Saturday, July 25, 2015

Brenda's Winning Short Story

                       The Window of Opportunity: by Brenda Coshnitzke


   To smell a cup of coffee was to fall in love. I had been in a longstanding relationship with a certain caramel frappe for years until just recently when I discovered that plain, black decaf suited me better. It wasn't just my best friend in the morning, it was my lover. If I were being honest with myself, I would have admitted to being addicted, but I would never say that anywhere other than in my mind where I was safe from all judgement.

    Being left to my own devices with the coffee shop I grew up in was always my dream, and after my mother's passing, two years ago, the keys to Nina's Espresso were handed to me. It wasn't as if I was waiting around for my parents to drop dead - I loved my mom and her death was one of the saddest moments of my life. Having this shop up and running was my way of keeping her memory alive when she wasn't.

    I met lots of interesting characters who passed through, most just looking for a relaxing place to spend an hour or two, and some were customers who had been coming daily for years. I liked seeing new faces almost as much as I enjoyed drinking a freshly brewed cup of tea.

    The café no longer smelled of espresso beans and vanilla creamer; it now had the intoxicating scent of Windex aftermath. I had just finished wiping today's history out of the round mahogany tables, making sure they were ready for tomorrow's long day of battling spilled coffee and cinnamon roll crumbs. The smell of window cleaner on wood was nauseating to an extent. I had the suspicion of being semi allergic to it, as I continually sneezed when it was in the air.

    The brewing machines had all been cleaned, along with the dishes, and anything that needed electricity was shut off for the night. The last costumer had walked out hours ago, leaving a crisp twenty dollar bill on the counter which I had appreciated more then he knew. I was tired, and ready to curl into a cocoon of blankets back at my suburban apartment.

    In the blur of searching for my keys, I hadn't noticed someone stepping up the stairs to the shop until I heard the doorknob jingling. I had already locked the doors and flipped the 'open' sign to say 'closed,' so I wondered who could've been that oblivious. I turned around, watching as a man realized the doors were locked and began walking away. The walls on the side of the entrance were made of Plexiglas windows, allowing me to stare out as he slowly started leaving; his head hung low in slight disappointment.

    He stopped mid step, almost falling forward from the shift in direction as his eyes caught my gaze. I couldn't help but squint with confusion, wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me in the bitter darkness of night. It peaked my interest as I questioned what he was stopping for, whether it was for me, or because I was an employee and he wanted service.

    His hand went up, slowly but surely, giving me the pleasantry of a small wave. The hand motion was so simple; yet, the act of it seemed so intense, causing my throat to tighten and my mouth to instantly dry up. I was never supposed to become nervous around anyone, my job required me to have healthy communication skills, but seeing this man had caused my heart to attempt jumping out of my chest. A smile tugged at one corner of his lips, pulling me even further into curiosity.

    I had learned from years of observing body language from different types of people, that I was more in tuned to personalities than a psychic. I knew people better than their friends did; I could almost see the lies they told themselves and everyone around them. So, to pass the time, I often read people like a book, just for my own amusement, but my years of being an observer were not doing very much for me in this particular situation, as I couldn't see through him.

    I forced myself out of the hypnotic trace that his eyes had so willingly pulled me into, and waved back, only slightly, trying not to look overenthusiastic. I wasn't sure how to react, because I didn't know what this mystery man wanted.

    He looked excited to get a response from me, probably just happy that I wasn't a figment of his imagination. It was awkward, for me at least. I had no clue how he felt, but I didn't enjoy standing in one place while staring at a stranger. He seemed to be in the same form of trance I had just been in, only for a moment though. As soon as he snapped out of it, I could tell, because he had his eyes roaming my figure freely. It made me feel insecure, but I would never admit it out loud. Anyone would feel self-conscious, having a stranger look them up and down as if he were a judge, although, I didn't think he looked like the type to critique.

    His mouth began moving, creating words that weren't audible through the thick glass. I didn't need to hear him to know that he was babbling to me nervously, not even noticing the slight rain that was drizzling over his head. I giggled to myself, wondering if he knew I couldn't hear him. When he stopped, he stared at me wide-eyed and waited for a response.

    "I can't hear you!" I yelled pointlessly, knowing he wouldn't understand. I pointed to my ears and exaggerated my mouth movements, hoping he would get the general idea of what I said.

    I felt a few butterflies flutter in the pit of my stomach, causing anxiety I didn't think I could get as he held up one finger in a "give me a moment" kind of way. He reached into the rather large satchel he was carrying with him, pulling out something rectangular and thin. I furrowed my eyebrows together, cocking my head to the side and taking a hesitant step towards the window with interest. I wasn't scared by him, because I had a certain intellect that would've told me if he meant any harm. I would get a rotten feeling in my chest when my instincts told me something was sketchy, but I felt fine.

    He took out a pen as well, writing on the rectangle which I had identified as a notepad. The gears of my brain were grinding as I tried to imagine what he could be putting down on the paper, but I assumed I would find out soon enough. I played anxiously with my fingers while I waited, occasionally tugging at the ties to my apron.

    He looked up at me with a smile across his cheeks as if he had just written the cleverest string of words in the history of the human race. He stepped up to the window, laying the notepad flat against it with a smack. I couldn't see it from twenty foot away, so I gracefully walked towards him, my red Chuck Taylors slapping against the marble floor with every step.

    I laughed to myself, reading the single word 'Hi,' written in large bubble letters. Being so close to the window, I was finally able to see what this mystery man looked like, and to my appreciation, he did not disappoint.

