Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We're Not Gonna Take It

I'm not entirely sure I'm proud to admit it, but my high school years were mostly marked by constant attempts to 'get away with something'. Unlike my unschooled kids - who have a choice to go to school or not - school, of course, was just a given. It was what you did. It was how you spent your days. It was your 'job' as a kid.

But because none of it was of my own making, I just muddled through like the rest of the kids. I was bright enough and intuitive enough to know just how much I had to do to stay under the radar, and I didn't find much challenge in the academics. If I struggled, though, I only had to beg off someone else's homework for the answers with a promise I'd return the favor somehow. It didn't bother me one single bit to cheat on occasion, because really, we all knew homework was simply another hoop to jump through and everyone - teachers, parents, kids - were happy just knowing the hoops had been jumped, and if a little, er, forbidden assistance was given, it was usually a case of no harm, no foul. Otherwise known as just don't get caught, stupid.

But I was bored. And as a typical somewhat-insecure kid, I was also always trying to prove myself. And by prove myself I mean impress my friends, not get straight As. Getting As was pretty easy. Impressing my friends took constant vigilance. :)

I'd always been a sneaky little sh*t. There was just something so intoxicating about pushing the envelope, nudging the edges, bending the rules a bit. I don't suppose it was a conscious move on my part at that young age, but I suppose it was, in some ways, an attempt to "stick it to the man."

But I also knew the difference between being a bad-bad kid (vandalism, bullying) and being a good-bad kid (sneaking candy into class, sneaking myself out of class). I knew the difference, I always knew where the fine line lay, and for the most part, I limited myself to only good-bad kid hijinks.

For example, when we did the roller skating unit (only school could take something fun - like roller skating - and make it sound incredibly dull - like "Class, tomorrow we will begin our roller skating unit. And we'll skate in circles! I will be watching for proper form."). Some of my fellow good-bad friends and I grew quickly bored of skating in one large circle while avoiding the upperclass grrls who were trying to lock wheels with us and send us sprawling. (For the record, we were far more agile and athletic than they were so that usually ended badly - for them.) So we'd devise our escape.

There were three of us; two would keep watch and signal when the oh-so-hot-but-oh-so-lacking-in-personality gym teacher turned his head, while the third would skate out the door and down the hallway. How long we'd skate the halls would depend upon how especially lucky we were feeling at the moment, how many stray adults were wandering the halls, and whether or not we thought the mean upperclass grrls had seen us.

I remember the study hall room didn't have a door, so I'd strike a funny pose and skate past the open doorway, eventually attracting the attention of some classmates. They'd wait patiently for me to skate by again, in a new pose of course, and by the time they giggled and the study hall monitor looked up, I'd be gone.

We had to liven up roller skating unit week somehow.

Most of my other antics were similarly harmless - victimless pranks.

So when
"We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister came on the radio during our drive to St. Louis last week, I was instantly transported back to 1984. And then I laughed out loud. And then an old-but-familiar feeling came over me, and once again, I was 14, a freshman in high school, a little sh*t trying to get away with something.

I went to a small high school where the lines between jocks, nerds, brains, and druggies were very blurred (many fell under the "all of the above" category). I was no different. I was a cheerleader and a jock. (Well, as much of a jock as you can be at 5'2" and 98 lbs.) I was a nerd too. I was in the marching band.

That's when wearing a cheerleading uniform came in reeeeal handy. It meant I didn't have to wear those g*d-awful marching band uniforms. Really, they were so horrendous, I may've had to draw the line at being in the band. A grrl's got her standards. No poufy hats and fake, plastic booties for me, sorry. As a piano player I was automatically a substitute percussionist. For marching band, I wore a big-*ss set of bells. They were heavy suckers.

During halftime of the varsity game, the band would wait as the cheerleaders and football players would run over to take our places. It was usually cold, and we were usually both nervous and a wee bit embarrassed. We'd fidget, waiting for the director's signal.

The director would raise his baton and direct the start of our marching cadence, the rhythm to which we'd march to mid-field. I loved those cadences - still do. There's something about an intoxicating drumbeat that makes you wanna shake your groove thang. Shaking my groove thang, however, was greatly hampered by 172 lb. bells hanging from my shoulders. Oof.

