Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Curriculum, Week 6

Hi there! We have a few things to catch up on before we can get to the plans for this week, but since all the kids are home and healthy at the moment, I think we will be able to do it.

We have a couple of chapters left in Huckleberry Finn left to read, then will watch the movie. I also need to get through Maleficent with Mini Me.

Here's what we have planned for the week.

Week 6, June 30-July 6

Book: Divergent, Veronica Roth. My kids are into the sci-fi-ish dystopian fiction right now and they wanted to see the movie, but like the mean mom I am, I said we had to read the book first.

Since it's still fairly new, this one might be harder to find without paying full or close to full price. We picked up our copy at a local bookstore that does discounts for new books.


Movie: Also slightly complicating things, this is out of theaters near us, which means that the kids will have to wait until it comes out on DVD to see it. They'll live. Promise. Besides, we still have Huckleberry Finn and Maleficent to watch.

Science: To go along with our dystopian world for the week, we're learning about genetics and evolution. We will cover DNA and the structure of of, how it creates diversity both within and among species. This website has some project ideas, more aimed at later elementary and middle school kids.

Writing: The older kids will be studying and writing about evolution. A few months ago, we all watched the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, and I want them to explore the differences in opinions on the issue as well as find some resources on their own. The younger kids will be writing a narrative piece about what their typical day looks like.

Trip: We will be going to one of the many museums here locally this week, this one the Natural History Museum at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Right now they have an exhibit on DNA to Diversity.

In totally unrelated news, we will finally be getting to the pool at some point this week since everyone is healed! Hooray!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 30 ~ Love

There is a quote about parenthood, motherhood specifically that I think about lot. It's this one:

"Making the decision to have a child- it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
~ Elizabeth Stone

One of the truths I have come to learn in this lifetime is that when you have your first child, you develop a new kind of love immediately. When you have another one, that love isn't divided, it multiplies.

Our hearts don't get pieced out, they grow.

These four crazy humans, all so different, all so challenging in their own ways, all so unique and special, they hold with them each my heart.

They are what makes everything worth it.

This is love. Times four.

Making funny faces.


4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 29 ~ Home

We've been at baseball and softball games so much this week that when we do come home, Bubba is relieved. Like so relieved that he wasn't sure we were ever coming back so he sits on us and won't let us get up.

He stayed like this about 20 minutes one night this week.


Friday, June 27, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 28 ~ Music

There are so many things that I could share for this day in the challenge, but I had to go with this one.

Little Boy is so conditioned to going to concerts that a few weeks ago I told him we were heading to one. He asked what kind of music it was and I said rock.

So he ran upstairs and put this on.

Doing something right, we are.


Incidentally, we had a guy come up to us at the concert squealing with joy wanting to know where we got this shirt from. He so desperately was looking for one for his kid.

BTW, it was from H&M last summer. I am not sure if they still carry this particular version with the lyrics on the back or not, but I know they still have Ramones shirts. In case you needed that information too.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer School of Rock ~ Johnny Cash


Normally, I introduce the bands and artists here, but Johnny always introduced himself. Always.

Johnny was born in 1932, the fourth of seven children in Arkansas. His parents couldn't think of a name, so he was given the initials J.R. at birth. He named himself John when he enlisted in the Air Force and took Johnny as his stage name in 1955 when he signed with his first label.

He grew up around music, listening to his mother sing hymns and folk songs. He picked up guitar early and was writing music by 12. One of the most formative moments in his life came when his older brother was killed in an industrial accident at the age of 15.


Cash had five children, four with his first wife Vivian. She divorced him in part because of his relationship with June Carter, who he went on to marry and have his last child with. Johnny and June worked together making music until her death in 2003. He passed just a few months later, some say he died in part from a broken heart.

Originally intending to be a gospel artist, those dreams were quickly put to a stop and his sound developed more into the blues that we all would come to love. His gospel sound was deemed too plain, and the producers wanted someone more edgy, more raw. So he did just that.  I Walk The Line was his first huge hit, recorded only a year after he signed his first deal.


Shortly after he started to become successful, he started working on refining that bad boy image he was urged to develop. He drank, he did drugs, he cheated on his wife, he was arrested over and over again but never sentenced to prison.

Only after a drug induced failed suicide attempt did he pledge to clean up his act in 1968, though he wouldn't stay clean for long. He finally landed in rehab in 1992.

Perhaps because of all those nights he spent in jail, Cash had an uncommon fondness for prisoners and spent a fair amount of time advocating on their behalf. His songs Folsom Prison Blues and A Boy Named Sue, inspired by them, went on to become two of his biggest hits.


He had his own show for a few years on ABC called The Johnny Cash Show which he used as a platform to showcase music and social issues, which was fairly unusual at the time. The show ushered in his adoption of black clothing and he became the Man in Black. He said he wore black for the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned.

He was inducted into both the Country and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame and is considered by most to be one of the most influential performers in the history of music.

My personal favorite recording of his is actually a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song, Hurt. One of the last songs he recorded, it received critical acclaim for the rawness he brought to it. He associated the songs with all the regret for the things he had done wrong in his life, for all the people he had hurt, and it's hard not to be moved by his performance.

It drives me to tears every time.

This is clearly the voice of an old man with a lifetime full of regret.


Johnny was one of the great ones. He commanded your attention. He made you listen, not just to the music, but to his words, to his causes.

---------------------

The other bands and artists profiled already, in no particular order.

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 27 ~ Still

This little human. He wants so desperately to be all grown up, but given just a little bit of convincing, he will happily curl up in a ball and take a nap.

Summer school is wearing him out, and his blood sugar issues have him climbing into my lap a little more often these days.

This is him. Still.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 26 ~ Action

These two.

Seriously.

They are never ever still. In this picture, they were supposed to be sorting clothes and putting them away. Clearly that is what is happening.


The Fault in Our Stars: a book, a movie and what cancer really does...