    Tuffs of remarkably orange hair stuck to his forehead, damp from the rain which he still continued to ignore. He was taller than me, but only by a few inches, standing at roughly 5" 9' if I were to have made an educated guess. His lips were bright pink, shaped as if they were sculpted by gods, blowing foggy breaths into the cold winter weather. I couldn't help but question if he were really as pale as I thought, or if it was just an illusion of the darkness. He was nowhere near the tall, dark, and handsome, average, good-looking male who would make it on the cover of a Calvin Klein poster, but he was interesting, and I preferred his individuality. There were faint lines under his eyes, created by a smile more than a sleepless night. His irises were a dark color which I couldn't pinpoint, but for now, I would call it green. His sweatshirt was big, but I didn't think he was a particularly large guy, although the fabric didn't seem thick enough to keep him warm. I got a chill just by looking at him wear thin clothes in the early winter breeze. I envied the cup of coffee that got to kiss his sleepy lips awake every cold and bitter morning.

    I wanted to respond to him, the handsome man who stood only a few inches away from me, so I did the only thing I could think to do. I reached into the front pocket of my pine green apron, and pulled out the small pad of paper I used for taking orders, along with a purple Sharpie.

    Although I wanted to say something back, I couldn't think of anything, which was a first for me. I always knew what the right thing was to say, it was part of my job, and the fact that I couldn't agitated me down to the bone.

    I decided to reply in the same way he did, with a simple 'Hi.' I wrote mine with dots on every point to the letters, adding my own version of girly flair. I watched his face light up with a childish smile as he laughed, puffs of smoke leaving his mouth with every breath.

    I felt slightly like an animal at the zoo, being watched and observed from behind glass. He studied my features for a moment, with a smile so light that I was surprised it was still dark outside. It was contagious, that smirk of his, and the same crookedness fell upon my lips. We looked like two people who had never seen another human being before, and were only just learning what it was like to be social. We should have been on Animal Planet.

    He broke eye contact with a giddy expression as he flipped the notebook page and began writing again. I stood on my tiptoes, leaning closer to look at what he was drawing, but he caught me in the act, and held it to his chest. He purposely looked offended, mouthing the words "no peaking." I couldn't help but laugh at his sarcastic and snarky attitude, playing with a strand of my bleach blond hair while I waited patiently.

    At last he put the page up to the window, most of the blue pen ink running from the rain drops. It was barely smeared, but I could still read it fluently.

    'I'm Ed,' it read, a small crooked heart drawn at the end. My cheeks burned a crimson color of pink from looking at the heart as a warm tingly sensation started at the tips of my ears and made its way down to my toes, consuming me. I had never smiled as much as I was then, and I was surprised that one stranger could have that kind of effect on me.

    'I'm Nina,' I wrote, using a different fount for my letters involving swirls. I pointed at the ceiling, indicating for him to look up. He craned his neck, staring up at the café sign that read Nina's Espresso.

    'It's yours?' his next note asked. I could tell with every passing second, his notepad was getting wetter, and that made it harder for him to write.

    I wrote the simple reply of 'yes' and showed it to his smiley face. Before he had the chance to respond, I wrote a quick note with sloppy hand writing, not bothering with a cute fount.

    'Aren't you cold?' I held the slip of paper up to the Plexiglas, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear.

    His eyes looked up as if he were attempting to look at his eyelashes as he shifted his weight between legs. He was obviously so caught up in our short worded conversation that he didn't stop to think about the weather. It was amusing to me, how oblivious some people could be, but on him, it was endearing.

    'Kind of, but I'm okay, it's worth it.' This time when he held it up, I could see a part in the page that had a rip from his pen catching a wet spot.

    I didn't know this man, yet somehow, the roundness of his cheeks and the softness of his eyes felt like home. I didn't come into work that morning thinking I would be having a conversation without actual words, but there I was, physical evidence of the saying "expect the unexpected." I had the strangest urge to get to know him - Ed - and without a doubt, I wanted to see him again. He seemed fairly interested in me as well; if he wasn't, he wouldn't have been there, continuing this pour excuse for communication. He intrigued me in a good way, and I hadn't had that amount of excitement in my life since I broke my arm, falling down a flight of stairs in another one of my accidental, clumsy, demonstrations.

    'How is it out there?' I wrote.

    When he squinted to see the words I made smaller than previous letters, I could finally decipher what his eye color was. A deep blue outlined his pitch black pupils, as if I were looking into the Atlantic Ocean. I took a carful glance at them, accumulating an unfamiliar, warm, lavish sensation in the pit of my belly, like butterflies, but with more passion. It was bittersweet, the feelings in my stomach, making me feel half sick, and half excited. No one had ever given me that strong of a staggering feeling within minutes of first meeting.

    'Wet,' he replied with a smirk, a drop of rain hanging on the tip of his nose, scared to fall onto the cold ground. I laughed at his snarky answer, covering my mouth as my nose and eyelids scrunched up with amusement. It was stupid for me to be laughing, because there was no one around to hear it, but secretly, I was glad Ed wasn't inside the coffee shop, or else he would have heard me snort during my fit of giggles.

    'Maybe you should get somewhere dry,' I suggested with honesty.

    Although I didn't want him to leave, I was sure his clothes had let the rain soak through, and that would surly cause him to catch a cold. I enjoyed talking - writing - to Ed, but if he got sick on my account, I would feel dreadfully guilty.

    'Maybe I don't want to,' he returned, with a second note following right after, reading 'can I tell you something?'

