Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sleep Schedules

One thing seems interesting to me from an unschooling perspective. For years, I've let my children sleep however late, and go to bed at whatever hour. Homeschoolers (and schoolers - as the kids used to call them) would ask me, "How will they be able to hold down a job - follow a schedule - adhere to expectations -- if I never impose any on them as children?" Well, it's a non-issue. It's like practicing the act of waiting in line. Or working on eating. Honestly, when they were younger, I'd think, "well, they just won't choose a job that conflicts with their natural rhythm."

But that's not what happened.

They found a job they wanted, and they made their own rhythm cooperate. They are not late to work. I sometimes don't even get up with them! They have alarm clocks. They shower. They manage just fine thank-you-very- much (I don't mean that snappy tone for you all - just my long ago naysayers!) Katie proved this to me a year and half ago when she went to stay with her grandma in Dallas so she could attend a month-long intensive drama program. She got herself up at 5 a.m., checked her email, fixed her breakfast, showered, dressed, and caught the city bus to go downtown. She was 15.

And now they both have jobs at Barnes and Noble. Alyssa goes on cheerleading competition weekends. We frequently stay in hotels and have to get up to be at the competion by 7 a.m. That means she usually needs to start getting ready around 5:45. She jumps right up and gets to it.

So, that's my real life experience with kids and sleep schedules. No one needed to rehearse getting up early. They did/do it when they need to.

Just an interesting little fact... at least to me.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 8 - Sunday...just couldn't stop at 7!


Michael
-Slept until 10.
-Fixed breakfast.
-Read World of Warcraft book
-Went to work from 12-7
- Met us at Blue Marble Java for live performance
- Did homework
- watched a little T.V.

Katie
- up by 10
- hung out with friends and left for Austin by noon.
- Stopped at a great snack place with a huge Slushee selection. Learned the hard way that all the great flavors you like COMBINED into one, only tastes good while the frozen layers stay separate.
- Went to friends' house to drop them off and discussed the stage production with their parents
- Watched a little of the Abbreviated Shakespeare on DVD
- Came home, ate a little, read Fan Fiction
- Went to Blue Marble Java for Betty Soo concert
- came home and looked online for more components of her anime costume
Alyssa
- slept until 11
- did laundry
- watched American Top Model, just a quick email check. Seems like she self-pacing a little to avoid drama.
- watched football with Ron
- had a steamer and a chocolate chip cookie at Blue Marble. Really liked the performer and talked me into getting the CD
- looked through the bookcases and decided she'd start reading Stuart Little this week.
- watched TV and went to bed


Well, I think that's it. It really is kind of weird to write it all down. And doing several days in a row reminds me the piles of pictures I have that need to be put into a scrapbook - it's harder when you wait. But our little online unschooling group recorded our "days in the life of..." be they mundane or exciting. Just real life.

Goodnight & thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day 7 - Saturday

Saturday

Michael
- no work!
- Went to the ACC bookstore and returned books from last semester and this semester.
- went to the bank and deposited his paycheck and the book sale $$
- Went to Lake Travis and checked on the sailboat with Alyssa & Ron. Scrubbed the deck/cabin
- Went to the Austin Boat Show. (Found a boat he wants to live on - JUST $130,000 for the least expensive one!)
- Picked up pizza on the way home
- Did laundry and ACC homework

Katie
- packed car for road trip
- showered and got ready for TexArts class
- Sue drove Katie to TexArts at UT
- Picked up Katie and went to friends' house to pick up 3 other teens for a Dallas Road Trip
- Sang in car, stopped for snacks, constant talking in anticipation of the big show - comparing shows/actors/ singing
- Went to Grandma's house in Dallas, dropped off stuff, ate pizza & salad, got ready for show
- Went to the Majestic downtown to see the stage version of Sweeney Todd. The 4 teens managed on their own (I didn't have an extra $60 for a ticket - and they really liked being "on their own")
- Went out to Chili's for dessert. Discussed show, compared it to the movie - very different. Explained some of this to the waiter, who was quite interested in what they were doing.
- Came back to Grandma's. Sang along to the soundtrack. Stayed up chatting with each other until 3 a.m.

