Saturday, September 27, 2008

Name that Class Reunion Photo

Dear readers reader,

Please help me name this photo.
Yes, that's me being lifted by my former classmates at last night's reunion, held at the local pizza joint. I have a couple caption suggestions. Vote for your favorite in the comments section. Or, feel free to suggest your own!
Please remember to be gentle. As you know, I'm quite obnoxious uninhibited dramatic always up for a wild time sensitive.
So what do YOU think? What should we call this photo?

  • A) Some things never change.
  • B) I swear, it wasn't my idea.
  • C) Our cheerleader skills ain't what they used to be.
  • D) She did always insist on being the center of attention.
P.S. And here's the thing - I was sober. Seriously! So rewind 20 years, add a whole lot of alcohol, and then picture this scene. Back then it looked a bit more like this:
P.P.S. Mom, no one saw me acting this way in the local pizza joint. Well, maybe the CEO of the local bank. And Jackie's ex-boyfriend. Oh, and your former classmate's son. But otherwise, no one saw a thing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm a Whiny Puke. I'm Sorry.

I'm in a bit of a funk today. I put myself on a strict candida diet because my normally wonky hormones are wonkier than usual. And that's not good, considering the usual wonkiness often causes my head to spin around and venom to spew. So picture that and then some. Uh huh.

I was going to make an appointment to see my crazy, holistic boob doc in Madison - (what, I haven't mentioned him before? Hmm, that's a story in itself) - as he's working with me to get my hormones in balance after a (story hint:) breast cancer scare. But then I realized that he'd ask me a round of questions, including this one: "What are you eating?" And I hate it when he asks me that question.

He'd like me on a very strict whole-foods diet, and to say that I've veered a bit off the path is like saying the war in Iraq is going, um, just as planned.

Anyhoo, what I'm saying is this: I know deep down that it's not right for me to ignore a good portion of what my doctor suggests and then go looking for his help. He's already offered me help - it's up to me to take it. Grumble grumble harrumph.

But this diet... oh this diet... let me tell you what I am. I'm starving is what I am. And Sharon, please quit laughing, you're mean to me. Sharon goes on this diet frequently because she has health concerns of her own, and when I text her asking if I can eat this or that, she texts back things like "Nice try - no." The booger.

It's basically like going on a fast or some sort of cleanse. Put nothing into your body that isn't whole, and allow it to cleanse itself of toxins and build-up and imbalances such as yeast overgrowth.

Hello, you still there?

But like fasting or cleansing, it also makes you irritable. I mean the "I can't stand to watch you chew, please get away from me now" kind of irritable. And that isn't fun for anyone, is it Rob. (Your sympathies can be sent along to

There are other things irritating me today. I have low energy. (Thanks again, d*mn diet!) No matter how often I swat, there are flies in my house. And because it's fall they're doing that sort of slow death-thing they do where they get clingy and slow and land on you, like, every other second. (Just what I need, something clingy.)
Also, I got stung by a wasp yesterday and mother-**** did that hurt. It stung me right behind the knee and it's red and swollen, so everytime I bend my knee.. ouch ouch OUCH you g*d d*mn wasp! Oh, and I have my twenty-year class reunion tonight. With the mood I'm in, that should go swimmingly.

But recognizing that this funk is doing no one, least of all me Rob and the boyz, any good, I decided to do something about it. What did I do? This:

If you need a kick in the pants, a reminder to pay attention, to breathe, to be mindful, to quit feeling sorry for your d*mn self (ok, I added that part), read this book.

I got my signed copy sent from Patti herself, after my essay was chosen for part of her 37 days blog countdown. I've been reading it ever since, treasuring every word. It is filled with quotes and I LOVE quotes - anything that can pack a punch in only a few words is always, to me, sheer brilliance. And it's filled with artwork sent by readers and wisdom and suggested actions and humor. It's good, good stuff.
I took the book, a glass of water, and a bowl of - lucky me - celery sticks to my sunny deck and began to read. It only took about a half sentence to wake me out of my pity party.

