Saturday, May 31, 2008

I still heart Alice Cooper

'Nough said.

May YA/Upper El Pick: Forever Rose

May's pick is Hilary McKay's Forever Rose, the most recent of her novels about the Casson family. I had thought that this series was over, as the last book, Caddy Ever After, meant that there was a book (also including Saffy's Angel, Indigo's Star and Permanent Rose) for each child of the family. Not so! The last few books have all been mainly from Rose's point of view and now she has another book for herself. Rose is feeling abandoned. Her mother is germy and keeping her distance, her teacher is mean, her father still doesn't live with the family, her oldest sister won't let them know where she is and her other sister and brother are busy. The boy she loves is far away and a boy who annoys her is always there. Rose needs a change. The changes that come are not the ones she expected, though, and teach her that her family's love is still strong and that they always come back to each other.

I adore the fictional Casson family. Their messy, creative, unconventional life is right up our alley.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Texas and The Compounds

So Texas is having to give the kids removed from the polygamist compound back to their parents as there was not enough proof that they were really in immediate danger to remove them. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled so the kids are definitely going home. I was surprised but glad when they were all removed and I am happy for the good families that are getting their kids back now, as many of them surely are good families, but still very worried for the kids.

See...I believe in religious freedom as long as no one is getting hurt and I don't actually have a problem with polygamy as long as it occurs between consenting adults who have little consanguinity (I personally could not hold with a religion that allowed polygamy but not polyandry, but I don't need everyone else to feel that way)...but we know this religious sect has a history of incest and child sexual abuse from way back because enough girls have escaped to tell the tale before they even got to Texas. Does that mean that all of the families allow such atrocities, even in a culture that may be more supportive of such behavior than mainstream culture? Of course not. I feel for those good families whose children have been ripped from them when they were in no real danger of harm...of course I do. I maybe even can identify with them a bit since I belong to a fairly non-mainstream religion myself and have raised my children with non-mainstream values (if on the other side of the spectrum from this group). Also, I am a social worker and former CPS worker, and I knew from the beginning that it was highly irregular for the State to treat that whole compound as one family and remove hundreds of children. I know why they did it, though, and why I am worried that the children are going home.


When I was in college, CPS investigated a weird religious compound in Waco after receiving allegations of child sexual abuse similar to the ones received about this compound. CPS followed the rules they were supposed to follow and looked at the individual families and found no proof that abuse had occurred and left the kids there. Then the kids all burned. To death. All of them. A short time later, I went to graduate school with some of the social workers who had participated in the investigation. Texas social workers aren't going to be able to forget Waco - not ever.

So while removing all those kids may not be legal for some very good reasons, there are also some very good reasons why Texas did it anyways. And there is a generation of social workers in Texas who watch this story with a panicky feeling that we hope those mothers understand. We just care about their children, too.

Swim Stuff

Summer swim league started this week for the Lone Star Girl, on Tuesday night. She'll be getting in a good hour of exercise 4-5 days each week this summer whether she likes it or not, if not more. Last night, I got the Lone Star Baby registered for her swimming lessons, as well - they start next Tuesday. I think she'll have fun.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fancy Fingers

Last weekend, when we were busy, the Lone Star Baby asked me when she could get her fingernails painted. I had not given the matter any thought before, but if this was her heart's desire, I had no real problem with it. I told her we could do it the next (this) weekend. She was so excited. She spent the whole week squealing about it in anticipation and talking about the colors she would choose. On Saturday evening, when I had planned to do them, she fell asleep early and slept through, a rare occurrence. Yesterday, we finally painted her fingernails gold and her toenails pink and she was very, extremely pleased. It was nice to be able to do something so simple that gave this intense little person such pleasure.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Prince Caspian

I took the Lone Star Girl to see the new Narnia movie yesterday afternoon. It was pretty good. It has been five years since the last time I read Prince Caspian and it (as well as The Horse And His Boy) never really stuck in my head as well as the others, so I cannot much speak to how true it was to the text. I certainly do not ever remember Peter being such a whiney-butt or a romantic subtext between Susan and Caspian, but I might be forgetting. It was a good movie anyway, and I thrilled to see noble Reepicheep. We enjoyed it.

There are just scads of movies coming out in the next year that the Lone Star Girl and I want to see. It is almost enough to make me want to revive Daughter And A Movie, but I don't know. One good thing about braces is that movies are cheaper without popcorn!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

B Day

The Lone Star Girl got her braces yesterday. We've had more fun, although she was very good this time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sweeter Mornings

My days often get off to a difficult start with a Lone Star Baby who screams through whichever part of the morning routine is left after one of her secret, tired expectations has not been met, and screams throughout the ride to school. It is enough to jangle a Mama's nerves. Until quite recently, having such a morning might well mean that we also had a wailing, clingng morning drop-off at school...and nothing makes a Mama feel worse than that as she heads off to work.