Alyssa
- slept until 10:30.
- started laundry.
- quick email check to see leftovers from last night's drama. Everyone apologized.
- went to boat show - she wanted the $400,000 boat!
- ate pizza with Mike and Ron
- watched T.V.,. checked email

Friday, January 18, 2008

Day 6 - Friday

Friday-
A rainy day is a GREAT day to lay around, IMO. And that's what I did for most of the day.
Cooked a big veggie soup.

Michael
-ACC classes from 9 - 1 p.m.
-Came home and talked about selling back some of the books he bought but won't need. Called several ACC bookstores to check on hours. Missed it...closes at 2 p.m.
-Did the dishes, happily and without prompting. (It really was getting bad) He said that he likes doing them because he thinks about stuff while he works on them. And THAT works for me!
- He & I set up a blog for him.He's never done that before. He likes to talk a lot and has a lot of opinions about politics and human nature. This will be a good place for him to unload. He has stories in his head that he wants to work on as well.

Katie
- up early to read Fan Fiction
- to work from 9 - 4:30
- picked her up from work and went straight to Ballet Austin
- traffic was bad, so she was late to first day of the Triple Threat Musical Theatre class
- Sang, danced, and acted from 5:30 - 8 p.m. Loved it. (1 class and 1 workshop)
- One of the teachers pulled me aside to say that she was really bright and enthusiastic. During that conversation, I mentioned that she was homeschooled. He quickly responded, "Oh, that's why she was so great to work with!" It seems the homeschooled kids in the class don't suffer from the same peer pressure inhibition that their schooled counterparts do. At least in this class.
- Came home and packed for her Dallas trip the next day.

Alyssa
- up late -around 11 (when I got home from Curves)
- cleaned up room a little
- wrote an essay about why her Cheerleading coach deserved a special award. She really did a good job with this. Yes, it needed some proofing, but her content was organized well and her spelling has drastically improved
- spent a lot of time on email and myspace. Had a blow-up with a couple of her cheerleader teammates. Lots of drama & tears. Finally resolved at 1:30 a.m.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day 5 - Thursday

--Michael got up early for work - 7A-2P He came home and fixed his lunch. He and I talked about his classes, and looked online at some of the future classes at Texas State in Anthropology. There's an internship in Peru through ACC this summer that he'd like to go to. Not sure if that can fit into the schedule though!

Michael, Alyssa and I talked about boyfriends/girlfrie nds/dating in general. Lots of laughs.
Alyssa has lots of boys that like her, but she's not interested in them. Michael, OTOH, had his heart broken when he was about 16 and hasn't tried again. He now thinks dating is too much effort and wonders if he's too lazy to ever get a girlfriend. Plus, he REALLY wants to travel and doesn't want anyone to distract him from that. And, he's trying to save money, and doesn't want to have to spend $ on a girl. We talk about when he meets someone that he *really* likes, he might readjust his ideas... or not. We talk about the people we know who have done internet dating - he thinks that might be his approach later... (hopefully MUCH later!)
Michael and Alyssa got along really well today and he drove her to cheerleading practice. He then went over to ACC to try to talk to his professors about his grades.
Michael spent the evening watching Season One of the West Wing. He loves that show and got the boxed set for Christmas. We have lots of conversations after (and during!) the various episodes. He thinks that growing up watching West Wing helped him with some of his college classes, and now that he's completed some Political Science classes, some of these topics are making more sense to him.

--Katie spent the day reading fan fiction. She's feeling like her own work isn't as good as much of what she reads. She just started a new Manga book....something different... can't remember the name. She and I drove to Tapestry for Tap class and talked about what she expects out of the upcoming Anime convention. TexArts classes start Saturday and we talked about how that will fit schedule-wise with our trip to Dallas. We're going to see the live show of Sweeney Todd at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas. We're picking up a few of her friends. They all saved up their money to pay for the $60 tickets!