Dear Patti - It's not quite finished yet, but I'm polishing my mud ball. Thanks.

Want in on the secret? Get
the book, already, yo!

Patti Digh will be in Madison, WI at A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore on Friday, October 03, at 6:30 PM. I'm going to try like h*ll to get there. Wanna meet up?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Birthday Boy

Chances are, if you are a member of our family, and it's your birthday, you'll get a banner made for you. A 'Happy Birthday You!' banner. A colorful, happy, large, blaring banner.Trouble is, after helping me decorate about 12 dozen of these suckers over the years, my boyz have gone on strike. "I will never, ever make another birthday banner ever again!" exclaimed one, sometime last winter. "MOM - WHY do you make us DO these?" the other chimed in. It's a conspiracy, I tell you. They always know I'll cave if they gang up on me. I have issues with being liked.Kinda takes the whole "thoughtful" and "made with love" and "homemade touch" types of sentiments and thwacks them upside a brick wall, doesn't it. So, now I make the banners my own self. And they swoop in when it's all finished and say things like, "I don't even get to do one letter? I mean, I'd have done one letter," and then they add a little flourish here and a little flourish there, just so they can steal my spotlight take a bit of credit for the masterpiece be involved of their own volition. The boogers.But that doesn't mean the boyz won't go the extra mile in other ways. It was Rob's birthday on Monday - (What, you expected my post about his birthday to be timely? Pay attention people) - and I took off for the grocery store to get some last minute fixin's for the like, gazillion three kinds of pizza he wanted for dinner, when I received the first cell phone call.

"Mom?" Jonathan said, "I need four 'C' batteries."

"Ok, what for?" I asked, curious.

"For Dad's birthday card."

Um, ok... I received the next cellphone call while I was shopping for the like, gazillion ingredients for the *ss-widening decadent ice cream fudge dessert Rob wanted. "Mom?" Jonathan asked, "Do we have a tape?"

"Tape? To wrap something?" I asked, curious.

"No, a tape. To make a recording."

Um, ok... good thing our family is, in some ways, stuck back in the 80's, what with Rob's knowledge of all things 80's pop culture, our stack of casette tapes (White Snake, anyone?), and my collection of
elf boots and pink hair bows. We did, indeed, have a recordable tape.

The final call came as I was driving home.

"Mom?" Jonathan asked, "Do we have a shoe box?"

"There's an old one in the bottom of the hutch in the bedroom in the basement, but it's got stuff in it, so you'll have to empty it out, but be sure to put everything back into the hutch. Got that?"

"Yep. Bye."

When I arrived home, I found this in the middle of the living room. A homemade bomb? An electronic mouse trap? What is it? More on that later.

You may recall that, around here, we can be overly zealous in our birthday preparations. Jonathan requires no fewer than 4 parties because he takes after his mama and gets a little twitchy at the thought of mixing his groups. Rob is a bit less fickle, overall, but Monday night turned out to be his "Kid Party."

He invited my sister's kids, Ana, Madelina, and Armando. First, they all ate pizza.

Then, it was time for dessert.
And after like, a gazillion three pizzas, one ear-splitting rendition of "Happy Birthday to You-ou-ou-ou!", and a dessert that keeps cardiac surgeons in business that's beyond-tasty, they all gathered 'round for gifts. The thing about kids and kid parties is, you get lots of help with opening presents. You also get lots of this:
And this:
And it's contagious, this sort of silliness... I mean, forget the fake, posed, smarmy family shots, I wanna see the real deal. And in our family? The real deal? Pure goofiness.It was a good party, even though my sister got into such a raucous game of keep-away that she was leaping over couches and knocking over small children. I'm telling you, you never know what might happen around here. Don't pull a muscle, sis, you ain't no spring chicken anymore, y'know! (Dear gawd - I've turned into Farmer Bill!)