When The Fault in Our Stars was released in theaters, the internet lit up with posts spanning the spectrum. Some loved it, some hated it. Some shamed adults for having any interest in the stories of teenagers. I wrote my own post about those shaming people who read and enjoy YA fiction, and I wrote it before I'd even read this particular story.


One of the aspects of the issue that I had intended to include in that post, but neglected, is this: a great many of the stories considered some of the most important literature in history have been about children and teenagers. No one refers to Romeo and Juliet as mindless drivel. No one mocks an adult for adoring The Secret Garden. Those who read and love the stories of Lewis Carroll aren't picked on. Why then are we doing it now, I wonder?

There's not really an answer to that question, I suppose, but it is food for thought.

I had heard about FIOS for a while, been urged to read it by a few people. It wasn't really until the film was released and all the manufactured controversy began that it piqued my interest though. That, and my eldest daughter wanted to see the movie. She knows my rule about how she has to read the book first before she can see the film, and so we picked up the book one day and by the next she had finished it.

She is her mother's daughter.

After she was finished, I read it.


I knew the basic premise of the story of course, it's hard not to figure that out from the trailers for the movie even if you haven't heard anything else about it. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was the brutal reality of this book, one that I related to in so many different ways. The reality is one that certainly shouldn't be mocked as juvenile and certainly wouldn't be mocked by anyone with any degree of experience with the pieces of the story.

If you've not yet read the book and intend to, I'm warning you that from here on out, there will be mentions of the plot, so stop reading. (Or at a minimum, don't accuse me of spoiling anything. Incidentally, even knowing how it ends won't really ruin anything because the story isn't about the chronology of events nearly as much as it is about the journey on the way there.)

The opening scenes had me choked up, and I knew I was in for trouble. Now, I don't expect that to make sense for most people, at least those who haven't been to cancerville or taken along for the ride. For those of us who've been there though, it was heartwrenching to see the daily routines. The monotony. The pill bottles on the breakfast tray. The clear plastic tubing keeping someone as functional as they can be. The habitual visits to the doctors and the poking and the prodding. What it is like to watch as the rest of the world carries on like nothing is wrong because nothing is wrong with them, it is wrong with us and no one else could ever know, but we get a front row seat to watch everyone else carry on with their entirely normal lives.

The story is about a teenage girl who falls in love reluctantly, who fights it for a long time because she knows she is dying and she knows life isn't fair and she doesn't want to hurt anyone else when her time comes. The boy she falls in love with, a resident of cancerville as well, though one who has been declared NEC (no evidence of cancer) for a bit now. His experience with cancer, necessarily different than hers, left him without a leg and with a new found stubbornness when it comes to flipping the bird to the dangers in life. He habitually walks around with an unlit cigarette between his lips, on purpose, flirting with the thing that he knows could kill him, but refusing to give it that power.

Cancer changes people. If you've been there, you know what I mean before I even describe it. It changes every life it touches a little bit differently. Children and adolescents with cancer, perhaps even more profoundly changed by it all.

Some people become stoic and hardened. Others fall victim to the very idea of being a victim and never seem to be able to escape from it, even when they've been declared NEC for a very long time. Cancer becomes this thing that happened to them.

Some become bitter about all that this disease has stolen from them, hyperfocus on the unfairness of it all. Some seem disproportionately positive, spinning every piece of news by only focusing on the upsides...even when there aren't really any upsides left. Some people hang all their energy on faith, tell themselves that this disease and whatever it brings are God's will. Some decide there is no God.

Some, children especially, figure out ways to manipulate their conditions to get what they want from other people. They learn to use the sympathy and twist it. I know of many friends of mine, parents of children in this place, who worry endlessly about this part. I tell them what I tell anyone on this journey to cancerville...which is that sometimes you just have to do whatever you have to do to get to tomorrow. You can only worry about tomorrow when you get there, but you have to get there first. Some of our choices create new problems, yes, but sometimes those choices need to be made purely for your ability to survive with your sanity intact right now.

This story, believe it or not, has characters who represent all of these people, all of these changes, in the support group where Hazel and Gus meet. Some of the changes have played out long before the group meets in the "literal heart of Jesus". Some we watch play out during the story.


There were two scenes far more painful to watch than the end for me...which is another thing about being in cancerville that no one realizes until they've been there. Death isn't the hardest part. Sometimes living is. 

The first was the scene in the Anne Frank House where Hazel digs to the deepest parts of her soul just to make it up the flights of stairs. As they increase in steepness, she struggles more and more. Given ample opportunities to stop, to say enough, to accept help from others, she refuses. She wants to do this, she needs to do this, even if her body tells her she can't. And then she does and it is magnificent.


The second, the scene at the gas station where Gus calls her in a panic because his stomach tube has become infected. He just wants to do something for himself. He just wants to be able to go and do this one thing alone without needing anyone else. He just wants to be independent for just a little bit longer. Watching him realize that he can't do it anymore, devastating.


These two scenes were easily the hardest for me to watch because I've watched them play out in real life. I've seen what happens to someone when they fight for that independence and win. I've seen what happens when they cling to it longer than they should and finally have to let it go.

I've heard the phrase "lit up like a Christmas tree" in reference to PET scans.

Some parents have expressed to me concern about their children reading or watching the film because there is a sex scene. Having read and watched it, my opinion is this: this is exactly what I want my children to see, what I want them to believe that love and intimacy is all about. Yes, Hazel is 17 in the film and technically underage, but her age is just a number. Kids like them, kids who have been through more, kids who know that their time on this Earth is limited, they have a certain wisdom about them that most adults cannot conceive of. If my teenager were dying, would I want them to know what it was like to fall in love? Would I want them to know what it was like to be so connected to another human being? Without question, yes. Of course I would.

(For those requiring more details, there is no nudity and the entire scene is very tastefully done.)

One of the things that struck me the most about the story, and how true it is to reality, was the whole NEC issue. One of the painful realities that everyone who goes to cancerville has to confront is that once you've been there, you never really get to leave.

You don't.

Cancer isn't cured. They don't use that word.