-- Alyssa & I totally forgot her orthodontist appt at 8:30. So they rescheduled it to 11 and we made it. We talked a lot about the structure of her jaw and where her teeth are lining up - which led to the broken bracket and the reason for the appt. We always look closely at their charts and models. She made small talk with another patient and her parent - she is so comfortable talking to people - really confident. She and I went to WalMart to get some more groceries. She picked out a lot of it.
We came home and started food in the crockpot - important since we're all driving all over the place in the evening tonight. She watched some Malcolm in the Middle reruns, did a little of her decimal book and went to cheerleading practice. After that, she IM'd and emailed with friends until...well, she's still online.

I read my weight watchers materials and caught up with a few people on the cell phone while I waited for Katie. Ron brought home tamales from work....and a chocolate cake. My diet is doomed.

Day 4 - Wednesday

--Michael was called in to do a few extra hours of work. He cooked lunch for himself (he's a big Philly Cheesteak fan - now that there are easy pkgs to fix).
He had classes at Riverside this afternoon - no mapping problems this time.

--Katie worked at B & N from 11 - 7 today. She and I went to the bank before work and deposited 3 of her checks. She has her main acct, and a 10% untouchable account. Lots of talk about interest on bank accounts, the point of saving early (even if it's just a 10% habit), and what some big ticket items she might like to buy. Ron picked up Katie from work and then brought her home. She read a little fan fiction and went to bed.

--Alyssa was up at 11, fixed herself some breakfast. Today, she pulled out some math she was working on a while back...Key 2 Decimals. She was having a lot of trouble with making change, and now at 13, wants to figure this out.

Alyssa & I went to Tapestry for Hip Hop class....which will probably be the last time for this. She's just not having that much fun with the class and it's an incredibly long drive during rush hour traffic.

Ron picked up Pizza, I dropped Alyssa off after class with him (while he waited for us in the Little Caesar's parking lot), then I went on to Curves.

Ron, Michael, & I watched Commanche Moon while the girls were upstairs on the computers.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 3 - Tuesday

This was pretty much a "lay-around day".... still in recovery from the shock of the text messaging financial fiasco.

--Michael worked at B & N from 9 - 3 shelving books. He said he got to talk to some interesting people in the store about some of their book choices. Working at a bookstore has been an education in itself. Customers make comments about books that my kids would have never even noticed. Now they have a superficial knowledge of a wide variety of topics and authors.

--Katie & I worked more on her anime costume. I didn't realize she had never cut material with a pattern, so we talked about what the different symbols meant, and she cut away!
She helped with cleaning up the house a little.

--Alyssa helped with lunch, cleaned her room, read a little of her J14 Magazine and went to cheerleading practice. There was a bunch of drama there as 2 of the teams merged for a big upcoming competition. We had a lot of discussion on the way home about a lot of the interactions, potential interactions, and potential reactions that could occur. Conversations like this really diffuse the heat of the moment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A little more about Monday, teens, & texting

Someone wrote to me about commiserating with how much bigger the problems are when your children are teens. I spent so many years thinking about this. I really believed that homeschooling (at least the unschooly respectful way that we do it) would prevent a lot of the teen problems that are so prevalent in society. Here's a few things I thought:
  • Teens are rebellious because they have rigid unalterable rules surrounding them. Let them be a part of the decision-making, make changes to the rules when their positions are rational. Weighing out the pros and cons of something as objectively as possible will be a great skill to learn.
  • If their opinion is valued, they will value others' opinions. There can be no belittling (as is so often seen in high schools). That just makes a person angrier. When the adult belittles you, and you cannot a.) compete with the banter because you're not good enough at it yet or b.) show disrespect to the adult without suffering the consequences, there's no wonder why teens often feel angry or lacking in self esteem
  • Being around adult conversations helps them learn how mature (hopefully) adults interact with each other. Limiting themselves to primarily being around other kids who are still working through a lot of their own issues won't necessarily be helpful, and could actually be harmful.
  • Use others' behaviors as conversations starters. Without being overly critical, help them see when their friends or acquaintances run into trouble, what results happen. Help your teen problem solve how the end result could have been different. Help them figure out what might be motivating the other person. All these things will cross your own teen's path eventually. Maybe some of these conversations will stick.
  • Use natural consequences instead of arbitrary ones
  • Say "Yes" as often as possible. This puts the adults on the same side as the teen. Immediately, you're working WITH them, instead of opposing them. If you start with "No" then they've stopped listening to your wonderful pearls of wisdom.
And even when you have these kinds of guiding principles, the path gets messy. The heat of the moment often wins out over logic.

