Darling I Love You, But Give Me Main St. USA

I’m such a tree-hugger at heart, so it is really kind of weird to me that I didn’t end up out in the very edge of the boonies somewhere in a little cottage with a hammock on the front porch and a satellite dish larger than the living room just beyond the tree line.

citylife But I didn’t.  Instead, I’ve spent my entired married life living inside the limits of three different cities.  For the last fifteen years, we’ve lived within walking distance of our downtown, which isn’t a huge deal because the Main St. stretches out only about 9 city blocks, but it is the city, nevertheless. 

What’s even weirder is how much I have grown to enjoy city living.  For many of you, I’m sure that’s hard to comprehend, but let me tell you right now, it has its advantages…

  • Garbage pick-up – – hey…don’t underestimate the importance of having a nice gentleman not only pick up your weekly refuse, but scrape a half-flattened possum off the street in front of your house before it even begins to waft into your intake vents
  • Sidewalks – – those lovely flat sections of concrete that make you ALMOST forget that live at an altitude of 3,000 feet because all those hills in your neighborhood are actually walkable!
  • Snow Removal – – living in the city means (usually) that ours is one of the first roads to get scraped after a blizzard.  Now granted, the scraping usually happens just AFTER we clean the edge of our driveway and there is now a three-foot wall of snow to re-shovel, but nevertheless…it IS scraped
  • Book Access – – not everyone can say that they live a half mile from their county library, now can they??  An escapist afternoon through the latest stack of new fiction is barely a ten minute walk.

And the biggest boon of all?  The most adorable coffee house just opened up not three blocks from us.  Uber has breakfasted there for basically a week straight, and I’ve already spent two fun afternoons with friends cozied up on their sun porch with a steaming cup of chamomile-strawberry tea. 

There is just something about living in the city that makes you feel like you are “part of something.”  It’s an experience I never quite had at any of my homes in the country growing up.  Now don’t get me wrong…I love the fact that there are around 100 waterfalls within a 100 mile radius, and I take advantage of enjoying them whenever possible, but for day to day living, I guess I’m just a city girl after all.

Wandering Far From Home…

j0438315 It’s been a little while since I took the time to tell you about my latest bloggy wanderings.  I get bored all-too easily, so I’m always searching for new material to inspire me, to make me laugh, and to hold my attention.  So I’ve wandered far and wide across the expanse of the WWW to find blogs that “spoke” to me.

In the last few months, I’ve added these wonderful blogs to my repertoire:

Who’s Learning; Who’s Teaching? – – not only is this blogger really great at making you feel just like you are part of her unique family, including a son with Prader-Willi syndrome, but she also just happens to be one of my friends IRL.   

On Bradstreet – – not sure how to best describe this homeschoolers blog except to say that the photos of her cozy and lovely house will “take you somewhere.”  Beautiful!

Rational Jenn – – I got to know Jenn’s blog via my SecularHomeschool.com site, and she is always a fun read.  Her Tweets ain’t half bad, either!!

Why not do some wandering of your own this week, and drop by any or all of these blogs.  And please feel free to share any of your new finds in the comments, so I can continue to wander…

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Art

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic I have just about the least amount of natural art talent of anyone I know.  Stick figures are the highlight of my art portfolio.  Thankfully, I married a fella with MAD art skills, so I hoped it would sort of even-out our gene pool.  The boys were lucky that they took more after their dad than me.

But when dad’s not around, you can bet that if I want to teach art, it’s going to have to involve the computer somehow.  So I thought I would share with you some of my favorite art-related sites on the web  – – just in case – – like me – – your idea of modern art also happens to be those cool Google doodles at the top of your search page!

  • Creativity Express Online– This awesome art program is like a full multimedia art curriculum. With great lessons on things like Lines, Shape and Form, and even Fibonacci! this is one of the premiere art programs available to homeschoolers. (Creativity Express is now offered as a free bonus elective for Time4Learning curriculum subscribers in grades 5 and up!!)
  • Art Attacks – comprehensive collection of great projects that can be done at home.  Also includes lists of everything you will need to accomplish each project.
  • smART kids – Chicago Museum of Art’s website for children. Includes interactive games and activities that help kids (7-12) get a different perspective on art.
  • KinderArt – probably one of the largest collections of free art lessons on the net!
  • NGA Kids – The National Gallery of Art Kids site, which has some way-cool online art gadgets for exploring creativity
  • Artcyclopedia – For looking up just about ANYTHING you could possibly want to know about art and artists
  • In the Gallery – Explore both a traditional and modern art gallery and see how what you think about the pieces matches up with professional art critics
  • The Power of Art – High School level material from the BBC about the affect art has on our thinking and our emotions.
  • Eyes on Art – sequential series of activities that lead teachers/students through exploration of many different aspects of the visual arts
  • Artsonia – and finally, what are you going to do with all that art your kids create?  Well, you are going to upload it to Artsonia where you can not only share it with friends and family, but even turn it into cool gifts!

