Dear President Obama,

From the wonderful, and alway thought provoking, Whitney Bell!

Whitney Bell

FullSizeRenderI watched your address to the nation last night and I was thinking about how you said we need to find a cure for cancer. I have a few thoughts on that and they lead specifically to the FDA, because I believe all of the chemicals we’ve put into our homes and our environment are the real cause of cancers. I’m not a doctor or anything, though, or a scientist, I’m just a writer and a student and a housewife.

I don’t usually watch these things, but my father-in-law was in town and he does.

Let me back up and say you’re my most favorite president that we’ve ever had. When you were elected I thought I might run through the streets naked playing drums. (Okay, not naked because I’m actually a very shy, private person in-person, but I wished I had bought fireworks or run out into the streets…

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Resolutions? I’m still working on them

I have only a few resolutions, and by few, I really do mean three. Two I carried over from previous years, so I’m adjusting them to fit my current situation, and one is new-ish.

New-Year-Resolutions

Stay healthy. – I changed this a few years ago from “lose weight.” In 2008 I wanted to lose weight so I would have more energy to keep up with my children, who were just starting to walk. I gladly gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, since it was common for twins to be born with low weight. I wanted to give them all the chances I could, and during my pregnancy, it worked. They were both over 4lbs, and extremely heavy for my body. But the eating habits I gained while growing them didn’t stop when they were born, and I arrived really close to the 200lb mark. It scared me. I was tired, slow, and clothes didn’t fit.

In 2011, I changed the resolution to “getting healthy”, because even losing weight didn’t mean I was healthy. I changed our eating habits, eating more locally grown, organic food. I started out exercising by walking dogs at a local shelter for an hour twice a week. That moved up to walking and pushing a stroller the three miles to Kindergarten every morning and afternoon.

In 2012, I jumped up to riding my bike pulling a double trailer on the back with my twins riding in it. At first, I walked up hills, but by summer, I was riding my bike up them. It was a great achievement. During that time I also signed myself up to run in Camp Pendleton’s Marine Corp Mud Run, so after dropping my children off at school, I’d take my puppy (sometimes my older dog) out for a run. I kept logs of my exercise, of my eating, and my goals. Currently, I live in an area that isn’t bike friendly, and I have to drive about 10 miles to get to a biking area, which always discourages me. It’s also 4,000 ft higher in altitude, which I didn’t think would bother me, but it makes running so much harder. But I continue to stick to my resolution to stay healthy.

Finish my novel. – Also an old one, one I slack on way too much, until Sept. 2014 all the way to April 2015, when I had my thesis to write and David Coe always asking me when my next chapter was going to be sent to him. I realized last year that it was the deadlines David gave me, and that I gave myself, that made the difference in my writing. So adding on to this resolution I will have deadlines for myself and time blocks set aside for my writing and only my writing.

Expand on my children’s learning. – They are smart, though neither think so. I have to remind them often that being smart in one thing doesn’t mean you have to be smart in another, nor does it mean that because one subject isn’t your best, being great at another still means you’re smart. They still don’t believe me, but I keep telling them anyway. We have been working on 4th, 5th, and 6th grade math, and I love that they keep excelling (after being taught and practicing – they’re not prodigies), but I feel like they are limited in other subjects. We talk about history, read about the presidents, events, places, good and bad, but it’s not alive for them. It’s more like fiction. We play with science, doing experiments, making messes, creating electrical currents, but their interest is only limited to what exciting thing is happening. They don’t like record keeping. So I want to visit more historical places, see where the president lives and where our countries decisions are made, visit battlegrounds, travel roads from songs and movies. I want them to use their skills, like map reading, to help up reach destinations instead of looking at places on a map we’ve never been. Education should be more fun that learning math and how to write essays. Now I just need to figure out how to afford more traveling!

I’d really like to know other people’s resolutions and whether or not you are keeping them so far. It has only been 12 days since the new year, so I hope you are.

 

Homeschool and Grades!

What are my children’s grades? Or even, what grade are the in?

IMG_20151112_160321 IMG_20151119_160341

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This question bothered me a year and a half ago when I started homeschooling my then seven years old twins for third grade, and it bothered me again when my children’s father asked to know their grades about two months ago.

