Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lone Star Girl Guaranteed Tuition

I just got a letter in the mail from the Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan stating that our contract is paid in full.  Four years (128 credit hours) of tuition and required fees at any state university in Texas, starting in 2014.  I feel like crying.  I haven't done many things in my life that move us along that road to real financial security, but I did this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

We Have Chapter Books!

Last night, the Lone Star Baby (aged six years, one month, two weeks and change, starting first grade in the fall) read her first real chapter book that she read all by herself and quietly to herself -  and loved it.

Both of my girls started reading at around three and a half in Montessori (which is not as extraordinary in Montessori as out as the Montessori method accesses a different neural path that seems to be ready earlier - it's no big thing) and both started reading short easy-reader type books at around four and a half, a little before for the Lone Star Girl who was only dealing in one language, and a little after for the Lone Star Baby with two.  After that, though, both girls got a little stuck in a phase where they were not that excited about reading because the stories they could read themselves were so simplistic and boring compared to the sort of books they could understand when we read to them. 

When the Lone Star Girl was in the first grade, her teacher gave her a Magic Treehouse book as a present at Christmas time.  She didn't really try to read it unil the school year was almost over, but once she did, she was hooked.  Right away, she became a real reader, reading many, many Magic Treehouse books as well as those Secret of Droon books when we found them, which she liked even more.  By second grade, she could read anything.  By fourth grade, she was reading at "12th grade +" level, the highest they tested at, and occasionally liked to read a little string theory.  It all started with Magic Treehouse, books she wouldn't have been able to pay me to read to her, but that she enjoyed immensely.

My niece is going into second grade in the fall and has been reading Magic Treehouse books this past school year.  I have suggested them to the Lone Star Baby a few times, but she resisted until she saw her cousin reading them this week.  We picked up a new one for the Lone Star Niece and the first one for the Lone Star Baby day before yesterday.  Last night, the story hooked her and she read until she fell asleep somewhere around Chapter Seven.  This morning, she read in bed until she finished.  Yes!  She's hooked!  The dance of being a true reader begins!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Girls Rule

The Lone Star Girl just finished reading Lord of The Flies for summer reading.  She's astounded that the big boys couldn't be bothered to look after the little ones.  She said none of that mess would have happened if the kids were girls instead of boys - that even the cattiest alpha girls would have been all about looking after the little bitty girls, no question.  She says that even if there were no little girls to look after, the mean girls may have enslaved other girls but wouldn't have hunted them down and killed them.  She has a point....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sea Turtle Hatchling Release and Other Adventures!

Cousin Camp started yesterday when the Lone Star Niece joined us for her week-long visit in the afternoon.  We had First Day School, came home for lunch, tie-dyed shirts, had an impromptu family rock band experience, played outside, watched a movie, had dinner, read bedtime chapters and went to bed.  A great start!

Today, though - today has been amazing!  Thanks to a tip from a friend sojourning with our Quaker Meeting as she volunteers working with Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, we got up in the very, very early morning and went to the Padre National Seashore and watched a release of newly hatched baby sea turtles making their way across the beach to the ocean.  They were so itty bitty and adorable!  It was great!  Then we got breakfast and spent the morning at the beach - it was a gorgeous day.  We came home after 1pm for showers and a late lunch and now the girls are having their reading time before we do our daily craft.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

First Day School: Service Ethic And Creation

We are running behind my planned schedule of lessons this summer, having been traveling on a few of our Meeting days, and it sounds like the clerk kind of wants to take August off, so we may end up more behind - we'll see.  We're going to "go with the flow", as my youngest says.

In the teen class day, we started our unit on Unitarians, Humanists and Quakers, with the theme, in this UU curriculum I am using,  of service as a shared value between the groups.  We basically read about the background of the three groups today and talked about values.  We still have not made our Anabaptist visits - there never seems to be time. 

The little ones had a lesson on Creation and a lesson on Adam and Eve, using some Godly Play-based materials and midrashim from Does God Have A Big Toe?  It went well.  We're going to follow up with reading Before There Was A Before and When The Beginning Began and then it's on to Noah's ark.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mamaphiles #4 - Raising Hell!