Lately, though, while the Lone Star Baby is still prone to rough home/car mornings at about her normal rate of 50% of mornings, she seems to be committed to greeting card-sweet drop-offs. At school, she insists upon kisses and hugs and soulful looks and many syrupy-sweet "I love you"s and "good-bye"s. It is a big improvement.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Colonialism Bad

Last week, I kept asking my sixth graders to think back over our study of world history, geography and cultures and try to pick one over-arching theme that impacted the history of all of the culture regions we studied, and is still impacting them today.

One precious little girl raised her hand and answered: The Europeans came in and took everybody's stuff!

I almost shrieked my yes. The one theme I most wanted them to learn. Whew.

Little Goth Girl

My family got miffed with me because I let the Lone Star Girl buy and wear black lipstick, eyeshadow etc. (at home and about - it's not allowed at school). They kept hissing that she is only twelve. I get the twelve part, but do not share their aversion to her baby-goth look. She is into the whole Nightmare Before Christmas motif, although she doesn't really have any such merchandise - just skull shoes and earrings and a little skull person purse and black, fingerless gloves, etc. They want to know why I am encouraging this. Frankly, I want to encourage her to take up any non-hoochie, non-rude style that she will feel motivated to care for...what I am looking for is grooming. We have never been fru-fru people, but my daughter tends to take a lack of attention to appearances to extremes. I worry about cleanliness and birds coming to nest. When the Lone Star Girl is cultivating her goth look, she is taking some care about her grooming and that is all good as far as I am concerned. I am happy that she has her own favored style - whatever it is.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Hey, little buzzy guys: it's only May!

(If I ever had another daughter, I would name her Junebug. Well, Juniper.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ladybug Beach Day

My oldest and youngest brother (all younger) came into town yesterday to help move my sister out of her dorm room and back to Dallas for the summer. We are going to miss her like crazy around here until the fall. It was great to see my brothers, who are all grown up now. I didn't get to visit with them nearly as long as I wanted to, but we did get to take a nice trip to the beach together today, amidst the packing.

The Lone Star Baby has been squealing in gleeful anticipation since I told her earlier this week that we were going to the beach on Sunday. She was so happy! We played in the sand and she jumped the waves in the shallows and went on a long walk with me. We collected bits of sand dollar that were large enough fractions to be impressive, finding several halves and more-than-halves, but no whole ones. One usually has to swim out to the sand bars for those, which we won't be doing. The weird thing was that there were ladybugs all over the beach - crawling everywhere on the wet sand where the wavelets were coming in and out. Since they eat bugs that live on plants, I could not figure out what they were doing on the beach, in constant danger of being washed out to sea. It was weird. Please let me know if you have any information on this sort of ladybug behavior, gentle readers.

The Lone Star Girl likes to go out to the big waves and find a place between where they break in which you can just loll around in the majesty of it like her aunt and I also like to do, so we did a good bit of that with her while Lone Star Pa watched her sister on the beach. It reminds me of the part of the Seal Lullaby by Rudyard Kipling that goes "where billow meets billow, then soft be thy pillow".

My oldest brother and I talked shop a bit and my youngest brother did an expert job of applying sunblock to his little niece, while my sister was her usual wonderful self. It was a nice day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope that all of the mamas who are reading this had a very happy Mother's Day! My sweet daughters made breakfast for me this morning and brought it to me in bed. They have been very sweet today.

I have long felt a leading to organize an annual Mother's Day Peace Festival for my community, but I haven't really had enough time in this season of my life to pull it off. This year, I decided, I would begin - with baby steps that I could handle - to start using Mother's Day as it was originally intended: as a day of activism by mothers for peace and justice. I spread the word on a time and meeting place (by a busy intersection after lunch/brunch time) for a Mother's Day Peace Demonstration. With the Lone Star Girl's help, I made signs that said "Another Mother For Peace", "Forget the Flowers - Moms Want Peace" and "Mothers Want Peace - Not Flowers" and we headed out. We got there first and, as expected, the Lone Star Baby didn't last too long before it was time for Lone Star Pa to take her home, but a couple of other committed souls joined the Lone Star Girl and I and we got a lot of appreciative nods from mothers and others who were driving past us. It was a very small peace vigil, but I felt good to finally do something about my leading and I know our Mother's Day of Peace will grow each year, so I am contented.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Road Trip!

Yesterday evening, after school, Lone Star Pa and I loaded up the car with the children and some clothes and presents and made our way three hours north to San Marcos, home of the eldest of my three younger brothers and his alma mater - Texas State University. We spent the night in several hotel rooms, secured by my sweet step dad and filled with my folks, my sister and brother-in-law and nieces, my cousins and uncle and the closest family friend (youngest brother and sister and more friends were with Johnny in his apartment). This morning, we all attended Johnny's college graduation. He is going to be an elementary school teacher and we are so very proud of him. I am ten years older than he is, and it is still weird to think that these grown siblings are the same people as the babies I held in my arms - and that they don't remember much at all of those years that so shaped me and my love for them.