One night, the band director raised his baton and we posed, ready. But on cue, instead of the usual marching cadence, Scott, our lead snare drummer (and my future boyfriend), started pounding out a different rhythm. It was one we'd played while goofing around in band practice. It was the cadence to "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister.

We giggled as we marched onto the field. The band director shot "you're in big trouble, mister" looks at us as he marched backwards, still directing. Some of the horn players started dancing as they marched. And then Brian, the bassoonist, started playing the bass line, and then I, carrying the 214 lb bells (they grew heavier by the minute), started hammering out the melody, and before you knew it, the entire band was not only marching to "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister but also singing "No! We Ain't Gonna TAKE It..."

"We're not gonna take it... anymore...."

Eventually the crowd giggled, while the opposing team's stands looked rather befuddled. It was like a scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. We did it again a few more times, during other games, but the first time was the most fun of course. Our band director was a good sport, too. He did his obligatory scolding, but I just know he laughed when we weren't looking.

Ah, the good old days.

What antics did YOU pull in the old days? Or heck, last weekend? Give 'em up!

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm the Best Mom - to the Max

I'm baaaack! Didja miss me?

Just a short one - to ease back in. Transcript of my exchange with Jonathan after returning home from the grocery store:

"Mom, you bought the pizzas I asked for, but you also bought lots of things I like but didn't ask for!"

"Who's the best mom ever, hmmm?"

"Well, you were the best mom ever anyway, but now you really are to the max."

Yay me. :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chasing Amy

I'm Chasing Amy.

No, not the
movie, although I did love that movie. Wasn't it great? That's when I first saw Joey Lauren Adams, and do you know that until now, until this very moment, every time I've seen her in recent movies I've thought, "Now just WHERE did I first see her???" Man, it was really bugging me, so yay for my serendipitous discovery! It'll allow me to sleep better tonight, it will. So have you seen Chasing Amy? If you haven't, you run down to your locally-owned movie store right now and rent it. And if they don't have it, tell them to get with it, man, and locate it for you.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I'm Chasing a different Amy.
Amy Steinberg. That's the Amy I'm chasing.

A blog link sent me to her myspace page the other day. She's already my myspace friend (we're, like, TIGHT doncha know) but I've never heard her perform live so I decided to check out her Upcoming Shows. It went something like this...

Ohmygosh she's going to be in Chicago this week! Oh wait, she'll be there on the 21st and I'll be in St. Louis by then. Shoot.

Ohmygosh she's going to be in St. Louis on the 24th! Oh wait, we're leaving on the 24th to come home. Shoot.

Ohmygosh she's going to be in Florida in March! She'll be in Tampa and I'm going to be in Tampa! Oh wait, she'll be there on the 15th and I won't get there until the 19th. Shoot.

Ohmygosh she'll be in Florida for another show later that week and I'll still be there! Oh wait, that gig is across the state, 200 miles away. Shoot.

And by then, good people, my "Shoot!" had really turned to "Sh*t!" and I was emotionally exhausted from the repeated let-down.

You have to admit, it's a little odd that I get that close in 3 different states but can't quite seal the deal.

Oh well, I'm off to St. Louis for a few days. Be sure to rent Chasing Amy while I'm gone so we can discuss it when I get back. Try not to miss me too much - I know it's a scary thought to go a few days without reading a post about
a boy in a box or inhaling chicken sh*t while bike riding or why Betty Crocker ain't got nuthin' on me, but I guess you'll just have to try.

Oh, and if you see Amy? Please tell her I'm looking for her.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

This is Not a "Name That Photo" Contest

I don't have to host a contest to know the perfect name for this photo. I call this....

Why Dirty a Plate?

I'm writing today, which means I'm also mindlessly eating whatever is closest and easiest. At the moment, snowed in yet again, that's leftover Valentine's Day chocolate pie, straight from the dish.

I didn't lick the dish, I swear. But I thought about it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What Say You?

Here's the dilemma - Brady's band, Just Maybe, signed up to audition for a Youth Charity Jam. It was an ambitious move, a decision made after a bit of prompting from me and a bit of "it's a few months off" type reasoning. Well, now it's here - the audition is less than a week away.