    'No,' I replied sarcastically - at least, I hoped he took it sarcastically. Of course, I wasn't being serious; he could have written his grocery list and I would have read it with true interest.

    He had a cheeky grin as he traced with his pen. His handwriting was horribly sloppy, which I found to be engaging, but I could tell he was trying to make this note easier to read.

    I took a notice to his hands, which gripped the pen and notebook. They weren't very long, but short and chubby with small fingernails. My fingers were the polar opposite, long and thin, and I couldn't stop myself from wondering how they would feel if he were to hold them. I decided it would be nice, but the tingling in the pit of my stomach would most likely hospitalize me from being so unbearably strong.

    He pressed the notepad up to the glass, and although his handwriting was improved, the ink was so drippy that I could hardly read it. I had to take a moment of staring at the page before I could understand what it was.

    'I think you're really cute.'

    My cheeks instantly began burning with honey glow, heating up the freckles that were sprinkled across my face as if I were standing in front of an open fire. It felt, for the smallest second, like I stopped breathing. I couldn't feel my heart beat for a moment, but once I could, I realized it was pounding aggressively. I could hear my pulse, and it was so loud that I thought he may have been able to as well.

    The people in the streets stopped walking, the cars stopped driving, and the world stopped spinning. It was just me, a random blue eyed boy, and a piece of glass to separate us. The butterflies in my stomach caught on fire, burning in a never ending red flame. I felt like I could float away on a cloud of mind-blowing exhilaration that could only go up.

    I didn't want to keep him waiting in an awkward anticipation, so I ignored the giddy feeling I had coursing through my every vein, and I wrote a quick, one word note.

    'Ditto,' I corresponded, this time using cursive.

    I could see it in the way he held his breath that he was undergoing a moment similar to the one I just encountered. His pupils dilated and puffs of smoke stop escaping his lips as a response to the word I composed. I knew what he was thinking, and it was something that would forever be known as the best feeling in history. I could only hope that the heart-pounding nirvana would stay with me forever.

    'I have to go. Are you open tomorrow?' he inscribed on the page.

    I felt a ping of disconnect at the thought of him leaving. Somewhere in my mind, I figured we would be here forever, writing little nothings that couldn't be whispered through the translucent divider. It was an adolescent thought, too immature for my twenty-three year old mind, but I only wished it were true. Of course we would have to leave eventually; I would have to go home to feed my turtle at some point, but I thought we had a little bit more time. I was overflowing with disappointment, my heart no longer beating at the same rate. It felt like he had already left, although he was still standing only inches away.

    Even though I only had the pleasure of spending roughly five minutes with him, and we hadn't spoken a single word, I was grateful for having met him. This small window of time had brightened up my day, my week even, and I had a good feeling that it wouldn't be the last time I heard from him.

    'Yes,' I wrote simply, using the rest of the space on the paper to draw a large frowning face, letting him know that his departure would not render me happy.

    He started scribbling again, more words than he had before, and all I could do was wait with an inquisitive mind. I tapped my foot impatiently, half of me wanting him to hurry, and the other half wanting him to stop so this could last forever. The page ripped, too damp to continue writing, but he was determined to finished, so he started again on a blank slate. I was desperate at that point, being tricked into thinking I would receive the next letter sooner than I did.

    'I'll be back then. Can I give you something before I go?' his last slip spelled.

    I nodded, instead of wasting my energy on another one word answer. A remarkable coldness swept through my body, causing my face to become a rare pale color with the thought of him coming back to see me. It was cold in the way of sticking my hand inside of the snow, where the temperature was so intense that it would feel hot like the sun. My cheeks burned while freezing at the same time. I enjoyed being around him, but actually having to communicate through the spoken word was nerve racking. Writing was easy, in the same way texting was, which is why not many people made phone calls anymore, but I wouldn't let that stop me from doing what I knew would be the best option: seeing him again. I wanted to meet Ed in a better atmosphere, where he didn't have to stand in the rain, and I knew, after that, I would want to meet him many more times.

    I pondered on what he would want to give to me without coming through the door. There weren't very many choices, and my brain couldn't think up a guess. If I could have only known, then my mind would have been at rest.

    He continued to tear pages, and it seemed like he would never get to a piece that were dry enough. My heart rate increased every second that he left me waiting, my need for immediate gratification overpowering my patient virtue. He only got damper, as did the paper, and the longer he took, the more he looked like he had just emerged from a river.

    He gave up after attempting to write on ten pieces of paper. I was more disappointed than I ever remembered being; it was peculiar how a boy I didn't know could affect me like that. My hand almost trembled with the need to know what he was going to give me. I could see the same feeling in his eyes, which made me believe it was something important, only furthering my infatuation with what I would have received.

    His expression lit up as it did the first time I posted a letter to him. His smile made my heart melt into a puddle of both excitement, and hope, making me believe that he had a solution. Without a second thought, my hands were clenched together into one fist against my chest, my smile so wide that I was afraid it might tear my cheeks. He took one step closer; to a regular person, it would have looked small and pointless, but to me, it was as big as the first step on the moon. We were only separated by seven inches or so, and being so close to him made me never want to leave.

    He splayed his hands out flat against our divider, bringing his face closer until the tip of his nose barely grazed the surface. As he took a deep breath, he blew heat across the window, fogging it up. I knew what he was doing then, and I couldn't help but crown him as the cleverest man I had ever met.