You might go into remission. You might have NEC for weeks or months or years. You might couch your life in terms like being "fourteen years out", as my husband is. You might discuss things like which cancers are the "good" cancers to have - which, yeah, that's totally a thing. You might talk about survival rates and statistics about how once you have made it across the 5 year or 10 year mark, you're supposed to be "good".

But you don't say cured. Because no one says cured. Because it never really goes away.

The tumors might go away, sure. Whether resected surgically or obliterated by chemo or fried by radiation, they might disappear. Your blood might be stable and those xrays might stay clear. Sure. You can be deemed cancer free and healthy, absolutely. Cured? No.

It's there, it's always there. Lingering. That fear of whether it will come back again.

And in the movie, it does.

A cancer diagnosis is one of those point of no return life experiences. A moment where everything changes. Once they utter that word for the first time, you don't ever get to go back to who you were before.

The kids in this movie, their parents along with them, forever changed.

As we walked out of the theater, I had long since recovered from the heaving sobs I couldn't fight back earlier. The teenagers sharing the room with us, though, they'd just begun to cry.

And I knew why.

They were crying because of death.

I had cried all the tears I would cry in those two hours because of life.

And that is what cancer really does. 

It makes you appreciate life more than you ever thought possible. It makes you savor those moments of good. It makes you take them and keep them and cherish them, and it does it because you learn that life is short, but life is beautiful, and you never really know when it will all end.

In the story, Gus teaches Hazel how to live.

Cancer also teaches you, in the most brutal way, that death isn't always unwelcome.

Some infinities are greater than other infinities, so make your forevers today.

Okay?

Okay.

-------
Image credit to 20th Century Fox

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 25 ~ Season

Summer officially began a few days ago, and it's easily the season I have the greatest love/hate relationship with.

What does summer mean to you?

This summer, it literally means baseball and softball around here and little else. This is all I've done.

The Oldest, dressed for his first game back after The Great Concussion of 2014. 


Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the I really don't want to be this cynical edition

Howdy. Maybe it's just because I am so insanely busy this summer, but it really is starting to seem like it is always Tuesday. Having four kids play team sports at the same time isn't for everyone (or frankly for me right at the moment).

The Oldest is off at camp and the younger two are at summer school for the morning, so I have a few hours to write try to catch up on all the things I am woefully behind on.

I still owe you guys a Summer School of Rock post from last week. It's about Johnny Cash and it is going to be awesome. Eventually. At some point. When I get there. Which might not be today. Which probably won't be today. But whatever.

Freckles is here, but she's tremendously self occupying, which is the great thing about us introverts. We really don't need to be amused. She's reading everything she can get her hands on at the moment, absorbing the world like the sponge that she is. Which is fantastic.

Alright, off to the things pissing me off this week. Frankly I haven't even really had that much time to be pissed off, so just work with me here.


Hoaxes, Liars and Fakers
Ah, the internet. The place that has become an ample breeding ground for swindlers and cynics alike. I am always so terribly amused (and troubled) by those who seem to believe everything they read online. I wonder how it is even possible anymore that there are so many people so gullible, especially when you consider how opportunistic the world has become in this internet age.

There are scams everywhere. We all have inboxes programmed with spam detectors and filters. There are phishing attempts all the time. Chances are pretty damn good that you know someone personally who has been the victim of some type of hoax. Or a catfish scheme. Or a wire transfer scam.

Maybe you've even been that victim.

Even still, with this epidemic of thievery, we as a society still seem to want to believe so desperately that people are honest and good. I know that deep down I want to be that person...I wish that I could be. I still am far too often with those I interact with. Until I get burned.

Seriously, don't lie to me. It won't go over well. I have a fairly functional bullshit detector and when someone sneaks in through the cracks, I don't do well with it.

It's not just individuals though, it's everything anymore. I'm sure that by now, most of you have heard that the latest internet viral outrage was a hoax designed to elicit sympathy for a very-truly-injured girl by projecting false blame in the direction of a corporation. The little girl with the dog bite injuries who was supposedly asked to leave KFC because she was scaring customers? Yeah, that didn't happen. 

She's hurt, sure as there is a sun in the sky, but she wasn't asked to leave. She was attacked by three dogs at her grandfather's trailer. The family had been complaining on social media about not having enough money to pay the medical bills. The part of the story involving KFC was invented by her grandmother, then shared online in an attempt to generate outrage at the establishment...which it absolutely did. They've raised plenty of money from good hearted people who just wanted to help this actually injured little girl and the monsters who were accused of shunning her.

Except the monsters taking advantage of her injuries weren't in a KFC....they were members of her own family.

The Fashion Police
Another wonderful thing about the internet is that it has become this place for people to drag out their soapboxes and proclaim their views to the world. I can't say that it's always a bad thing, and I wouldn't ever claim that I don't do it myself. These weekly rants are basically my way of venting about the things that irritate me, and to be honest I don't see anything wrong with that. (obviously, or I wouldn't be doing it)

What does bother me is when people use this internet soapbox to project their beliefs onto other people. When they want to tell the world how it should be. When they want to inform the masses about all the things they are doing wrong.

Here's the thing.

It's not about you. It's not about me.

Literally.

Almost nothing anyone does in this world has anything to do with anyone else, and yet we live in a world where it seems like everyone takes everything personally. Life is much more peaceful once you can accept that the actions and words of other people have nothing to do with you. Honest.

The most recent wave of telling people how to live their lives that has irritated me is coming from the clothing police. The modesty enforcers. The blogs filled with flowery language about preserving our parts for whatever happens behind closed doors, naturally with the husbands we wedded in holy matrimony because that is the only acceptable place for sexuality, right? The horror at seeing these bodies out in public in any way, shape or form. The implication that somehow men are wholly irresponsible for their carnal reactions to seeing the outline of the shape of a woman's body. The idea that attraction to other humans is dirty in the first place. All of it.

I have no qualms at all in the world with people who choose to dress modestly, for whatever reasons they choose to do it. None at all. What isn't okay is for people (almost always women) to believe that it's appropriate for them to tell other women how to dress.

