms, family and a bit of history

I'm so glad that we decided to drive down highway 99 in the spring. All the blooming trees and green everywhere were a welcome sign of spring after leaving hail and wind at home. We were going with the idea that it's the journey and the destination, so we turned a 12 hour drive to a group camp out with a bunch of homeschoolers into a 3 day adventure. At the bottom of the valley, we stopped at one of the free reciprocal museum sites selected by Girl Child- the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield.

It's not so much one museum as it is a little town of it's own full of historical buildings with cool displays. And the buildings are all totally different- everything from adobe brick to log to fine Victorian craftsmanship- pretty much the whole gamut of housing in the area from the last hundred and fifty years. Many of the buildings were authentic, and they had been moved to the site in one piece on trucks, even the cool mansion style ones.

The grounds were lovely- there was even a wedding happening at the town gazebo. I thought we might spend an hour, but we were there for several hours at least. It was great to spread our legs and enjoy the sunshine and the scenery.

They also had a big, fancy exhibition hall on "black gold" which was all about the areas rich oil history. I knew the area had an agricultural past, but I had no idea it had oil riches going on as well. I think we all learned enough there to count for several days of homeschooling.

We left and headed down a winding, beautiful and semi nerve wracking highway along the Kern River. The river was gorgeous. The huge rocky cliffs above and below me were impressive. The giant boulders bigger than me that had fallen into the road in the last rain were what I would rather not have driven next to. The jagged rocks hanging OVER the roadway were not something I enjoyed either. Thankfully, it wasn't raining and the boulders were not falling when we drove past.

We headed east to visit an aunt and uncle that I rarely get to see. they live on a property that my grandparents took me too often as a child, so it was filled with memories, like falling in the Kern River and being drug out soaking wet by a fisherman who was really annoyed that he lost his pole in the saving of me. My Grandparents were not too pleased either as they had probably told me not to play on those slippery rocks. Other memories include learning to ride a motorcycle... and crashing into a barbed wire fence, and of having my wounds cleaned with iodine. Oh, and there was another about getting my long hair stuck in fly paper.

That kind of sounds like I only had traumatic memories there, but really I wasn't traumatized at all (well, maybe the flies- that was pretty awful.) I actually remember the area and my time with my grandparents with fondness and thinking back makes me smile.

It was wonderful to visit my relatives with my kids, and to show them the birth place of many of my childhood stories they have heard. Boy Child enjoyed admiring the extensive toy car collection that belonged to one of my cousins who is away at college, and I made sure we were all as clean as we could be when we left, as we were heading to camp in the desert for days.

Next stop, Joshua Tree National Park.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kingsburg Quality? Umm, not so much

After a relaxing drive down highway 99, which was much prettier than I expected, we stopped in Fresno to stretch our legs, and ran around a nice little park area. Boy Child even found a number of trees to climb. It was actually nicer than I had expected as well. I vaguely remember someone referring to Fresno as something like "the armpit of California" (my apologies to anyone with emotional ties to Fresno, I'm just repeating what I heard) so I was not expecting any interesting architecture, manicured parks or tree lines streets. We were very happy to find all of those. When we got back in the car the sun was beginning to set, and we decided to find a place to spend the night.
Our original plan involved swinging through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, but since they had gotten 10 feet of snow in the previous week, and we were packed for a desert trip, we opted out. So, we just headed south. While the weather was decent on highway 99, we weren't up for pitching the tent in the dusk, especially when showers were in the forecast, so we sought a hotel.

