Category Archives: Family

Balloon Chasers.

So it’s like this. I’m sitting at my computer. Ethan has Zeus out for a pit stop. I hear Zeus barking like a crazed fool and Ethan is vocalizing….something. I can’t tell what it is, but it sounds Very Exciting. If you are the parent of an 8-year-old boy, you recognize “Very Exciting” as a euphemism for “Trouble.” So I headed out.

“Mom! Mom! Look! There’s a hot air balloon! Zeus was barking at them and they are so low they yelled hi to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

(Note the number of exclamation points – that’s the best way for me to convey his excitement.)

“WELL,” I said, “Get the dog in. LAUREL! LAUREL! LAUREL! COME GET THE DOG! WE ARE GOING ON A HOT AIR BALLOON CHASE!”

[Commence total freakout which ended up with Laurel asking if she were invited, me telling her she WAS, Ethan and me waiting in the truck until I yelled, “LAUREL COME ON, COME ON!!!” and Laurel telling me she didn’t want to go after all.]

We left the dogs with Laurel and off we went.

So yeah….if you saw a big truck flying through the back roads of our town at about 20 over the limit, it was NOT US. NOT US. NOT US.

Side story: Our neighbor is a balloon pilot. His rig was in the drive when we left but by the time we got where we were going he was right behind us. Might have had something to do with the SMALL amount of gravel I threw in the yard as I thrust the truck into gear and took off on the road. Anyway, Ethan was all, “MOM! IT IS BILL! IT IS BILL!”

We really thought the balloon was just about to land. My plan was to be all, “YO, my son is in the aerospace 4H project and please oh PLEASE, this is so cool, can he look at your balloon???” Or at least offer some assistance in some form. Like, transportation. Or something.

Alas, it was not to be. Right about the time we screeched to a halt at the top of a hill where our friend S lives with the hastily and incompletely formed idea of crashing her family’s whole night uninvited with “S! GET IN THE TRUCK! WE ARE GOING BALLOON CHASING!!!” we realized the balloon was rising again, and S wasn’t home anyway. Darn!

Oh, well. Maybe next time.

The best part of the whole deal was leaving to come home and having Ethan say, “My heart is beating so fast that I can’t even feel it beating!”

That excitement? Worth every second.

Volcano!

So, this week in home school Ethan has been learning about the layers that make up the Earth and their properties (solid, liquid, their makeup, depth, etc.). It only seemed natural to extend that into a study of volcanoes – particularly Mount Vesuvius and Mount St. Helens. The former because, naturally, it is famous for burying Pompeii, and the latter because there is plenty of video footage to drive it home. Plus, let’s face it: It is always easier to identify with more recent happenings.

That, of course, led to the classic baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano. Ethan made the base of my leftover fondant, which is why it’s white. We decided it is snow-capped. I used food coloring to color up the vinegar. He watched carefully as I made preparations because according to him, “I want to see how you do it so I can do it with my kids someday…maybe…if I have kids…I dunno.”

And his reaction is just as classic as the experiment:

Laurel Sings Her Spanish Project.

Sometimes as a parent you get aggravated and are just mean.

That was me tonight, when Laurel told me she had to take her guitar to school tomorrow for a Spanish project.

“That piece of crap? Seriously? It’s missing a string and it’s a half-size guitar. It’s an embarrassing instrument and I don’t even know what you’re going to do with it. And you promised your project partner you’d do all this work and you never thought, ‘Hey, maybe I’d better run this whole taking-the-guitar-to-school thing by my mom to make sure it’s ok?’”

Then Ethan and I went and picked up supper. When I left I was in a big huff and Laurel was in tears.

While we were gone I started wondering if maybe I’d been too harsh. After all, it’s my job as a parent to allow her to flex her creative muscles. And what would it hurt, really? It’s a crappy old guitar missing a string and it’s half-size, to boot.

So when I came back, I called her in.

“Play it for me,” I said.

“What?” She asked.

“If you think you need to take this guitar to school tomorrow, let me hear what you are going to sing.”

And so she did.

And I realized I was wrong. She did need her guitar. Here’s why (lyrics are beneath the video):

 

Conjugate irregulars
Don’t follow the same patterns
Only different in the yo
Some of them end in g-o
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!

Hacer is “to do or make,”
Be sure you don’t make mistakes
When conjugating in yo
If it’s “me” I say “hago!”
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!