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This is “The Big One”

I don’t think I’ve mentioned on T-T that I recently got myself a new-to-me vehicle!  Those of you who stalk me on Facebook can go ahead and yawn now.  But for the rest of you, please allow me a brag post, won’t ya??

Just before Christmas, I was out delivering presents like a good little elf, and fulfilled my mom’s favorite prophecy: “NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED.”

I was rear-ended by a lady looking down at her cell phone. 

Not only did I have an accident, but it was such a CLICHE accident!!  I mean, couldn’t she have been painting her toenails or something like that?  It would make for a much more interesting blog post, anyway.

But hopefully some of you were looking for a cautionary tale to share with your teenagers about cell phones and driving, and I provided the fuel for your tirade.  You can thank me later.

Anyway, cell phone it was, and it took the back hatch of my 2000 Ford Taurus wagon and smushed it in a bit.  No biggie, right?  That’s what I thought too, until a few days later I stepped on my brake and the dome light started blinking, the seatbelt warning started dinging, and the doors started unlocking and locking.  And this continued to occur each and every time I stepped on my brake.  It would have been hugely annoying if it hadn’t been so damn funny.

It was like traveling in the Starship Enterprise after it had been attacked with its shields DOWN. 

So although it didn’t LOOK that bad from the outside, the damage had done a number on the electrical system and the insurance company totaled it.  My poor, well-loved, completely-paid-for, still-had-at-least-one-good-year-in-it vehicle was suddenly no more.

Well, during the period while I was car-less the insurance company supplied me with a rental – – a cute little white Prius.  As some of you who’ve been following me for a while know, I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of owning an electric vehicle someday, so trying out a hybrid was at least a partial fantasy fulfillment.  And I DID love that little thing.  But with a hubby of 6’2” and two boys of around 6’ each and counting it didn’t seem entirely PLAUSIBLE to make one my next family vehicle.

So…I began investigating other hybrids, and searched the internet and all local used car lots and finally settled on a spiffy candy-apple-red Saturn Vue Hybrid that my hubby says I look “hot” in. 

I began calling my new ride “Red Fox.”  Its sleek. And sexy.  And sly with the way it saves me money on gas.

AND when I drive home, I might as well be pulling into Sanford and Son, so it is really quite a PERFECT name!  (if that little joke went over your head, not to worry.  It just means you are young enough not to NEED a candy-apple-red mid-life crisis vehicle, which is all good!)

This stage is crap!

All through the life of my kiddos, I have adored every stage and age.  In fact, whenever people would say to me “don’t you think this stage is the best of all” I could ALWAYS answer “YES” no matter what stage it was, because they were ALL the best. 

From the newborn still-smells-like-heaven stage, through the toddler might-survive-if-they-can-stop-running-into-walls stage, up through the intensely curious preschool stage and the fun stage of elementary school where I finally had these two little PEOPLE who I could joke with and talk to and basically convince that I walked on water in my spare time.  All of it was pretty wonderful, actually.

And then we cut to now.  Where my oldest is fifteen and is desperately caught between childhood and adulthood. 

And I am basically useless to him. 

When he craves independence, it’s to be independent of me and my protection and my influence.  When he makes a big change in his life, I am sometimes the last to know.  And when he craves solace and comfort, I’m not a candidate because I “just can’t understand” what he’s going through. 

Seriously??  I can’t understand the person I pushed out of my body and have spent basically 24/7 with since that moment?? 

THIS is a stage of the process that I could honestly do without.  If you are in this stage as well, I send you my sincere condolences.  If you still have years before this stage, then please – – by all means – – enjoy them!

Someone wake me up when we get to the NEXT stage, please.  Or just assure me that along with this stage comes an extra layer of skin that I will soon grow into, okay? 

Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Secular Homeschooling

fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic I don’t know the exact percentage of homeschoolers who consider themselves faith-based, but I’m guessing it is in the high double digits.  And resources and websites for NON-faith-based homeschoolers on the web are scarce, to say the least.  So I wanted to dedicate a Friday HHH post to those who sometimes feel like a minority within a minority.  If you are a secular homeschooler looking for web resources here are some sites you might want to check out…

  • SecularHomeschool.com – – website run by yours truly dedicated to being a one-stop shop for all things secular homeschooling
  • Homeschooling Freethinkers – – site supporting the international non-religious homeschool community
  • A to Z Home’s Cool – – Ann Ziese’s terrific and comprehensive site about everything you could want to know about homeschooling.  Includes info for both faith-based and secular homeschoolers
  • Secular Homeschoolers Yahoo Group – – over 2000 members strong!
  • Secular Homeschooling Magazine – – print magazine targeted to secular homeschoolers
  • Secular Thursday – – new and growing group of secular homeschoolers who blog about… what else…secular homeschooling on Thursdays!
  • Evolved Homeschool Wiki – – wiki for homeschoolers who espouse the theory of evolution and are interested in finding homeschool materials that take this theory as the basis for teaching

If you are a secular homeschooler, or just curious about secular homeschooling, drop by any of these great sites this week!

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Trouble in Gotham

The Bat-Signal as seen in Batman

Image via Wikipedia

So thanks to the recent Snowmageddon that crossed the country and wreaked havoc on the whole eastern seaboard, yours truly was out of power for about a day.