We drove by a Holiday in near a town called Selma, and tried getting off on a nearby exit and backtracking. That however turned into a drive down an odd frontage road with decent looking newer homes with manicured lawns on one side of the street across from houses with boarded up windows and cars with no wheels and people living in them. This frightened all of us, so we got back on freeway at the first opportunity and decided that since it was close to dark we would only pull off if we clearly could see how to get to a hotel that did not look like it contained permanent residents who may or may not have methamphetamine issues. Not too many miles later, we saw a sign for several chain hotels whose names we recognized, so we pulled over. I was aiming for the Fairfield Inn, but saw the driveway for the Quality Inn first, and since I was sick of driving, and it looked OK from the outside, we stopped and got a room.
Boy Child later said that when he heard me say “Quality Inn” he wasn't so sure about it because when they have to say it in the name, it's not always so accurate. It's not like it said “Kwality” though. That surely would have tipped me off, no matter how road weary.
Since I'm working very hard to not be negative for Lent, I am going to try to restrain myself, and just state the facts.
The room looked Ok at first glance, but the first thing that hit me was a really strong odor of scented chemical cleaning products that reminded me of something you would use to get out cat urine. But, it's probably pretty unlikely that the room housed cats, so it was probably just a really strong cleaning agent. My asthma isn't that bad, and I was tired, so I decided it would be fine.
Immediately, Boy Child wanted to hit the hot tub. I wanted to get to my email to get the directions of our next days destination first, so I told him to just start getting hot tub stuff together. Somehow, in my packing though, the flip flops got buried, and he would surely destroy all semblance of order in the tightly packed car, not to mention, he might get hurt if he opened the back and the mountain of luggage landed on him. Plus, it would take me 12 hours to pack it all in again. Since I was unable to find any wireless connections in the room anyway, I went to help him on the way to the ask the front desk about the internet scene. The flip flop finding affair was not a simple nor a quick task, but we did it. The front desk told me yes, there was wireless, but if I couldn't find it, I could use the data port in the room. Back in the room, I looked, but there was no data port. Back at the front desk they gave me a cord to plug in, but didn't really know where the outlet for it would be. Back at the room, after moving some large pieces of furniture, and noticing a mysterious and scary carpet stain, we learned that the cord they gave me didn't fit in the wall. GRRRR.
Fine, I decided Boy Child was right- it was time to hit the hot tub. Thankfully, I had found the corkscrew so I could enjoy a little pinot grigio in a styrofoam cup on the way. We all headed out in our swimsuits, turned on the bubbles, dipped in our toes, and froze. Literally. It was freezing- not a hot tub- an icy COLD tub! What the heck!?! Apparently, they turned the heat off for the night sometime while we were looking for internet and flip flops. This is where it's probably good that I had had a sip o my wine and gotten in a relaxed mood, because I was really, really annoyed, and I've been told that I'm scary when mad.
Back at the front desk, she says sorry, she can't do anything about the hot tub, but she can get me another room where the internet might work. We go look at the other room, and when I peek at where the data cord is plugged in to see if I can figure out why ours doesn't fit and maybe avoid moving all my stuff, I see a rolled up pair of socks someone left behind the armoire. I decided to pass on the room with the leftover socks, and she shows me another room. No mysterious stains, no socks, but still the same smell. At least that makes me a little more sure that both rooms couldn't have housed traveling cats. In any case, it's too late to go looking for another hotel, so we just took the room and drug all our stuff down.
On the bright side, the continental breakfast was decent enough. The coffee was what you would expect, but we all had yogurt, oatmeal, muffins and juice, and laughed about how lame our night had been. What a different experience we might have had if we had just gotten this room in the first place.Also on the bright side, spring has sprun and the central valley of California is green and beautiful. I may have inadvertently crossed the "no smack talk" line with this post, but really, I was just trying to relay the experience in an honest way, and perhaps save some other traveler the unfortunate experience.
Boy Child was right with his hunch about "Quality" being "kwality" but at least we had a warm, dry place to sleep.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

World of Wonders-and we're not stuck in Lodi

I have had an irrational fear of being stuck in Lodi for probably at least 20 years. OK, maybe it's not so much an irrational fear as an underlying current of discomfort every time I drive through that town, and since I've lived on one end or the other of California my whole life, and I have family scattered on both ends of the state, I've driven through Lodi more times than I can count. In all these times, I have never actually stopped, that is until this time. I have however, had Creedence Clearwater Revival in my head every time I pass through.

