Saturday, January 30, 2010

America del Sur

Cien Dias de Escuela (aluminum tabs)

Grrrl Power, LSG Style

The Lone Star Girl found out a few days ago that the Mayor was scheduled to come speak to the Career Club at her school before school yesterday.  She promptly began passing out informational pamphlets about Las Brisas at school and made posters at home at night.  Yesterday, she took the posters and some anti-Las Brisas stickers to school.  She and her friends wore the stickers and held the posters and waited politely for the Mayor to finish his presentation on his career and call for questions.  Then they asked some.

After she asked one question about Las Brisas, the faculty and staff and the Career Club guy wouldn't let her ask any more questions, even when the Mayor tried to call on her because no one else had their hand up.  She was upset because other kids got to ask multiple questions about other topics and the Mayor got to tell alot of lies about Las Brisas after her question without her being able to follow up with questions that would set the record straight.  She was afraid that people who didn't know the truth would believe him.  

After the presentation was over and  everyone else was interested in cake, she went over and thanked the Mayor for coming and talking to them.  She tried then to ask why he would not listen to the Nueces County Medical Society about the health risks Las Brisas would pose to vulnerable children and the new assistant principal made her leave.  

See, I thought public schools existed to prepare children to be participating members of our representative democracy.   

I am proud of my girl.  She planned her action all by herself and inspired other young citizens.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Montessori Baby On First Grade In The Fall

"When I go to my new school, will I just sit and answer things or will I get up and do work?"

(We don't know.  We don't know where she's going yet.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day Shelter Field Trip

Today the Daisy Girl Scouts (and the feeling-better LSG, who is their program aide, and who was representing her troop) took the donations of toiletries that both troops collected to the Mother Teresa Shelter, a day shelter for people who are homeless.  I expected the girls would drop the donations off and get a tour and an explanation of what the shelter does, but things worked out a little differently.  The people using the shelter congregate right in the room that you first walk into, so the shelter staff looked at the girls with their boxes and asked if they wanted to walk around and pass out the toiletries.  We said okay (what could you say?) and the girls casually walked around the room of people sitting at tables and held out the boxes of toothbrushes , combs and deodorants so that the people could sift through them and take what they needed.  The girls, as usual, were cheerful and calm about all this.  They are not shy.

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of charitable efforts where the people who collect donations have to personally hand it to the people who need it.  It's good for the giver but I worry that it can embarrass the person who is receiving the donation sometimes.  I think programs like that are often in place to make the people who are giving feel good more than to help and I have issues with that, so I would not have planned things this way.

Still, it's kind of different with the Daisy Girl Scouts.  I think all the people in the shelter could see the value of teaching little kindergarteners to be charitable in a casual, natural way and didn't mind being part of that.   They seemed to enjoy seeing the cute kids as they walked their boxes around.  They could see those of us who were chaperoning our kids more as people there to teach the kids than as people there to give stuff to them.  I don't think they felt uncomfortable around us.  I definitely think it was good for the girls to see how different people live and for the people who they are helping to be real to them.  We are trying hard to teach them the value of service while they are still so young and their minds so absorbent.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Global Rich List

See how your income compares to the rest of the world here - the results may surprise you.  It definitely offers some much-needed (by me) perspective.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January YA Pick: Marcelo In the Real World

I can't quite remember where I recently read  that Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco X. Stork was An Especially Good YA Novel, but I did read it somewhere and then saw the book at the library and remembered what I had read and checked it out.  It is, indeed, Especially Good.  So much so that now I have the Girl reading it and she actually will, even though I recommended it.  

The story is about 17-year-old Marcelo who has a condition that is not easily diagnosed, but that is similar to Asperger's Syndrome in that he has a special interest (God) and has difficulty decoding social behavior.  He is able to function very well regardless of his differences and has a rich inner life and important relationships with his mother, sister, his school and a religious mentor.  His doctor and family know that he could have managed at a regular school but he has been allowed to blossom in the shelter of a special school where he has not been forced to adapt to "the real world" at a rate that is disorienting to him.  Having secured a summer job in the stables at his school, he is looking forward to working with the ponies there.  His father has always wanted him to go to a regular school and wants him to do so for his senior year in high school, which Marcelo definitely does not want to do.  Marcelo's father makes a bargain with him that Marcelo may choose where to go to school for his senior year if he works successfully in the mail room at the father's  law office over the summer to gain some experience in "the real world".  Marcelo is very unhappy to miss his summer with the ponies but realizes that the summer job his father insists upon is his only way to get back to the ponies for his senior year so he agrees. 

