Category Archives: More About Me

I Used To Blog About Non-political Stuff Too

I have memory of it. Enough memory to point out when I got a dog. (Which is a big deal when you are a cat person who is allergic to cats.)

Also I have enough memory to recall when our poor rescue dog had to endure her first move. God bless a beast who has no idea what’s going on, except knowing that it’s new.

When you have been previously abandoned, new is bad.  Very bad.

Since then, our dear Sussie has recovered from moving, then recovered from losing an eye, then recovered from moving again, and again, and then . . . bless her heart, seriously.  Last year, we rescued a lab puppy through this website.

What a challenge, for both dogs and humans. We were not fully prepared for an energetic (yet still worm-riddled and sickly) hard-headed boy with an insatiable need to chew and an unfortunate habit of toileting indoors.

We were also not prepared for the full bore resistance Sussie would wage against a new dog that dared invade her personal territory.  Her first day was spent underneath the pillows on our bed.  For the next month she wouldn’t share the same room with this interloper. Ever.

Frankly, I wanted to hide with Sussie.  This new dog was a gigantic pain in the ass.  Yet, also cute.  So cute.  IMG_7614

This photo of Sailor was taken last fall.  Since then he’s been house trained, leash trained, and trained for basic commands. Also, he has learned that excessive begging just gets you crated.

Today he is bigger, but just as happy:

IMG_8259.JPGHappy dog owning!  From the happiest dog-owning cat-lover to have ever typed words.

Loyalty Test: You Fail!

“NeverTrumpers are appealing to their conservative friends based on emotional claims that I recognize as false, deluded, and selfish.  One friend said, ‘Who wins the election does not matter as much as the need to vote one’s conscience.’  This statement is stunningly prideful and childish.  The voting booth is not a ride at Six Flags, and elections are not part of a consumer experiences.  The White House is not Burger King, where you get things your way.

Of course who wins the election is more important than your precious conscience or how you feel about voting.  Your country matters more than you do.”

Normally, this base-level attempt at manipulation would piss me off. But the thing is, I know that my life experiences are not typical. I know that most civilians don’t even think about veterans and service members when they throw insults around like “of course who wins the election is more important than you.”

Wait . . . what? Something bigger than me is more important?!  I never!  Well, except for that time I raised my right hand and solemnly swore: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

So, yeah. Folks can throw insults about how “your refusal to ___insert loyalty test here         ” means you are deluded, selfish, proud and childish.

But if you’ve actually already signed on to the ultimate loyalty test, by having once taken the Oath of Office, well.  Attempts to guilt-trip you fall pretty flat.

Slight edits for compulsive need to polish style. Sorry bout that.

 

Shooting Low

People have opinions.  When the opinion is about my children and their future, I have a problem with it.

Here’s why:  I have NO opinion about my children’s future.  Unless:

  • They get hooked on illegal drugs
  • They sell illegal drugs
  • Their spouses get hooked on or sell illegal drugs
  • They abuse their spouses
  • Their spouses abuse them
  • They turn to other criminal activity as a source of income
  • They refuse to work, instead living off the government teat
  • They expect me & my husband to continue supporting them indefinitely
  • They irresponsibly go into large amounts of debt in a pursuit of unrealistic dreams

The end.  If none of the above apply, and my children are above 18, then I am a satisfied parent.

If they are working hard at whatever opportunity they are afforded . . . if they are pursuing a passion (should they have one) . . . if they are out of my house and making their own adult decisions . . . then I am happy indeed.

Whether they are in the food service industry, or become soldiers, sailors, mechanics, engineers, or even experts in the restoration of historic military airplanes . . . it makes no difference to me.  They could even become lawyers.

It’s all good.  And it sure as hell ain’t ‘shooting low.’

I wasn’t ‘shooting low’ when I decided to homeschool my children for four years straight.

I wasn’t ‘shooting low’ when I let my sons compete in various sports year after year.  They are both planning to continue competing in sports, by the way.

I sure wasn’t ‘shooting low’ when I learned how to help one son study for Latin by learning what “declensions” are.  Declensions?  WTF?

So, if anyone out there is getting pressure because of the educational choices they make for their children, please listen:

Don’t listen.  Just do your thing.

Shameful Behavior

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans:  they can’t come up with $400 for an unexpected expense.

