Posts Tagged ‘Life Skills’


We’ve been kind of busy here in the ‘Hood lately, doing some really awesome stuff.

I somewhat reluctantly accompanied my friend to see her favorite band, Kasabian, when they came to D.C. I was reluctant only because I was so very unfamiliar with their music. What little I’d heard was a bit too . . . ethereal for my taste. But I love this friend dearly, and no evening out with her is ever bad, so of course I was on board.

Kasabian

Serge, just being Serge.

THEY WERE FUGGING AMAZING.

We had a really, really good time, and not just because the show was fabulous and my friend was reduced to little-girl squeals of delight and she got to meet members of the band. No, the best part for me is what I always experience when this friend and I get together: a return to myself.

As mothers, our world often becomes our children. That is as it should be, as far as I’m concerned, (though that’s not a universally-held belief). I love being a mother almost as much as I love my children themselves, and I would not change my status as full-time mom unless I had no other choice.

But the fact remains that we are not only mothers: we are still women; still citizens; still wives and volunteers and professionals and writers and neighbors and learners and many, many other things as well. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our children’s lives and caretaking that we — I forget about the rest of me. Worse, I often remember the real me but relegate her to lowest woman on the totem pole.

Going to these clubs and concerts with my friend makes me not just honor those parts of me that are so often shunted aside to make way for parenting; it makes me feel as though all my parts are whole again. (more…)

March!

Posted: March 13, 2012 in Aengus, Noah
Tags: , ,

What the hell happened to winter??? It’s March already, and we had only two snowfalls this year — one was before Halloween, which is just crazy. It seems like it’s been spring for ages already.

At any rate, my mom visited us last weekend, which was wonderful. She let me play with her new toy, and I now have a serious case of iPad 2 envy.

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  • Aengus, left, on my iPad; and my mom, right, on her fancy-shmancy iPad 2.
  • We all played mini golf together, which was an absolute blast, and we went out to eat at the Wood Grill Buffet.

    Let me tell you: if you ever need to feel better about yourself, head to a buffet. Holy shit.

    We also tried shopping in downtown Harrisonburg, where “Restaurant Week” was just beginning. Turns out that the only places open in downtown Harrisonburg on a Sunday are the restaurants.

      And they wonder why our economy is flopping like a fish on a river bank.

    But wait! One other place was open: the art gallery/store. It was really quite nice to look at locally-created sculptures, jewelry, paintings, and wood carvings. I love that Noah enjoys such things (and wish there were more galleries around here), and it was nice to have an opportunity to explain art to Aengus.

    I miss having art in my life. I miss a lot of things that I put away in exchange for parenthood. I’m not entirely sure why I would do such a thing. My children may not share my passion for, say, architecture, but that’s no reason to live a life devoid of these pleasures. And as it turns out, the boys actually enjoy art and architecture quite a lot.

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    This week: Friday night was family night at the shooting range. ::sigh:: We are coming dangerously close to belonging here in Asscrack. Let the record show, though: my target had the tightest grouping in the family — and it was my first time!

    20120312-231257.jpg
    (No pictures of my awesomeness, of course. No one ever takes my picture. I hope they regret it one day, motherfuckers. That’s okay, I don’t mind.)

    I didn’t see much of the family on Saturday, as I was working in the morning and enjoyed some time with friends in the afternoon. But we did eat blackberry pie and watch Hugo together that night, which was . . . not as good as I was expecting. On both counts.

    AND THEN.
    I found a this on the clearance rack at the store yesterday.

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    Why would I buy a broken bunny, you ask? Well for starters, it was only two dollars. That chocolate’s worth at least that much, in any form. But the real reason is because I have plans. Easter plans. Plans that require a few supplies from the craft store and a mangled chocolate bunny. 🙂

    When I told Aengus my idea, he showed the kind of excitement for creativity I haven’t seen from him in . . . Well, ever.

    Stay tuned.


    I can’t believe summer is almost over already. And what have we done with our time?