So, on to our specific teen and her specific texting problem. We really were going to cave in and let her have it at Christmas. All her friends have it. Peer pressure is so much more painful to her than to the others. And, as most people know, at least half the bill was RECEIVING texts, not sending them. But then she got into a little trouble online - she showed some not great judgement. And the thought of making her MORE reachable didn't seem like a great plan.

Add to that the cost...$20 per month doesn't sound that bad, but when you look at it for a year - ACK! Maybe I'm cheap. But it looked like something she could EARN when she demonstrated good judgement. Seemed logical, right? HA! As if LOGIC ever plays a part in all this! We were looking at ways she could maybe pay for it - but she has no real source of income. She has occasional babysitting jobs. We've done allowance off and on, but when the older 2 started working, everyone helped with household stuff and Alyssa got more money if she did more - because she was the one home more. But bills for texting come every month. And her income didn't.

I didn't realize that you could simply turn texting OFF. There's a lesson for everyone here. If your child isn't ready for it, then do that. In the end, Ron went ahead and called TMobile and added texting, just to protect from the cost of INCOMING texts. She doesnt know - heck, she has no phone right now.

Teen years aren't horrible - please know that. When you're connecting with them, it's the best. When you see them making decisions that are smart or kind or full of joy - it's just as great as when you watched them sleep as babies and felt overcome with love. It's just that the pace quickens. The troubles ARE bigger. Mistakes seem to ripple out a little farther than just spilt sippee cups ruining the couch. But I guess all those things help you as parents *prepare* for the life ahead.

Parents are learning too. All the time. And some days still just go better than others.

Day 2 - Monday

But then today is completely opposite of yesterday... chaotic.

Up early with the dogs - they're really going to tear down that fence next door. The new neighbors let their dog out and they don't realize that my "country dogs" think he's in THEIR territory!
Add to the list: talk to the neighbors about reinforcing the fence.

Michael is up for work. He's acting exhausted - probably like me in anticipation of a grueling day. We decide to try to contact his history professor from last year to talk about his final grade. How exactly does a 92 and a 95 + extra credit translate into a B for the semester? The instructor was called away and unable to do the final for a 3rd test score - and neither his email or his voicemail is functioning. ugh. But he does have office hours, so maybe this week sometime Michael can stop by. I know it's getting late for a grade change, but if there's hope....
Add to list: Keep trying to reach Dr. O'Brien.

Michael's day was ghastly:
9-12 - Work in receiving for B & N.
12 - swing by the house for food and books
1-5 - Go to new campus for Spanish and Cultural Geography - he liked the classes but unfortunately, despite the run-through, he got all the way to Slaughter Lane, missing Riverside. He called, I "control-towered him in" to the campus, and he made it in time for class.
5-6 - Fight rush hour traffic and come by the house for more food
6 - 12 - Back to work at B & N until close...around midnight.

I encouraged him to keep working, but I don't think he realized how awful this was going to look.
And, he has to open the store in the morning. Hmmm....I smell burnout. But at least he has no school on Tues or Thurs.