And remember the homemade bomb mysterious shoebox? What was it, you ask?

Why, only the coolest homemade birthday card ever.

Listen For Yourself - then come back and answer this: Have we cornered the market on silliness or what?

Happy Birthday Honey! Nah Nah, you're still older than me!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's The People

Ok, I think I'm ready to share more about the conference.

The highlight of the Live and Learn conference was meeting amazing people. It was such an open and welcoming environment, it was far easier than I expected to slip right into the existing community. I admit I was a bit leery of meeting everyone. Don't get me wrong - I'm a classic extrovert. But like I said before, I wasn't sure if people had filled in the blanks with the right information after only knowing me online. Will I be quieter or louder than they expected? Will we hit it off in real life like we do online? What if I'm a big, fat disappointment? And do these jeans make my butt look fat? Ok, nevermind on that last one, but it turns out that I was PPMSing (that would be PRE-pre-menstrual syndrome) during the conference, and that explains that little moment of temporary insanity. And that zit on my chin. But Silvia says I'm just as she imagined, so hang on a sec while I let out that breath I've been holding... ***whew***... k, better now.

Lesson - never underestimate the intuitive powers of unschoolers.

As I wandered through the registration area, I heard a little shout of "Oh my gosh - that's Laura!" And I turned to meet this amazing woman:

Kelli of "our joyful life" is a blogger, too, and she and her unschooling family recently moved to Georgia. Kelli always leaves the nicest comments on my and others blogs, and her love for her children is evident in her blog musings. I could tell immediately that if Kelli lived closer, we'd be hanging - yes, we would. She has just the right amount of energy, wit, sarcasm, and wisdom. And I got all that in the first few minutes of talking with her. Kelli, it was fantastic meeting you and I only wish we'd had time to talk more. Next time!

It was great to see Ren again, after our serendipitous meeting and chat at the InHome conference in the Chicago area last spring. Ren is full of life and has an intoxicating energy. And she can do costume make-up and art like nobody's business. She would be rip-roaring fun to hang out with too, if we didn't live so far apart. Dear Ren - can I interest you in a cornfield with a view? Bring Kelli.

And then there was Keti. Keti came as a blessing disguised as a problem. See, we both have kids who wanted to try school, Brady last year, and her daughter this year. We discussed it online before the conference and planned a meet-up at the conference so we could comiserate, share wisdom, and connect on this shared transition. We hit it off immediately and spent a lot of time together at the conference. Keti is one of those delightful, kind, comfortable people; I felt like I'd known her forever. That's just the kind of friendship I like! Later, we laughed that something that seemed so negative (kids in school) brought us something so positive - our new friendship! Yay for silver linings. Keti - do you like cornfields?

Another gift from the school discussion - Geri. Geri is another comfortable friend, the kind of person who, approximately 5.6 seconds after knowing you, invites you to not only visit, but STAY, in her DC-area home when you're, say, heading out for a field trip in, say, late October. Geri is the founder of Good News Network - when I realized that, I was very excited, as I know of that site and find it very impressive and inspiring. I very much enjoyed getting to know Geri, with the bonus being that our teenage boys formed a rock band with Cameron Lovejoy and performed at the talent show! Geri, I can't wait to see you next month! You are a good soul. I promise not to steal your silver when we come to visit. P.S. Anything about cornfields you find especially appealing?

Then, another real treat - I got to meet Scott-freakin-Noelle! I'd known of Scott for a long time. He moderated the online yahoo discussion group about The Continuum Concept. What, you haven't read that book you say? Then get cracking and do. And do not think I'm kidding when I say it will rock your world. It rocked mine - right out of mainstream life and into unschooling! Scott has since developed a career as a phenomenal parenting coach and writer and he recently published his new book, The Daily Groove, "a collection of brief, practical, inspirational messages designed to help parents transform 'the daily grind' of parenting into a satisfying, empowering, joyful adventure." Amen brutha! I bought his book at the conference, and it is so readable and user-friendly, its format being short essays that can be read individually, and its message so completely full of wisdom, that a friend snatched it up at our parkday gathering the first time I showed it. "I need this book," said my friend. I would take that a bit further and say that all parents need this book! Go visit Scott's website and get ye that book!