    Aengus and his cousin, protecting the campsite.


    Aengus experimented with Mentos and Diet Coke; played Portal 2, Geometry Wars, Minecraft, GMod, and the new Nazi Zombies map; and got into watching Dr. Who, My Wife and Kids, George Lopez, Top Shot, and the BBC’s Sherlock. He got a few swimming lessons from his dad, had many sleepovers, jumped on our new (to us) trampoline, and put some time in on the treadmill. He went camping with his dad, his uncle, and his cousin. He helped Jason fix our lawnmower and build the playing field for his Lego team’s robot. Oh yeah, and he joined a FIRST Lego League team.

    Mark (sound engineer), Garrett, Grant, and Noah intently listening to their recording.

    Noah spent some time with his friends on the XBox with Portal 2, Catherine, and several other games. He also got in on the lawnmower lesson, which morphed into a car maintenance lesson. He and I continued working on learning Japanese, plus he started reviewing pre-algebra concepts and US history in the run-up to this fall’s studies. But much of his summer was spent at his friends’ house, practicing for several gigs . . . including the local Battle of the Bands, which they won! The hands-down highlight of his summer was their prize: six solid hours in a REALLY nice recording studio with a professional sound engineer. He was positively beaming the whole time. ❤

    Shelby and Noah gettin’ their Amish on at Roots.

    Together, we visited my family in Pennsylvania, which we always love. Shelby came with us again, and we always love that, too. We went to Roots, a big-ass farmers market, went swimming at their enormous community center, walked their gigantic mall, and checked out That Fish Place, a huge pet store.

    Why is everything in PA so big?!?

    The highlight of the week (for Noah and Shelby, and I think for Aengus, but definitely for me) was seeing the final Harry Potter movie. We were able to see it in the theater where Noah and I watched the very first movie on opening night. This time, though, they sold butterbeer slushies. With alcohol.

    Shelby, Noah, Aengus, and myself at the Ephrata Main Theater for Harry Potter.
    Jason and Aengus at the handgun range.

    We recently went shooting in West Virginia, which was beautiful but WAY the fuck out there. I would die of isolation in West Virginia, but it might be nice to stay for a few days in a cabin in the woods.

    Noah being goofy, as usual.

    Going forward, I’m making a concerted effort to blog with real regularity. I HAVE to, for my own sake (I forget everything!) as much as for the boys (who might need such records one day) and their grandparents (who miss the closeness they had with the boys when we lived nearby).

    We’ve spent the last few weeks establishing the new routine we need to accomplish all of our goals. Noah’s goals include finishing my requirements for graduation, furthering his Japanese studies, taking some web design classes, getting a job, getting a drivers license, and becoming truly capable of independence.

    Aengus is working diligently toward reading independence, of course, because he desperately wants a laptop all his own. We are not above bribery. He will also continue working on his math skills, learn some world history, do lots of science experiments, and participate in his FIRST Lego League team. Oh, and he wants to learn to cook, as well.

    None of which is all that ambitious for most families these days, of course. But we have been savoring the quiet life for a long time now; I’m not sure I’ll be able to sustain the energy required to do it all for nine months. Wish us luck!


    I’ve not been blogging for a while — obviously. I attended the VAHomeschoolers Conference last week, though, and feel inspired to get my act together again. “Scared straight” would be another way to phrase it.

    While I’ve been busy being negligent, the kids have continued with their lives, learning as they live and play. A few particularly educational events from the past six months stand out in my memory, though:

    VGL'11
    Having so much fun they even posed for a picture.

    Jason and I surprised the kids with box seats at a Video Games Live concert. It. Was.

    Fabulous!

    Amazing!

    Stupendous!

    Brilliant!

    Astounding!

    And I’m not all that into gaming myself. Noah said he’d love to go again, and that’s high praise from him. I thought it was a fabulous way to introduce young people to the symphony orchestra. {music appreciation}

     

    He CAN get up at 9am!

