Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Frugal Homeschooler ISO Benefit of the Doubt

I am a homeschooler... with high standards and even higher hopes for my boys. On about $400 per academic year and multiple library trips I've managed to direct my older son (7) tthrough 6th grade reading comprehension, 7th grade spelling and 4th grade math. He also plays the violin (his working piece is Kreisler's Sicilienne and Rigaudon) thanks to his fabulous teachers (pas de moi). My younger son (3) counts from 1-20, knows his ABCs, and is just starting to sound out words. We're not messing around here. We're not those crazy hippie people that just let their kids start reading whenever it suits them; we don't engage in child-led curriculum. Think "Tiger Mother" meets "Mother Goose."

You may remember a homeschooled kid recently won the Intel Science Talent Search. My heart swelled with pride when I read that article... Those homeschoolers who perform in spelling bees, science fairs, college football (I'm looking at YOU, Tim Tebow) and other national-stage events enable the rest of us to keep teaching, legitimizing the homeschool process as something more than a Duggar kink or a Serial-Killer Nursery.  Under the tree of these kids' accomplishments, we forage for supplies to enlighten and demonstrate that which our babies need to know to thrive in This Modern World.

(Note to self: implement metaphor curric, stat: When Is Too Much, Just Right?)

I am not above dumpster-diving, neither is the Mister... Especially when it comes to doodads, gizmos, and assorted detritus with/sans power cords. ThinkGeek is literally GIVING AWAY stuff from their dumpster!  I consider the bounty of possibilities for the boys: robots, circuitry, DIY computers, the "What if?" conversations that lead to drawings and conversations late into the night... and all for free. No re-arranging the Target budget to accommodate sound cards, no wrangling one more season out of cheap-knit clothing so's to apply that Old Navy budget to a wary, tired motherboard.

Group website, blog, or other proof you'll use these materials for good, not evil *

How to prove our legitimacy and woooooorthiness of quarterly gadget dumpster-allowances? The beauty of living in Texas is that you don't have to prove much of anything to homeschool. If someone shows up asking what you teach, you show them what you teach... and it must include reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and citizenship (among other things). It's very simple, and there are no membership cards.

Errmmm, does this blog count? I could post a quarterly review of what exactly we do with ThinkGeek's goodies?  I could sign a waiver? Send a t-shirt with our official logo? Host an in-house Robotics Fair/BBQ?

 It would not be logical to create a bomb or interfere with the lives of innocents with these materials, Captain.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Things To Do Instead of Edit My Novel:

1. Rip off Ellen Meister's fantastic blog topic.
2. Listen to wee boy pretend to read a book.
3. Help less-wee boy with irregular verbs (fascinating!).
4. Peruse the twitterverse.
5. Curse twitterverse for its ridonkeylous time suckage-to-usefulness ratio.
6. Write new blog. (more than once a quarter?? Do I get a prize?)
7. Ruminate on the number of and reasons for which millipedes continue to commit suicide in such a cute manner in my tv room. They look like little bitty leggy juicy bagels. Breakie for plastic Lego people.
8. Change a diaper.
9. Mentally debate monetary value of Three Seconds ARC. Verbally chastise self for not having cracked it open yet.
10. Guiltily remind self to pick up Johannes Cabal the Detective from library when I should be reading Three Seconds, then feel guilty for gleeful response ("Yay!! I've been waiting for this since the last JC! Who doesn't love a necromancer, anyway?").
11. Diaper Time!
12. Ponder the cost versus potential learning value of having less-wee boy re-create freaking awesome lego robotics thingie:

13. Consider my writing partners from book club, wonder if they're suffering the same agony. Compose beautifully worded email to inquire. Save as draft.
14. Empty dishwasher. Deem this to be the "lamest three minutes of the day."
15. Job-hunt for the mister. Of course the new company is holding layoffs six months after he starts the job. Quelle surprise.
16. Track down insurance information for wee boy's flu shot. (Seriously, $59 for a shot?? $38 of that to advise me to have him get the flu shot??)
17. Repeatedly click through insurance company's website, become frustrated, sit on hold for "human" "customer service" "representative" thirty-odd minutes.
18. What's that smell? Diaper change time.
19. Throw back out hoisting 35 lb two year old up to changing table. Cuss table. Cuss self for feeding child. Cuss self for not building one of those cool pet-step contraptions so child can walk SELF up to changing table. Feel sorry for self.
20. Give self day off.

Friday, December 3, 2010

You Will Kick Yourself For Not Having Heard This Already

So in the process of kindasorta putting together a music curric for the boys, I use a lot of online resources (i.e., favorite tv show websites).... while sifting through various Electric Company clips on zee youtubes, I stumble upon this kid with the voice of Stevie Wonder. And his name is Arthur. Apparently he's the 4th of a long line of Arthurs? I can only infer as much from his website name.