There've been several changes. Ben went from lead vocals to bass. Max has come on board as vocalist and keyboardist but has only rehearsed with the band once and doesn't know the music yet. They wrote their own music so there are no cover songs to fall back on. And it's difficult getting 4 non-driving band members together on a regular basis for rehearsals. They've done remarkably well, though.

And now that the audition is just around the corner, they wonder if they've got what it takes to pull this off. Brady asked me to call the organizers to cancel, but the woman I spoke with said, "No no no they can still do this!"

And then, when I opened the morning paper today, there was this on page 2 of the Events section:

Hear Youth Bands
RAMI 2008 Youth Charity Jam Auditions will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 920 Third Ave., Rockford, and the public is invited. Bands will audition for a place at the 2008 Youth Charity Jam, which will be March 28. The winner will be invited to perform at the 17th Annual RAMI Awards Ceremony on April 10 at Tebala Shrine Temple in Rockford. Bands auditioning are Groove Company, Just Maybe, Hope Despite, The Silent Debut, The Son The Anchor, Fall Asleep Sober and Imaginary Heroes. Cost is $3.

I don't know if seeing their name in the paper made them more excited or more nervous, but for the time-being, they're still 'on' for their first-ever gig.

They need a little chin-up, though. A little rah-rah from the peanut gallery. A little nudge-nudge that all will be well. I told them to look at it as a great experience and not worry about the whole competition thing. Some of these bands are likely to have played for much longer, but it's good to get a feel for playing in front of others.

So what do you say, peanut gallery? Should they audition? Should they throw caution to the wind and give 'er a go?

Should they go to this gig and find that maybe, Just Maybe, they'll rock the house and be oh-so-happy they did it?

What say you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

This Isn't What it Looks Like

Brady and Ben were just playing ping pong. That's all they were doing.

And my jewelry-making kit was just in the way. They weren't actually using it.

Whatever you may be thinking, they were definitely not using my jewelry kit to make something for Ben's grrlfriend.

They were just playing. Playing a game of ping pong. That's all they were doing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day Question

Question: What do you get when you take one wild, motorcycle-ridin', blow-dried-and-permed guy from the wilds suburbs of Wisconsin....

And one sassy, assymetrical-haired, 80's-rockin' grrrl from the cornfields....

...put them together....

And add 15 years, chocolate in pie AND candy form, a shockingly sweet card, and roses delivered every year like clockwork?

Answer: One very Happy Valentine's Day

Hope your Valentine's Day is nothing but sweetness!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I Can Make an Omelette (Ok, no I can't)

After a particularly good meal at a restaurant, I like to try to recreate the recipe at home. As you can imagine, I'm often less than successful. But I keep trying.

In Florida, we had breakfast at a quaint beachside restaurant with an omelette bar. A very quiet, unassuming man would whip up an omelette with the fixin's of your choice, and he made it all look so effortless.

Those were the best omelettes I've ever had, probably due in no small part to two things - A) I didn't have to make them, and B) We were at a
beachside resort in Florida. ((sigh))

When I got home I decided I could make an effortless omelette too. Fluffy perfection.

Heat a pan, add a splash of oil. Saute some veggies, then pour in some beaten egg whites. Lift the edges and let the uncooked egg run underneath. Then flip the omelette into the air with a quick thrust of the pan. (Wait... probably best if I skip the mid-air omelette airshow...) Turn over the omelette, add the merest sprinkling of cheese, and fold in half. Serve with fresh fruit and a mimosa bloody mary jello shot glass of freshly-squeezed juice and a cappucino.

I'd watched the quiet, unassuming man make my omelette morning after blessed morning, and I had the system well-rehearsed.

Well, the pile-of-egg-rubble-that-was-my-omelette tasted fine, it just didn't, um, present so well. However did I go wrong? I did it exactly like the quiet, unassuming man from the quaint beachside restaurant!

Then Rob wandered in. Then he laughed at me. Then he told me I did it all wrong. And then, insult of all insults, he made this:

Smarty pants.



Um, darling? Will you share?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Holy Blizzard!