    His large finger began tracing, one small bump, and then another which connected at the bottom. He drew a heart - that was what he wanted to give to me. For the second time in five minutes, I could feel my pulse stop beating, but it lasted longer than the first time. It was as if he tore my heart straight out of my chest and put it there in front of my face, on the window. My breath got caught in my throat as he put on the grin of a proud three year old. In an attempt to saver what few moments we had left, I gently placed my long thin hand against the window where his was. I could almost feel his warmth, and it made a piece of me wish I had opened the door just so I could snuggle him, but I was getting ahead of myself.

    I closed my eyes, trying to heighten my sense of touch in the way blind people had overactive senses. If I could have been there until the world crashed and burned, I would have been happy with that. I didn't even have to meet him beyond that glass; that was good enough for me, as long as we never left this position.

    When I opened my eyes, I was expecting to see a mop of hair the color of a Moroccan sunset, but he was gone. The heart he left for me was gone as well, having faded away while I was busy trying to touch him through the window. I stood there stupidly with one hand on glass, while people stared as they walked by.

    I had a pressure in my chest, the same way I would get when someone would text me at three in the morning, saying 'we need to talk.' My stomach dropped like it would when I got on a roller coaster that was too fast for me to handle, but I was stuck, locked in by the safety bars and forced into riding the full two minutes.

    I stared out at the rain puddles, all of them being illuminated by flickering street lights and apartment building windows. I was incapable of moving, and I didn't want to. In all the years that I had worked there, I had never stood this close to the window at night, so I had never taken the time to notice just how pretty it was. I had Ed to thank for bringing that beauty to my attention.

    I was never a strong believer in love at first sight, but that was before I had any experience with it. I always thought Romeo and Juliet was lame and unrealistic, but now I could see where they were coming from. I couldn't stop myself from going to bed that night, thinking that this was the start of something beautiful.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ideas for my art program... Oil Pastels...

Can you pick an artist for any of these?


School is starting AGAIN???

Well summer still holds on to a few more weeks so I don't understand WHY??????? school is starting already! Not to be a complaining monster, but every year when the kids go back to school, the pool closes. And IT IS STILL SUMMER. Ok I suppose that is enough of that. Let's move on.

Who knows how much time before the littles wake up. I have already played my Candy Crush Saga and my Farm Saga. I got dressed, though I must admit that I haven't showered yet. I took the dogs out for their daily morning walk. And now I am back at the computer on, of all sights, Pinterest.

Do you like pinterest? I have a love/hate relationship with it. It is so full of brilliant ideas. I could spend all day on it saying, "why didn't I think of that??" The hate part is how I said I can spend all day on it. When I want to keep a recipe that I saw on Facebook, I can usually go to Pinterest and find it. Then I have it forever. or at least until SHIF and the computers crash, blah blah. Then I'm screwed.

I digress.

Bree, as you know, has been MIA from any schoolish work over the last few years. She pretty much decided that if she is going to be an unschooler, she is going to rebel against all and any schoolish learning. And she has succeeded magnificently, IMHO.

Of course we have had a co op (affectionately titled COOP) where she has taken classes in art, cake decorating, and such. But never.... NEVER science or math. Never US history. Never English.

So this year she decided, now that she is in High School, she will do some "work". Algebra through KEY TO. I used it for Josh and it was a breeze. And a science from Apologia... I am still deciding which one. History "Lies My Teacher Told Me". (That is right I haven't ordered the books yet. Thanks for noticing my one of my weaknesses.)

Bret and Marley have asked for 21 days of Painless Math again. (This is a curriculum put together by me, not a book.) We work on basic skills (no drills) for 21 days. After 21 days we go out for a treat. Also I bought a few workbooks for them to fine tune their logic skills. If they don't like them I will have to put them away and call it money wasted.

Oh I did it again. I was talking about Pinterest for a reason. Because I came across a teacher art page that I loved. Then that brought me to another one and so on and so on. Which made me decide to do what I have wanted to do for years. History and art combo. Because how fun is art!

So anyway. A couple resources to get me started. First an art scavenger hunt...
Next my first idea...
Found here...
Essencially how to use oil pastels to make your own Modigliani... For example made by a student.

OK so some more great ideas that are maybes in my repertoire for oil pastels on the next post. (That is how I ended up on Pinterest. We just bought some oil pastels and I wanted some creative ideas to give the kids about how to use them.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Little Too Late

So a couple quotes to get us started on this topic.

“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it... it's just easier if you do.”
― Byron Katie

So... someone in my family died recently. And I will probably be crying the whole time I write this, so bear with me if it makes no sense sometimes. :-)

So when we got married, my husband and I, fifteen years ago, it was kind of sudden. He had broken up with his current girl friend, because I told him he had to if he liked me. And so he did. Then we were together and married soon after. It was sudden for his family too, who liked his other girl friend. And so some of the family, a specific relative or two, wasn't as nice and accepting of me as they could have been. In retrospect, I was young. Probably we all were and that contributed to our behavior. He talked his family up, and how close they all were, and how much I was going to love them. And then they didn't seem to like me at all, and it hurt. And I got upset. Then they did some things we didn't like and we didn't talk for years. Probably if they lived closer, we would have fought it out good and been over it. But they didn't. They lived a continent away, and eventually half a continent away. When they came to visit the family (we found out years later) they would tell the kids that they tried to call and we wouldn't answer, which was not the truth, but probably settled the kids. When we did see them, she (the specific relative in question, let's call her Pam) and I were cordial at best. We were friendly. But I knew she didn't like me, and since I am shy and awkward anyway, I kept it short to avoid any embarrassment of my own.