Before take off for our South West adventure, Girl Child had the job of scoping out all the reciprocal museums that are affiliated with the local science museum that we are members of. One of these is the World of Wonders Museum in Lodi. Homeschooling, museum loving mom that I am, I decided to brave my fears, and stop. Besides I really liked the name WOW- World of Wonders.

It was a bit hard to find, because while most cities have signs pointing the way to their museums, Lodi did not. But, after driving through some sketchy areas, which I am very glad we did not get stuck in, we found our way there. It was exactly the kind of place Dear Husband would have hated- everything was hands on. It was like a mini Exploratorium filled with exhibits you could touch, shake, move and explore to learn about scientific principles. There were also a bunch of germy children playing with everything which is of course to be expected. The museum was pretty small, which was OK, because I didn't really want to spend all day, but it was fun, and a good place to get out of the car, stretch and play. I especially liked the experiments with bending light, Boy Child enjoyed the air and wind force exhibits and Girl Child's favorite was something with a pulley and rope that had a cool motion effect, but no sign explaining what was going going on.

I wonder how many people read signs in museums anyway? I was reading one aloud about this magnetic gravity thing, and another mother came over and said “Wow- you're really smart! You really know what you're talking about.” I felt a little silly admitting that I was just reading the sign, but she looked like “oh- there's signs?” In hindsight, it would have been fun to cat like I was just a big smarty pants, but at the moment, I didn't have the energy to pull off being overly knowledgeable about scientific principles.

Anyhow, after about an hour I could no longer contain the urge to wash my hands and make my children do the same, but by that time we had pretty much played with everything, and it was good time to hit the road again.

We were glad we stopped, and more glad that we weren't stuck. If you're ever passing through Lodi with kids though, I'd say a visit to the World of Wonders is worth the stop.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Packing and Planning

The dining room is crammed with piles of stuff- not the usual piles of stuff like games, books, and large scale craft projects that pretty much always invade our dining room, but stuff for our adventure in the desert.What exactly does one take for 5 weeks in the desert? We are planning on taking a whole lotta stuff, and beginning to worry about where the passengers are going to fit on this little journey. It turns out that some of our packings are actually a lot like our usual clutter- books and games, but only small scale craft projects to go, and now it's all packed semi-neatly in baskets and bags in the corner and ready to go instead of just random stacks on any available flat surface.
I am noticing that an inordinately large amount of space is going towards food. We're big fans of food around here and we enjoy snacking so much that we tend to travel everywhere we go with fairly large quantities of edible items. It just makes everyone happy to have handy nibbles that don't require stopping and going in a restaurant or worse, relying on gas station mini mart fodder. So, half the car is full of food.

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the WorldWishcraft: How to Get What You Really WantNext came the books. Who knows if my visions of sitting peacefully on a rock and reading while the sun sets will actually happen, but I like to be prepared. First, I ordered myself a few books that look like good reflective reading including
The Art of Non-Conformity, Wishcraft, and another one on creating work that you love, the name of which isn't coming to me, and is currently buried under mountains of stuff. My local library didn't have any of these, and besides I figured the late fines I could accrue by taking library books on this journey would be embarrassing and costly. Then, I learned that my library offers extended vacation loans! Is that amazing or what? Yes, we can borrow books for the whole time we'll be gone, and we won't even get in trouble, well, unless we drop them in a campfire or off the edge of the Grand Canyon or something. So, I borrowed some audio books since I can't drive and read at the same time, and Boy Child got a few books to read as well- including a fictional journal about a boy in the Donner Party. Not the cheeriest travel story I'm sure, but on the bright side, we have all that food, thereby reducing the chances we will have to eat each other if we get stuck anywhere, and in general, any mishaps we encounter will probably not look so bad in light of their sad story.