I don't care what your reason is. I don't care what your insecurities are. I don't care why you think other women should be dressed a certain way. I really don't care.

It's not your place to tell them. Period.

What other women wear isn't about you or your husband or your family or your beliefs. If it bothers you, don't look.

p.s. Human beings are sexual. It's part of life. In fact, it's what perpetuates life, that sexual attraction we have for each other...and it's not going away just because you think it should. Promise.

My Very Irritable Uterus
I said a long time ago when I first announced my pregnancy that I would do my best not to complain, and this isn't really a complaint so much as it is just a confrontation of the shitty reality that I dwell in that not everyone understands. And when people don't understand, it makes things worse for me...because stress isn't helping me right now. Not at all.

I have an irritable uterus, which basically means that I have been having contractions for six weeks already. I'm to the point, with this being the third time it has happened, getting worse each time, that I have a pretty good idea of what makes them worse, when I need to worry, when I need to take it easy, when I need to panic.

It gets worse, significantly worse, if I do too much. Or don't drink enough water. Or don't get enough sleep. Or if I get stressed out.

That stress thing...being exacerbated by Little Boy and his blood sugar situation. He's running high still. And creeping upwards. And I worry. I worry even though worry is useless. I worry even though worry won't prevent what might be coming and won't do anything to stop it and won't help if and when it gets here. I worry.

Then my blood sugar spirals out of control. Which makes it harder to sleep. Or rest. Or eat.

Which pisses off my uterus even more.

It's like a swirling vortex of blood sugar triggered contractions.

I'm going to finish this and go do some yoga and try to find a happy place.

Namaste.

Or whatever.

Monday, June 23, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 24 ~ Shadow

Ack. I just can't drag this one out any longer, regardless of how uncooperative the weather is. I have been trying for a week to get a shot for this and it hasn't ever worked...so I have to recycle an older picture, which I hate doing.

Hopefully you'll all have better luck than I have had.


Summer Curriculum, Week 5


Week 5, June 23-29

I decided to change some of this week up, so it is a little different than planned. We will not be reading the Nellie Bly book right now.

Books: This week, The Oldest is away at summer camp so I am actually reading two books, one with each of the girls. Freckles (11) and I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Mini Me and I will be reading The Curse of Maleficent: A Tale of a Sleeping Beauty, by Elizabeth Rudnick.




Movies: I am taking Freckles to see FIOS today in the theater and my inlaws are planning to take Mini Me to see Maleficent in the theater next week.

Science: We are focusing on plant and animal cell biology this week, learning the basic components of a cell and how animal and plant cells are different. We will also be talking a bit about oceanography, as the kids had the opportunity to take part in a webinar this morning hosted by Mission 31. Mission 31 is a project of Fabian Cousteau's to study life under the sea and film it in a way it has never been filmed before.

We happen to have a very basic cheap microscope here at the house that was a part of a kid's science kit. It works pretty good for our purposes. The icell app is a great tool as well.


Writing: Both of the girls will be doing some creative writing this week based on the prompt of, "If I was an only child..."

Project: We will be constructing a river in the sand in the backyard since we didn't get to it last week. This blog has some really cute ideas, including how to build a foil river.  We will also be experimenting with tinting flowers and celery to find out how plants transfer nutrients.

Trip: I'm hoping to get to the Botanical Gardens this week.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 23 ~ Hands

Dragging out the rearranging another day, I changed day 23 to hands because of that pesky ball of fire.

This is Freckles wearing her USWNT jersey in preparation for the USA v. Portugal match in the World Cup. Great game, not so great ending. At least it was a tie, right??


Saturday, June 21, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 22 ~ Feet

I had to switch up the prompts because of an uncooperative sun today. Shadow was planned but was impossible.

So...today will be feet.

Here are mine from a few weeks ago. I can see less of them now.

Friday, June 20, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 21 ~ Transportation

Find something that shows how we move and share it!

This sweet car was parked in town today and I couldn't resist.


Sixteen

Sixteen years ago, my father walked me down the aisle, whispering in my ear twice that I could turn around and run away. He promised that he wouldn't get mad, not even a little bit.

He was kidding. Sort of.

I didn't run.

We were both 21. Young. Naive.

We were the picture of all the hope and optimism that the future could ever hold. We had magnificent plans for the life we would live. We knew, we just knew, that things would be a certain way. We were so sure of ourselves, of our relationship, of it all.

That first year was interesting, adjusting to life with one another. Settling in to routines, becoming accustomed to the idea that we had a spouse now.

It came easy, really, at first. We'd been together already for so many years that there weren't many surprises. There weren't any large and looming secrets to be revealed. We already knew about the quirks of the other, we already had a pretty good idea about who they were. Who we were.

Or so we thought.

Then cancer showed up, and when cancer shows up, everything changes. When cancer shows up and changes everything, especially when you're 22 and still firmly entrenched in the newness of marriage, it changes more than you even appreciate at the time.

It changes the big things, the little things, the things you can understand and the things that won't make their way to the surface, gasping for breath for years yet.

We grew. We regressed. We panicked. We softened. We weakened.

Then we added children. The children we were told wouldn't come. The children we weren't supposed to have.

And children brought many things with them, more similar to the changes that cancer brought than different.

They changed things. They changed everything.

Cancer, children. Once they enter your life, there's no going back. You are past the point of no return. You may never again be the person you were before.

Some of the ways that they change you are good, hopefully most of them are.

Not all.

We were busy. Distracted. Disconnected.

So busy that we were just going through the motions.

We lost our way back to one another, until we found it again.

That losing and finding, the process of it all, unplanned and unscripted of course because this was never supposed to happen to us. We were different, or so we thought.

You don't anticipate that one day you'll be in that place, certainly not when you are young and blissfully in love and naive about what the future will hold and walking down that aisle to a hopeful life.

And then one day, you're there, wondering what happened.

These are the things no one warns you about.

The lessons learned in the last few years, some of the most important in our personal history, both as individuals and as a couple.

