Chicken Fried Vogue

For 15 years and most of her adult life, Bubblez lived in the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. She enjoyed taking her children to museums, parks, and dates at Starbucks. Then Bubblez moved to the country and her En Vogue attitude got chicken fried. Her yard is a park where the neighbor's rooster won't stop crowing, Starbucks is almost an hour away, and her large collection of fancy shoes is worthless. But, living in the acres of green has presented more opportunities for living "green" as Bubblez travels the path toward self-sufficiency (and bitches ((and prays)) along the way).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ground Control To Major Mom

I recently redecorated the "armpit" of our house to be a nice, presentable, and useful room. Among other things, it now contains the family command center. I love saying that we have a command center. It sounds like we're living in an episode of Star Trek or something. Or maybe it's just somehow related to my need for power and the quest for world domination. Not sure.

Anyway, I took pics. =D


 

This is inside the back door, which gets used the most. Matching and tidy make me happy. Between the four kids, these coat hooks are usually full. I forgot to get a picture, but there are shoe trays on the floor under the coats.


I spray painted a couple of tin soup cans and attached them to the wall with 3M Strips to hold pens and pencils since we never seem to be able to find any when we need them.


I bought this groovy calendar at Target. You fill it in yourself. There are enough spaces on the side for 5 people plus a spot to write down what you'll be having for dinner that day, if you're like, super super organized. This is the page for next month, so it's a little empty still. I also bought a black poster frame, removed the plexiglass, painted the cardboard backing black, and mounted the calendar onto the cardboard to make the whole thing pretty.


This is a bulletin board which I also painted black, complete with


chore chart! Another Target find, this chore chart comes with a dry erase marker and has stick'em on the back so you can hang it anywhere. I decided to just pin it up for now. There's enough room to list chores for 4 people, every day of the week. I divide my house into sections, tackle a different section every day, and have each kid take a chore or two for each of those sections. They can usually finish their chores in under 20 minutes. Some other time, I'll tell you how I actually get the kids to do them.  The first column of the chart is for chores which need to be accomplished daily. We're a forgetful bunch, so I write in even the simple stuff like remembering to eat breakfast.


Last, we've got this nifty baby. It's just a paper folder turned sideways with hinges made from duct tape. I painted the outside to spruce it up and hung it on the wall with 3M Strips. This is where I keep school calendars and other important papers that I know I'll be referring to periodically for information. I used paper clips to attach Boot's lunch menu to the front so we can see at a glance whether to buy or pack from home each day.

So, there you have it. My very own command center. Now, get to work!

There's A Wolf Outside

I've had a lot of thoughts since the Newtown tragedy. As "Mommy Buddy" from the Plant Autism wrote, "Friday December 14th 2012 was the parent equivalent of 9/11." 

You know what I was doing while the shit was hitting the fan? I was giving gentle reassuring smiles to a class full of first graders.

My daughter, Boots, is 6 years old (3 days short of sharing a birthday with Newtown victim, Jack Pinto; his mom was probably going into labor as we were leaving the hospital.) Boots developed this cute little habit of wearing big fluffy sweatshirts and sweaters and when she'd get cold, she would pull her knees up to her chest, pull her arms out of the sleeves, and sit curled up all warm and cozy with everything but her head tucked inside of her shirt. She was doing that at her desk on Friday, when suddenly she lost her balance and slipped right off her tiny first grade chair, exacting a full face plant onto the hard tile floor. 

Her teacher said she was very brave, as she pulled herself turtle-like back out of her hoodie and picked herself up. It hurt, but not so much, Boots thought. Then, she looked around. All the children were gasping and had alarmed looks on their faces. They started talking about blood, and that's when Boots looked down at her hands that she had been wiping her eyes and nose with and saw that her fingers and the cuffs and her shirt were covered in blood. It was pouring out of her nose and mouth.  I'm sure she started to cry.

The teacher quickly came to my daughter's aid, paged a helper to watch the class, and escorted Boots to the nurse's office where they removed the bloodied hoodie, cleaned her face, gave her ice, and called me to come and get her. My mother happened to be at my house when the call came, so we both climbed into her car and drove to the school. When we got there, Boots was lying on a cot waiting for me. Her coat and backpack were next to her along with the hoodie which someone had put in a bag. I filled in the sign-out form, collected my daughter and her things, and stepped into the hallway just as about 20 tiny first graders, in their nice 'straight as a first grade line can get' line were passing. It happened to be Boot's class and each child looked at her and then me with sad eyes and a furrowed brow which begged, "is she going to be ok?" One little girl put two fingers to her lips, the universal first grade sign for "I love you." A little boy stepped quickly out of line to give Boots a hug, and had to be ushered back by the teacher before any of her other students got the same idea and six-year-old chaos ensued in the hallway. 