“Tener” is e to i-e
Even when it isn’t me
Tienes, tiene, tenemos,
Teneis, tienen and tengo!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!

Conocer, dar, and saber
Are weird too, but so is ver!
Seeing, giving, and to know
Veo, doy, and conosco!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!

You’ve got to learn irregulars fast.
The test date is coming near.
We’ll teach them to you so you can pass.
They’re pretty easy to learn,
You’ve just got to listen here

Now you know how to conjugate
Study, don’t procrastinate!
You’ll be ready for the test
Just work hard and do your best
And you’ll conjugate irregulars.
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!
Let’s go conjugate irregulars!

Ch-Ch-Changes!

So, I promised more frequent posting, but I’m dashing this off pretty quickly, so please excuse any errors and the poor writing.

Change is pretty crazy, and many people have trouble with it. But in typical Boneblog fashion, when we make changes, we REALLY make changes.

 

Change Number One:

We bought a house. or, rather, we are still in the process of buying a house. We close tomorrow. It’s bigger, there’s more land, the location is prime, the school district is great. Oh, and there is plenty of room to park our big camper

And it needs work. A lot of work. In fact, we went on a walk-through last night and it only re-emphasized just how much work. It will take us months to do the work and lucky us, we get to carry two mortgages the entire time. Our target move date is June. Ish. There is so much work a typical family would not be sane to take it on.

But again, we do tend toward the outrageous. After all, you only go around once.

 

Change Number Two:

We’re homeschooling Ethan. Or, rather, I am. The situation at his school finally became untenable. It is not as though this is a rash decision. We have tried for five (5!) months to put the acceleration he needs into place. We were promised and promised but nothing came to fruition until November, when finally – after a sharply worded e-mail or two to the principal – he was accelerated to 2nd grade math. This should have happened in August, seeing as his classroom teacher was his accelerated math teacher last year and knew damn well he had already mastered the 1st grade curriculum. However, I had a bit of a run-in with her around, oh, October or so, where she questioned our method of parenting (an unwise decision on anybody’s part, quite frankly).

Later I found out from other staff members that it was not unlike this teacher to hold a grudge against parents who dared speak out, and that she was unlikely to let it go.

It appears she didn’t. Even after the acceleration was in place, she routinely “forgot” to send him to math class. He forgot too, and felt guilty because he believed it was his responsibility.

“You’re seven,” I assured him. “Your teacher is, I dunno, forty-seven. It is her responsibility, not yours, to ensure you get where you need to be when you need to be there.”

Greg and I were very, very patient with this until an incident just before winter break where Ethan was required to stay in from recess to complete a math exam because once again his teacher had neglected to send him to math class.

He was more than capable of doing the work but sped through it, upset about missing recess, and therefore did not score well. Ethan is very disappointed when he does not score well on anything, so it led to quite a spiral.

Still, we did not address it.

But the proverbial last straws came immediately upon returning to school after winter break.

“Ah,” I thought. “Surely now everyone is renewed and committed to a fresh start.”

Naw.

First, Ethan didn’t want to go back to school. He found it excruciatingly boring to sit and wait for the other students to master a concept he had already mastered. One acceleration was in place but the teacher had flatly refused to put the other agreed-upon accelerations in place because she wanted him to “get used” to one before implementing the others so as not to overwhelm him. Really? Because him sitting there for hours twiddling his thumbs instead of having something enriching to do is a good thing, right?

Second, guess who didn’t go to math the first day back?

So I sent another e-mail to the teacher last Thursday afternoon and copied the principal. I explained that we had been very patient to this point, but our patience was waning. I explained that we expected Ethan to receive all the agreed-upon accelerations and we expected the teachers to work together to ensure he received daily instruction in math as often as possible, allowing for the odd unusual scheduling days, etc.

The response was this:

[crickets]

Nothing. Nothing Friday. Nothing Monday.

So, on Tuesday, I went and withdrew him from school. I asked the secretary twice to ensure that Ethan brought home his supplies that afternoon. Twice she assured me he would come home with them.

He didn’t.

However, his teacher did brilliantly remember to keep his folder that goes back and forth between school and home. So it is not as though she was unaware of the withdrawal.

Talk about passive-aggressive.

So we began homeschool in earnest yesterday after an intense weekend of planning and a Trojan virus infection in my computer.

We absolutely loved it.