They are the lessons that put us back together. That solidified the bonds we thought were unbreakable. We know now, because of cancer, because of everything else, that we aren't invincible. Our physical beings are not the only vulnerabilities. Our relationship won't sustain itself in any self perpetuating way like we thought it would. We have to do it.

There is power in that realization though, because it forces accountability. It demands effort. It mandates engagement.

We know we can't let our guards down. We know we can't become complacent. We know this now.

And because of it all, this marriage that we're in now is a conscious choice on a level that we couldn't possibly have conceived of before.

It's bigger. It's more. It's deeper. It's real.

It isn't grounded in illusions and irrational hopes and dreams anymore.

And it is better.

It's fitting to be here, in this place now, with this many years and this many experiences folded into the story of our past.

It's fitting to be at this particular year now, the sixteenth. The one generally associated in the lives of adolescents as the year they are able to finally drive. The year that they can finally take the wheel in their hands.

We've been married sixteen years.

We've finally learned the lessons. We finally know what we're doing. We finally know where the dangers are and how to avoid them. We finally know how to drive this thing.


Happy anniversary, Mr. Hive. I love you. I love us.

I love this, right here and right now.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 20 ~ Create

This picture meets the criteria two ways. The shirt that Freckles is wearing was made specially for Comic Con to go along with the rest of her Pinkie Pie costume. The balloons and confetti are PP's cutie mark. She made the shirt with the help of her Grandma.

The statue she is standing beside of Gollum is part of a traveling exhibit for The Hobbit, and it's so lifelike (and creepy) that I half expected him to start talking. Whoever creates these things is an amazingly gifted artist.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 19 ~ Low Light

I mixed up my days and was planning to go out and take some disturbing pictures of the fracking wells here in town tonight, but alas...I figured wrong.

I took this picture Father's Day evening when we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. They have these little game tablets for the kids, and while it's annoying that they're all focused on the screens...it was nice to have a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Meh.


The Redskins and The Human Torch - why the way things have always been isn't good enough

Already intending to write about this topic today, the ongoing controversy over the Washington Redskins NFL team added a new chapter. 

This morning, the US Patent Office ruled that the team nickname, "the Redskins" is disparaging of Native Americans, then terminated the trademark. The team will be permitted an appeal of the 2-1 decision and will retain rights until the appeal is settled if they so choose to pursue that course of action.


As soon as the news hit, the internet went crazy over it. The arguments on both sides came out swinging, with people on one side declaring that it's not offensive and that it shouldn't be changed. They say that this is political correctness gone too far, that people are spending too much time worrying about things that don't actually hurt anyone. This is the way we've always done things, and we should just leave well enough alone.

Which might actually all be valid points...from their perspectives.

That's the thing about these debates that most people can't seem to wrap their minds around, truly. Perception is 99% of the issue, and if your experience with the world doesn't lead you to believe that something is offensive, then it just isn't. If you've never dealt with the issue personally, it hasn't affected you. If you haven't been called names or had assumptions made about you for traits your have no ability to alter, then you don't understand.

If you make no attempt to understand, for whatever reason, then you can sit back and continue to believe that just because something isn't offensive to you means that it shouldn't be offensive to anyone.

That doesn't mean your experience is the only one that matters.

By logical extension, if your experience matters, then the experience of everyone else is relevant as well.

In this case, many tribes have come out publicly against the name. It has been a contentious issue for decades. Earlier this year a letter signed by numerous elected officials was sent to the NFL Commissioner about the issue.  Just because something has been done by people for years doesn't mean it is right or fair or proper. Habit isn't a reason to continue objectification of people. Familiarity isn't a reason to keep stereotypes alive and well.