But that's not why you called. You need to hear this kid.
Here's a free taste:

He makes Michael Buble sound like he's chewing ice cubes.

Once you wet your whistle, you can download the mini-album from his site for $5. For price of a footlong that will last you 3 minutes, you can own some really intelligent, creative music and bebop to it for the rest of your freaking life.

I might have to use his One Mo'gin youtube video to put on a piano clinic for the kiddos. Right after they finish their beatboxing lesson...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mileage. Lots of It.

Well, HELLOOO, there, Party Peeps!
I'm happy to report we are now 50% employed (again) after swiftly averting a massive layoff with a pre-emptive Screw You, I QUIT! stroke of luck.

Then there was the whole Sell This House debacle, whence we sold our house, after putting another 3k into it, on top of the several k (K!) we had in it, at a deep, deep (SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!) deep discount.

My actual children, clearly unsure about this whole impending 3 day car trip thing.

Husband shakes his head. "I cannot believe we took such a hit. We should have stayed and taken our chances."

Wife. "Don't be ridonkeylous. You found a job. At a time like this. When you've already been looking for two (plus!) years? (SHH)."

So we pull up stakes and move a scant 1500ish miles from the east coast to Fort Worth. In Texas. A lovely little apartment in a complex the size of Toledo. Plenty of parking. Fresh air. Sunshine. Heat. It was averaging 105*F the week the Husband landed at DFW. But it's a dry heat. Which is BS when you figure, ok, bake your lungs, as opposed to steaming them? Still renders them useless. But I digress.

A mere five weeks later, after two separately failed lease deals, we found a house to rent, in lieu of finding a house to buy. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, Corporate America, don't think you can pull a fast one like that on us again! No, siree, we have learned our lesson. The next house we buy will have wheels on the bottom and an average mpg of hopefully at least 12. Maybe some nice spinnerzzzzz.

Renting is actually a great thing. Frees up a LOT of time. Oven broke? No prob, bob, call the landlord. Paint chipping? Ehhh, not my re-sale value, not my problem. In fact, I had so much time, I wrote an entirely new novel in the month of November and became a NaNoWriMo Stud-ette!

Our rental home is located in Arlington, home to the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Cowboys, and Six Flags and a shopping mall which contains its own ICE ARENA. The commute is..... negotiable. Some days, the Husband negotiates for 15 minutes. Other days, it's more like 15 hours. Depends on who's flying off the overpasses on the south side of Fort Worth, and how many innocent bystanders go for a free wide.

Now that I've set the scene, (hot, dry, sunny), let's chat Culture Shock. We have been asked many times (usually right after, "And where exactly is Delaware, again?") if we have encountered any Culture Shock since we arrived here in The Great State of TEXAS(!). While we tend to be even-tempered, kinda zen, fairly un-hype-able, we have noticed some visible differences between the culture of the east coast, where we've resided somewhere along I-95 for the last ten years, and our soft landing out here in the.... um... Great State of TEXAS(!).

1. Texans really do talk funny. And drive big vehicles. But really, that's not much different from Jersey.

2. It's hot. But it's a dry heat. Which is great in November! And is also great for when your easy-bake oven dies a horrible death in July.

3. Texas is a freaking big place with freaking big space. Delaware is like the keyhole to the east coast. Texas is the Enormous Pearly Gates to the Southwest (aka where Old People go to die now that Florida is full).

3A. We were looking at a home for sale with our realtor, and we noted the convenience to the grocery store, which was just across the street. I said, "HEY! How conveeeenient! I could just walk to the store!" Realtor looked at me like I had two heads. Not a lot of local walky errands going on here. Which is great for the pavement-maker-people.

4. Civic Pride. Texans LOVE TEXAS!!! "Well, of course you moved to Texas, sweetheart, why wouldn't you?" exclaimed the DMV lady to yours truly. This is NOT a place from which most people leave/escape/flee. People come to Texas of their own free will, for jobs, school, liberty from snow that buries them to their ears annually. I have not, in my four other American states of residence, encountered an ex-pat Texan, unless they were military. I get the vibe that, wall-fence or not, Texans see Texas as their own country, whether or not You People recognize it.