A couple of things.  1:  a lack of funds should not be a source of shame.  Shame connotes the idea of wrongdoing.  Is the fact that you have no money the result of your own wrongdoing?  Then feel shame.  Otherwise, feel free to be poor with a guilt-free conscience.

2:   “I know what it is like to have to tell my daughter that I didn’t know if I would be able to pay for her wedding.”  That’s awkward.  I know what it is like to be a daughter who knows her parents shouldn’t pay for her wedding.  I explained it to my fiance, then prepared to explain to my parents, in the event that they attempt to do so anyway.

They knew better.  They did pay for my wedding dress, a perfect compromise because the investment amount was unknown and yet still manageable.  They certainly did not use retirement funds to pay for my wedding.

3:  “I know what it is like to have to borrow money from my adult daughters because my wife and I ran out of heating oil.”  Okay.  I remember a time in my youth when my dad had to borrow a bit of money from me.  Dad is accomplished, but also a man who puts principle and posterity ahead of his own prosperity.  Rather than causing him to be a sympathetic character, his willingness to borrow made him a heroic character in my eyes.

4:  Then, the writer wrote a lot of words, from which it is apparent I should have empathy for those with financial insecurity, financial fragility, and/or financial distress.  I want to have empathy, but the wordiness and the statistics make it hard.  Having lived a life of financial insecurity/fragility/distress, hearing that it is a “liquidity problem” makes me roll my eyes.  Someone with a billion dollars of physical assets can still suffer a “liquidity problem.”  The real source of a “liquidity problem:” the failure to live within your means.

5: The article continues with a lot more historical background about who can pay for what.  Then, it theorizes that credit card debt the main culprit.  I don’t doubt that credit card debt is huge, but I do wonder whether such debt is a cause or merely a symptom the real problem.  Perhaps the real problem is a deeper cultural issue.

6:  The article just keeps going.  I can’t even.  Given the fact that we can come up with $400 if unexpected circumstances require it right now, we must be considerably more successful than the article’s author?  Perhaps it is geographical difference in expenses, or the willingness to drive a POS car.  Or the fact that when extra money is coming in, we obsessively but unobtrusively hoard it.  I dunno.

7.  “And then, on top of it all, came the biggest shock, though one not unanticipated: college.”  M’kay.  Here’s the thing.  I didn’t expect my parents to pay for college education any more than I expected them to pay for a wedding.  And here we are today, a military family.  The expectation is not that we parents will pay for college.  Rather, we tell our sons:  if you can’t get an athletic or academic scholarship, you can go ROTC or enlist and use the GI Bill or go “Seaman to Admiral.”  Or . . . (seriously scandalous these days) you can attend a trade school and learn a skilled trade instead of college.

8.  Thank you Neal Gabler for giving me a reason to post after a long hiatus.  I hope you find a reason to take that brown bag off you and your family’s heads.

9.  As a blogger that vowed not to disappear and yet did with no explanation, I have a real reason for shame.  Fellow bloggers and other readers:  I am so sorry.  I loved writing yet never imagined how much I would love not writing.  Not writing is both easy, and fun.  Given this fact, I’m not sure when I’ll post next.

What I’ve Learned: Tending to the Garden

I’ve been quite neglectful of my blog garden, and you readers are always so understanding.

Thanks for that.

Over at Da Tech Guy, where I am still faithfully blogging once a week, I recently lamented the fact that I live in a seemingly impenetrably blue district.

In my really real world, I have hit yet another wall in that endeavor known as Teaching Older Son Math.  I have fled my free-wheeling ways and started teaching straight from a textbook again.  Standardized testing in May will give me an idea of how much progress has been made.

I haven’t posted about my garden since July 2013, and a follow-up post is in order.  I had a really successful crop of yams.  Between the periodic harvest of “just enough for tonight’s dinner” and the two major harvests (first when I pulled up all I found, then when husband turned the plot over and found a bunch more), we easily grew ten pounds worth.

Nevermind the fact that yams are less than a dollar a pound, meaning that this crop was worth less than ten dollars.  It’s all about the learning curve, and the satisfaction derived from growing your own food.

Especially when the crop is not devoured by cut worms.