    Noah recently took a two month Saturday Morning Physics class at the local college. I’m not sure how much he actually got out of the class; it was held at 9am, so he often used planetarium time for a nap. I think the material was a bit over his head as well. Still, he was exposed to a college-like situation, which is something.

     

    Noah’s Japanese studies are going well for him, but I have completely let the ball drop there. He wanted me to teach him, but since I don’t already know Japanese I said we could learn together. Not only do I lack the consistency needed to teach him the he’d like, I also don’t have a curriculum that lays it out, lesson by lesson for him. The books we’ve bought are for a person who wants to visit Japan — which we do, but we want to actually learn the language, not just memorize key sentences.

    I recently discovered a great app for my iPad, however, so my own studies are back on track. We’re not yet back to doing lessons together, though, which is what I’m striving for.

    Also, Noah’s ability with computers and electronics surprises me. He’s dismantled our XBox and controllers and apparently does amazing things wih his computer. He’s asked to take a computer course at the Community College this summer, which I’m very excited for him to experience.

     

    Studio time was bliss.

    Music, of course, remains Noah’s primary activity, and all is going well. He and his band, ((The Evidence Of)), have been practicing a lot lately in preparation for their big gig later this month. Stay tuned. =D

     

     

    Aengus has been busy discovering various YouTube personalities, reviewers, and comics. Though he’s discovered computers rather later than his brother, Aengus is finally learning to navigate his way through the internet. Only a little, though, as he can’t yet read what he’s clicking on.

    And speaking of reading . . . Aengus’s frustration with being unable to read has reached an all-time high. I have absolute faith in unschoolers’ insistence that reading comes easily when children are not pushed. But Aengus views his inability to read when so many younger people can has him feeling really, really stupid. And I can’t just sit back and wait anymore.

    So, we’ve instituted Operation: Reading. He and I are now working our way through Explode the Code, a little every day, until he feels comfortable with reading on his own. We’ve just started book four, by the end of which I suspect I can hand him some Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes books. Come to think of it, I’ll give him Garfield tonight!

    Even better than now making a deliberate effort to learn how to read, Aengus has finally —finally!– started enjoying being read to. This child never liked storytime or lullabyes — only one of the ways in which he is unusual. =P I don’t know what finally clicked in his head, but he requested that I read Harry Potter to him.

    ~pause for happy dance~

    While reading Harry, I was astounded once again by all the learning along the way: Latin, mythology, vocabulary, history, interpersonal relationships, politics, ethics, . . . . I really wish I’d been blogging then, because we paused all the time for mini lessons.

    We just finished the series the other day (I was once again crying my eyes out), and he was concerned about what we’d read next. He now has a huge list of books he wants me to read to him! Noah requested A Series of Unfortunate Events, so that’s where we’ll start, then Artemis Fowl and The Hunger Games. Nothing beats Harry, though. ❤

    Oh, and we adopted a puppy back in January and named him ‘Buster (as in Myth). This was him at 3  and 4.5 months old:

    Just a wee lit’le pup!
    Buster, Bear, and Vinnie

    He is now, at six months old, nearly a hundred pounds! (pics coming soon)

    Aengus, in particular, has been helping with the training and raising of ‘Buster. He and Jason love watching The Dog Whisperer together and implementing Cesar’s methods. {biology, life skills, leadership}

    We scored a trampoline from Freecycle, and it’s been a big hit with both boys and their friends. {P.E., socialization} If  it continues to need repairs, we can add sewing to that list of  learning opportunities, LOL. And the debate about whether we actually needed the net became a lesson about safety. 😉

    Just yesterday, Aengus and I started reading about the Egyptians. {world history} He says he wants to do some of the activities from Story of the World (which I LOVE), so I’m excited for us to start that. For now, though, we’re just reading a bit and discussing what we’ve read.

    And that right there, folks, is the key to successfully home educating your children.

    Aengus spent a lot of time there for a while watching Netflix, especially That 70’s Show, Mythbusters, Doctor Who and Torchwood. {modern U.S. history, science, critical thinking} The complexity of the ongoing and crossover plots is what really excited him about Doctorr Who and Torchwood, I think.