The family said we should fix this. And I knew it was true. It broke my husband's heart that they weren't close, like he used to be with them. But they were so far away and we hardly ever saw them. Eventually things smoothed over a bit. He called a few times to talk and be friendly. Then last Christmas she (Pam) was there at the Christmas party. By herself, without the kids who are grown now, without the husband who we figured was working like usual. And she was nice. And we laughed and chatted and talked. My husband too. Which made him feel very happy, I know. She said we should keep in touch, which made me happy, but that is just what people say, you know? So I thought that it would be nice to keep in touch, but that probably she was just saying that. (Maybe she thought the same thing. That I didn't really want to keep in touch, that I was just saying what was expected of me.)

Later we found out that she was so excited for us all to be together again. And that it felt like old times (she had been in the family practically since she was 12 years old, eventually to marry in to it when she was 18. And she and my husband had been so close growing up.) She talked about that party with a sparkle. What we didn't know at the time was that she was in the beginnings of a divorce. That the family she revolved her whole life around since she was not even a teenager was about to come unwound. Her kids were in and out of jail, he husband was seeing someone else. And she was moving back to town. She was here for 6 months before she took her life. We only knew she was here for the last month of it. And we didn't call. We were standoffish. Because that is always how we are.

She might have liked to come over and drink some wine with me. After all she likes wine, I like wine. It seemed like she was struggling with an alcohol problem, I have heard. Maybe. Or maybe she was just drinking away some of the pain. I don't know. We could have made cookies with the girls. Or just visited for lunch. She could have told me stories of her and my husband when they were younger. Stories I never heard until just now. (Now that she is gone, that is.) She might have just liked to be around. And we (she, me, my husband) we did nothing.

Maybe it would have made a difference. Maybe not. But it would have been nice for all of us if we had a few more nice visits. It would have been nice for us all to have something other than ONE Christmas party to remember in the last 15 years. And that is so sad. It makes me feel so sad.

So what do I do? I suppose I should make a list. A fix-it list. And start fixing those relationships now. Because she didn't know how many people would be sad that they didn't have just one more day with her. Maybe she didn't know that we would have liked one more day together. So many people in my life won't know that I wanted just one more day. Life happens and your one more day disappears.

I know this isn't specifically a homeschool post. But I suppose this small piece of my life might be helpful for my girls when they get older. I think I wanted to write it down and keep it so they could remember what I didn't realize until it was too late.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The dreaded curfew

This is the latest assault on kids (teens hopefully?) running a-muck on Facebook lately. You missed curfew. Here is a blanket. Sleep outside.

The comments span from "Great idea I am going to try this" to "My kids would just go sleep on their friend's couch" to "your child could get kidnapped and killed staying outside like that". Most people liked it. Some people said it was mean. Lots of people used it as the morning joke to get their day started.

As with many photos I see of people mistreating kids, I put myself where they are... after all, this is something you say to someone because you think you have control over them. And let us women remember, it was not too long ago when women were fighting for their rights to not be controlled by other people. Women were the property of their husbands and/or fathers once. They were meant to act how men thought they should, or they were to be "put in their place". It wasn't rape if your husband did it. It was his marital right, sometime even obligation. Women were beat, even killed, because they acted up, didn't follow the rules, were out of control. If they rebelled against this control, they were said to have hysteria. Doctors thought it was caused by women's uterus and treated them to a vibrator to relieve their anxiety. (Remember those days? Probably not, but surely you have heard of them.)

So how would I feel if say, oh I don't know, my husband put this note on the door after I spent too long chatting with my friend at the coffee house. Or if my boss slapped a "you are late so you don't get to work today" note on the door after I spent an hour trying to get a tow truck for my car that broke down in the rain, and finally made it to work late. How would my husband feel if I did this to him? Would it be a sign of a successful marriage?

No, you say? Then how come treating kids like this makes people think of good parenting? Aren't we trying to teach our kids to be loving, kind? Compassionate, even?

No. I don't suppose so. Someone commented that if you play like an adult you pay like an adult... I don't know of any adult who would put up with this. So what are we really teaching our children by expecting they to? Will they learn discipline by this? Will they know you mean business and therefore toe the line next time?

My kids, they would just head back out, and realize the curfew means nothing. Next time, why even bother coming back if they will be late? The door will be locked anyway.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Camping Fun to follow.....

Girl Scouts and oportunities to be leaders

You may or may not know... our new obsession is roller derby. my two older girls live on it, breath is, and SMELL LIKE IT. (Sorry girls, but it is as stinky as hockey. Peee uuuuu!)

How we first heard about Junior Roller Derby, was we went with our scout troop to scout night at the Girls roller derby. AND who was there playing a scrimmage during the half time? The Jr Roller Derby. My girls were hooked from that moment on. They talked about it all summer and bugged me about it in the fall until it finally started and they took flight (on wheels of course.)

So this year, when scout night came around again, the girls were asked to wear their sashes and vests over their derby clothes and help with the pre-game demonstration for the other scouts who had come to watch.

They demonstrated the game with the derby adults, then they fielded questions with everyone too. Such a great "girls leading girls" moment for our derby scouts!


WHAT she doesn't know how to READ?

This past weekend was our scout overnight to a Tipi Camp. My troop of Juniors and Cadettes were tipi camping for Friday and Saturday nights. Marley's troop of Brownies and Daisies were coming on Saturday for a one night overnight. Since Marley is MY child and I had to stay for two nights, of course she camped out with the big girls the first night before her troop got there. Because how else was she going to get there?