Girl Child has an elaborate system of lists, maps and plans spread across 3 rooms, and I am gently nudging that we have enough lists, now we just need to get the stuff packed and loaded. Boy Child swears he already has everything packed he needs. We'll see about that. He also had it in his mind that we would leave before 8 am, but I reminded him that this is supposed to be a relaxing vacation, and alarms and rushing off in the early morning may not be the best way to start that.

So, it's pouring rain, and the wind is blowing like crazy, neither of which is helping my car loading attempts, and we're still trying to figure out how exactly we're going to make all of this stuff fit. One way or another, we'll cram it all in (or on) the car though and will be hitting the road, and hopefully sunnier skies. Off we go....

Monday, March 21, 2011

These Shoes Are Not For Running

It's packing week for my 5 weeks in the desert, and as usual, I want to take more than I probably need and certainly more than I can fit. The thing is, I can pretty much be sure that I will get out there a thousand miles from home and wish that I had brought at least one of the things I decided to leave behind (or meant to bring and forgot.)
Since I generally own about a bazillion pairs of shoes in all shapes and styles (except pointy heels- those I don't do, as I avoid all things painful at all costs,) you would think I would have what I would need for any occasion. But, when I had to decide what shoes to take for a 5 week tent trip in the desert, I really had nothing that came to mind.
Doc Martin Mary Janes? No- too hot. Black suede boots? No- ditto. Plaid Sketchers? Nope- virtually no padding on the bottom. Silver ballet flats? No. While the ballet flats, and several pairs of sandals would be cute and probably useful at some points of the trip, I don't have unlimited space. I am looking at flip flops and something that I can hike for miles in. I am stocked up on flip flops thanks to Old Navy, but I was really lacking in the comfy walking shoe department. My current walking shoes were well worn, and in serious need of replacement, so for once, I have a valid reason to go buying new shoes.
Unfortunately, it wasn't easy. You see, sporty shoes look so sporty, and I am really not so sporty, so it was actually a challenge for me. I snubbed countless pairs at countless stores as I just felt too soccer mom like, which would just be a gross misrepresentation of who I am. And, what's with all the white on athletic shoes anyway?
Well, finally I found myself a cute little pair of Nikes. They're probably the first pair of Nikes I've had since I was in about 7th grade, and that was more than a few years ago at a time in life when I actually attempted occasional sportiness. However, I've long since realized that my gifts do not lie in my athletic prowess.
I guess these shoes are still semi athletic looking, and therefore misleading, but it was the best I could do, and besides, they're super comfy.
Technically, they are running shoes, and running is the least likely sport I could imagine actually participating in. Well, maybe not as unlikely as cage fighting, but still, me running is pretty unlikely. I absolutely do not run unless I am being chased by something big and scary.
A non runner owning running shoes presents small problems like my Dear Husband who has been attempting to get me to go running with him for quite some time. So far, having no appropriate shoes has been one of my best excuses not to go.
I quickly hid the box for these shoes, and tried implying they were actually walking shoes, but like a detective he picked them up and saw that it said plainly on the bottom of the shoes "Nike- Running." Why the heck they had to put that there I really don't know, but it ruined a perfectly good excuse for me.
Now, I'm trying "My knee hurts" and "Um, I think I the kids are calling,"  among others, but they just really aren't that effective anymore. Maybe eventually Dear Husband will catch on to the fact that I really have no desire to run, no matter how great it would be for me. It sounds like torture- horrible torture that would surely end up with unpleasant words.
I almost said that maybe someday I will take up running, but I highly doubt that will happen. These Nikes may say they're running shoes, but as long as they're on my feet, they'll be for strolling.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Countdown to Take Off!!!