We recently experienced the mother of all blizzards here in the Midwest.

Luckily, we had enough food in this gluttenous house to last us about 6 months (egad), so we hunkered down to wait it out. Our favorite neighbor Ben made his way through our pasture's waist-deep snow to come and hang out (now that's commitment - I couldn't even see our pasture right then), and the video games were a'buzz, the books a'strewn, and the board games a'... a'... um... the board games were a'played. Oh, and the fire was a'blaze.

But then, right in the middle of the storm, with the weatherpeople still warning we'd get at least seven more inches, I turned to see Rob bundling up in his snow gear. Turns out, this city-boy-turned-country-boy loves an excuse to drive our farm tractor.

And, if he waits too long, my brother-in-law Marcel will beat him to it...

and Rob will have to sit and fidget and watch out the window while Marcel plows our driveway.

I'd like to think it's some sort of manly-man code that says a man can't stand to let another man do his work for him.

But it's not that at all.

It's all about driving a big-boy toy.

You probably can't see him, but he's wearing a big old smile right about now.

A smile that says, "Nah nah Marcel! Beat ya!"

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fun with Clay

The other day I whispered some cautionary instructions to Jonathan, took him firmly by the hand, and ventured into a foreign land. This foreign land is more commonly known as a craft store.

Seriously. I walk the aisles of a craft store like I'm in a market in Istanbul, thinking things like, I'm sure this would be cool if I had a clue what to do with it and The things I could do if I had any fine motor skills at all and When g*d was passing out brains I thought s/he said trains and said 'I'd like a slow one, please.'

I was there to gather supplies for the
Artist Trading Card class I'm co-facilitating for our homeschooling group. I know, the irony.

(Wait, is that irony? And if not, why not? And if so, yay for me!)

But I figure, if I want to learn how to do something intense and complicated like art, who better to inspire me than a roomful of children? I look at a mountain of ATC materials and am paralyzed with fear. Children look at a mountain of ATC materials and get right down to arting.

See? Awesome. Kids rock.

And so does their art.

As we wandered the aisles of the foreign country craft store, Jonathan found a few things he wanted. One was glow-in-the-dark clay.

He was eager to test it out when we got home.

So he formed a ball and placed it in our lamp.

And waited.

I've titled this, Jonathan ponders the meaning of existentialism and the role of glow-in-the-dark clay in modern culture.

It was time to test out the glow capabilities, or glow-abilities as I like to call it. (Yes, I made that up just now.) And this is where I became slightly less than helpful. We went into the bathroom and turned off the light and shut the door.

"It glows! Woohoo, it glows! Take a picture!" Jonathan exclaimed.

Ok, says me.

"Mom, turn off the flash!" Oh, ok, sorry.


Oh, ok. Sorry. I don't understand the finer workings of my camera. You know, like how to turn off the flash.

"It would've been brighter if you'd hurried up."

It's culture shock, son. I'm still recovering from that visit to the craft store. I'll need some time to acclimate.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Help Wanted (Pay Sucks)

Hmm, where have I heard that before? But this time I really mean it! The pay really does suck! And I really do need help!

How's that for tempting?

I need an editor. Occasionally I work on articles for submission to magazines. I need someone to run through them with a fine-toothed comb and an eagle's eye. Preferrably, of course, someone with writing experience, a strong command of writing fundamentals and grammar, and because I usually write about unschooling, someone with experience there as well.

I sometimes have a real-life in-the-flesh friend do it. But sometimes I don't want one of my close friends, whom I have to see every Thursday for example, beat me over the head with my dangling participles. I mean, I like my friends. I want to continue liking my friends. Sometimes when my editor-turned-friend tells me I'm too wordy or my essay doesn't make the point I'm hoping it makes, I want to call her a "poophead" and that's just not good for anyone.

I once wrote an essay for a Women's Stories publication. (Now see? I didn't know where to go with that sentence, so I just put a period and will start on the next. That's where YOU can come in! Help me, please!) The submissions guidelines said the essays had to be 300 words or less. 300 words. Three. Hundred. Words. Do you know how little can be said in 300 words?