My copy of Mamaphiles #4 arrived.  It rocks so much - parenting is all about hell-raising, one way or another.  It's all big with a flat spine like a book - a really small book.  It includes my essay, Reading The Revolution At Bedtime and 33 more fabulous essays by mama and papa zine writers.  Order it here!  You must read it!  Truly!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Linguistic Differences

The girls have been arguing about how to say "blue jeans" in Spanish.  The Lone Star Baby is truly bilingual, which none of the rest of us are.  Lone Star Pa has pretty much no Spanish to speak of, I have a minor in it from college back in the cretaceous period and the Lone Star Girl has taken a rather unimpressive Spanish class every year in school and then completed Spanish I in 8th grade this past year.

The story is this:  apparently the Lone Star Girl's ghetto Spanish book from last year uses "los jeans" for blue jeans, an obvious little bit of Spanglish there.  I believe we just said "pantalones azul" in my day and had done with it.  The Lone Star Baby is incensed at "los jeans".  Having been taught primarily by an obviously well off and well-educated family from Mexico who run her old school, she simply has different standards.  She would say "pantalones azul" herself and clearly thinks her sister is being a peasant.

Recently, the Lone Star Girl decided to look it up in Google Translator or some such new-fangled authority and it told them "pantalones vaqueros" (cowboy pants).  The Lone Star Baby found this quite humorous and feels she has been vindicated in believing that "los jeans" was inaccurate.

My kids are a riot.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

She's Wired

Today, Lone Star Pa and I purchased a little netbook  for the Lone Star Girl for high school - a very early birthday present.  We have been finding that all three of us sharing a computer is hard for quite awhile now and I expect high school will make it more so.  She's very happy!  Thank heavens for Best Buy's 18 months no interest deals...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Last summer when we raised painted lady butterflies from caterpillars, we hoped that they would lay their eggs on the yummy-to-painted-lady-caterpillars plants we planted in the butterfly garden so that we would be able to find the caterpillars there and put them back in the butterfly bungalow and raise more.  That happened at the Lone Star Baby's school when they raised monarchs and planted milkweed.  We never found any second-generation caterpillars of that sort, though, which was a little disappointing at first, but....

we have so many butterflies!  The caterpillars must be sneaky because there are just butterflies everywhere.  I love, love, love to watch them.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Deep South Meanderings

After collecting the Girl from camp yesterday, we had lunch in a Dennys' in Brownsville or thereabouts and then went driving around the town since we don't want to be out on the open road not near any hospitals too soon after the Girl eats anything, just in case.  Lone Star Pa got us pretty lost but managed to find his way back to 77 eventually.  We stopped at a mall at the Girl's request and wandered around a bit (I bought my $30 wedding dress in a mall in that part of the state years ago and was wondering if it was the same mall, but didn't think so).  By then it was time to hit the road.  

I realized on the way up that hitting cool Valley fruit stands is not going to be something we can do anymore because they are all hung with net bags of pecans everywhere (shiver) - something I never noticed as a young woman not preoccupied with food allergies.

The scenery along 77 is really beautiful - cactus and sunflowers, all kinds of brush, strangely transplanted palm tress and, best of all, the resacas.  

The Lone Star Girl had some questions for us after we passed through a border check point with drug dogs - she wants to know what criteria besides drugs get people searched or questioned more thoroughly than we were - we explained racial profiling, eye contact and body language, etc.  She is incensed on behalf of other people who get messed with - that's our Girl.

This wasn't the Lone Star Baby's  most well-behaved car trip.  She seriously needs to sleep later in the mornings.  There were horses and cows and wheat fields for her to point out, though.

We stopped at a remarkably clean rest stop just north of Kleburg County.   I wonder how those things get kept more clean than public restrooms at places that have staff cleaning every day.  They must get cleaned pretty often but I wonder by who since they are so scattered about.  It had a climbing structure and a historical marker from what we like to join our neighbors in referring to as the War of American Imperialism.  Lots of rest stops were made by the WPA but this one looked like it was just made by the highway department.

Near the rest stop, there is also a gas station and convenience store that is big for big trucks.  The Lone Star Girl is very into convenience stores and this one is something she really looks forward to on the trip.  She kept exclaiming that it had produce (!) and books (!) - her own personal field trip.

We got home pretty late but it was nice to spend the day together on the road, heading home.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Return of The Girl

We traveled to camp to collect our Lone Star Girl today.   They had a cool closing ceremony with songs and skits and a flag ceremony.  It is so good to see her!  

She had a wonderful time and is happy and healthy.  They took good care of her.  