We had a lovely time with family and now we are home again.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sweetest Mother's Day Program

The Case de Ninos had a Mother's Day Tea today and I took off of work to go. The children filed out one by one and one of the dads took pictures of each mother-child dyad and then the Lone Star Baby led me to my seat, like such a serious hostess, and joined her class in singing to us the most sweetly gorgeous Spanish songs. There was weeping from the mommies. Then our children each brought us a plate of food and a drink that they had lovingly prepared before going back to get their own. We got to sit and eat together and then the Lone Star Baby brought me a flower planted in a ceramic flower pot she had painted. So sweet! I really love that little girl.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Lone Star Baby's Sorrow

I have mentioned before my wonderful friend Aubrey who watches the Lone Star Baby for me on the days when I am working but the Lone Star Baby's school is closed. We were all sad to learn that she is moving away after this school year. I myself will miss her plenty as a friend and it will not be easy to find someone who is such a good babysitter, either. I knew the Lone Star Baby would be disappointed when we told her, and sad, but I had no idea how sad she would be. She has really taken the news hard. We have found her finding corners to lay down and cry about it in on a regular basis. I expected that she would fuss upon hearing the news, but not that she would carry her grief around with her for such a long time. It's very sad.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

End of An Era

I've been reading and re-reading the current issue of Hip Mama, which is the last issue with Ariel Gore as editor. It's a great issue but I can't stop weeping...Ariel will never know how much she has meant to so many mamas who have not felt comfortable with any of the roles offered to us by society at large. Thinking of the zine's being handed off has gotten me re-reading my favorite of Ariel's parenting books, too - The Mother Trip. Still a classic.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

First Day School: Consensus and Comic Books

I am by no means the First Day School teacher I planned to be when a second child joined our Meeting, along with my eldest, who had been the only Quaker child in town at the time. I was so excited about the lessons we would have with two kids in the Meeting instead of just mine. I always meant to be pretty laid back about it and not all bossy and school-ish, but I never expected how laid back I would get.

Our girls were six and nine back then - they are 12 and 15 now. We started with the testimonies, and that went well. We talked about them and made art about them and read stories that exemplified them. Stories became a big theme with us. I read to the girls a lot. I am fond of finding books that are about Quakers in history or in the present, or just that really exemplify Quaker values or challenges, and I am good at finding good ones...reading these books has always gone over well and I still read to the girls a lot.

It was different when I tried to take us on a study of influential Quakers in history and Quaker history itself, though. The girls were willing to listen to some short stuff, but they didn't really want to participate in projects or in-depth exploration on these themes. They wanted to hear the basics and move on - that was not content with which they really wanted to spend time or interact. Over the years, as we started looking at Quaker practices, queries (and even midrashim) and the First Day Schools Peace Quilt project, it became clear to me that the girls did pretty much as they liked. Any efforts by me to persuade them to focus on lessons they were not interested in were met with resistance so quiet and firm and polite and implacable that you would think they were...well...Quakers.

So I pretty much turned it over to them.

The girls and I talked about how Quakers do things by consensus and then we started doing things that way in First Day School ...well, we started accepting that we were already doing things that way and would continue to - I started facing reality and making it official, I suppose. I no longer try very hard to sway them when my ideas are not "the sense of the First Day School" - I have let it go. I still bring the girls ideas and try to help keep them on track - and they often are into my ideas and want me to facilitate things, but more and more often they have their own ideas and their own circuitous ways of doing things. I often feel like the most major slacker First Day School teacher in the world, especially now that I am a public school teacher during the week who does not work in a setting where this sort of consensus-based learning is remotely do-able ... but my learning to be a slacker First Day School teacher instead of a structured one has actually been good for us, I think. The girls are creative and, while they are more slackerly than I might have them be themselves, they come up with insights that are really more germane to what the Light says to them than anything I think I could have done. I wish I could be more like this, more just a guide, at my school, although I've tried and there are, sadly, numerous reasons why I cannot really pull it off there in a constructive way.

I do think the consensus, unschooling sort of First Day School that we have works, though. Right now the girls are studying world religions and doing research on a comic book they decided to write and draw on how the American Revolution could have happened non-violently. They are also planning a very silly you-tube video on mean girls...sigh. I kind of look forward to a more structured "program" of stories and coloring and projects with our two Little Friends, who are both three now (there is also a very Little Friend who was born this past year), when they really start First Day School in the fall, but who knows? We are unprogrammed Friends and, so far, we have had a really unprogrammed First Day School. It works for us, and I love it. Our girls are growing in the Light.