Marcelo learns a number of unfortunate things about how "the real world" works - including about how his father works - in the course of his summer job.  He also learns that he has the power to make a difference for people who are in need, and that he can only really make that difference if chooses to face the real world.  He learns courage and compassion beyond his years.

It is a moving story.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Marching Girls

Two of my Cadettes and two of my Daisy Girl Scouts, including my own girls, marched in the annual, local march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today.  It was the first time (because we were sick last year) that the Lone Star Baby actually marched on her own feet in the march instead of being in the stroller.  We have to raise them up marching if we want them to do it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Annie World

The Lone Star Girl is not that thrilled to be playing a mere orphan, Pepper,  in her school's production of Annie.  As an eighth grader, she had hoped for a larger role, but she can't much sing which limits what she can do in musicals.  Still, she takes it very seriously.  The soundtrack of Annie can be heard at all times around here and the movie is often playing.  The Lone Star Baby (who can sing) has taken to singing all the songs, like some sort of tiny piping background music.  This happened last year with Alice, also.  It's rather cute.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Geography Baby

Lone Star Baby: (out of the blue) Archipelago.
Me:  Archipelago?
LSB:  No.  Archipelago (correcting my pronunciation, but I'm right).   It's a group of islands.

I definitely didn't know that when I was five.  Where does she get this stuff?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baby Bloom

The Lone Star Baby and I were getting out of Roseanne (my trusty Corolla) today at the same time that the assistant teacher from her class was getting out of her car with her toddler.  This teacher has only been at the school for a few months and, although her English is beautiful, it is clearly not her first language.  She stopped to let me know that Marigold "is a good kid".  She tried to clarify what she meant - not that Marigold is smart or that she behaves well for them, both things that they have often told me - but that she is good inside, "in her feelings", the teacher said.  She searched for the words to explain to me that she thought this was the most important thing - being a good person - more important than all of Marigold's academic skills or compliance at school.  I tried to smile and thank her for the compliment politely instead of crying with joy like a sentimental mess.  The Lone Star Baby really is a good little person and we are so proud of her.

The Case For Economic Rights

Great article by Michael Lind on  I agree with him.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Feliz Dia de Los Reyes Magos

Happy Epiphany!

This morning, before school, our plastic Magi and their plastic animals made it to the cardboard stable inhabited by the plastic Holy Family.  Tonight (after picking up the little one and making dinner and packing lunches but before heading out again to meet with parents about cookie season), we had our little family Epiphany party.  The Lone Star Girl made the cake last night - cinnamon.  We had it with Mexican Chocolate ice cream (more cinnamon!) and she found the baby so she was the Queen and I told her she had to make the cake again next year.  The girls opened their Epiphany presents - art supplies for the Lone Star Baby and a Buffy calendar for the Lone Star Girl.

When I got back from the cookie permission form signing and information session, I could not find our copy of Dance In The Desert, which I like to read on Epiphany, even though it is set somewhat later, during the Holy Family's flight to Egypt.  I guess I will need to get another copy before next Epiphany.  We just read regular bedtime stories instead:  Chrysanthemum, and we began Little House In The Big Woods, because Santa brought the Lone Star Baby the early years collection of Little House books for Christmas.  Pa is already skinning and smoking the deer.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


When I was the still the parent of just one young child in elementary school, I used to say that your parenting was likely to get results for what you focus on most.  I said it with more confidence than I would make any such statement now that I am a more veteran parent.  I know now that I do not parent my children in a vacuum, that they are who they are from the start in many ways and that we control very little that actually happens on this complex and spinning wonder that we call Earth.  I wouldn't make many universal statements now much beyond "love good" and "hate and violence bad".  Even then, there would be qualifiers.

That said, things have turned out pretty much as I expected they would with the Girl when I said things like that back then.  Except that my expectations were cerebral and reality is emotional - very, very emotional.  Emotional in bad ways and good ways. Very.  Both.

Back then, I was talking about my basic philosophy of parenting, which I would call values-based, if we must be like that.  My philosophy hasn't really changed - just my whole idea of results.  I no longer count on results, even though I have gotten them.  I fully realize that the results may have happened for reasons having nada to do with my parenting - there are too many variables even in our neurology, and certainly too many in the wide world to believe that we can have a real handle on cause and effect.  I know now that the chaos comes anyway.  No matter what you do, it comes.  Parent for love, parent for hope - don't attach yourself to results:  that's what I feel we should probably do, if we could, which I can't usually.