The asparagus that I planted has predictably not provided anything more than salad garnish.  But.  I planted it against the side of the house, and it has unintentionally prevented soil erosion from the gutter run off.  So I’ve got that going for me.

This year, I have kept the peppers and tomatoes in pots on the porch, in an effort to keep the bugs away.  Also, I’ve chosen the types that mature quicker, so no beefsteak tomatoes or bell peppers for me.  It’s all about the banana pepper and the cherry tomato.

A second generation of yams, sprouting from the bounty of last year, is well on its way to thriving.  I added summer squash and okra plants, and they are growing.  We’ll see how much actual produce they, well, produce.

The mint cannot be eradicated.  It now grows all throughout the garden plot, and I just keep pulling it up when it gets too competitive with the rest of the garden.

Cilantro seems to love the Tampa climate.  I should have started with that herb, instead of the Italian parsley that has refused to die and yet refused to thrive for a whole year.

Have a great week, everyone.  Here’s a pic of some of my harvest, including our garnish-sized asparagus, oranges from our Charlie Brown orange tree, and limes from our neighbor’s tree:

Tampa Harvest

A Post List

I keep failing to link to my work over at the Da Tech Guy. So I’ve got quite the list.  As you will see, I am really stuck on the subject of education, but hey.  I’s kinda my raisin duh etra lately. I did throw in a little about food, and about introversion.

Dot Gov Sites for Children: We Make Propaganda Fun!

Our History, Gone Like a Dream of Yesterday

Common Core Standards:  The Measuring Stick with no Measurements

The Culmination of Progressive Education

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

The Post in Which the Introvert Navel-Gazes

Okay then, folks.  Click em and read em if you have the time and inclination.  I sure appreciate every single reader I get, now that I’m no longer as dependable nor sociable a blogger.

 

 

 

 

What I’ve Learned . . .

If I can get disciplined enough to maintain a new posting series, it will be What I’ve Learned. Today the subject is What I’ve Learned While Teaching My Son Math.

At the beginning of the school year I decided to forge my own path through 6th grade math, using no pre-made curriculum at all.  After two years and two different curricula, it just seemed like nothing would be a good fit until Older Son got a handle on the basics and started feeling confident about his ability to do math.

Besides, I told myself hopefully, how hard can it be?

Well . . .

It’s kind of hard.  I am not disciplined enough to put in the preparation that I should.  That translates into me trying to think up and write down the ten to twelve daily math problems, while Younger Son is hopping around the house because he finished his math in three minutes flat, and Older Son is getting distracted from his Reading or Writing or Whatever assignment by anything from the dog sleeping in the corner to the eraser shavings at his elbow, while I’m simultaneously thinking about the next subject we are going to cover and wondering how many we’ll get done before we have to leave for _______.  /Fill in the blank with any one of myriad group activities./

So far it is worth it, though, because it’s working.  I mean, I think it’s working.

I can’t be sure it’s working, because I haven’t been testing him and I only just resumed grading his assignments, and he doesn’t have classmates to compare with, and I don’t have a textbook with an end to aspire reaching.

But he seems to be making progress.  He is keeping some concepts memorized on a more permanent basis lately.  More importantly, he seems to master his anxieties and frustrations easier than he used to.

I’ve come to realize it was not the numbers giving Older Son so much trouble.  It was the negative emotions firmly attached to the act of solving math problems.  I’m not sure when the anxiety attached itself to math in his mind, but it had a very firm hold by the end of 3rd grade.

I wish I could say that pulling him out of brick-and-mortar solved the problem.  But the truth is, I didn’t make any progress whatsoever in lessening his math anxiety in 4th or 5th grade.  All I did was slog through teaching a perpetually upset pupil.  My biggest mistake was to focus on completing the math curriculum, instead of focusing on my child’s unhealthy relationship with math.

If there is one thing Older Son has taught me, it is this:  no matter how smart a child is, and no matter how many times you teach him a concept, if he works himself into enough of a lather, all those smarts and all that knowledge goes Straight. Out. The window.

Sigh.

I haven’t found the “secret recipe” or anything.  Another year of maturity may have as much to do with his improved attitude as anything else.  Also, there is still more progress to be made.

