31 May 2009

My Dad

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.
~Gloria Naylor~

My dad died 11 years ago today. He was 56. I am amazed at how quickly the time has gone by. My youngest was one, today she is 12. She never knew my dad and that makes me pretty sad. Carley doesn't remember him either, she was only 3.

He was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in Nov. of 1996. Here he is just 3 months prior to diagnosis (with me and my mom and my 5 month old, Catherine):

The doctors told him he had 3-6 months to live. He chose not to do Chemo or radiation, he wanted to have the best quality of life for his remaining few months. He did seek out some alternative remedies, and I think they helped him make it to the 6 month mark. My parents lived in Florida at the time, and I lived in IL. I was able to get down and see him twice before he died. We went down in December and again in March.

He died near midnight on the night of May 31st. I wasn't there when he died, my sister and my brother were. I had a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I was still nursing my 1 year old. I wanted to be there, but my mom and sister told me I couldn't bring my girls, that it would be too stressful on everyone. He was in and out of coherent near the end, but I did have my mom put the phone up to him and told him I was sorry I couldn't be there. I just couldn't leave my girls. I think he understood.

I didn't always have the best relationship with my dad growing up. He could be a mean son-of-a-gun when he wanted to be. But most of the time he was pretty reserved and rather jovial. He liked to read and passed that love to me. He taught me to play chess. Life was simple for my dad and he had clear boundaries of right and wrong. He was a staunch conservative and I thank him for those values. I never had a very emotional relationship with my dad, we never told the other we loved each other, although we did hug and kiss. I remember when I was really small he used to carry me to bed on his shoulders each night. And I remember even into high school kissing him good-night before bed.

Here he is on a Fathers Day when I was about 20 (that's me on the right):

Just before he died I wrote him a letter. I wanted him to know that I although I had blamed him in the past for screwing me up, that I no longer did and that I knew he had done the best he knew how in raising me. He had a horrible childhood with a very abusive father. His childhood was worse than mine. I thanked him for being my dad and told him I loved him. I waited for a reply and finally my mother called me and told me that my dad had read the letter and cried. My dad and I never spoke about the letter and we didn't need to. He heard what I said, it made him cry, that was enough for me.

Time lessens pain but doesn't remove it. I don't think about him everyday anymore, but I do think about him frequently. And I still remember the day he died. Most of all I look forward to seeing him again one day.

Here's a picture of my dad and mom in the bar in the house I grew up in. They had their issues, but I always knew they loved each other:

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.
~Madame de Stael

29 May 2009

Momentous Occasions

Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you'll make a difference.
~Arie Pencovici

My oldest daughter recently "graduated" 8th grade. I put graduated in quotes because she didn't really graduate from anything. Our homeschool co-op holds a graduation ceremony at the end of the year for 8th grade and high school graduates. Carley was technically an 8th grader this year, so she technically graduated. Since we consider ourselves eclectic learners, or life learners or unschoolers or whatever you want to call us, we didn't really have anything to graduate from. She didn't finish a curriculum, we don't do curriculum. We don't consider learning to ever stop and start, we learn all the time. Try to go an entire day and not learn something. We all learn something everyday whether we acknowledge it or not. Can't watch the news or read a newspaper without learning something. So that's how we live and learn everyday.

So with that in mind, Carley participated in a graduation ceremony at our co-op. There was only one other girl graduating 8th grade, so it was short and sweet. It was part of other closing ceremony activities, but the graduation came last. After Carley was introduced, her parents (John and I), had the chance to say some things about her. I talked about her accomplishments, how we have always tried to support her in all of her endeavors, about how we unschooled and Carley was able to lead her own learning. I also mentioned how it seemed just like yesterday that she graduated from her Montessori Kindergarten. And yes, I almost cried. I also mentioned that she had decided to send herself to high school next year, and how much I will miss having her home. Her father talked about how she has tenacity and determination and usually follows through on things she sets her mind out to do. It was all quite lovely actually. I wasn't sure I wanted to participate at first, I am not one for ceremony for the sake of ceremony. Carley wasn't even sure she wanted to participate, but in the end I am glad we did. I think it will be a nice memory for her to have.

Here are some pictures for your perusal:

This is before we left the house:

Here is the table we set up with a short history of Carley's life (pictures and accomplishments):

Here she is on stage waiting for her turn to"'graduate" (a little blurry, youngest dd was in charge of the camera):

Here she is with her cake (we had a small reception afterwards):

And one with Sam, the other graduate (and a good friend):

All in all, a happy night and judging by the smiling faces, one that everyone will remember.

What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.
~Eleanor Powell

24 May 2009

Unconsciously Muttering

Another week another mutter!

  1. Lisa :: Lea, one of my dearest friends!

  2. Hope :: springs eternal

  3. Irene :: Makes me think of the Dexy's Midnight Runners song "Come on Eileen".

  4. Tony :: Soprano

  5. Anna :: Karenina

  6. Dolly :: Parton

  7. Laura :: Ingall's Wilder

  8. Debbie :: My sister

  9. Wilson :: Carnie

  10. Paula :: Abdul
Hmmm, a names week......not sure I liked it. Want to mutter?

23 May 2009

Happy Birthday Kitty!