The camp counselors and staffers kept telling me how incredibly sweet she is when I thanked them.  Usually we get more compliments about her like "so smart", "such passion", so I was impressed.  They also said that her group were the best C.I.T.'s ever.  She'd gotten attached to the Brownies and is looking forward to being a counselor for them at camps this next year.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Daughter Update

The Lone Star Baby got a sunny letter from her sister at camp today.  Huzzah!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vacation Bible School

Youngest is attending Vacation Bible School at our next door neighbors' Methodist Church every evening this week.  They are super nice and the program is really fun for the kids.  I am not impressed with the theology of it, but I am not concerned either after the part I was concerned about last year was presented in such a confusing way that the kids did not notice it at all.  Last year they did Moses and this year they are basically doing the Acts of the Apostles - Peter and Paul, John, etc.  I am glad enough for her to get a quick swipe of this part of the Bible as I had decided not to follow up our parable (and seasonal life and death of Christ) lessons with the Paul stuff since Paul is really not my homeboy.  

I know it's not really fair to blame the Apostles for being still somewhat products of their time but it hurts me to see hate and bigotry seep into the teachings of the New Testament as it does in the parts that come after the Gospels. I have to appreciate the Apostles' evangelism somewhat (I guess) as I suppose we would never have heard about Jesus without it, but that's about as far as I can take it.   So it's anyways good to have someone else with less loaded feelings about the topic giving the Lone Star Baby a quick Mickey Mouse exposure to it before we move on.

At any rate, she's having lots of fun with all the crafts and games and songs.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Counselor-In-Training (Needed)

On Sunday we dropped the Lone Star Girl off at Girl Scout camp for a week to learn how to be a CIT (Counselor-In-Training).  Unlike the forty-minutes-away Camp Greenhill, where she spent a few week-long summer sessions when she was younger, this camp is about three hours away.  She has been there before for weekend camps, but only with the whole troop, including me or her former troop leader.  Also unlike those pre-adolescent sessions, she now has anaphylactic allergies and asthma to consider.  Letting her do stuff like this is a whole lot scarier now, and it is pretty impossible to know exactly how ready someone is for how much responsibility when you throw in a condition like hers.  I know she will have to deal with all of these things on her own as an adult, so I know she needs practice, but you really don't want to make a mistake on the timing of the responsibilities when the stakes are so high.

That said, I trust the Girl Scout camp staff more than anyone (besides the allergist) when it comes to these matters.  They have shown a level of awareness and a willingness to take things seriously and Be Prepared that far outshines my experiences with anyone else at all, including family members with medical backgrounds.  I know they have covered all that can be covered.  As I handed over gobs of medicine and explained procedures at check-in, they were all like "Bye, Mom".  Firmly.  They already had it under control.   I think we were out of there in under 20 minutes. 

I miss my Girl but I expect she's having lots of fun.  Her sister and I have each sent her three letters and we will travel to collect her on Saturday. 

I know these next four years are going to be, even more than the years that came before, an endless stream of practicing-being-on-her-own experiences so that she's ready to take on the world on her own terms by the end of high school.  It's terrifying and heart-wrenching and beautiful.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Las Brisas Hearing Should Be In Corpus

Please write to or call the SOAH judges and ask them to move the venue of the September Hearing  on the Las Brisas Energy Plant Air Permit #85013 from Austin to Corpus to give the citizens most affected a fair chance at input:

Judge Tommy Broyles
PO Box 13025
Austin, Texas 78711-3025
Phone: (512) 475-4993

Judge Craig Bennett

PO Box 13025
Austin, Texas 78711-3025
Phone: (512) 475-4993

Monday, July 05, 2010

Poetry Published!

My Melon Bellybutton poem is published at Vox Poetica today in the Today's Words section.  Tomorrow it will be in the Poemblog section.  Please read it!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The High Cost of C-Sections

Good op-ed by Judy Norsigian and Timothy R.B. Johnson in the Boston Globe.