We started with the K12 program, which is done almost all online and the program keeps track of all grades and finished work for the parent. But the K12 program didn’t work for my children. Not that they weren’t learning, because they were. And some days they did enjoy the work. But most days we started school at 9am and didn’t finish until 4pm, with no recess breaks and only an hour lunch break. That’s longer than public school. The problem was that the K12 program didn’t change to meet my children’s needs. Math took a long time, with online work and workbook work. Reading was slow for them still, so to complete a reading and writing assignment, it took longer than what was allowed in public school.

So at the end of 2014 we quit.

And I spent my winter break researching curriculum and programs and books and blogs and teaching methods and time savers.

I found programs that worked for us, that I can adjust by how they are learning and understanding. We use the library for books and resources and social activities. They read books they choose for a certain amount of time every school day (I still give them weekends off – though not all holidays and summer). They write in a journal about their day, stories they liked, things they found interesting, and questions they want answered. We use a workbook, though not every day, that includes spelling, vocabulary, reading, writing, math, social studies, and science.

This system has worked for us. They excel at math – most days – working on 5th and 6th grade problems even though they are technically only in the 4th grade. Some days handwriting is terrible and I have them rewrite their work. Some days, like today, my son misses most of the words on his spelling test and I have him practice them for a while. Some days my daughter doesn’t want to do her reading, so we adjust the time, adding more time on to the next day. Some days my son has a bad math day, so we take a break and do some review work instead.

When we had bees forming a hive in our eves, we learned about bees!

Bees 2

But they have no grades. They work on something until they understand it, or know where to look to find the answer. The don’t stand up and spout out memorized multiplication problems or historical dates, nor do they take real tests.

Yet they are learning. They may not know every president of the United States, but they know where to look to find they answer. They may forget how to do multiplication and division when they have been working on conversions, but after some review, they remember.

We have free days, limited work days, and goodness are we reviewing everything days. Instead of winter and summer breaks, we keep working and take a few days off each month to rest, recuperate, and play. We have field trips to distant museums, field trips to different libraries, and field trips to the desert.

They miss having friends to play with, but they are both happy and insist on continuing their homeschool education. I think it’s working.

Someone For My Daughter to Look Up To

It’s getting cooler and I went to buy my daughter and son some clothes.

I bought athletic boys pants for both my son and daughter. She loves them.

Her shorts were so short I could see her white panties when she bent over. I know she’s growing, but when did her legs get so long. She needs new shorts.

Thinking about going to Target, found this article in a random news search… A Target Intervention on Behalf of my Daughters by Binkies and Briefcases. It’s from Sept. 2014, but it’s still relevant. Sadly!

I bought my daughter athletic shorts from Target. There were the loose, running shorts, but they had short leggings attached to the inside, for modesty. She likes them enough to wear them, but they aren’t her favorite. We searched for longer, comfortable shorts for her to wear to soccer practice. Something easy to run in, allow her free movement, and (most importantly to me) didn’t show her panties.

They don’t have many. It’s disappointing.

What’s worse, our society encourages little girls to dress in tiny, tight clothes. Like this:

length of shorts.jpg

Lucky for me, my daughter doesn’t like those shorts. She says she’s goofy and wants to always be goofy and play in the mud. She promises me she will never wear too tight clothes, thong panties, or have her belly showing. I smile and try to believe her.

So for NaNoWriMo, I decided to write a children’s book for my daughter, full of magic, fun, girls who wear long shorts and soft sweaters, and who play in the mud. It turned into three books, each with my son and daughter as characters and all with problems and resolutions for them to learn about. The first one is about lying, titled “Hannah and the Monster Under the Bed.” The second is about being different, not wanting to fit in, but still being a friend, titled “David and the Muddy Mess,” and the third is about standing up for what you believe is right, titled “The Battle for Magic.” I’m thinking about publishing them through Amazon, so David and Hannah can have the books on their tablets.

Where’s My NaNoWriMo Spirit?

nanowrimo word count

NaNoWriMo started two days ago and I was off to a great start. I reached my daily minimum goal of 1667 words, logged it into my NaNoWriMo dashboard feeling proud and ready to go.

Yesterday started different. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to research. I didn’t even want to stare at Facebook and catch up on all my family and friends activities. I felt exhausted.

My children and I are taking half days for homeschooling, working on their writing project. This is their first year participating in NaNoWriMo’s Youth Program, and since they are only eight (almost nine, but not quite there yet), I lowered their overall achievement word count to 100 words a day, 3000 by the end. Along with writing, they are also reading and researching. Yesterday didn’t work very well for them either.

So where did my excitement from last week, where I was itching to write, looking forward to finally letting myself get back to my novel (after a nice six month rest, working on short stories instead)?