Lemme give you a hint - so far, in this blog post, I've used 255. And I think you'll agree... I've said very, very little.

(I need help in not going off on tangents, too.)

Anyhoo... I submitted two essays, and one was a spoof (a satire? a farce? a cheap gimmick? Can you be a thesaurus too? You're a doll.) on the 300 word limit. They liked it so much it was selected to be performed at their public event. Woohoo! (I know, woohoo should never, ever be put into something for publication. Should it?)

In it, I referenced Marianne Moore, modernist American poet and writer, who advised to "kill your little darlings."

Well here... rather than re-paraphrasing-ing (ahem) the whole thing, read it for yourself:

“Chopping Block Angst”

When I first read the submissions guidelines for Women’s Stories, I about choked on the 300-word maximum. 300 words? Only 300? (Oops, see, I just wasted four!) This would be challenging!

My essays are typically 800-900 words long. (Does “800-900” count as one word or two? Oh dear.) Selecting five- to six-hundred words to cut sounds agonizing. (Writing out “five- to six-hundred” definitely removes the question, doesn’t it.) But as an aspiring writer, I will do this. I will take vital, relevant, flowing words and delete them. As if they mean nothing at all. It won’t be any trouble. Really.

Marianne Moore, a modernist American poet and writer, advised to “Kill your little darlings.” You know, those phrases or lilting alliterations that, in the end, you know don’t work, but you want oh-so-badly (is “oh-so-badly” one word or three?) to keep in anyway because you are so in love with them. And as we know, love is blind. Like when your friends know your new boyfriend is a rotten cad but it takes you thirteen months and week-long crying jags to realize it. Blind like that.

It’s happened to me. I’ve reread old columns, and in hindsight clearly seen “little darlings” that did nothing at all to enhance my essays. I had kept them in, blind with self-serving love. Appalling. (One-word sentence - short yet effective.)

But didn’t writing instructors teach us to embellish? Yes, I distinctly recall “she inched, slowly, across the darkened room” getting better marks than “she walked through the room.” It figures… I spent all those years adding “more”, and now am told to write less.

But alas, the limit is near. To feed my nagging hunger, I’m off to write a lengthy essay for something else; filled, no doubt, with little darlings. Come to Mama!

And all that (pant pant pant) is just to say - I need help. A writer has a hard time killing her little darlings. We get all oooey-gooey, thinking some little phrase has just the right clip to it, when it may not add one d*mn thing to the essay.

So, whaddya say? I have nothing to pay you, other than some glowing recognition and air-kisses when I stroll the red carpet of writer's fame. Wait, if I get to stroll a red carpet of writer's fame (is there a red carpet of writer's fame?), that means I'll be making a gobload of money. And if I'm making a gobload of money, and you helped me get there, well, it's only fair that you be compensated.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

The straight poo - are you interested in editing my work? If so, flip an email to piscesgrrl@aeroinc.net. I promise the work will be infrequent (feel the ambition!) and ineloquent (which is why I need you). Oh, and I mostly write essay-length articles, and occasionally work on book chapters - one on unschooling, one on grief. If you're game, I'd love a little help with those too.

Anyone game? Grab yer hatchet, do a few tricep stretches, and shoot me an email - I've got some little darlings cowering in corners over here!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Let's Do the Math

As I searched for a specific photo today, I noticed something. According to Picasa, I took 2,433 photos in 2007.

Holy bat pictures! I knew I was getting a little obsessive, but that's more than I thought.

2,433 photos... that's approximately 203 pictures per month!
2,433 photos... that's 47 pictures per week!
2,433 photos... that's almost 7 pictures per day!

That's a whole lotta picture-taking.

So far in 2008, I've taken 452 photos. Seeing as we're only 32 days into the year, looks like I'm on par to blow last year's average out of the water.

452 photos... that's 14 photos per day.
452 photos... that's 98 photos per week.
452 photos... that's 5096 per year.

Perhaps I should chill out a bit, though. Sometimes I get on people's nerves, getting all up in their stuff as I attempt to chronicle every minute detail of our life.

Hi Brady!

Great song you're playing there.




I guess it's no wonder some folks in my family look like this:

But I'm on a mission. I've got a pace to keep!