A funny thing happened when we were there. I came over to a table of my girls (all three of MY OWN girls were there) plus a few of my scouts, one of which is a school teacher's daughter. As I get to the table I hear the (school teacher's daughter) scout say to my older daughter, "she doesn't know how to read??"

Which first of all, is not entirely true. She does TELL people she can't read. She can READ. Not fluently. But she can sound out words. And she is 7 years old.

If she were in school, she would be in first grade, maybe second, I donno. Our town has all day kindergarten so that when they start 1st grade they can start teaching to the test. That is how they get their funding. I don't hate on that. It is what it is for them. They have to keep their funding. And no doubt they are scrambling and tripping over eachother making sure those kids know all the right words and all the right math equations... and the exact right pieces of history. If a kid doesn't read by first grade, how will they learn to fill out all those worksheets? How will they do homework? How will they PASS the test? If everyone passes the same test, then everyone has the same information. If everyone has the same information then we can rest assured that our education system works.

Except that if Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Galilei, Da Vinci (to name a few) all had the same education and same information in their heads, where would we be now? Who knows.

Marley can't "read". She and I were taking a walk the other day and talking about the planets in our system. And what our system was called and all that stuff. But she can't "read". Sometimes she asks me to drill her on math skills (which btw she hasn't ever done a math worksheet) but she can't "read". We read together all the time. She wants me to sit and read with her. She is a barrel of knowledge and she wants to learn. And aparently she doesn't need to be "reading ready" for that. Not here anyway.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Is The Big Deal About Reading Anyway???

I saw this when I woke up on my fb. Bree is my daughter. She always tells me she doesn't like to read. I am sometimes worried about her lack of reading. It bothers me because there are so many classics I would love for her to know. I want her to love the experience of reading a book and watching it go by like a movie in her head, only she created how the characters look (in her mind) and she recreates the scenes (in her head.) It is something different from watching a movie.
And when I read a great book, like the Hunger Games series, where no one gets fed by me, and no laundry gets done, and the dishes sit in the sink for two or three days while I read everything; then I see the movie and try to explain to the girls how the book was so much better than the movie, and how so many things in the movie are unexplained, but I understand them because I read the book, while they pass right by the scenes not knowing there is so much more detail than they know. (How was that just one sentence?? I need to start watching my grammar and sentence structure. hahahahaha.)
I love to read!!!! I can't do it enough because I have a family to take care of (see the paragraph above about what happens when I start a good book). But I LOVE TO READ!!!! It is hart to be a book lover in a family of non book lovers.
So I satisfy my unschooling mind by realizing she reads all the time. She is constantly on fb, she reads instructions, tutorials. Her grammar and spelling, for someone who wasn't "taught" grammar and spelling, seem to be as good as anyones. She asks how to spell things when she needs to. When she doesn't capitalize something it is usually because she doesn't want to, not because she doesn't know to.
I try to stand up for kids rights, to do what is right for them. For them to read what is right for them. To be who they are... Just... as.. often.. as.. possible... and as often as I remember to. Because lots of my old habits are not so freeing, sometimes I lapse back into old ways. But I try. I also remind myself often that if I force the classics on my kids, they will remember the classics as things I force fed on them. And they will reject them anyway.
So when I caught this on fb this morning I had a little glimmer in my eye. My daughter was at the library a few times this week looking to see if her book was in. (Mr. C, the child's librarian, has never seen her so much) And now... ta da... she is reading a book. It isn't Shakespeare or Samuel Clemens. But still it is a book.
omg i just got john's journal from the library and it's awesome!
i keep turning to the front page just to look at dean! :p 
  • Cheyenne  XD dean is amazingggahh n allsooo there are some pretty cute moments in tht book

  • Bree  i haven't read a lot yet but can't wait to read more!

  • Cheyenne  Lol yeah its awesome

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Where did that dang path go to??? ;-)

Bree really likes Pentonix. They perform songs with only voice. I think we first heard their interpretation of Somebody That I Used to Know, at a time when everyone was trying to cover it.

Anyway, we were watching this video on YouTube the other day. After watching the whole video through I told Bree that the thing this video really proved to me is that our era of music really kind of sucks. There are some good songs out there, but there isn't really an era of music out there right now. It seems to be all over the place, and most of it sucks.

Then I saw this on fb today. And it all seemed to go together. I like to read this without the cuss words. A cuss word every now and then is fine with me, but this felt a little over cussed for my taste. Anyway here it is...

Are we so busy trying to be great that we are forgetting that there is a path that takes us there?

May, the month of endings, and new beginnings

It has been a while since I showed up here. I haven't been doing my due diligence with my blog this year. I like to write and I like to blog, but I also love my life and it takes over for me sometimes. Well lots of times actually.

The kids keep growing, which at the very least, Marley promised she wouldn't do any more of that years ago. They are all so wonderful to be around. I wouldn't have my life any other way. Talking to the grandparents, last night, after Marley's recital, we were going over what is "wrong with the world". It reminded me how thankful I am that things are just the way they are here in our family. My kids hang out with me during the day, we plan activities and projects. We see them through. Sometimes we don't see them all the way through. Sometimes they devour our lives until we move on to something else.

And I wouldn't have it any other way. So here we are now in May, asking what we did with our year. School year, of course. And the list is probabaly endless. We finished our last year of the co op we are in for "school". I often wonder how we made it through. Waking up Monday monrnings to get there on time looks like a mountain to climb, looking back. But we did. And I am glad it is over. The girls will miss it, and they will be glad it is a closed chapter, all at once.