When their eyes met mine, I smiled reassuring smiles. She'll be ok. It's ok. Everything is going to be ok. No need to worry, children. No need to fear. It's all ok. Everything's fine. Everyone's safe. Everyone's well. I'll take her home and patch her up, good as new.

We went outside and climbed into Mom's car. Boots sat in the back with her icepack anticipating the Happy Meal that Nana had promised in order to cheer her up. The radio was turned down to an inaudible volume, and Mom and I chatted as we pulled through the McDonald's drive-through. We ordered ice creams to go along with our burgers and Bootsie's Happy-in-a-Box. I looked behind me and checked on her periodically as we made our way back to the house. Her nose was swollen, and obviously painful. I was worried and wanted to get her home, give her some Tylenol, and tuck her into the armchair with a cozy blanket and an episode of My Little Pony. 

When we got to the house, I grabbed the Happy Meal box and Boot's backpack, helped my baby girl into the house, and said goodbye to my mom, completely forgetting the blood soaked hoodie lying in a bag on the floor of Mom's car. I got Boots comfortable in front of the TV, which at our house, rarely shows anything that isn't Netflix or football, and settled myself into a nearby chair to check Facebook.

And, there it was. News updates about Newtown were popping up about every other status. Details were still vague, numbers not yet reported, a grade school... young children... and as statuses were updated with more and more news, tears began streaming from my eyes. My stomach turned. I felt sick. Muscles tightened. No, no, no. 

Eighteen kindergarteners.... no, 20.... six and seven year olds.... first graders. Six and seven year olds are first graders. First grade children, not mine, thank God, but first grade children exactly like those I'd just seen with concern in their eyes and two finger lip "I love you"s. Dead. Was blood the last thing they saw? "A parent's worst nightmare" is a vast understatement. 

I couldn't hide my sadness so I told my children what had happened. Boots surprised me when she said, "I'd have run to the fire station. Some of the kids ran to the fire station." 

"How did you know about this, Boo?"

"I heard it on the radio while you and Nana were talking." 

---

---

Wow. 

I didn't realize she could hear the radio in the backseat. She knew about it before I did. 

Wow. 

I spent Friday evening curled up on the couch watching Christmas movies, checking Facebook on my phone, and throwing away mountains of wet Kleenex. The kids curled up with me. Boots sat in my lap. We snuggled and giggled at the movies while I continued to check the news and secretly dry tears and wipe my nose. 

The next day, my mom posted this to Facebook:
Took Bubbz to pick Boots up from school yesterday. She fell on her face and got a bloody nose. Left a bag in the car. I brought it in. It was the jacket she was wearing when she fell. The cuffs were blood soaked and the front blood spattered. I'm sticking it in cold water washing the blood out and listening to the news in the background thinking "oh my God, oh my God." Hearing all that tragedy while washing that tiny blood soaked jacket.... Just about done me in.
So close, so close, so close, and only barely far enough away. Even though the distance is 743 miles, it was out the back door instead of inside the house. So close. Too close.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homeschooling Part 4: Getting Started

Straight out of the gate, I want you to take care of a couple of practical matters. Number one is to find out what your state's laws are regarding homeschooling. It is very important that you know and abide by these laws. Some states require that you submit forms to your local superintendent's office which will state your intention to homeschool, the names and ages of your children, immunization records, birth certificates, a copy of your high school and/or college diploma (if you have one), a copy of your school calendar and curriculum (which may be governed), and regular grade reports. They may also require supervised standardized testing, regular professional in home visits, and mentoring. Other states, like Indiana, have a total hands off policy and require absolutely nothing from you as an educator. Check with your local superintendent's office as well as the State Department of Education. Some districts offer resources that can help enhance the homeschooled child's learning experience.

Occasionally, local school districts have rules that exceed state mandates, which is illegal, by the way. You may find yourself jumping into a court battle if you're not careful. Sometimes, it's just easier to comply with their unnecessary rules, but not always. The Home School Legal Defense Association has been fighting for the rights of home educators for years. You may find it in your interest to align yourself with them. Many (or possibly all) states also have similar organizations who work to encourage homeschool friendly legislation on the state level and often offer valuable educational tips and resources to use inside the home. Examples of these groups include the Indiana Association of Home Educators and the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators. Indiana and Minnesota are the two states in which I, personally, have experienced home educating, and where Indiana interferes less in the home, Minnesota offers more in the way of help.

The first thing that I did when I was ready to learn more about homeschooling was to hit the local library. There are wonderful people who have written whole books on how to educate your children at home. One that I found helpful was called, So You're Thinking About Homeschooling and was written by Lisa Whelchel, who is most famous for having played Blaire in the TV series The Facts Of Life.