    That, and who doesn’t want a Tardis?


    Several of my homeschooling lists seem to be discussing both video games and homeschoolers’ superior preparedness for the coming zombie apocalypse.

    My favorite comment (from Morgana, a woman I have no doubt I’d be friends with IRL) came in a thread about strangers grilling us about whether our kids are really learning anything outside of school. Her response to them is a blunt but honest “None of your business.” But —

    If I get any further questions, such as what we learn at home, I tell them that I only teach the basics: How to survive a zombie invasion, ways to take out a ninja, and how to run a successful pirate ship.

    One of Aengus’s favorite video games is the Call of Duty franchise, particularly the Nazi Zombies minigame. He believes zombies really are possible and that the government is,  in fact, researching them in Area 51. Since I am a big believer in the educational value of video games, even the ones that involve shooting supernatural creatures, I’ve always  loosely considered zombies part of our “curriculum.” But as open-minded as I am to the academic potential of video games, I was unprepared for what happened this week.

    When we went to the book store the other day, Noah bought some manga (language arts, art, cultural studies). Aengus? He bought The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, by Max Brooks.

    When I started reading this to Aengus, I was pleasantly surprised by the academic topics we touched on. By page nine, we had discussed wilderness survival (life skills), first aid (life skills, health), the afterlife (religious studies), viruses versus bacteria and the transmission of each (health), sex (health), how nerves and the brain work, (biology)  the various body functions necessary for life (biology), reflexes and instincts (biology), and I had defined several vocabulary words for him.

    For example: When describing zombies’ five (or six?) senses, Brooks writes

    Zombies have, literally, no physical sensations. All nerve receptors throughout the body remain dead after reanimation. This is truly their greatest and most terrifying advantage over the living. We, as humans, have the ability to experience physical pain as a signal of bodily damage. Our brain classifies such sensations, matches them to the experience that instigated them, and then files the information away for use as a warning against future harm. It is this gift of physiology and instinct that has allowed us to survive as a species. It is why we value virtues such as courage, which inspires people to perform actions despite warnings of danger. The inability to recognize and avoid pain is what makes the walking dead so formidable. Wounds will not be noticed and, therefore, will not deter an attack. Even if a zombie’s body is severely damaged, it will continue to attack until nothing remains.

    It turns out that in the context of something utterly ridiculous, something created for pure fun, we can extrapolate the study of any number of “academic” subjects. Can you imagine the discussion that follows reading such a paragraph? My son stays home with me, reading this stuff with me, so we actually had that discussion. Multiply that times 365, then by eighteen, and I’m pretty sure his education will be fairly broad by the time he moves out.

    On top of which, he’ll survive with all the other homeschoolers.

    Aengus’s interest in video games sparked his interest in this book, but also in  iPhone apps, online games, and many television shows, each of which has led to their own discussions. I am a book lover, but as an effective means to learn about the world, I’d say books come in dead last. Helpful and informative, but only in a supporting role. Video games, television, and other electronic media bring learning alive in a very real way.

    My kids’ education isn’t leaving a paper trail. It’s leaving body parts.


    Our family has felt . . . disjointed for quite some time now. With Noah in the throes of puberty (and my instinctive reaction to negativity being withdrawal), it’s felt like he mentally moved out already. I’m not ready for that!!! Aengus has never, by nature, been as open and connected with me as Noah always used to be. Add the Xbox and we’ve felt separate for a very long time now.

    But on Friday, Aengus and I had a day away from home, just the two of us. We ate at IHOP (computation: percents, life skills), visited friends (socialization), walked through a few malls (economics), and talkedtalkedtalked (about aliens, gods, and ghosts: cultural mythology, about illnesses: P.E., and about politics). He never opens up to me the way Noah used to, but it was still nice to connect with him a little bit. We also bought the next book in the Magic Tree House series, by his request (reading).

