Friday, February 29, 2008

School. Or something like it.

(This entry is dedicated to my beautiful, funny sister, who is an outstanding public school educator and who has the ability to post God-awful childhood pictures of me on the 'net for the whole world to see.)

Some people might wonder how homeschooling actually works in a family's life, so I thought I would tell you our morning agenda.
  1. My alarm clock goes off at 8:00 am, and I lay there wondering why morning has to start so doggone early. If I ran the world, morning wouldn't begin until 11:00 am, maybe even noon.

  2. I stumble out of the bedroom and head for the kitchen. If I am lucky, one of the kids has already made coffee. This is not because of their unflagging love for me, but because it scares them to watch me try to operate small, kitchen appliances with my eyes closed.

  3. Because they know that I can barely remember to breathe at this early hour, my children know not to wait on a hot, cooked breakfast. They've already eaten their Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs and are now plotting how they can escape for the next few hours, hoping to avoid school altogether.

  4. One of the kids offers to take our black lab and go down to the road to pick up the daily newspaper, while I ingest a couple of cups of liquid CPR.

  5. Newspaper between her jaws, the dog returns to the house. The child does not.

  6. Fortunately, the paper is encased in a slobber-proof plastic wrapper, which, unfortunately, keeps Hillary's/Obama's/John's front page photo from being comically distorted by dog drool.

  7. I leaf through the paper, just to make sure there's not a world-wide recall of coffee beans.

  8. I start to feel my heart beating, which means it's time to start school.

  9. I send out calls, text messages, and carrier pigeons in an attempt to find my students.

  10. Thirty minutes later, I begin to read aloud from our history text.

  11. I am in the middle of the stirring words, "Listen, my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere," when I hear slight noises from my children. Without looking up, I think, " Good, they're being moved by the drama of this poem. Gosh, isn't homeschooling wonderful?"

  12. The slight noises turn into bigger noises that sound suspiciously like muffled laughter.

  13. I look up and see that three of my students have turned their attention completely to Student #4.

  14. I turn my fiercest gaze upon the interrupter.

  15. It seems that Mr. Disruption has created, with the help of the plastic newspaper wrapper, a small visual aid for our history lesson: a model of the ghost of Paul Revere.

And here, my friends, is where homeschooling makes a dramatic departure from the public school model.

In a public school, the student would be disciplined for his mischief, perhaps by writing an essay on The Impact of Homosexual Patriots in 1776 American Society.

In a homeschool, the teacher takes a photo to commemorate the moment and posts it on her blog.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Sanctification in 30 minutes, or it's free!

There's a church in Texas that advertises its "30 Minute Worship." If you check out their website, you will see that their order of service looks like this:

  • 8-10 minutes: singing
  • 15 minutes: sermon
  • 5 minutes: offering

Now, I'm not one to criticize the way other churches work, but this particular approach to worship does raise a couple of questions in my mind.

1. What about communion? Maybe they hand everyone a communion-to-go bag on the way out the door. You know, a juice box and a packet of saltine crackers. Gives new meaning to the term "Happy Meal."

2. I wonder how they baptize folks. I guess if there's only one baptism to be done, they might just nail the person with a squirt gun before he gets in his car. If they have a group, it'd probably be faster to just turn on the lawn sprinklers and tell all the baptees (Of course that's a real word. Whaddya think, I just make stuff up?) to run through as they leave the service.

3. Um, prayer? Oh, maybe the parishoners get credit for the one they uttered in the parking lot: "Please let me get a spot near the door so I can be the first person out the door and into Chili's before the after-church rush."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Curse you, "Sing, Spell, Read, & Write!"

I've had a revelation. It dawned on me exactly when I lost control around here. It was when I taught my kids to read.

See, it doesn't take long, once a kid can read, that he gets twice as smart as his parents. One day he's working his way through The Cat In The Hat, and a week later, he's making subversive messages with those plastic letter refrigerator magnets: "DOWN WITH OPPRESSIVE BEDTIMES! STOP THE TYRANNY!"

And then they learn to spell, and from that point it all goes to hell in a handbasket. No more can you say to Hubster over your dinner of Beanie Weenies, "Tomorrow's agenda includes a f-i-e-l-d t-r-i-p," because your five-year-old will pipe up, "Well, I hope it's not to the dumb ol' zoo, 'cause I really would rather go to the jet propulsion laboratory. I have an idea for an experiment I'd like to discuss with the engineers." So you're left sitting there, dumbstruck, thinking that maybe you've been right all along - Beanie Weenies really do aid in brain development. But you look over at Hubster and he's still mentally working on "f-i-e-l-d..." and you realize it's not the Beanie Weenies that created this scary, midget brainiac, it's books.

And don't think for one minute that you can avoid the same consequences with the younger children. Oh no. The older ones will teach the babies the communist power of books, and at that point, your reign as Sovereign Parent is o-ver like last year's American Idol.
Pretty soon you'll be getting notes written with blue crayon that say, "No more tuna casserole. For both ethical and health reasons, I have become a vegan. Research findings available upon request."

In summary, I have only myself to blame. I'm the one that encouraged their reading habit. But for some of you younger mothers, it's not too late. All you have to do is enroll your kindergartener in public school. I have it on good authority that most of the kids coming out of our public schools can't read their way out of a tin can labeled "b-e-a-n-i-e w-e-e-n-i-e-s."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spring? Break.

So Groundhog Day was a couple of weeks ago, and I guess the ol' rodent saw his shadow, which supposedly means six more weeks of winter.

Bah. Any Texan with the IQ of a doorknob knows that you don't base your weather predictions on a hibernating critter from the east coast. Nosiree. For truly accurate weather forecasts, you have to measure the length of Willie Nelson's braids.