"The U.S. Patent Office has now restated the obvious truth that Native Americans, civil rights leaders, athletes, religious groups, state legislative bodies, Members of Congress and the president have all echoed: taxpayer resources cannot be used to help private companies profit off the promotion of dictionary defined racial slurs," said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and Nation Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata.

~~~~~

As I said in the beginning of this post, I was already planning to write about this subject, although not in the world of football. I was going to discuss it in the world of the superheroes, because believe it or not, there is a large and growing controversy over basically the same issue there. 

The nerdiverse isn't infighting because of names or labels, though...they're arguing over whether characters originally written and drawn as white men can or should be portrayed by non-whites. 

Yes, really. 

This is happening. In 2014.

One of the panels I was hoping to sit in on during Comic Con last week had to do with this exact issue - of the struggle for diversity in comics, television and film. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for the day before I was there and I missed it. 

I've written before about the lack of female lead characters before, primarily about Wonder Woman and all that she stands for. The issue goes deeper than that, though, much deeper. 



The hard truth is that the vast majority of these characters have been written by white men, targeted at white men and boys. For generations. 

Sure, when they were first conceived, these characters were just the ones that those who created them related to or aspired to look up to. I don't think that there was ever any intention of excluding entire groups of society from these roles, it just worked out that way because those drawing them drew fictional heroes they could connect with.

The consequence, though, is that the vast majority of heroes in the fictional universe are white men.

Women and girls, as well as the members of literally any other racial group, might be included out there on the fringes. Maybe added as a sidekick here or there. More likely cast as a villain....but not the heroes. Almost never.

At the center of this latest controversy, The Human Torch. 

In a conscious effort to introduce more diversity to the industry as a whole, producers and directors are casting roles in ways that challenge the way things have always been. 

The role of the Human Torch, a member of the Fantastic Four in the Marvel universe, has been filled by Michael B. Jordan. 


Does it really matter what color your skin is when you're on fire?
This has actually generated a huge amount of controversy....because Johnny Storm a.k.a. The Human Torch has always been white in the comics and the prior incarnations of the films. Some oppose Jordan's casting on it's face just blatantly because of race. Others because it somehow goes against everything we've ever known about this totally fictional made-up fantasy character. Still others are raging because Johnny's sister Sue Storm has already been cast...and she's being played by Kate Mara, a white woman. 

Gasp.

Clearly there is no possible way that a black man and a white woman could be siblings, right?

Actually, that assumption is completely wrong, but whatever. Go ahead and keep using that as an excuse to perpetuate racism. We'll just ignore the fact that mixed race twins happen, or that families can be blended or that they could be step siblings or that one or both of them could be adopted or literally any other way that two people who don't look alike could be related.

The way things have always been isn't good enough.

The way things have always been isn't an accurate reflection of our society now. It wasn't even accurate then, and allowing it to perpetuate would be allowing a disservice to huge percentages of the population to also continue.

So, whether the nerdiverse explodes on itself or not, Jordan will be playing The Human Torch. His response to the outrage?

“They’re still going to go see it anyway.”

He has a point.


If the Redskins change their name, people are still going to watch football.

If Johnny Storm isn't white anymore, fans will still see the movies.

Honest.

Progress, you guys. It's a beautiful thing...but it means that we can't do things the way we used to anymore. 

It means we have to do them better

Summer Curriculum, Week 4

Hi there. Sorry that I forgot to write this up until now. I've been way too busy and totally forgot.

Week 4 - June 16-22

Book: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. Download for $0.99 on Amazon here or free through Project Gutenberg here.

Movie: There are currently three free versions to stream on Directv. I haven't decided which one we will be watching yet, but one of them (maybe more). This film should be available in one form or another at your local library if you can't find it for free on your cable or satellite provider. There are a few versions on youtube as well.

Writing: The kids are all writing their personal memoirs this week.

Science: We are finishing up the human body portion of the summer by discussing the digestive system, the respiratory system and all the senses. We will be doing lots of little experiments particularly about the senses. This link has lots of good ideas available.

Trip: To go along with the river adventure theme of Huck Finn, we'll be spending the afternoon at a local park along the river here in town.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 18 ~ Color

One thing we get lots of comments and compliments on around here are our eyes.

The kids all have eyes like mine except Mini Me, blue on the outside, with varying degrees of hazel towards the center. Hers are solid blue like her father's...with a freckle too.


Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the time flies edition

Howdy folks. It's that time again. Tuesday. Time to rant.


If I'm being completely honest, I haven't really had all that much time to read or watch the news. I'm a week behind even on The Daily Show....just don't tell Jon. Having four kids playing baseball or softball, a dog in obedience training, summer school starting, Comic Con and everythingelsethatihavetodoeveryday just isn't allowing me a lot of free time to peruse the internets and watch tv.

I mean, I still totes watched the season finale of GOT, and I'll get to that in a minute. First, though, some other things I'm thinking about this week.

You know you're getting old when...
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the day I graduated from high school...which means that today is the 20th anniversary of the slow motion chase orchestrated by OJ Simpson and his good buddy Al Cowlings. 

That chase is one of the defining moments of our generation, I think. I mean, you can probably tell me exactly where you were when it happened, right?

I was in the middle of my graduation party. A house full of people, and we spent hours huddled around a screen wondering what the hell was going to happen. For real.

The whole OJ situation is one that I came to have a little more of a personal involvement with as time went on. Living in the greater LA area, we became familiar with the wonder that is the freeway chase. I even had the great pleasure of being on the freeway, pulled over to the side a few times to wait one out. It was a thing for a while. I'm not sure if it is like that anymore or not honestly.

Anyhow, OJ went to USC. So did I, leaving for school just a couple months after that chase. He kinda turned us into a running joke for a while, which...whatever. I watched, as did everyone, as the criminal trial unfolded and the entire thing turned into a circus. Then a few years later, when I was working for the LA County District Attorney's Office, the civil trial played out. (yes, I worked there, and holy crap that stories I could tell you but I can't tell you so there)

It was an interesting place to be. Let's just leave it at that.

Political Extremism
This is something that I've been talking to a lot of people about lately, something that only seems to be getting worse in our country - the growing extremism in the political world.

If ever we needed proof of it, we got it last week in spades. Virtual unknown David Brat unseated not just a House incumbent, but the Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He did it without really raising any money, he did it in a way that shocked just about everyone.

Cantor wasn't a moderate, not even close...but he wasn't far enough right to keep his job.

The reality is that our country is becoming more and more polarized. Congress becoming less and less effective, shutting down even for a bit recently because of their inability to come to an agreement. Most people with any background in history, political science or common sense will tell you that the solutions to most major problems necessarily lie somewhere between the extreme views. Compromise gets a lot more done than philosophical debates ever will.