For many of you, that is a laughable number.  I mean some folks are facing six and seven day power outages!  But for the Topsies, I assure you that 24 hours of being disconnected from the matrix is traumatizing in the extreme.

The trauma began even before the power went out.  Poor H-T would jump like a soldier with PSTD every time a branch would snap.  “Oh God!” he would exclaim.  “Do you think THAT one hit the power line??”  Uber and I weren’t so vocal with our concerns…we were too busy looking for every charger in the house and making sure every possible techno-gadget was fully powered up before catastrophe struck.

And strike it did – – right after noon on Friday, as I was making lunch.  Never has there been a more depressed and sorry crew eating lukewarm soup in a dimly shadowed kitchen. 

We definitely tried to make the best of things.  At first, that consisted of basically taking naps near the gas logs to make time go by faster.  But when R-T got home from work, and the power had not returned, we knew it was time to get into survival mode.

Room temperature burritos for supper gave us the fuel we needed to withstand the brutal hours ahead with no tv, internet, or game consoles.  Instead, we lit all the candles we own, and got punchy on lukewarm gatorade.  That, and the obligatory boredom gave us the idea to make some fun crank calls to friends via cell phone.  When that got old, we pulled out the board games, and then tried some word association games to pass the time.  Off and on we also tuned into the local am radio station in hopes of hearing news about the heroic men and women in jumpsuits and hard hats who we like to call “the power company.”  

R-T even got the bright idea to paste a bat-shaped piece of cardboard over the front of his spotlight and shine it up into the clouds in case it would hasten our rescue.

Finally, at 9:00, because unlike Ma and Pa Ingalls, we don’t even own musical instruments that don’t require voltage, we decided to call it a night.  We blew out the candles and prayed for daylight.

Unfortunately, not even the morning sun brought us the electricity we craved, so we forsook our powerless prison, and headed over to the homeless shelter where hubby is the director, and where warmth and light abounded.  As the rest of our friends and neighbors continued to suffer, I’m not too proud to say that we spent the morning playing air hockey and ping-pong and watching the Today show. 

When a call back home was finally greeted with the lovely computerized voice of our answering machine, we knew we were saved and all was right in Gotham again.

Thank you, you wonderful, hard-working, power company employees.

And yes. Thank you Batman.  Wherever you are.

For my unschoolish peeps…

Just had to pass along this interesting article, which most definitely was not written for unschoolers, but it SO makes a point, nevertheless!

What If Video Games Were Like Schools

The Good News and the Bad News

So wow!  I can’t thank you folks enough for all the well wishes on my behalf after I shared my basically nauseating tale of having a mole on my upper back removed. 

The good news, though?  The little creep was innocent of all charges, and had been taken to the slammer unjustly.  However, as a result of the experience, he has decided to travel from school to school as a cautionary tale of what can happen when you forget to use sunscreen.  Be looking for him at an assembly near you…

On a totally unrelated note, however, I’m sad to report that my eldest son also has a growth that I have no idea how to get rid of.  It would seem that he and his netbook have become a single entity. 

Where my son goes, the netbook goes.  Coffee shop, grocery store, church, mall, homeschool gatherings. 

In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw him take it with him to the bathroom yesterday.

It’s becoming a little worrisome.  I’d like to separate him from his new gadget, but I fear it may take more than a visit to the dermatologist to get rid of this foreign body.  I’m not even sure a surgeon has got the skills needed for an excision like this one. 

Nope… this one is going to need some heavy-duty psychoanalysis, I think.  If I could only remember how I got H-T to finally give up that pacifier…

The Cheekbone’s Connected To The Blog Bone

I’ve been avoiding my blog lately.  It happens almost every time I teach another session of the Blog Writing Course.  For one thing, I’m spending 25-30 hours a week on the laptop for work, and about the last thing I want to do at the end of a day of telling people how to blog is…well…blog.

So I’ve been keeping my life and my thoughts to myself, which isn’t really healthy for me, actually.  I’ve noticed this strange twitch in my right cheekbone. 

Share or twitch??  What a conundrum.

Ok. Why not start right out with the most disgusting factoid?

sunbather I had to have a mole removed.  From my upper back.  I think I’ve shared that I’m one chromosome shy of albino, so that fair-skinned curse, combined with about a hundred excruciating sunburns as a child, has put me right in the middle of the danger zone for skin cancer.  I avoided it as absolutely long as possible, but then figured it was time for the dermatologist and I to get cozy, so that’s just what we did last week when he took a look and definitely categorized my mole as “suspicious.”

But instead of setting up a sting operation, or even setting up a neighborhood watch, he just pulled out a razorblade and took the thing to the pokey right then and there.  I had no idea the justice system had become so proactive, let me tell you, or I would have avoided it a good bit longer!!

Anyway, I’m supposed to hear back from the doc this week whether the poor guy was really guilty or not.  In the meantime, my cheekbone will be working overtime, I assure you.

So thanks for listening.  Maybe it’ll give me a break for a few hours now.