 Here are a couple cakes from Bree's cake decorating class. That is a Dr. Who cake up above, in case you weren't aware. I am sure Bree would like that to be made known. And the spaghetti and meatball cake down below. Both were wonderful creations of her time and energy.

Nine months of jazz classes this year for Marley, and it finally came to a head with her recital this week. This was another monday requirement of ours. Get Marley to dance on time, while making dinner, and getting the older girls ready for roller derby practice.
 Marley and her grandparents after her last recital.
Bret and a couple friends after Marley's recital, at our local restaurant, celebrating the dancing success. Bret had spent the whole day with Marley crimping her hair, doing her make-up and nails, putting her together nicely.

And then there is scouts, our May campout marks probably the last one of its kind for me and my crew, being that we are moving this summer back to our KY roots. I went on an adult enrichment campout with my service unit mgr Paula...

Bree FINALLY filled out the paperwork so she could earn her silver award from her hard work with making all those bags for the Belize project. She is following it up now with helping her sister troop make quilts for her troop leaders.
We found a weekend so she could hang out with all her old Scout crew. They hadn't been together in a couple years. They used to be inseparable. It is bitter sweet to see them all growing up so fast.

Thinking Day, Geocaching, Scout night at the City Hall, patches, badges, campouts, father/daughter dances, they have just ruled our world for years now. What will we do without it?

Even today we are off in a few hours to a Mother/Daughter Tea. It is Alice in Wonderland Themed.


The Mad Hatter
We have had Callie Mae every other weekend for most of the winter and spring. She is hell on wheels, just like her dad was, I am told. She is a blessing for my girls. Although I know Josh and his dad are on the outs, I like to think he would be glad that his sisters get a chance to know Callie. She and Marley are almost inseparable when the are together. Bret and Bree pamper that girl like nobody's business. She is so loved.
Here we are at the Witch's Brew Coffee Shoppe hanging out with the babygirl.
That's about all. It cannot possibly capture even an ounce of our days. My Little Pony's. Dr. Who. Supernatural. The Walking Dead. We are certainly caught in the middle of a bunch of great series this year. We have done so much. I cannot wait to see what it next.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mixed Messages

First of all, for the kids to get their due, congratulations to the Cincinnati Jr. Rollergirls for a really spectacular game. They won both games, the level 2 and level 3 games. Kudos to the Neo's and the Dayton Rollergirls playing two competitive games with us. Thanks to Dayton for showing up with the Neo's who, on their own, didn't have enough girls coming down to play the games. Thanks to the coaches who really do put in a lot of time to do what they do with these girls. You all rock!

Win or lose, this is my favorite girl sport to watch. The girls are agressive. They play hard. And they can only win by being team players. The game is fast paced and keeps you guessing until the end. (I imagine this is how my husband felt when he would drag me to hockey tournaments to watch our son play years ago. A game that, although I loved watching Josh shine, I just could never get into really, outside of his games.)
Here's my own AphroDIEte (center with the grey helmet and pink jersey) blocking a girl from the other team in our first game of the year.

I know I probably seem like a fuddy duddy to my kids. I make them wear bicycle pants instead of net nylons. And they have to wear bicycle shorts instead of shiny silver and gold undies over those nets. And when my girls say, "but they all wear make up to the games, at least eye liner," I say I know that they don't ALL wear make up. In fact, I know of two who don't... My two.

I give my girls just as much leeway as I can. I do the best I can to give them as much responsibility as they want, to treat them as they want to be treated, to set up as many opportunities to grow as they want to have. There is just one thing that stops me in my tracks. I don't like to see little girls acting like they need to be "sexy" adults. I don't like to see adults looking like that but I really don't like to see kids who think they need to dress that way.  But ok so not all adults agree with me. I get that. That's fine. As far as I am concerned, the ol' "well I am not their mother" applies just fine here. Dare I admit that I don't care if my kids cuss every now and then, when it is appropriate for a cuss word. Or that I don't care if my kids muddy their best shoes in puddles during a good rain. But I will be damned if I can have them at the age of 8 or 12 trying to emulate (yes I am going to say it, so close your eyes and cringe if you don't want to hear it) street hooker attire. Again, I understand that I am probably not in the majority here, and I am willing to live with that.

Still when I go to a game to watch my daughters teams play and I see this...
Photo: Congrats Cincinnati Juniors on two winning games today. And shame to whoever thought it was ok to let someone time this game with this shirt where the girl ages are 8 to 17.

And this woman is timing the game. I wonder if people aren't going too far. Ok so this is not me wondering. But downright saying. I love the sport. I love the game. I love that my kids want to play a sport with this kind of energy to it. This lady might be a Neo Rollergirl with the sport name Penal Eyes, but this might not be the best arena to sport your team spirit, since these girls start at 8 years old.

So while we, my husband and I, are talking about the inapropriateness of this view we are getting at our daughter's game, we hear our coaches scolding the girls on the bench for cussing at the other team. "No cussing or dirty talk at the other players or refs or you are out of the game." And I chuckle. I chuckle softly to myself. Because one of the refs AT THIS EXACT GAME has, "Karma ZAbitch" on the back of her striped shirt. And my husband noticed one of our OUR coach assistants at a scrimmage a couple weeks ago with stickers on her helmet which read "Kick Em In the Cooter." Yes I said COOTER!

And still I didn't think either one of these were worse than viewing the timer's shirt which read, PENAL EYES. Because Karma and Kick 'Em are just talking smack. Penal Eyes is bringing sexual tones into the game. Which to me was worse. Go figure.