Scott was a ton of fun at the conference, and much to my surprise, he is a total nut! He can be witty and wise, deep and philosophical, and next thing you know, he's busting a move on the dance floor. It was a great pleasure to make his acquaintance. Dearest Scott - ever busted a move in a cornfield? There's room.

There are so many great folks to mention.

The St. Louis family, Curtis and Debbie, whom I met with my stock question of "Is this your first L&L conference? Mine too!" (I have a knack for spotting newbies.) Turns out they know friends of ours in St. Louis, which pretty much guarantees we'll see them again in the near future. It was great chatting with them. Oh, and Debbie can bust a move her own self. You go, grrrl! Debbie - come bust a move in our cornfield. With Scott Noelle. Curtis - ever considered juggling corncobs?

And there was the Canadian couple, Chris and Jess. I think we met them over dinner in the most challenging part of the conference cafeteria. (What kind of cruel joke is it to make unschoolers eat in a cafeteria?!) We didn't get as much time with them as we'd have liked, but Jonathan's always wanted to visit Canada so now we have another great reason to venture north! Or, you could just come down and join our commune in the cornfields. C'mon... Everyone's doing it!

And there were a whole bunch of conference divas I fell in love with. Madeline, on the left, is an adorable organic farmer. She has an infectious energy. I loved her immediately. Gail, in the center, is a Florida unschooler. I just realized, from Ren, that she has a blog. I will be visiting her - on her blog, and hopefully in person when we venture back to Florida next spring! (Gail - any karaoke in Florida? :-) And on the right is the conference diva of all conference divas, Kelly Lovejoy. Kelly is the amazing force behind this convergence of like minds. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't know any of these amazing people. Kelly - you totally rock.

Dear divas - please move to my cornfield. Thanks.

And last, but certainly not least... there was this grrl:

Sweet Silvia. Isn't she cute? Silvia and I hit it off, right after I poked her in the arm during the tattoo funshop. But I didn't just poke her for no reason - I poked her because I'd been keeping an eye out for the blogger named Silvia with the cascading blond curls and the enormous smile, and suddenly, there she was, right in front of me. So I poked her. Silvia was one of my first blog readers and we've been conversing ever since. She's even more delightful than I expected - and let me tell you, I had grand expectations. She has an amazing aura about her, and you could just see how things were lighter in her presence. She's sweet and kind and friendly, and there's a special VIP location in my cornfield just for her. Dear Silvia - when you comin'?

There were others, but unfortunately I didn't get pictures with them. And while, yes, we unschool with and for our children, I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have discovered this amazing community of free-thinkers, attached parents, and joy-seeking unschoolers. Thank you to everyone for making the conference experience so wonderful and for inspiring us to continue living this beautiful, unscripted life of living, learning, and loving together. Even if we're out here in the cornfields..... all.... alone.

So, how we gonna go about subdividing this here cornfield for y'all, hmmm?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Please Tell Me What This Means

We had a long, fun-filled, family-centered weekend. It started with Friday night fish fry at the local tavern (I hadn't been in a long while - I was quickly reminded WHY. *burp*). It got rolling with a wedding on Saturday where we danced into the wee hours, chatted our heads off, and chased off some wedding crashers who were eyeing our fourteen year old cousin (*shudder*). And it ended with another family gathering at my uncle's house on Sunday so we could spend more time with the Colorado cousins.

It was a lovely, tiring weekend. Unfortunately, however, I forgot to bring my camera to every gathering but Sunday's. It makes me twitchy to miss so many photo opportunities, especially when there are faraway cousins visiting and a groom break-dancing for about, oh, an hour straight. That boy man has some moves!