In her book, Blaire, I mean Lisa, walks you through 15 different homeschooling lifestyles, each one following a different educational model. You've probably heard of the Montessori method of education which is commonly used in pre-schools and many private grade schools. Unschooling is a learning style that has caught the attention of the media, lately, and one that seems to be growing in popularity, even though the method faces some opposition. There's also the Robinson method, which focuses on self-teaching and a simple, low cost curriculum, or the Greek based Classical method, or the Charlotte Mason literature based method, or... you get the idea: there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Because homeschooling is a lifestyle, you are free to embrace your own educational philosophy. If you thought juggling a stack of textbooks was the only way to learn, you thought wrong, although, there is always that option, too. As you can see from all of the links listed above, a little digging around the internet can provide you with just about any bit of information you are going to need when it comes to choosing your educational model and finding the appropriate supplies, but I still find books helpful in getting started because of the way the information is presented. Besides, at this point, you barely even know what to ask Google to look for. 

Unfortunately, (and no I don't get anything from her for the endorsement) Lisa's book is the only book from my time at the library that I can remember the title of. I do, however, remember some of the other things I read in between the covers of those books, one such thing being the importance of understanding learning styles. Your learning style has to do with how your brain takes in and interprets information. All people are either visual, auditory, or kinetic (that means physical) learners, and you will find it valuable to know both your own style, because that will be your natural bend when teaching, as well as the learning styles of your children. 

The Department of Education offers a free online assessment for you to determine your own learning style. You can use Scholastic's free assessment to help you determine the learning style of your child. If your child is old enough, you may want to rephrase the questions so that he or she can answer for themselves. For example, changing "when your child is at the library do they" to "when we go to the library, do you." I found that having my kids answer those questions gave me a broader perspective on how they think. Also, you can watch them for cues (closing their eyes or fidgeting) while they are thinking of the answers.

Once you know what you are planning to do and how you are planning to do it, you will need to obtain supplies. There are a few ways to handle this. You can do an internet search for whatever educational model you are using while adding the word "curriculum" to your search, and choose a package based on those results. If you are looking for complete textbook packages, you can find a list of "whole" curriculum publishers, here. You can also do an internet search for home education catalogs, supplies, or materials, and then look within those search results for materials by subject (math, phonics, geography, etc). A great idea is to contact your state's homeschooling organization to see if there is a conference or book fair that you can attend. Conferences usually take place in the spring, and I highly recommend them, both for the great seminars and for the knowledgeable retailers who will be invited to set up shop in a ballroom, somewhere. Once you know what you're doing, look for used book sales within school districts or neighborhoods and on Ebay.

After our first year or two of homeschooling, I started ordering books and supplies from Amazon.com, OrientalTradingCompany.com, and my favorite (for fun stuff like games and toys as well as books and science kits) RainbowResource.com. I also shopped at Barnes and Noble and small, local teacher supply stores.

So, you've figured out your method, you've got all your stuff, and you are ready to go. How do you get your kids to cooperate?

If you have the space (and if it agrees with your model), I highly recommend turning one room of your house into a school room. You will find that, over time, you accumulate a lot of materials, and it's nice if you can keep them organized in one place. A room full of bookcases, filing cabinets, dresser drawers (for art supplies), and wall space for maps and white boards can be a dream come true. Chances are, though, that you honestly are not going to have that space available. (Or you might until another baby comes along.) Maybe start thinking about what you could turn into a supply closet. Life will be easier if you are organized and know where all of your "stuff" is.

Next, outline your daily and weekly schedules. Let your kids know what you expect from them by telling them how you hope the day will go. OR just grab them first thing in the morning and get started! How rigid you want to be really depends on the atmosphere of your home, but it is helpful for you, at least, if you know what direction you want your activities to flow. You may find that you need to make adjustments to your schedule as time progresses. My kids went through a phase where they wanted to sleep in really late, read or play for most of the day, and put off school work until early evening, which I absolutely could not do. My brain tends to shut down around 4:00. I like to offer my kids the freedom to determine their own schedules (they each have daily assignments which must be completed), but I had to make a rule that if school work wasn't finished by 4 PM and they wanted my help, it would have to be caught up, which meant doing double, later.

It is helpful if you get rid of outside distractions that can make both you and the kids want to neglect the task at hand. In my house, that mostly means anything that comes with a viewing screen -TV, computer, Kindle, iphone. Our rule is, "no screens 'til the work is done," and it applies to all of us -with the exception of Mom's "Facebook and coffee hour" first thing in the morning and any time we use screens for viewing educational material or for writing.

From here, it's up to you. Find or form a support group (local or online) where you can bounce ideas around, gain encouragement, and keep your batteries charged. Make sure you get regular amounts of "me" time, and have fun. You're going to love this.