Oh, wait. I might be getting mixed up. That's probably the method for determining when to plant your marijuana seeds.

Well, it doesn't matter, because Texas doesn't "do" spring like everyone else. We like to scatter our 75-degree days throughout November, December, January, and February, just to make things interesting and to confuse the fire ants. That way, when March rolls around, we can make the transition from winter temperatures - about 50 degrees - to summer temperatures - about 100 degrees - in about a week. We don't need three months to acclimate to warmer weather like a lot of other states. Wimps.

ANYway. We had a couple of those spring days last week, and they were enough to trigger the annual Spring Break tradition at my house. What I mean by this is: if it's spring, something breaks.

Of course, the broken item is never anything that would be cheap to replace, like our 15-year-old toaster oven with petrified crumbs in the bottom. And it's never something I'd like to replace, such as my hand mixer. The thing is harvest gold (that ought to tell you it pre-dates rotary dial telephones), uglier than homemade sin, and has a motor that refuses to die. That sucker could mix concrete. And according to my family, who have eaten some of my cooking, it already has. Hardy har har.

So this year, the spring break casualty was my microwave. Now, my whole kitchen could fall into an eight mile deep sinkhole tomorrow and I wouldn't care, as long as I still had a coffee maker and a microwave. As far as I'm concerned, the major food groups are Coffee, Chocolate, and Anything That Can Be Reheated. I'm proud to say I'm the Queen of Reheat. So I was in a bad way.

Hubster. Good old mechanical, Mr. Fix-It, DYI, Norm-Abrams-Wannabe Hubster. I really believe the man can repair just about anything. He ought to be able to. If God had needed power tools to create the earth, He would have envied Hubster's workshop. So I was sure that Hubster was going to rush to my assistance just so he could use his Binford Microwave Torque Saw Vise Grips. Or something. Plus, without a microwave, it was going to be kind of hard for me to reheat his Taco Bell chalupas, so I figured he was motivated.

I rushed to tell Hubster that the microwave was making a noise like an ice maker that's trying to grind up a softball-sized hail stone (don't ask how I know what this noise sounds like). And it was shaking more than a Jello competition near the San Andreas Fault. So you know what Hubster said?

"Huh." 

How very helpful.

Well, a microwaveless week went by, and let me tell you, it was stressful. You ever try to reheat mac & cheese on the stove? It's not easy, my friends. I kept telling Hubster, "What do you think I am, some kind of gourmet chef?!"

I guess he finally got tired of boiled hot dogs and cold chalupas, because he gave me the go-ahead to buy a new microwave. It is truly a thing of beauty. And to celebrate Valentine's Day, tonight I'm going to use it to reheat some heart-shaped Pastaroni. Sometimes you just have to live a little.

Now I'm just praying that next Spring Break, a tornado passes over our house, sucks up the stove, and deposits it in the next county. And you know what I'll say if that happens? 

"Huh."

Friday, February 8, 2008

"And don't forget to check out the new paint job on the Dumpster out back!"

Good Lord. Entertainment options in my little Texas town have reached a new low. Literally.

I used to think it was pitiful enough that most families 'round here spend their Friday evenings dragging their eight kids through StuffMart until midnight. By that time, the mostly naked toddler is crying into his sippee cup of Dr. Pepper and his diaper has reached critical mass. The older kids are squabbling over whether to get the mega-pack of Larditos, and the teenage son is curled in a fetal position under the shopping cart. Good times, good times.

But, like most other small Texas towns, we have a Dairy Queen. DQs have been around a long time, because, as any fool knows, God created Dairy Queen right after the whole Garden of Eden disaster, so that Adam & Eve and the kids would have a place to go eat after Wednesday night prayer meetings.

Well. Our poor old DQ was in need of some remodeling, and once the project was finished, what do you think the manager put on the sign board out front? "Updated play area for the kids!" No. "Eat in our new, larger dining area!" Try again. "Now with self-serve ice cream bar!" I wish.

No, here is what is on the sign board. And I swear I am not making this up.

"We are open! Come see our new restrooms!"

Now, I don't know about you, but 1) I don't get all that jacked up about public restrooms. All I care is that they're clean and that there's enough toilet paper so that I don't have to wave my hand under the stall divider between me & my restroom neighbor, because we all know where that leads, and b) I don't want to be sitting at my table, enjoying my Buster Bar, and have to listen to the guy at the table next to me telling his buddies, "Dang! Them new ur'nals'll do ever'thing but zip up yer pants!"

So I'm kind of avoiding the Dairy Queen until the newness wears off. On the upside, though, with all the locals crowding into the DQ, StuffMart has been pleasantly less suffocating.

Oh my. I just had a dreadful thought.

What if  StuffMart remodels their restrooms? There just aren't enough Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies to pacify the huge mob that would arrive for the Great Double Whammy of Entertainment.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Now I know I'm really a mom.

I thought I had already done all the things that qualify me to be called a mom.

I've been peed on.

I've cleaned up puke in the carpet at 2:00 am.

I've hosed down a toddler whose diaper exploded, spreading its contents from neck to knees.

I've wiped away boogers without a kleenex.

I've dealt with poop in bathwater.

(I could go on, but you get the gist.)

But today I earned a new badge of Momhood. It seems that Sasquatch has a raging case of poison ivy, with the greatest concentration in the area, uh, south of his tailbone. Down in the valley, shall we say. And guess who gets to administer the itch cream?

Why is it that Dadhood is earned by doing fun stuff with one's offspring, like teaching them how to belch the alphabet, showing them how to crush a can on their foreheads, and helping them memorize all the lyrics to Frank Zappa's "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow?"

No wonder we moms need chocolate. It's our hazard pay.