My Awesome Couch

Road Mama and the Road Daughters

The girls and I headed north to San Antonio on Tuesday morning and stopped at the Denny's by the Riverwalk mall for brunch, which got us two hours of free parking, as well.  While I like to find funky little independent places (with food that has actual flavor) to eat at while "traveling" (we never go very far from the I-37/I-35 corridor), the Girl's food allergies have pretty much put an end to that.  There are a couple of independent restaurants here in town that I trust in so much as one can trust anyone with these things, but it mainly has to be the big bad chains for us, because they have allergen menus and/or big enough kitchens and training to make it work.  Anyways, this Denny's was super nice and helpful.  We headed over to the mall for the Dinosaur-Quest exhibit that my neighbor had told me about.  Lots of dinosaur skeletons for the six-year-old paleontologist-in-training and a chatty paleontologist who gave her his card.  Very cool.  Then we moved the car (there is a $2 -per-day lot under a bridge off Houston Street by a Red Roof Inn) and walked back to the mall as a pass-through to the Riverwalk and took the boat ride - third time for the Lone Star Baby and it still thrills her.

We drove on towards Austin and supped at a Whataburger (grilled cheese) a bit south of the city.  Then we continued on and found the Ramada Inn near Yager Ln.  without any trouble and the LSB commenced her new (but short-lived) Disney Channel addiction extravaganza.  I have to give props to this hotel.  It was inexpensive as clean and safe lodgings go ($45.99 per night), totally clean and I, as a woman alone with children, felt totally safe there. They were not polite when I tried to get some not-yet-in-the-common-container-near-the-nut-cereals milk to use on the cereal and bananas I'd packed for breakfast, but people outside of the medical and restaurant industries are so uninformed about the seriousness of cross-contamination issues that one could hardly expect helpfulness there, I guess.  Milkless, we went to another Denny's  for breakfast on Wednesday (the one near St. John's Avenue and an Exxon, not the one more South that is by a Starbucks - the one by the Starbucks is filthy; we have never yet figured out how to get off the freeway at the right time to access the other little diner-y looking one off the freeway), which was also super nice and helpful.  I guess Denny's has gotten over its past issues with racism, thank heavens, because all the ones we have gone to are filled with very diverse patrons and staff.  I have noticed, though, that people north of San Antonio look at you a little funny if you are a white person whose speech is interspersed with bits of Spanish like gracias and si.  We in South Texas will have to help yankees adjust to the future in which we will all speak Spanglish, apparently.  That's okay - we like to help. 

Wednesday was about the TCEQ meeting in the main and I posted about that yesterday.  We also wandered through the big, giant Whole Foods on Lamar and BookPeople, two of our required urban hippie family field trip stops.  I was not about to try to find MonkeyWrench Books without help, given my sense of direction, and wasn't likely to enjoy BookWoman without LSP along to wrangle the LSB, so that was really enough.  We found a treenut and seafood-free Chipotle's for dinner and played Follow The Leader in its shopping center for awhile before heading back to the hotel for another Disney Channel extravaganza (that Phineus and Ferb show is kind of cute), while I made phone calls to family.

Thursday morning, we checked out of the hotel, gassed up and munched dry cereal on our way to the state capitol building for a self-guided ramble culminating in the thrilling purchase of a piece of granite for the LSB which led to running all over the complex pointing out what buildings, sidewalk sections and monument bases were made of granite.  We found a clean and helpful IHOP in Kyle or someplace near there for lunch (something I would not have expected possible based upon my past experiences with our local IHOP) and then drove South to the Natural Bridge Caverns.  The Lone Star Girl and I visited all of Texas' show caves (that had tours then) when she was between the ages of 4-8 and adored it  This was the Lone Star Baby's first cave tour and I think we will make the circuit for her, too, because she really loved it (and loved buying fossils and stones in the gift shop).  Then we drove home, experiencing a scary patch of rain that convinced me to pull over until visibility was restored right before reaching the city limits.  Now we are home.

A really great vacation, in spite of the TCEQ Commissioners, the storm and other unbloggable complicating factors!  We enjoyed it!

Friday, July 02, 2010

TCEQ Meeting in Austin

The girls and I attended the TCEQ Meeting in Austin on Wednesday with a room full of other concerned citizens.  "Our side" was only given twelve minutes to speak, so it was the lawyers and physicians who spoke.  They did an excellent job, especially Dr. Stafford, and the Commissioners seemed to ignore them entirely.  Rather than focusing on the pollution and the severe health threats that this plant would bring to our community, they focused on technicalities in the permit.  They did not issue or deny the permit, but remanded it to the SOAH judges, giving LBEC another chance - one with less chance of public participation - to prove that they aren't going to kill us.   They gave the SOAH judges four months to rule on new evidence.

At least they didn't issue the permit.

The fight continues.