For what it’s worth, though, here is what I believed has helped so far:

A) Creating our own 6th Grade Math Outline by putting concept definitions, instructions, and examples in my son’s own words I have to help sometimes, but most of the phrasing is his, typed by his hands.  (Heck, I have to seek help online sometimes.  Try writing an explanation of “square root” on the spot, and see if you don’t end up with something awkward like “the square root is the number that when multiplied by itself produces the number that is in that little checked-roof thingy.”)

B) Taking away key stressors for a while, even though those things are normally useful, even necessary.  That meant no testing and no grading for the first semester.  I checked his work and made sure he understood and corrected his errors, but I did not mark his work with the dreaded red pen, or any pen for that matter.

Also, he did no word problems and no geometry during that time.  I know he needs to learn these things . . . but first things first.

In addition, I imposed no time limits or minimum number of problems.  What’s that you said, child?  In the last thirty minutes you’ve done exactly two problems?  And oh look, they are both incorrect.  Nevermind.  You can work on it tomorrow.

Sometimes it took a whole week to correctly complete ten math problems.  I had a hard time curtailing my own frustration when this happened, because he is smarter than that.  He can do better.  I know it!  He is never getting anywhere at this pace!

I wish I could say I was totally zen about it when he got bogged down, but instead I’d snap and add to the already existing stress.  There’s a balance between relieving stress and encouraging persistence, no doubt, but it’s mighty hard to find.

C) Hand-writing or hand-typing assignments.  This helps for a many reasons.  First, I can tailor to his exact level.  The worksheet found online is too easy?  Add a couple of zeros.  Too hard?  Do the reverse.

Second, and this surprised me:  it’s not as big a deal to him when he gets something wrong.  It’s just a dumb piece of paper with his mother’s scribble on it, I guess.  It’s not his Official Math Workbook, irretrievably scarred with Proof of How Stupid He Is.  (His opinion, not mine!)

Creating my own assignment also allows a personal touch.  I don’t always make up problems from scratch; a pre-made worksheet can be a template.  It just needs tweaking.

Now that I’m adding word problems to the mix, it’s a handy trick.  I mean, really, who cares what total number of mangoes Raul has, if his ratio of mangoes to bananas is 3:1?  Older Son doesn’t get his hackles up as quickly if the ratio problem asks how many tanks his side has, compared to the enemy.  After all, World of Tanks is his favorite video game.

Finally, the biggest advantage to writing or typing your own assignments:  you can finally make sure your child has enough room for his work.  Running out of room was a major source of stress, believe it or not.  Pre-made worksheets rarely provide enough space.  Just do the work on a separate sheet of notebook paper, I would repeat.  Over and over.  For some reason, that frustrated him more.  Ample room directly under the problem = a less-stressed child.  Fine.  Whatever.  I’ll put one problem per sheet if that’s what it takes.

D) Changing my strategy because of its flaws.  Letting Older Son focus on filling his 6th Grade Math Outline with rules and definitions, while simultaneously letting him do very few practice problems, was definitely not a long-term solution.  Sixth grade math often requires several steps, especially long division using decimals.  I neglected the wisdom of “practice makes perfect,” and I certainly noticed that “little practice makes lots and lots of careless errors.”

Soon into the second semester, things had to change.  Now, he must complete at least ten problems per day.  (Except for Thursdays, we are literally gone from 8:30am until 8:30pm.  It’s STEM/Latin/ParkWithBHSF/TKD day.)

To be fair, it helps that the first semester resulted in a beefy outline.  When he can’t remember a particular rule, he is actually beginning to refresh his own memory by looking at his 6th Grade Math Outline, instead of requiring me to hold his hand and walk him through it for the umpteenth time.

And the new emphasis on practice is working!  I can tell because I’ve resumed grading.  He even helps me figure out his percentage.  He even took it in stride this week, when he earned a “D.”  Aw, I stink at math, he said.  But he said it in a voice that was only half-serious, praise God.

You do not stink at math, I responded.  You are perfectly average in mathAnd can an average student earn “A’s”?  I asked.

Yes, he answered begrudgingly.

Begrudging may sound like a bad thing to you.  To me–a parent used to lamentations and gnashing of teeth–it sounds like victory.

End note:  If you would like to see the 6th Grade Math Outline, detailing exactly what Older Son has covered thus far, I’m happy to share it in a separate post.  Just let me know!  I would have included it here, but this post has already grown far too long.