Katie also works today: 10 - 4
She has been up since 7 this morning, working on the computer on anime and You Tube videos.
The Hairspray CD blasted away while she got ready for work. All went well, but she just hung out on the computer for the rest of the evening

Alyssa snoozed until 11. We debated over whether or not to take the Spanish class at the Leander/Cedar Park Fine Arts Academy at 2 p.m. She was worried about it, but she has no problem making friends, and this is only the 2nd class day, so she's not too far behind. Unfortunately, there were only 3 other kids in the class. 2 11 year olds and 1 15 year old boy. The instructor's primary language is Spanish, and her English is very minimal. Alyssa said that the instructor kept turning to the kids for English spelling, grammatical structure, and in the end, Alyssa thought that the instructor learned more English today than she learned Spanish. We'll keep trying until the end of the month...it's paid for. But...not impressed.

So, Alyssa and I had a wonderful afternoon together. We went to the Blue Marble Java in PF, which is owned by a homeschooling family. I met the owner and he told us about the live music they're having on Sunday nights. That will be cool. Alyssa and I laughed and chatted and had fun.

After we got home I talked to Pam about updating the NHEN website and working on our book together. I talked to Julie about her recent robbery, then I went to Weight Watcher. I lost 2.2 lbs.

But just when you think the day is going well....

When I came in from Weight Watchers, I was met at the door by a sobbing Alyssa. "Dad yelled at me" and you're going to be really mad too. She cried onto my shoulder for a bit and then finally confessed. "I have been texting with my friends and the bill came." She didn't have unlimited texting - although she didn't seem to care. She ran up a $300 bill!

Oh my. I stayed calm. She cried and cried. She said that Dad took her phone and she will have to empty her bank acct. to pay for the bill. She said that Dad was going to give her unlimited texting for her birthday next month, but not anymore. She got a little angry, saying that she was the only one on her team without texting... she said that she didn't think we were ever going to give her texting (not sure how that rationalizing works since she was texting away).... a couple of other deflections from the situation.

I explained to her that I was more sad than mad. She was going to cover the cost, and I knew how long it took her to save that much money. I was sad that she just blew off our requests not to text. I was sad that she didn't understand that at the end of the month, we'd all know what had been going on. I was sad that as soon as we work on one particular problem, another one pops up.

We talked some more. She took some Tylenol for a headache. We watched Medium together. She seems bummed...not what I'd call remorseful... but I'd rather understand how she's really feeling than have her fake something she doesn't feel.

Tomorrow is another day. And situations can click along and then change on a dime.
Sigh.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Day 1 - Sunday

Our little unschooling email list in Austin asked everyone to write what they did today. They want us to do it all week. Just to give a glimpse. Here's what I sent them for today:

I can do this...

We all slept late, since Alyssa & I went to Houston on Saturday for a cheerleading competition, and Katie worked until midnight last night. Michael, Ron, & I watched the CBS Morning Show and This Week with George Stephanopolus. We record the 2 shows and then we can stop and start it as our own conversations dictate. Katie was in and out of the show, occasionally eavesdropping on our discussions. Discussions about presidential candidates, Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto, the writers strike, the $2500 car, Sir Edmond Hillary.

Alyssa slept until 1 p.m. and then checked in with her friends online. She watched America's Top Model with me. She ran the vacuum downstairs and helped with dinner. She baked some biscuits and made milkshakes for everyone. She watched a lot of tv today, ending with a ridiculous show about Scott Baio...but even that led us to conversations about babies (and how everyone reacted when she was born) and husbands and how they should act, and what she'd like/dislike in a husband.

Katie and I worked on her costume for the Anime convention she's planning to attend in Feb. She helped a little with dinner and got ready for work. She went to work at Barnes & Noble until 10 p.m. She came home and worked on her FanFiction stories until she went to bed.

Michael played a little World of Warcraft and went with Ron to make a practice run to the Riverside campus for ACC classes tomorrow. He was at the Northridge campus in the Fall and didn't really know the route. He listened to music, not sure if he played any guitar up there in his room today, read about the Presidential campaign in Newsweek, and watched the Lonesome Dove prequel series (can't remember the name).

I did some housework, read the newspaper, brushed the dogs, had a little meltdown about the messy state of the kitchen, tried out a new recipe, emailed a few people, and started writing in a blog. Maybe I'll add this!