I guess I just don't understand why other adults want their kids to be adults before their time. They will have so much time for that later. But once their childhood is over, its over. Why not hold on to that for one more day???

Monday, March 18, 2013

Steubenville is only 4 hours away
"Drunk on their own small-town greatness, they operated unaware of common decency until they went too far, wrote too much, bragged too many times and, finally, on a cold Sunday morning, were hauled out of a small third-floor courtroom as a couple of common criminals."

Poppy Harlow for CNN - "Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart,"

Here are just a couple examples of what I woke up to this morning. I don't know those boys. I don't know the town. I don't know anything other than the info I found on the internet, as I have followed this case. It puts a pit in my stomach. A girl was so drunk that she couldn't consent to anything, driving around in a car full of boys for hours, going from party to party, puking more after every stop. If no one had videoed any of this or texted all this, if these boys hadn't been caught, no one would even care about this. Tens of thousands of teen girls are driving around drunk just like this every weekend. EVERY WEEKEND. Boys are driving around thinking they are entitled to the life they are living: drinking, drugs, uncaring and unprotected sex. Little girls having no respect for themselves or others. Little boys having no respect for themselves or others.

Who are these boys and girls?

Well they are the boys who once played with cars and action figures in their rooms as toddlers. Maybe they slept with a teddy bear or blanky at night after their parents tucked them in and kissed them goodnight. They went to the parks and learned how to swing the swings. Maybe their moms taught them how to pump their feet to swing without help. Their parents probably watched them off to the bus on their first day of Kindergarten, maybe even packed their pb&j sandwiches. Maybe they went to their friends houses for sleepovers on weekends.

And the girls? Many of them played princess dress-up, played house with their dolls and cooked in their play kitchens. They made cookies and cake with their mommys. They tried on their mom's high heeled shoes. These girls dreamed of being on tv or famous singers. They had play dates with other little princesses, and stuck their tongues out at the boys on the playground. Their parents watched with pride as they first learned to ride their bikes without training wheels. They learned how to swim at the Y. They played soccer with all the other little girls when they were of age.

Who are these kids? Well when put this way, they sound an aweful lot like all of our kids. Could they be yours? Mine? Could we, me and you, be producing young adults who not just live like this, but don't mind living like this? Don't see a problem in this?

Kids who don't think about what could happen to them if they get so drunk that they cannot even stand up on their own. Kids who don't worry about what tomorrow might look like after a night like this. Is this the new "kids just being kids"?

Are we the complacent parents who don't care to really know where our little boys and girls are late at night anymore? They are 15 or 16 years old, they are fine. We are all just fine. Just kids being kids. They will be fine.

After all, they are only 4 hours away from me and my little girls. Only 4 hours. That is mighty close.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Ghosts of KY

 This elf is located on the big hill down to the first clearing.

This is the first ghost we encountered, but it started our search for more like it along our hike. This one was all the way over on the second plot of land we aquired last year.

Now this ghost was extrememly interesting. It was actually a ghost leaf. You wouldn't think they are quite as common as they actually are.

This guy was our favorite. To tell the truth this was the only ghost that we made. Well we gave him eyes after we decided that he was to be our revered moss ghost.

More on Girl Scout Cookie boxes

Another project I did this year on how to use up those cookie boxes creatively...
This is actually a cookie case cut down to a smaller size. A friend of mine and I were out shopping with her kids, and one of her daughters saw a basket that she could not buy. Her mom asked what she would even do with that basket. She said she would make it into a hanging doll bed.

So I offered to make one for her with a cookie box, because of course, I am trying to repurpose them. So some spray paint, fabric, duct tape, and a hanging doll bed has arrived at its new home already. Well there are TWO girls, so I made two.

What to do with all those darn Girl Scout cookie boxes...

So with Girl Scout cookie time going strong, you might have seen some girls hanging around looking like this:


For every group of girls you see hanging around at the grocery store like that, is a parent or two who has a wall or walls that look like THIS in their house:

If you are one of these families who inherits the job of holding on to thousands of boxes of cookies for a month or two each year, then you might consider each year what to do with all those case boxes when the cookies are all picked up and purchased.

For a couple years we saved the boxes and stored them... Then when the kids were bored sometimes they would go upstairs and use them as blocks to make houses and towers and other such building projects. I eventually got tired of the boxes of mess everywhere upstairs, though and broke them down. Marley, 7, still misses these days sometimes.

This year when all those boxes arrived, I was going through a bit of an overhaul of my home. We are going to be putting our house up for sale soon, and we have been trying to declutter. That gave me the idea of finding a use for these boxes. They are small but VERY sturdy.

My project for the boxes that I kept this year is THIS. First I measured the boxes to see which size box fit where I wanted them to go. Cookie case boxes come in different sizes, if you didn't already know this. Then I tore the top flaps off the boxes.

  Next I spray painted them. As with all paint projects, I applied spray primer first. Then after this dried I added the color I wanted.

 After the color paint dried, I measured the box sizes for fabric, making sure the fabric was extra long so it would hang over the box. And I have fancy storage boxes. These red ones hold Marley's Polly Pockets and Petshops. NOTE: Without the fabric there would be small holes in the bottoms of the boxes that would let small objects seep out.

These boxes sit in my dining room bench to collect the books the kids leave on the table.

Girl Scouts is all about conserving. Conserving energy, water, time, etc. So all these left over boxes, even when recycled, are being just wasted. Why not put them to good use? What other ways can you think to use these boxes? I have a friend who uses them in her gardening projects with her scouts.