Happy 6th birthday Jersey!

Isn't she cute?

What greater gift than the love of a cat?
~Charles Dickens~

20 May 2009

America Gets it Right Again!

Kris Allen wins American Idol......woo hoo! For those who haven't been following along this year, the judges were blatantly in favor of Adam Lambert this year. Well, they were wrong. America loves Kris Allen. My faith in humanity is restored. Although we can't seem to get it right when picking a president, we can at least pick the right American Idol.

For your listening pleasure, a taste of Kris Allen:

19 May 2009

John Taylor Gatto

I just finished reading John Taylor Gatto's newest book " Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling". As usual, it was an excellent book that reiterated things I already knew as well as enlightened me about things I didn't. (If you'd like to read a summary, click on the link.)

He has written several other books, all of which I have read. Having been a public school teacher he offers a unique insight to the problems in our schools. I have my own issues with public school, mostly from my experiences in them or from tales I have heard told by others. It is enlightening to read the perspective of a man who not only attended public schools, but taught in them for 30 years as well. His
"Underground History of American Education" (which you can read online if you click the link) is just epic. It is a huge book which explains exactly how the public schools came to be the way they are. If I believed in such things, I would make it required reading by all Americans. As I don't believe anyone should be required to do anything, I strongly suggest everyone read it.

Here is something else interesting he wrote about what he "taught" as a teacher:

"The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong."
"The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch."
"The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command."
"The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study."
"In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth."
"In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched."
"The seventh lesson I teach is that you can't hide."

Frightening isn't it? But think back to your own schooling (if you went to public school). Doesn't it apply?

I hope maybe I have inspired someone who has never read Gatto to look him up. And if you have read his books, definitely get his new one.

I leave you with some of my favorite quotes, (one of my favorites is in my sidebar).

"I've come to believe that genius is an exceedingly common human quality, probably natural to most of us... I began to wonder, reluctantly, whether it was possible that being in school itself was what was dumbing them down. Was it possible I had been hired not to enlarge children's power, but to diminish it? That seemed crazy on the face of it, but slowly I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to *prevent* children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior."

– John Taylor Gatto

"By preventing a free market in education, a handful of social engineers - backed by the industries that profit from compulsory schooling: teacher colleges, textbook publishers, materials suppliers, et al. - has ensured that most of our children will not have an education, even though they may be thoroughly schooled."

– John Taylor Gatto

"Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent: nobody talks to them anymore, and without children and old people mixing in daily life, a community has no future and no past, only a continous present.

~John Taylor Gatto

"Schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.

~John Taylor Gatto

10 May 2009

Sunday Night Muttering

I've been missing my email from LunaNina, so I haven't muttered in a few weeks. I've missed that random, free-flowing thought process, so here goes:

  1. Again :: And again, and again, and again!

  2. Shower :: Rain or bathroom?

  3. Flirting :: with my hubby

  4. Moving on :: up, to the east side, to a deluxe apartment, in the sky

  5. Rachel :: Carson, Ray, Green

  6. Chips :: when the chips are down (what does that really mean anyway?)

  7. Texting :: I don't do it

  8. Feel better :: I wish I did

  9. Cashmere :: Sweater.....poor little goaties

  10. Sucked :: it up!
Ok, those were lame answers, I think I am rusty. Want to try muttering yourself?

08 May 2009


We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
~Stacia Tauscher

I belong to several yahoo chat groups on unschooling. We have recently been discussing this article: Kindergarten Cram. If you don't feel like going to the link, the gist of it is Kindergartner's are now suffering through homework and testing. Egads!

Kindergarten is from the German meaning children's garden. What does one think of when they think of a child's garden? I know I think of trees and flowers and children running and playing, maybe stopping to pick and smell of the flowers, maybe trying to climb some of the trees. Maybe chasing each other and playing tag, or even having a picnic. I certainly don't think of little bodies stuffed into desks listening to some teacher drone on and on about their next testing session.

When I was old enough for Kindergarten both of my parents worked. I went to a normal public school Kindergarten (PS 98 in NYC) for about 3 weeks before my mother realized she could not work with the 1/2 day schedule. I don't remember too much about it other than the 2 1/2 hours going by very quickly. I don't remember going outside much, but it was right in the heart of Manhattan, so I can see why.

After realizing Kindergarten wouldn't work for me, I was put into a daycare center. I loved it there. I was in the class with the other "big" kids. Those of us who should have been in Kindergarten but weren't. I remember being one of the first kids dropped off in the morning and one of the last picked up at the end of the day. But I didn't mind it too much, I had a lot of fun there.

Those of us who were early arrivals got to eat breakfast at the center. I remember they used to let me eat bowls of peanut butter for breakfast. No one thought it was weird, no one shamed me, they just let me eat my bowl of peanut butter. I also remember they had a big table that they filled with sand in the cold months and water in the warmer months. Sand and water fun INSIDE! How cool was that! We used to make our afternoon snack together in the mornings, sometimes pudding, sometimes cookies. It was a fun thing to look forward to each morning knowing we would get to eat our creations that afternoon. We had our own cubbies and our own pillow and blanket for our nap time each afternoon. No one forced us to nap, if we weren't sleepy we just needed to have quiet time. Thinking back on all of this, I can't help but think that maybe some of my unschooling tendencies were quietly planted in my little head while at this daycare center. I think for 1973 they were definitely ahead of their time in their approach to children. But it was NY.