Well, such is the life in our household with 3 teens, 2 adults, 2 dogs & 2 cats.

Weighty Issues

Why does losing weight have to be so darned tough? Because I love food! I love it even when I'm not hungry. Thus the weight gain. Such a drag though. So here I sit, suspended somewhere on my yo-yo-diet string.... starting again.

I was never really overweight until I had children. With each child, I gained 40 lbs. but lost only 20. That is not a pretty site on the scale. The other day, I was at Alyssa's cheerleading practice. All the parents were buying T-shirts to wear to the competition. They had the tighter fitted T's for the moms and the lose boxy T's for the dads. Well, that's what the oh-so-old 30 year old behind the counter said. Anyway, this one lady beside me just had a baby a couple of months ago. She said she'd get the larger shirt because of the weight gain from the baby. Then she turned to me - the only gray haired lady in the room and said, "I can still use that excuse right? I can blame this weight gain on the baby?" I asked her how long ago did she have the baby. Her answer: 3 months. I told her that I'm still blaming my youngest daughter - and she's 13! I think you're safe."

Anyway. Funny. But not THAT funny.

So I've done a million diets: Nutrisystem (lost 40 lbs before Katie was born); Slimfast, Weight Watchers (lost 20 lbs), Metabolic Research Center (lost 60 lbs.) not to mention things like The Cabbage Soup diet, the Banana Diet, the no eating after 6 p.m. diet, and who knows how many other wacky diets I've tried.

The Metabolic diet was most recently - and it's the one I really lost the most on. I totally dedicated my life to it. I deprived myself and my family. And so when we moved, I started down the slippery slope of ....OK, we can all pull into Sonic for an OreoBlast. Then we were doing it more often, and I wanted to eat more. And, so I did.

Wow. It's depressing to not be able to fit into any clothing.
It's horrible to see how much I've gained when I look in the mirror.
And, I keep having these awful feelings that I'm going to die - that my heart just can't carry me around anymore.

So...because I have quite a few things I'd like to get done and/or see before I go, I'm starting this all up again. And who gets my $ and my attention this time? Weight Watchers. I went to the first meeting last week. Pflugerville didn't even have a WW meeting until this month - so I felt like it was a sign. that I didn't need to ignore. While I didn't stay "on program" all week, I did a little better than usual. Even with a road trip in there. And tomorrow I weigh in again. Maybe I'll just drink clear soups all day tomorrow!!!!

One thing I didn't do when I was on these diets is exercise. This time I'm adding a little exercise to my day. I joined Curves and go 3-4 times per week. I also bought an exercise bike to try to increase my aerobics. I thought about getting on that bike this weekend, but fell prey to a million distractions.

Maybe next week will go better. But the new journey has begun.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cheerleading Weekend

This weekend, Alyssa and I traveled to Houston for a Cheerleading competition. We stayed at the Embassy Suites, which is always lovely - free happy hour when we arrive and free breakfast when we leave. This particular hotel was in the Galleria area, big trees around tall buildings and quaint restaurants. In spite of that, Alyssa and swung by Sonic on our way into town. That way she'd have more fun "hanging out" with her friends. And that is of primary importance these days.

We headed over to Reliant Arena for the competition and I sat with the other ACF parents. Some of these parents are really "into" it. They make notes about the other teams performances - some even videotaped our top competition. We all cheered for the younger girl team who competed earlier. Lots of screaming and cheering. The coaches even turned to the parents to encourage us to be even louder - if that's possible.

Alyssa's team, Junior Level 1, competed and did a great job. They were awarded 1st Place and Best Choreography. We were awarded one of the Most Spirited Parents plaques too!

We stayed to cheer for another ACF team at 1:30 and the coaches seemed really pleased to see Alyssa there. Afterwards, we bought a DVD of her performance and then we left for home.

Alyssa is much chattier in the car on longer rides like this, so I like them. I find out a lot more about the dramas that are playing out in her life. Sometimes I add suggestions and sometimes I just listen.