I'm so proud of you!

                                --Bubblez

                                   BloggerBubbz@gmail.com

Homeschooling Part 1: Our Story
Homeschooling Part 2: Is Homeschooling WRONG for you?
Homeschooling Part 3: So, What's so great about it?

More online resources you may find helpful:

Why Homeschool?
HomeEducator.com

Education Models
Home School Curriculum Advisor

Learning Styles
A2Z Home'sCool
School Family
My Homeschoolingweb.com

Other
25 Bad Ass Ways To Say No
Support Groups
More Tips Than You Can Use

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Politics Is/Are Life Changing

My Dad drives a train. That's not a metaphor. He actually sits in the back of a giant choo-choo and makes it go.

My daughter calls her lady bits her choochoo. That is NOT what I am talking about, here. I'm talking about a train.

Sometimes, he drives the train past my house and waves. Fortunately, my property line sits just a few feet from a set of railroad tracks. It would be very awkward, otherwise.

Perpendicular to those tracks, and still along the edge of my property, is a road. When the train crosses the road, or when it's about to, or both, Dad has to blow the whistle on the train.

That's not a metaphor, either. He has to blow the horn. Not his own horn, the train's horn. Dad doesn't own the train. He just drives it.

My point is, there's a law. It's the warning signal law. Wait. The point is not that there is a law. The point is that this law affects my life, and laws don't become laws without someone having made a political decision. Therefore, political decisions affect my life.

All. The. Time.

I only mention it because Jonathan asked me to talk about a time when a political decision had affected my life. It would be a lot more interesting if I were to tell of a time when one hadn't.

So, here's something for you. How many teenage girls have abortions in America each year? Oh.. Google! Where art thou?

The answer is... 234,000. (Holy shit, that's a lot of babies. Yes, they are. Don't even fucking argue with me.) Girl's between the ages of 15-17 account for 78,000 of them.

That's according to the Guttmacher Institute, 2005, kinda outdated, but whatever, because I was just curious, and those numbers really don't have too much to do with my story.

In January of 1973 (note the date), the Federal Government "legalized" abortion. Guttmacher up there says there were 744,600 abortions that year. The Center For Disease Control says there were only 615,831. Again, whatever. I'm finally gonna make a point.

I wasn't one of them. I was born in March of 1973. My mom had just turned 17.

Now, I don't know what the rules were on late term abortions and blah blah blah. Here's what I know. Law or no law, ruling or no ruling, I'm alive because my mom didn't give a shit about any of that. I'd have been born no matter what, because that's the kind of groovy chic my mama is. Tada! Major political decision, no effect.

However, now that I'm sitting here writing about it (and wondering how many defensive feministas are going to jump my ass), it occurs to me that I am affected, not on a physical level, but on an emotional one.

My inner anarchist is really struggling with this. Thanks a lot, Jonathan. I'm going to go curl up in a ball on the couch, now. Maybe watch Thomas The Tank Engine with my daughter. That always helps. We like trains.


Monday, December 3, 2012

I Am SuperMom

I am SuperMom.

I am. No, really. See that phone booth over there? Umm.. Ok. Me neither. But, look. I have a cape.

Alright. Fine then. But, I'm as close to SuperMom as you're gonna get.

I do tons of adorable Pinterest crafts both with and without my children several times a week, er.. Year. (Several is like, three, right?) I make huge delicious and sneakily nutritious meals that I plan ahead and clip coupons for, only slightly less often than the crafts. My house is spotless. (I can't even keep a straight face for that one.)

Wait! Wait! Don't leave. I know I can convince you, somehow.

Let's see. Oh! I did make this.

Not bad, eh? Eventually, I'll get around to writing the tutorial for that one. (And taking the picture.)

Also, my kids are in lots of different activities, during spring soccer. And, umm, my extremely responsible teenager willingly babysits her younger siblings (for a small fee) while I go to the bar. I mean do charity work. (No, I don't.)

I love my kids with the ferocity of a hundred billion suns. I will cut a bitch for looking at them funny. I will argue with teachers and doctors and relatives and neighbors and anyone else who does not seem to be working in the best interest of my child. I will be uncomfortable in the middle of the night because one of the kids had a bad dream. I will worry my own self sick over a fever. I give them ice cream just to see them smile. Fire safety month scares the hell out of me because it makes me think, "but what if." Punishments really do hurt me more than they hurt them. Sometimes, I tell them to keep the change. I smile and act excited every time I'm handed another freaking dandelion. I sit through choir concerts. I try to give them what they want for Christmas. I always make sure we have toilet paper and/or Kleenex.

Once, I even wore a cape.

I am SuperMom.