Extremism is endangering this country. Point blank.

When you look at the fact that 92% of citizens are in favor of background checks for gun purchases but Congress won't even touch it with a ten foot pole, we have a problem. A major problem.

Elected officials are too afraid to talk about anything even remotely controversial these days because if they do, they will be eaten alive by the factions with enough money to do it. They'll be annihilated in television and radio ads, people will be constantly robo-called and sent propaganda in the mail slanting the issues whichever way suits the sender. We've had people recalled here in this state for daring to legislate anything about guns.

They aren't doing their jobs. They aren't doing what they are elected to do. They are being removed from office for even trying. The extremism has gone too far, and it is going to run us all into the ground if we don't stop it.

This isn't something that is happening on only one side either, both sides are doing it. Meanwhile, next to nothing is getting done in Washington. So, sure, we can keep dragging out our soapboxes and screaming at each other, wasting vast amounts of time and resources...or we can start to listen to what the other side has to say again and meet somewhere in the middle.

Oh, Game of Thrones...
Unlike most of the people all riled up this week about the finale, I actually felt kind of let down by it all. I'm learning the hard way, yet again, that the books are almost always going to be superior in every possible aspect than whatever eventually makes it to the screen.

Now, if you haven't read the books, not much of this will be relevant to you, and if you haven't watched this week's episode yet and plan to, stop reading now. I'm not about to censor myself here because of being called a spoiler.

p.s. when did that become a thing anyway? It used to be that the only people who could be considered legitimate spoilers of anything were those who revealed what happened in an earlier time zone, but now it seems like anytime anyone writes about anything that happens in a book or movie or on tv gets called to the carpet for being a spoiler. Seriously, if you aren't caught up on whatever it is and haven't watched it in a timely fashion, why should that be my fault?

Anyway...the warning is there.

I've been a bit disappointed with this season...mostly because, as I said just above, the books are so much better. The character development is deeper, the explanations for events and conflicts more sound. There is enough material for them to work with in the books (seriously, there is a TON of material) that I wonder fairly often why they feel compelled to change so much of it. Some of the things they are changing so much that the storylines have veered so far off course that I'm starting to wonder how they are ever going to get it all to line up again.

They throw in rape and violence often for no particular reason, make it somewhat irrelevant, then carry on the next episode as though it didn't happen. WHY DO THEY DO THAT?

There's plenty of sex and murder and gore and that in the books...there really isn't a compelling reason to change it as much as they have.

Anyhow, I'm always amused with the people who clearly haven't read the books and have no idea what is going to happen. If you've read the books, you knew damn well that Jaime was going to release Tyrion to Varys, but that he'd kill Shae and his father before he left. What is missing in the show, though, is a full disclosure of his motivations. Tyrion is one of the most consistent characters in the books, and the way it played out on the screen just didn't make much sense.

I'm also left wondering why the creators of the show are so hellbent on playing up (or flat out making up) supernatural elements of the stories, but leaving out some of the most important ones. If you've read the books, you know exactly who should have shown up there at the end and didn't.

Ice breaking skeletons, old man trees, fine. Zombies, though...not okay. Hmmmm.

You have to wonder what Martin makes of all this and why oh why they wouldn't have wanted to use Lady Stoneheart as the cliffhanger.

Monday, June 16, 2014

20 Years ago, who I used to be...

20 years ago, today, I graduated from high school.

I may have just gasped audibly upon typing that sentence.

It doesn't seem real in some ways, as if there is simply no way that so many years have passed since that hot afternoon spent on the football field.


It doesn't even seem like it has been ten years since our ten year reunion, but all it takes for me to come drifting back to reality is one look at my youngest daughter.

She is 9.

She wasn't born when we went back a decade ago. I wasn't even pregnant with her yet, that wouldn't happen for another month or so.

I met my husband in high school. We were 15 and naive, clueless about what life would hold for us. 

I was nervous and awkward. I never really fit in with any one group of people, and if and when I ever did manage to find a group, it never lasted. I have faced some unsettling truths about who I am and who I was in those times and I lay the blame for my exclusion only at my own feet. I was equipped with a self destruct mechanism.

It's amazing what you can learn about yourself when you save shoeboxes full of notes people wrote to you. People who came and then went. It took me a long time to put them together properly, to order them as they needed to be, but I finally did it. The things I realized about myself weren't kind things. They weren't reassuring things. 

I was a broken person. I hurt a lot of people. I didn't mean to, but I did it, and it took me a very long time to face it all. 

I had reasons for being the way that I was, we all do...but reasons aren't excuses. 

Back then, my parents, fresh off their own 20th high school reunion, were struggling. It was a turbulent time in their marriage and in our family as a whole. The things that transpired between them aren't for me to say, they aren't a part of my story to tell, but suffice to say that I knew far more than I should have and it changed me. 

It hardened me. It made me bitter. It made me question the motivations of the people I shouldn't have. It made me push people away. It made me reckless and selfish at times. It made me tremendously self destructive. 

I own that. I own all of it. 

I've learned from it. I've learned from all of it.

When the chaos began to settle, I met him. The boy who would become a man who would become my husband and the father of my children. He accepted me, flaws and all, without question. I hadn't hurt him when I was in the place I had been, and he was a chance for me to do better. To be better. 

And we were. For a while. (someone please tell me you get the reunion reference there...)

The first ten years after graduation were filled with excitement and change and tragedy and hope. In that time, we'd endured a long distance relationship through the four years of college. For a year of that span, neither of us had a car. We emailed and talked on the phone until the bills were too high and rode trains and bummed rides. There were moments that I didn't think we would be able to survive that time.

Most people assumed we wouldn't last, probably because most couples like us fail. Four years apart at that time wasn't enough to break the bond though, and we came through it. 

We married just weeks after we graduated from college. Within two years, we'd been dealt first a cancer diagnosis. Then a positive pregnancy test. Then a dark room filled with whispers that told us our child had died. Then an infertility diagnosis. 

We all have our trials. We all have our tests. To have so many of them so close together so young, it changed us. It changed us both. Those changes weren't necessarily good ones.

Not long after all that, we would learn that the doctors were wrong...about that last part at least. We, against all odds, had been able to conceive.

Our son and his sister followed before that night ten years ago, when we went back to high school for the first and last time. 

Going to a high school reunion is a surreal and strange endeavor, at least such was my experience. Not having had a group to claim allegiance with, not really fitting in with anyone, I was alone more often than I was ever with anyone else. I had friends, sure, but not the way that other people did. To walk into a room of decades old groups of people still as close as they'd ever been, well, stung. I was still over there, in the corner, along the fringes. I hadn't yet made my peace with it. That would come later.

There were a few people that I was hoping would be there but weren't. More that I would have been content to never see again attended. You can be 27 years old and walk into a room where you feel like an acne ridden 14 year old outcast all over again. And I did. 