Wow- I just looked at the calendar and the countdown is on. In a few short weeks, my kids and I will be heading off on our southwest adventure- two kids and a tent for 5 weeks in the desert. A few people have given us the big eyed look of concern as if no woman has ever driven a car more than 100 miles away from home, but mostly we are blessed with positive people who have offered tips, prayers, and loans of camping gear.
Now that I can actually see the take off day is in the very near future, I'm realizing how very much there still is to be done:
There's the pre-trip maintenance for the car. Oil change, tires and let's hope nothing else. I didn't get the nice mini motor home I originally envisioned for my cross country travels, but since the price of gas is rising like crazy, that's OK. Besides, I'll be driving myself most of the way, and I'm not sure how relaxing it would be to drive a big old beast. I could just picture myself forgetting the overhead height and taking out a Starbucks drive-thru.
I didn't get the super cool camper van that was my second plan either, but if I wait for a new vehicle to happen, then I may never get to go anywhere. So, we'll be going in my trusty old Volvo wagon, and it will be just fine.

We really need to set up and check out the tent that will be our home, and see if it is up for this trip, or if we need a new one. It needs to STOP RAINING for us to do this though! It also needs to stop raining in order for me to live in a tent for a month. I've done the whole wet, cold camping thing, and while maybe I gained some kind of character building skills, mostly, I think it stinks. I'm really hoping for nice warm, dry weather for this journey.
We could also use some more maps to help us figure out where we are and where we're going. We got some a while ago, but we wrote all over them in our planning phase, and they are impossible to refold now in any case. AAA membership rocks, if for the free maps alone. I'm thinking my kids will be map reading and navigational masters by the end of this adventure- this may not be on the state educational standards, but is a really useful life skill. I have to remember to renew the AAA membership too, since it  expires while we're on the road, and it's been known to come in handy on long distance car trips.
I also better stock up on food for the cats, dogs, chickens and goats so the animals on my little farm / petting zoo don't have to resort to eating each other while I'm gone. Dear Husband will be caretaker here during my absence, but I think the animals are most likely to actually get fed the right food if he has the supplies on hand.
Then, there's some homeschool projects, miscellaneous forms for contests my kids are entering, and a bunch of other assorted odds and ends to wrap up connected with work and life.
The list goes on and on, and actually, when I think too much about it, I start having heart palpitations. I'm trying to develop one of those zen type "whatever is meant to be done, will get done" attitudes, but it's not coming very naturally. On the bright side however, I'm really excited at how much my kids and I are learning as we prep for this trip.
Girl Child is my planner and has been previewing museums and parks online and noting stops that are "must see" and those that are rated "maybe." Being members of our local science museum gets us in to dozens of others for free, which always saves us a ton, and lets go to lots more places than we would otherwise spring for. We do still need to get a National Parks pass for the trip- there's another thing to add to my list.
Boy Child is busy downloading music like crazy so even when we are in desolate desert, we'll have tunes with us. He's also trying to figure out how many Legos, board games and assorted pieces of sports equipment he can fit in the car.
Between my running around tying up loose ends, and checking out campgrounds, I'm feeling very excited, a little nervous and mostly really, really, really looking forward to time away from classes, meetings, and schedules. I can't say I'll be getting away from driving, because I'll be driving across half the country, but at least I can stop when I want, and for the most part, I won't have to rush around to be places at a certain time.
My kids seem to be ready for a break too. The last couple of months somehow took on that insane kind of schedule that many of America seems to keep, but just plain wears our family out. I may not be doing the best job at prepping them for a future life of crunching numbers in a cubicle, but I think I'll be OK with raising free spirited adventurers.
As usual, I'd prefer to pass on the gloom and doom, but would welcome any positive advice for spending a month in a tent, traveling with kids or the best of the south west.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Recently, I was at an appointment making small talk with a woman I had just met. She asked about my kids, and how old they were. As soon as I mentioned that my daughter had just turned 13, the woman's face got serious, and she gravely said "Oh....I am so sorry,"

"Um...thanks, but she's really pretty fun." I replied.

The woman continued to look at me with a deeply sad look, as if I had just said we all had some excruciatingly painful disease. "Yes, but that's the age when they really turn on you."

Turn on me? What does that mean, anyway? I think she was implying that I could say goodbye to sweet little girl, and get ready for a rebellious demon. Well, that's a little negative and dramatic, I thought.