My bed is covered in notebooks oozing with ideas and research. I counted yesterday’s 600 words written for research on my dashboard, but have since only written this blog post for today’s count. I’ve read through one of my short stories I keep putting off submitting. I enjoyed it. I’m a good writer. But I still didn’t submit it.

I tried cleaning my room, and felt an awful lot like I did as a child, staring at the mass of things I keep putting off: the towels still sitting in the laundry basket, folded but not yet put away; the pile of clothes I’m sorting to get rid of or pack for warmer weather; the magazines I haven’t read, but still mean to; the kid’s toys that somehow always end up in my room; the mass of edited papers, unopened mail, drawings of soccer plays resting and spread out all over my desk.

The cat sleeps on a bunch of notes I have spread out on the bed, and I want to join her. Maybe a short nap?

In January of 2014, I started a class with Laraine Herring called Nurturing the Writer’s Spirit. I feel the need to go back to that class and look through my notes. What helped me find myself then? I started blogging. I made more time to write. I decided that I was strong enough to be all the things I wanted to be: Mother, Writer, Teacher, Lover, Friend.

I write a blog entry at least three times a week, but like that short story, I haven’t submitted any in a while.

Maybe I need to start by going back and pressing Publish!

NaNoWriMo Day! Excitement Blossoms!

Keep Clam and Write 50K

Blossoms with writing energy!

I woke up just after 7am this morning! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get up before 8am and start doing something! I’m writing 1667 words for my novel today!

But first: FOOD! I rarely wake up ready to eat. It’s just not my nature to wake up and eat. Blah! But this morning I wanted homemade cinnamon toast, made by me, with extra sugar and cinnamon! And a big glass of MILK! Tasty, yummy, sugary morning goodness!

Done eating. Now I need to do a little stretching. I have plantar fasciitis and what seems to be chronic shin splints, even though I don’t run anymore because of both of these forever lasting injuries! I stretch and massage my legs every morning and before bed, and sometime while watching TV after standing for a long time at the library or soccer practice. It has really helped. I even have special (very fancy and expensive) shoes to help with my feet. My feet are sensitive and very important to me. Without them, I can’t get anywhere.

Stretching done. Oh, the kids are awake! Someone needs to feed them. Maybe Grandfather will? Either way, I need me morning kisses and hugs. I’ve raised my children to be very affectionate. At almost nine years old – 21 days and counting – they still hug me, kiss me, hold my hand, and have even done all these things in front of their friends. Yea me!

Kids fed. Time to start writing. Where’s my ipod? I forgot to put it back on the charger. Terrible. I can’t write without music. It comes out funny! Must charge ipod.

While waiting, I’ll just read for a bit. Lots of emails and new articles online to look at. Oops. There’s something on Facebook. Aww. Look at my cute baby cousin all dressed up for Halloween. And my family and friends in their costumes. Did I forget to add my own Halloween photos? Oh! There they are. With some many likes! I loved! And even a few comments. I’m famous!

Is my ipod charged yet? No. I need to add a new song Brian bought for me a while ago from OK GO!

Clean up the spare room! What? Hang plastic before it gets too cold! What? Physical labor when all I want to do is write. Why isn’t my ipod charged yet? Must use brain to figure out how to hang plastic over the walls in the stairwell. Why did I design these stairs so steep? To fit in the small space – right?

Dirty, but I feel we did a good job and the stairwell looks so much better, and I’m sure it’s warmer already! Now I need to take a shower. I feel gross! I’ll need to hurry. The kids need to take a shower too! Like they’d care if I went first. It’s usually an argument to get them in the shower, and then another argument to get them out of the shower!

Ah! Time for writing! NaNoWriMo here I come!

Outlining My Novel: Yes or No?

what-writers-do

I’ve reached a point where I have a ton of ideas, some of them writing out in little spurts in my notebook, some that are already on their way to great chapters and other still sitting in a puddle in my head.

I can’t decide if I should try to outline them, so I know where they go in my book, and hopefully give me less stress later (or now, since I feel a lot of stress right now!) or continue with the way that seems to be working for me, random scenes here and there, and then I can put them all together at the end!

I recently took the James Patterson Masterclass. He has two section devoted to outlines and his process, along with a sample outline for his novel “Honeymoon.” I can tell he does a lot of work on his outlines and he sets them up by scenes rather than by chapters, which is what I was trying to do.

I’m not sure how he does it.