Back then, I used to read the studies on parenting styles - all about whether people were authoritarian, authoritative or permissive (you wanted to be authoritative, the research said).  I knew, though, that my parenting wasn't a good match to any of the three - I was all over the grid.  This can suggest that one is too flustered to have a parenting style but that wasn't it - I knew my parenting always had a unifying theme; it just wasn't about control, being firm but fair or being fun and cool either.  It was about my values.    I have always been very permissive about some things and downright authoritarian about others.  I don't believe kids can get a strong message of what's important to you if your style is the same for everything.  I figure there is no room to sweat the small stuff because the big stuff will take all of my effort to impart.  I am intense about kindness, compassion and social responsibility.  I am loose about messes, etiquette and matching clothes.  For a start.

Sure enough, years later, the Lone Star Girl is kind, compassionate and socially responsible.  Sure enough, she is messy, annoying, loud (and possessed of terrible table manners).  She often embarrasses me.  Other kids seem so much more neat and polite and appropriate alot of the time.

Guess what, though?

Few of the polite and well-dressed kids seem able to articulate any clear values.  They don't stand for anything or stand up for anything much of the time.  They are more interested in clothes and purses (or, for the artsy ones, music and shows and comics) than in cleaning up the contaminated land that makes little children sick or in eating low enough on the food chain that there is enough food for everyone.  They are very much about appearances and entertainments.

Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed by my considerable duties these days in my role as the Manners Police that I forget that a lovely and polite child who doesn't care deeply for humanity is not what I wanted anyway.

And sometimes my Girl reminds me.

Last night, she firmly but appropriately pinned down the State Toxicologist from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at a meeting about what sort of study the TCEQ would do in Hillcrest to determine the contaminants in the neighborhood.  It has been amply proved that the soil and water in Hillcrest are contaminated with all kinds of nasty things and that the blood of the people there is similarly contaminated.  Still more study is needed, they say, to prove that permits were violated, so that anything can be done.

She told him it didn't matter if the permits were violated.  The state of the area was a fact and if the permits that the TCEQ was issuing were resulting in that, why were they issuing them?  Shouldn't they have higher standards?  That man gulped and shook a little and said they would have to agree to disagree, that he thought their permits included safe parameters.  He knew she was right.  He knew he was lying.  Everyone did.  He was ashamed to lie to her.  Her eyes blazed with the righteousness of the Light.  She was magnificent.

So many adults came by to tell her, as they left, how well she had spoken.  They were proud to have her among them.  Her young Light was a great hope to them, a future.  Days like that make me want to retire as the Manners Police.  They make me remember that we always wanted a Girl just like this one.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Bluebird: Women And The New Psychology of Happiness by Ariel Gore

Ariel Gore is one of my primary writing sheroes.  When I think of the sort of success I would like to aspire to as a writer, it is her kind of success of which I dream.  From her days as a zinester to her days when most of her books were published by a small press to today, when she has a book being published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Ariel has always been everything I aspire to be as a writer.  Her writing is inspiring, compassionate, honest and intelligent.  Intelligent.  It's hard to find writing like that.

Given my bad case of hero worship, I was particularly thrilled when Ariel sent me a review copy of her new book, Bluebird:  Women And The New Psychology of Happiness to read and review on my blog.  I told her my blog only got around ten hits a day, but she sent it anyway, which made me very happy.  If only happiness was always that simple.

Bluebird chronicles Ariel's research on the positive psychology movement, a movement that she found to be rather heavily populated with men at first, men who had strange ideas about how women could find their bliss cleaning toilets.  Fortunately, Ariel found some research done by smart men and by (gasp) actual women as well as that done by delusional men and men living in Privilege Land.  She did her own research, as well, convening a "council of experts", real women who responded to Ariel's questions about happiness from their own life experiences. 

The book chronicles some interesting findings.

 In Bluebird, Ariel Gore intelligently discusses the role of money in happiness (it has one), the role of work, of family, of friends.   She discusses attitude and the role of things that we can and cannot control. She discusses the role of motherhood in the happiness of women.  I was especially interested in the discussion of "flow" experiences.

Bluebird discusses the fact that the same systems of psychology that choose to describe victims in terms of pathology often treat victimizers as perfectly normal. Ariel addresses the fact that certain whole psychological theories seem to be designed to describe women as pathological and to convince us to give up on liberation in favor of medication.  She assures us that we can have happiness and liberty ...  and that we must refuse to be made to choose between the two.

She's right.

Bluebird:  Women And The New Psychology of Happiness is an excellent book for any woman, as well as for men who care about women and society.  It should definitely be a must-read for those psychologists who continue to ignore the possibility of a healthy, free  reality for women.  Bluebird hits the stores on January 19th and can be pre-ordered now.  It's a good read, but it's also an important book.  I highly recommend it.