This stranger is not the first person to share their opinion about the overall unpleasantness that you can expect if you are unlucky enough to be the mother of a teen daughter. A common consensus seems to be that the next few years of my life are doomed to misery because my daughter will turn awful, be mean, treat everyone terribly, and worst of all....there is nothing I can do about it. Well, rather than just planning on locking ourselves in separate rooms and resigning myself to the idea that we won't be able to stand each other until it's all over, I am thinking I'll take a different approach.

There are all sorts of comments I could make about about people sharing their unpleasant forecasts for the future, but, since I'm on the "no smack talk for Lent" pledge, I will instead focus on some of the many things I love about my newly teen aged daughter.

She has always been a thoughtful child, but as she matures, our conversations deepen. It is wonderful to witness and share with her as the world opens up around her. Youth is an amazing thing- the energy, exuberance, and determination combined with optimism are a force that can change the world in wonderful ways. We've always loved to laugh too, but now she can crack me up on a whole different level. We share interests and purses, and soon we'll be able to share shoes too.

Now I'm not saying that teen hormones don't change anything- of course they do. Hormones are a powerful force of nature that we all have to learn to reckon with. But, that's what I think we parents are supposed to guide our kids through- the process of learning to deal with our hormones. I don't think retreating for a few years and leaving them alone to wallow in a pit of teenage angst is the answer.

Granted, I haven't gone through the parenting of a teen yet, so this is purely theory, but it seems like many stages of parenting have their hard parts, and teens get a bad rap. As parents, we love them, and we help guide them through the rough stages, and enjoy the good parts.

While I'm not a fan of the gloom and doom advice, I do love encouraging words of wisdom from parents who have already gone through the teen stage with their kids. How did you keep joyful and connected as your kids transitioned into young adults?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Goodbye Smack Talk- Welcome Happy Thoughts

Ash Wednesday was this week- the official kickoff of the season of Lent, and for the next 40 something days, I will doing my best to not talk any smack.

I am not Catholic, I do enjoy the self imposed challenge- well, maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word... I am drawn to to the concept of introspection, and of lengthening and growing by giving up something in the 6 weeks before Easter.

I always try to pick something that I really like and will actually have to work to give up. I like it to be an actual challenge, but I also want to be able to actually do it. I don't go so far as to try for anything that I might blow it on. Chocolate was a very, very hard one for me. I've also given up wine one year and coffee another. Apparently, I was slightly unpleasant during the coffee break year, so last year, when talking to my kids about what I would choose to give, they strongly encouraged me not to pick coffee. In fact, they decided they wanted in on the challenge as well, and we all gave up meat for the season.

My Girl Child had a great idea for Lent this year. We were going to give up excess media via the computer. We would still use the internet for school and work, but random time wasting, Facebook etc, was going to go. I was totally on board as I know I waste a fair amount of time getting sidetracked on the internet.

Then, we looked at the calendar and realized that for most of Lent, we will be on our trip across the Southwest. For one thing, who knows how much internet we will even have access to from our tent in the Grand Canyon. There goes the challenge. For another, when we do have internet access, it will probably be our primary means of communicating with our friends and family. I knew we'd want to post updates on Facebook and blogs as we go, so that made our choice less logical.

Boy Child suggested giving up meat again, but I wasn't so sure. At home, we can make a big pot of beans or potato soup a little more easily than I can at a camp stove, and when eating on the road, there is a lot of meat to be had.

I decided instead to try to give up talking smack. I know it's kind of a broad thing, but for my purposes, I'm defining smack as general negative and unpleasant talk. I've noticed lately how easy it is for our whole family to just get on a negative roll with the way we speak. Somebody's driving too slowly in front of us, and off we go with the negativity. It's not nice, and it's not a very good example for my kids. So for me, I'm trying to follow the advice my Grandma gave me- "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all."