My husband was even more of an introvert back then, both in high school and at the reunion, than I ever was, and so we sat in solidarity, mostly in the corner. At least we had each other. When we left that night, we silently agreed that we never needed to go through all that again. 

And we meant it.


At the 10 year reunion.
In the ten years since that night, so much has changed. Facebook has, in a twisted way, replaced the whole idea of the reunion. We can reconnect with the people we wish to. We are reminded why we weren't friends with others. We can still be kept on the fringes, unwelcomed into the inner circles. We can muse about what happened to this person or that and actually know now. We can forge relationships that are entirely different with some than they ever were then when we realize we have more in common now. We can see things about each other, learn things about each other. 

We can wonder if there is really any necessity or utility with having a reunion at all. 

In those intervening ten years, I've learned a lot about my classmates that I didn't know in school, that I didn't know even ten years ago. Some from online interaction. A few from the things that I learned up close and personal in the tangible world of reality. Some are things I wish I had the power to un-know. Some are things that have irreversibly damaged relationships. Some are things that have ended friendships that had lasted decades prior to the unraveling.  

Some of them are people that I never have any desire to be in the same room with, or city for that matter, again. 

Fortunately we didn't have to struggle long with the decision of whether to go back this time or not. We now live 1,000 miles away instead of three hours. It is a massive undertaking to take this many people anywhere, even more so now that my parents are dead and gone and I don't have a home there anymore.

Since the last reunion, we moved away. Far away. We moved because we were still, in many ways, in far too many ways, young and naive and fell for the idea that things would be different, better, if we were just somewhere else. 

We were wrong. 

Oh, were we wrong. 

In those ten years, we didn't just move. We fell apart. We didn't run away from our problems. We relocated them and they grew and grew and grew

He changed. I changed. Again.

I lost both of my parents. 

We added two more children. We now have a third additional one on the way. 

He's changed. I've changed. 

More than that, we evolved.

We are finally the different people we imagined we'd someday be, the better people we always wanted to be, but the path to this place was rocky and unkind. There were far more times recently than there ever were in college when I was sure we wouldn't last. 

But we made it.

We're here.

I'm not who I was twenty years ago. Though my face bears some resemblance to that naive girl from back then, albeit with a few wrinkles now, the person inside doesn't much relate to who I was then. 

My husband isn't who he was twenty years ago either. This version of him is far more stable and grounded. He is more authentic and real. Incidentally, he looks almost nothing like that version of him used to.

We aren't naive anymore. 

We aren't those people anymore. 

They're just a part of who we were. 

Of who we used to be.

Neither of us has any desire to ever go back there again. 

Some people long for the past, they cling to the old stories. They reminisce and relive and regale.

Not me.

I'm good here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
As a postscript to this entry, I feel like I have to offer some kind of preemptive apology to my former classmates. This isn't about you, not at all. It's about me and my issues and my unwillingness to go back to that place. There are certainly many of you that I would love to see, there is no doubt. I just don't know that I can ever go back this way again. I hope you understand, I know that many of you already do. xo

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 17 ~ Flower

This one is actually a stalkerish funny story. We were at the park (taking pictures for this challenge in fact), when I saw this from across the street in someone's yard. So, naturally, I ran right over there and snapped a shot of their flowers. Because that is what normal people do.

Then I spent almost an hour online trying to figure out what kind of flower it was. Clematis.

And gorgeous.




Sunday, June 15, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 16 ~ Joy

This kid. Okay, so not so much a kid anymore as an adult sized man-child.

He was SO excited to finally start putting the pieces of his Finn costume together for Comic Con. Not that you can tell by his expression or anything here.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

4th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge ~ Day 15 ~ Family

Since part of my family is at Comic Con today and the rest are here with me, I had to use a picture that is a few months old. We took these the night that we announced my pregnancy to the book of face.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Don't Call Me Mr. Mom, a guest post from Cinko

I hate John Hughes. Let me rephrase that. I despise John Hughes.

He didn’t do anything to me directly. He didn’t run over my hypothetical dog. He didn’t impugn my family’s honor. What he did do was write a movie that was released in 1983. It was that movie whose title was implanted into the vernacular of our society. That movie is Mr. Mom.

Long story short, Michael Keaton, plays a bumbling stay at home dad who makes basic housekeeping and parenting look like rocket science but suddenly, with the help of 80s movie magic, finally gets “it” and becomes, wait for it, the title of the movie, Mr. Mom.


Flash forward thirty-one year later. I am depositing some checks at my local bank, my young daughters, ages 4 and 2, in tow. We stand in line, well I stand in line, I wrangle them to attempt to stand in line with me. We approach the teller, complete our transaction, I collect some suckers for them and start to usher them out. Then it happened. The teller says it: “Oh look at you being Mr. Mom today.” I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to face her and said the first thing that came to my mind. “I am their FATHER every day.” She turned pale and I walked out fuming.

This is merely one example of what myself and other involved Dads deal with from society, mostly women, on a daily basis. A backhanded “compliment” that is purely insulting and an outdated view of modern parenting. Plain and simple, it’s disrespectful.

A man can beat his children, abandon them, help conceive them and they get called “Dad” albeit deadbeat or baby would be in front of it but nonetheless, they are “Dads.” A man gets involved in parenting and raising his children but he gets called “Mr. Mom.” Anyone care to explain that?

Should it truly matter that man take an active role in parenting? No, but many within society have this idea that raising children is a woman’s job. Is it so shocking that a man would go grocery shopping with his children or get them ready for school? Or do the laundry or clean the house or cook all while parenting? Some of you would say yes. Some of you would say welcome to modern parenting.


Ladies, is it that surprising that a man wants to be involved with the raising of his children? That he changes diapers or cleans the house after mowing the lawn? Do you respect us that little? Or are your standards in men so low that you need to make yourself feel better about your parenting role that you insult ours? Better yet, you CAN call me “Mr. Mom” as long as I can call you “Mrs. Dad.” Don’t like it now do you?

In the film Kingdom of Heaven, there is a quote that I try to practice every day as a parent, husband, and man. Carved in a beam in the blacksmith’s shop is the phrase, “Nemo vir est qui mundum non reddat meliorem.” Evidently, Mr. Ringo is an educated man. Translated, it reads: “What man is a man who does not make the world better?” This is the credo of the involved Dad. All of us. We want to make our world, our family better. Who are we to stand idly by and not put in any effort? 

You really know what I would like for Father’s Day this year? Not a tie or a coffee mug (by the way, let’s work on improving gifting in the future). I would like a shred of your respect and a simple “thank you.” Not much is it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cinko is the wizard behind the curtain at Manderstanding. He's funny, wildly inappropriate and one of the best fathers I know...he just wants to be treated like one. You can find him here on Facebook, though he's much preferring Twitter these days. His Twitter account is here, and the Manderstanding Twitter account is here. 

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