5. It's not as bad as non-Texans might think. *wink* (Legal Caveat: DFW area only)
Texas has a general reputation (among non-Texans) for being full of truck-drivin', gun-totin', racist, ignorant, in-bred, redneck, close-minded, non-soccer playing (GASP) Bible-bangers. As a mixed-race family, I'll admit, I shuddered and worried about my dramatic, sensitive male children's well-being. But, the economy being what it is, you got to take chances and get messy. I'm happy to report that not one person has looked at us funny, we've not overheard one hateful comment, no one has attempted to evangelize us even once. (PHEW!) To the contrary, one of Fort Worth's own city councilmen jumped on the It Gets Better Bandwagon:

Now, whatever your own stance on the movement, you have to admit, to see this video originate deep in the northern heart of Texas stabs the POOF! out of a lot of the overblown balloony stereotypes.

So, to sum up: Texas (so far) is not as scary, socially speaking, as we were afraid it might be. It's hot. It requires plenty of gasoline to get from Point A to Point B. You can homeschool without the government so much as batting an eye at you (non-homeschoolers have no idea what a HUGE PLUS this is! Trust me, it's a HUGE PLUS!) I have not actually seen anyone carrying a gun in a public place (yet), although I have seen plenty of signs restricting firearms on, say, the playground.

This is the actual sign from our local playground. I guess it's good to have The Rules spelled out so there are no ..... misunderstandings?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Telephone Remake

Shut up and watch.

Worth the Money, Honey

A short list of things and people that are definitely worth the money.

1. KABOOM! bathroom cleaner. I never knew how satisfying murdering germs could be til I saw that magical transformation of periwinkle-to-white foam at work. Take that, Mr. E. coli, and that, Madame Staph, and that, Sir Strep. RAWR.

2. Honda hybrid vehicles. Change that oil once every 10k miles. Fill the tank with cheap gas once a month. Repeat for 7+ years.

3. DVR. Seriously worth it's weight in gold. Or high-test. How did we live, pre-DVR? Oh yeeeeeeeahhhhhhhh, VHS. "Fix the tracking, will ya, son? Nope, went too far.... try again..... eh, dammit, gimme that clicker." Right. DVR = World Peace. We just need a few more units.

4. Diet Coke. Nothing can compare. Coke Zero? Too flat. Diet Pepsi? Too can-ny. Diet Rite? Too tinny. Tab? Too....... nuclear waste-y. Diet Coke. Peeeerrrrrrrrfect little bubbles, perrrrrrrrfect amount of aspartame tang, perrrrrrrrfect amount of caffeine. Enough to whack a headache, not so much that you start jiggling your keys 2 hours before heading home. Ah, Diet Coke, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.....

5. Johnson & Johnson Babywash. Not the generic, "plastic safety seals are for wussies" store brand. Real, actual J&J one&done baby wash. This stuff will take pine tar off your car and yet leave your baby's booty smooth and soft as, errrrmmmm, well, you know. You could practically feed it to your baby and aside from a few errant bubbly burps, no one would be the wiser. But should your precious booboochicken produce a wicked asphalt+sourghum+port wine-type of deposit in his weeeeee widdle pants, that happens to travel out his diaper and onto his weeeee widdle wegs, and all over his weeeee widdle butt, and his weeeeee widdle, uhhh, wee-wee(!), you can breathe easy knowing that you chose the Supreme Mohawk Making Poop Solvent.

6. NMR Spectroscopist. Specifically, my Mister, who is currently seeking full time employment.

How many times has this happened to you? You're sitting on top of a brand new cure, a vaccine which will simultaneously wipe out HIV and that annoying jock itch, but you really need to figure out if that precipitate in the tube is a problem. What is it? An impurity? An anomaly? A harmless biproduct? A carcinogen capable of destroying the population of Uruguay in a week? Tap, tap, tap. You need to formulate your fantastic new cure, get it into the pill, through the pipeline, and down the gullets of your Phase I vics, I mean, volunteers ASAP. You don't have time to waste, and your investors are checking their watches as well as the Dow ticker.........

Well, if you had a (my) handy dandy NMR Spectroscopist, all your problems would be SOLVED! A tap of the tube, a click of the button, a gentle whiiiiirrrrr and "WAH-LAA, Mr. Cure-Discoverer, there's yer problem. Just aspirate that supernatant over to this clean tube and you're good to go."

See there, your problems solved in a few minutes. Patents obtained, pills made, gullets filled, data analyzed, FDA cleared, investors .... invested, millions cured, millions made.

But you gotta make that hire. Call now, operators (me and my kiddos) are standing by. Try to ignore the hollering in the background, that's just my oldest scrubbing the tar off my youngest's booty with a mixture of J&J bodywash and Diet Coke.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hey, Looky-Loo!!

A professional athlete who makes beaucoup de buckos, AND who appears to behave like a decent human being!!!
Teixeira Honors a Cancer Patient

Hmmmmm. We've found ONE. Let's hunt for some more.......