This is not going to be an easy one for me. In fact, my blogging may drop substantially because my rants will be off limits. It is completely possible that sometimes, I will have absolutely nothing nice to say and will be forced into silence.

I am only 2 days in to this, and I'm amazed at how often I find myself talking smack in my own head even. The very first morning, as if God thought it would be amusing to really test me, I had to drive to town at 7:30 for a meeting. I've mentioned before my tendencies towards grumpy mornings...well, I probably had to redirect my thoughts at least 5 times in the 30 minute drive.

But, I could see a huge difference in how I felt when I consciously stopped thinking about how many annoying things there were around me. Day 2 was another early morning, which turned into a 12 hour day in town that included a trip to Walmart. Now, if there was ever a place where I could talk smack without even trying, it would be on a trip to Walmart, but I resisted. Let me tell you... it was a challenge alright. I am thinking God has a very good sense of humor.

So, I hope you'll wish me luck in stopping the smack talk, and help me on my path. I personally am welcoming the happy thoughts. Has anyone else ever tried to give up negative smack talk? How did you do? I'd love any tips on making it through the challenges of the season of Lent.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Labeling "U" Colombian

I've been annoyed by ethnicity questions when filling out forms since I have been old enough to fill out my own forms myself. Why does the doctors office need to know my ethnicity? Some might say that maybe because certain ethnic groups are more to certain diseases, but the thing is the doctor never looks at what box I checked anyway. They just look at me and assume that because I look and act pretty much like a white girl, that I am a white girl. They don't even notice the 50% Hispanic or the Native American. The boxes never give a place to check "Mixed" either, which is ridiculous because I would venture to say that there are a lot of mixed race people in this great big melting pot we live in.

Many times I would just ignore the question, or write in something sarcastic like "human" but I recently learned that for some programs, if the participant does not chose an ethnicity, then the person inputting the data has to look at them and guess because their programs do not allow people to refuse to be labeled. Labeling ethnicity is mandatory? Hmmmm.

Maybe the information is useful to some far away person crunching numbers in a cubicle to help them "see" what culturally appropriate materials are needed. I'm not sure that actually works that well though, as the organization I work for is located in a mostly white, English speaking area. I can see, hear and recognize that pretty easily. Yet, when we are sent new batches of "welcome baby cards" to send our clients, they feature 98% brown and black babies. It doesn't really matter because they're all cute anyway, but it makes me wonder why we have to ask people about their race then, and what they do with the information.

Most "official forms" clearly state that race, ethnic group and economic status won't influence eligibility anyway, so why label us then?

Recently, I noticed that they are now considering Hispanics to be white anyway. Hispanic is like a sub-category of white I guess. One of my aunts who is over 60 years old, and very much looks Hispanic, seemed a little surprised when she filled out her most recent census forms, to find out that she was now white after all these years.

I was even more surprised when filling out registration forms for the charter that we homeschool through. After sub-categorizing us as White Hispanics, they wanted to define what kind of Hispanic. On the one hand, it was nice to see that they had "Colombian" listed, as we are probably the only Colombians who live within 200 miles. On the other hand, they listed it as "Columbian" with a "U" in the middle.'s bad enough when a government form from an institute of education has typos, but if you need to label my heritage, you could at least take the time to make sure you spell it correctly.

I mentioned this to a few people. The first person questioned me saying "Are you sure? Isn't it like Columbus?"

"NO! Columbus has nothing to do with Colombia! For goodness sakes, look at your bag of coffee! Those people know how to spell Colombia!"

I went on to look at the registration forms for another charter that we had considered using, and low and behold, they also thought I was "Columbian." Nice- and these are the people who think they are in charge of children's education.

I'm not sure whether I'm more amused or annoyed. I'll bet there is a lawyer out there who would try to convince me that monetary compensation would help to soothe the emotional trauma caused by this racial incident, but since that really isn't my style, I'm just going to go with laughing over these silly people and the silly mislabeled boxes they try to fit us in.