    Noah was in a good mood when we came home and wanted to watch Casablanca with me. When Noah requests that I do something with him — anything at all — I drop my own plans and do it. He and I used to be extraordinarily close; and while I know that shouldn’t last forever, I do miss it. So we watched Casablanca, and he loved it. I loved watching it with him.

    Fridays are Jason’s short days at work, so after dinner (together!), we decided to watch a movie — together. We don’t often do that anymore, since we each have our own interests and are often just doing our own thing. But we decided it was time Aengus started his Pop Culture Tour and Noah returned to his. And the movie to reboot the tour was . . . Conan the Destroyer.

    Can someone please tell me why this movie was made?!

    Saturday is a blur, since I spent it spring cleaning my kitchen. We have mice, and I’d had it with them. I took everything out of my cabinets and drawers, washed it all, and cleaned the cabinets. We set traps, which I am normally opposed to; I prefer to let the natural food chain take care of things. That’s why you’ll find spiders in my house. But no snakes have moved in and our cats are useless as mousers. So the traps ended up catching nine mice. I haven’t seen any, erm, evidence of mice since then.

    On Sunday, Noah went to his bandmates’ house for a sleepover/practice session (music, socialization).

    Good friends and a guitar.

    Their family is wonderful and a really good influence on him. While he was away, Aengus had his bff over for a sleepover. They actually managed to sleep a little this time, after spending the evening running around outside (with guns, of course; P.E.), building lots of Bionicles (engineering), playing chess (strategic thinking), and of course playing video games (cooperative problem solving, dynamic thinking).

    Monday evening, after Aengus’s friend left, he crashed while I ran out to get Noah back. We had our own little one-on-one time at the mall, checking out books and posters and DVDs and talking, talking, talking. It was wonderful to talk about stuff with him, real stuff like the “Ground Zero Mosque” and financial responsibility and the importance of interpersonal skills and whether it’s group psychology or biology that determines what we find attractive and why physical attributes are so prized when it’s intelligence that really matters.

    I absolutely loved it.


    Aengus and I have spent hours poring over Google Earth [geography], searching for military bases. Specifically, looking for aliens in Area 51 and zombies in Germany.

    So, as a mother and educator, I have to ask myself: to what extent do I enable/support this interest? I mean, theoretically at least, I support any interest that my kids fancy; if it’s important to them, there’s value in it, even if I don’t value it myself.

    But seriously — aliens? Oh, okay, maybe I can get on board with that one a little. I have no doubt that if life could happen here, it most likely has happened somewhere else in this ginormous expanse we call the universe. But zombies?! I think the kid actually, truly believes Nazis were able to create zombies, and that the government is just hiding the evidence from us.

    How long do I support such a crazy idea? I know he’s young and will likely outgrow this (good lord, I hope so!). But if I support him too much, won’t that just set him up for the inevitable fall when reality bites? And then what happens to our relationship? It’s one thing to discover at six years old that your parents lied to you about Santa. But to find out at ten or twelve that your parents knowingly guided you through deceptions . . . well, that just seems cruel.

    For now, I’ve tread the line that divides passionate interest and crazy belief very carefully: I let Aengus know that the Nazis did, in fact, do a lot of psycho experiments, and that the government does actually know a lot that they don’t tell us. But I’ve also told him that zombies cannot physically, scientifically exist (despite the recent Zombie Apocalypse).

    He doesn’t believe me.

    In other news, the boys had sleepovers this weekend: Noah had his buddy Nick over for much gaming, and Aengus went to his bff’s house for . . . well, much gaming. Noah’s also been pulling apart some XBox controllers [mechanical engineering?], and Aengus has been diligently searching for and counting change. There’s a new map pack for Modern Warfare 2, you see, so he’s been counting his change . . . adding what he found in the sofa . . . working to earn more . . . subtracting what he has from what he needs . . . dividing the cost to come up with a fair portion for his brother to pay . . . negotiating with me to loan him some cash . . . adding 4.5% sales tax . . .

    All thanks to video games.