Finally, my most favorite memory of this center was the roof. Being NY, land is a premium and while there are plenty of parks, not too many were at schools, especially small private daycare centers. So they put a big chain link fence around the roof and built a huge playground up there. We had slides and swings and monkey bars and see saws and a sand box and it was all on the roof. And we got to go up there twice each day. Once in the morning and once after lunch. Even in the snow. I don't remember having to sit and "learn" something everyday while there, but I am sure learning took place. It was just in such a fun and free environment it happened naturally. Imagine that, learning being fun!

My own girls went to Montessori for Kindergarten. Montessori is also a very free environment. My girls loved it there. They too got to bake and create and go outside and just be kids in that environment. Their teachers were loving and genuinely cared about each child. That is what Kindergarten should be. I actually would prefer that Kindergarten didn't exist. Had I known about homeschooling/unschooling when my girls were little, they might not have gone to Montessori, but I can at least rest in knowing that by going I did them no harm. I am very glad I didn't subject them to public school Kindergarten, at least not what passes for Kindergarten today. Parents need to take back the schools. They need to do what is in the best interest of their children. Children need to play, they need to observe the world around them, they need to get outside and be in touch with nature. They don't need to be stuffed into desks in airless classrooms listening to some person who just wants to make it through her day drone on and on about meaningless drivel. Let our little ones be free. I can dream can't I?

You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.
~Jean-Jacques Rousseau~

05 May 2009

People Annoy Me

I know I shouldn't let little things bother me, but they do, especially when my hormones are active!

One of biggest pet peeves is people who talk on their cell phone and drive. I'm sorry, but unless it's an emergency, you don't need to be on the phone while you drive. I want you watching the road, holding the wheel, making sure you know how to work the gas and brake, not making a nail appointment or chit chatting about what your daughter is wearing to the prom. Especially if you are in front of me. Especially if you pull out in front of me and have no clue what the speed limit is.

Tonight, on my way home from the grocery store this very thing happened. A woman (men do it too, so you're not off the hook) pulled out in front of me. I was close enough that I had to slam on the brakes. Then she proceeded to drive about 10 miles per hour under the limit, and of course she was on her phone. I had my window open, so I screamed "Hang up and drive!" but I don't think she heard me. And thankfully I only had to follow her 1/2 a mile or so before I had to turn off, or some severe road rage may have ensued.

I am pretty Libertarian in my views, I am ok to live and let live most of the time and I don't think we need a law for everything, BUT............I am ok with laws banning cell phones while driving. I think it makes perfect sense. One really should be concentrating on the road, there are so many idiot drivers out there, even if you are one, you should be watching out for the other ones. I know when I am talking on the phone at home I've burned dinner, I've ignored my children and I can even miss 1/2 of what Sonny says on General Hospital. So how is it if I miss all these things while talking on the phone at home that I would be perfectly fine talking while driving? It isn't, and I don't care who you are (channeling Larry the cable guy), you get distracted while talking on the phone. So don't talk and drive dammit! But if you decide to anyway, watch out for the pms'ing woman in the blue van, and whatever you do, do not pull out in front of her while on your cell phone. You may be sorry.

Oh, wouldn't the world seem dull and flat with nothing whatever to grumble at?

~W.S. Gilbert

04 May 2009

Happy Birthday to My Hubby John!

We know we're getting old when the only thing we want for our birthday is not to be reminded of it.
~Author Unknown~

It's my DH's birthday today. A ripe old 55 years today. In case anyone wasn't aware, he is a tad bit older than me.

Last year I wrote out 54 things I love about my DH for his birthday. I'm sure they'd all be the same if I did it again, so I won't.

I know he reads this blog, even though he never comments. So, John, I just want you to know that I hope you had a great 54th year and I wish for only better things for the both us during your 55th. I Love You : )

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.
~Martin Luther~

02 May 2009

May! When Did May Get Here?

Seriously, when is this time thing going to slow down a bit? It's like ever since I turned 40 I have gone over the top of the hill, and I am literally racing down the other side.

I had big plans of being a part of NaBloPoMo this month, but seeing as it is already May 2nd, I've already blown it. I guess I can strive for June, and with the way the months have been flipping by me, it will be here before I know it anyway.

We had a major milestone yesterday in our family....my eldest "graduated" from 8th grade. For regular readers, you know we unschool, so I use the term graduate loosely. It was really, to us, more of a rite of passage than a graduation, but we participated with our homeschooling co-op, and I don't think my idea of a rite of passage ceremony instead of a graduation ceremony would have gone over too well. So a graduation it was. I do plan to blog about it and put up pictures. Hopefully tomorrow.

Right now I just felt the need to check in to my poor neglected blog. Life's been busy the last few weeks, I think things will slow down a bit for us now heading into summer. Maybe I will feel time slow down a bit too, at least I hope so.