“It felt like I was only in school for 1 hour!” Ethan exclaimed. In reality, we did 5.5 hours worth of instruction. Heavy, detailed instruction. We studied dams, particularly the Hoover Dam (which we will be visiting this summer) and learned about the Johnstown Flood. We read a book about what it was like working on the Hoover Dam.

Ethan picked his first country of study (Turkey), and we intend to study Turkish history and culture and eat at a Turkish restaurant (this idea, I should point out, was lauded and copied by others in a foodie forum I visit). We are going to pick a different country every week or so.

We signed up for skating lessons and re-upped our memberships to the St. Louis Science Center and St. Louis Zoo.

Ethan did math worksheets and reading worksheets and language arts worksheets. He worked on designing covers for the binders to hold his work just in case the prosecuting attorney comes sniffing around looking to ensure we’re really doing something.

I joined up with an online homeschooling social group that has several outings per week from which to choose so he’ll have a social life.

And perhaps best of all, he still gets to attend his one-day-per-week gifted pullout program at the district.

I have always been a big supporter of our public school system, and I still do not think it is all bad. Don’t get me wrong. Last year Ethan had an amazing teacher who accelerated as much as she possibly could with the resources she had. He still has wonderful gifted teachers who helped us to realize we weren’t crazy, overbearing, or demanding in seeking a decent education for our son.

I always thought homeschooling was a little wonky, a little out there. I thought it was something the uber-religious did because they were right wing extremists who didn’t like government no matter what. But that just isn’t true anymore. There is an entire website devoted to those of us who are secular homeschoolers.

When we got to the end of our rope I found myself thinking, “Why in hell are we putting up with this when we don’t have to? Why aren’t we recognizing that we have the means and the ability to give Ethan the education he needs, to inspire him to love learning when it’s being killed where he is? And most importantly, why are we walking lockstep with others? Why aren’t we recognizing that each kid has his/her own unique educational path?”

So for now, we have joined the ranks of secular homeschoolers who are doing what they do because they just want their kids’ educational needs met. It is a luxury that we are able to make these kinds of changes and I am grateful.

How is Ethan taking this, you might wonder?

This morning he got out of bed the happiest I have seen him in months. He was actually anticipating the day and even cheerfully and voluntarily began his worksheets while he ate his breakfast.

If that ain’t validation, folks, I don’t know what is.

O Christmas Tree, Take 2.

Well, folks, something happened on the way to Christmas. Our tree shed its drawers, so to speak. The entire bottom half ended up bald. Observe:

needle drop

And…a close up:

needle drop close-up

Nobody knows for sure why this happened to us this year, but I hear we’re not the only ones who experienced it. We have always had great luck with the trees we cut from the tree farm. This year was just an off year, I suppose. Probably had something to do with the drought.

Well, we knew the situation was not going to improve, so we were left with no alternative but to go on a quest for another tree. Greg yanked the old tree out of its stand and threw it off the deck.

Yes, that is what we do with our old trees. Then they sit there for a week or two until I send the kids down to drag ‘em into the woods. Okay. Maybe it’s longer than a week or two.

Anyway, this seemed like a good opportunity to participate in a St. Louis tradition – trees and concretes from Ted Drewes. I, for one, absolutely love their Great Pumpkin. Who can resist a slice of pumpkin pie all mixed up with frozen custard and topped with whipped cream?

So anyway, let me tell you folks, Ted Drewes is mighty proud of the trees on his lot. I wanted an inexpensive replacement because, hi, we’d already paid $40 for the first one.

We hemmed and hawed and searched through all the rows…many times…until we finally just gave the decision wholly to the kids.

I think they picked a nice tree.

And we paid another $40.

Sigh.

But after all, it’s Christmas, and we have to have a tree.

Here it is:

tree take 2

And, just because we have never grown up, you see the two red balls hanging off the left side? With one hanging lower than the other?

Those are Tree Nutz.

You’re welcome.

The Saddest Christmas Tree Ever.

Every year we head to the local tree farm and cut down a tree. This year was no exception.

When we arrived at the field, Greg said, “How about we find a tree close to the front so I don’t have to carry it all the way back up the field here?”

Well, that didn’t happen. It seems that was everyone else’s idea, too, so Greg still had to make the laborious haul with a tree perched on his shoulder.

We got home and put it in the stand, and I swear it was all level and plumb and gorgeous.

And then, at some point, this happened:

saddest christmas tree ever

Greg offered to fix it, and he may even have tried to do so, but I didn’t press the issue. I find the Leaning Tree to be rather charming.

What I don’t find quite so charming, however, is the record shedding of needles this year. Greg thinks the tree ran out of water and he is probably right – after all, I left the kids in charge of it and they kept reporting to me that the reservoir was full. Or maybe this poor tree owes its baring branches to the dog and cat, who spend an inordinate amount of time chasing one another around it. Okay, well, mostly it’s the dog chasing the cat. But still.

many needles

If this tree has any needles left by December 25, it’ll be a Christmas miracle.

But I don’t really care. Like I said, the listing of the tree is charming, and regardless of its looks, I think it’s beautiful. After all, its ornaments chronicle our lives together.

A Very Bad Day.

Today was one of the worst days we’ve ever had as a family.

Today we had to put our beloved dog Vinnie down.

We are devastated, but I am very glad I had the foresight to get one last photo of Vinnie with the kids last night just in case.

vinnie

Vinnie was the very best dog. He was so good. I made sure he heard that over and over as he faded away. I thanked him for everything he had done for us as a family and for me, personally. That dog was by my side while I learned to be a stay-at-home mom, he was at my side as I learned to run, and he protected us all from deliverymen and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Damned if that isn’t a great dog.

This was the hardest decision Greg and I have made, and it was the hardest 30 minutes we’ve spent. We have mostly come to terms with the idea that it was the best decision for Vinnie, but yesterday I clutched at straws, spending hours searching the internet for help, for a way out, for something to convince us there was an alternative.

One person’s experience really resonated with me: “It was one last favor we could do for our friend.”

I think he was right.

But I miss my dog.

So much.

Happy 7th Birthday to Ethan!

Each year I write about how X number of years ago it was pouring down rain when Greg and I made the trip to the hospital to welcome our son into the world.

This year I’m thinking about other things

This year I’m thinking about how last week our son got a nosebleed at 2 a.m. and climbed down from his loft bed, got paper towels, stopped the bleeding, washed himself up, gave the dog a pat on the head, and climbed back into bed.

Neither Greg nor I heard a sound.

He didn’t need or want our help.

I’m thinking about how on vacation he rode his bike a very long way before using the radio to call us because he finally realized he was hopelessly lost. I remember how he admitted he had tears in his eyes…but he didn’t ever quite get over the edge into full crying territory. I was scared and proud at the same time. Scared, of course, for obvious reasons – but also proud, because when faced with an emergency he knew what to do, by finding the largest landmark he could, at a high point so the radios would work, staying put, and calling us. I don’t know that we ever told him that was what he needed to do – he just knew.

It’s becoming clear that while he is not yet grown and still needs us now and again, he is most certainly no longer my baby.

I miss that baby sometimes, but I’m so proud of the little man he’s turning out to be.

Ethan, you’re one hell of a kid. I’m so glad I’m your mom.

Happy 7th birthday, son. Yeah, I know it was last Saturday and I’ve been slow about writing lately. But I think you’re cool enough to know how much we love you even if we’re slow to write birthday blog posts.

 

Ethan birthday

First Day(s) of School, 2012

This year Ethan entered first grade. Laurel is a freshman in high school.

I’m not sure how we got here, but here we are.

These are photos from last Wednesday, Ethan’s first day of school – which was also Laurel’s freshman orientation. Yeah, it wasn’t her official first day of school, but it might as well be, so I took a photo of her before she left. Against her will, it would seem.

laurel freshman orientation

Ethan, on the other hand, is a much more cooperative subject:

Ethan first day of school

So naturally, since it wasn’t Laurel’s official first day of school and I wanted to irritate her a little more than I already had (hey, when you have a sulky 13-year-old, why mess with a good thing, right?), I insisted upon another photo of her for her Official First Day. And here it is:

hiding from the paparazzi on the first day of school

So, uh, yeah. We’ve entered the phase wherein we think it’s cool to be completely unenthusiastic and angst-y about everything. Whatevs. She’ll soon figure out it’s easier to be enthusiastic than to listen to your mother nag you about it. ha!

Happy Back to School, everyone!

Fathers Day, 2012.

Few men in this world can call themselves the kind of father my husband is. He is a rare breed, indeed, the best example of what a father should be.

Happy Fathers Day, Greg. We all love you dearly.

Yours,

The Family