But I did manage to remember my camera on Sunday, when we went to the home of my lovely, sweet, wild-woman cousin Jenny.

Let me tell you a little about my cousin Jenny. She likes to play piano, swim in her pool, and email. She can sing hundreds of showtunes and recite every line to most Disney movies. She's Celine Dion's biggest fan, and her favorite song is "Love Shack" by the B-52s. She likes her music loud, her go-carts fast, and her desserts filled with chocolate, chocolate, and double-chocolate with chocolate on top. Does that about cover it, Jen?

I first thought to haul out my camera when my sister Jackie and aunt Susan had my uncle John buried on the couch, and I began taking the usual shots from there, a random sampling of those present. Uncle Greg was grilling his famous "Butcho Burgers."

My cute cousin Alison brought her cute boyfriend Jeremy. Tell me, though, does he look a bit crazed to you? Nah, I must be seeing things.

I even got a picture of my crazy cousin Lauren jumping into the pool. What makes this crazy? It was 50 degrees outside. Yes, dear readers reader, winter is making a hopefully-brief early appearance in the cornfields of IL. D*mn you winter!

I also got my first-ever picture of my mom and her "friend." Question, dear readers reader: What do you call your mom's "friend"? Boyfriend sounds too immature. Significant other sounds too formal. Hot squeeze? I don't want to hear about any hot squeezing going on. I guess we'll stick with "friend." With air quotes.

But about 6 pictures into the gathering, the kids started elbowing for a turn with my camera. I shrieked barked offered a few words caution - my new expensive camera! breathe Laura - and let them loose. I knew it'd be entertaining to see what sorts of things graced my memory card after the camera did a stint with every kid present, including my newly-four year old nephew, but I wasn't quite prepared for the pattern that emerged. There were the usual pictures of kneecaps and drawer pulls and blurry half-faces peering down from above, and there was plenty of fodder for future blackmail (can you say double-chin yo?), but then something funny appeared. It started off innocently enough:

An elbow shot.

And another elbow shot. And about a dozen more I won't bore you with. Then it devolved from there:

It's a butt! Ha ha ha. Ha.

And another butt! *giggle snort guffaw*
But then there was another.
And another:
And another. They just kept coming...
And coming...
And coming... My eyes! My eyes! I began to scream.
How many butts must I endure before it ends?
Side-butt shot. A little easier on the eyes.
Another side-butt shot. Say it's over. Please say it's over!

Ah... that's a headless me, but at least it's not a butt shot.

Um, kids? Could we talk for a minute? I have, um, a few questions about these pictures...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tag Along With Us

Want to join us for a trip to Washington DC?

There's an amazing woman in South Carolina named Dianna, and she organizes trips for homeschoolers. They've gone to Disney World, taken cruises, and are currently visiting DC in waves. How cool is that? We're tagging along on the second DC trip from October 30 - November 3rd.

The list of places we might see is astounding: the Pentagon, hopefully the White House, the Lincoln Memorial... the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, World War I & II Memorials, Washington Monument, and National Archives.... the Old Post Office Pavilion and Tower, Arlington Cemetery, International Spy Museum.... the Holocaust Museum, Library of Congress, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Union Station.

*pant pant pant*

There's room for a few more if anyone's game! The price is right and Dianna takes care of all the details, which for me, is what tipped the scales. Better yet - we can hang out! So come on, you know you want to. Be impulsive! Throw caution to the wind! Make your credit card go up in smoke like mine's about to do!

Visit her amazing website and check it out! And registration deadline is September 19th, so get a move on, y'all.

P.S. I we-ent to North Carolina and brought me home a suthern ack-sint!

Friday, September 12, 2008

For Starters

Fasten your seatbelt, readers reader, I'm about to do something quite out of character. I'm going to tell about the conference in a timely manner! I know I have a tendency to publish a big ol' hurrah post - "WooHOO, baby, we're off to Willow!" - and then never post a follow-up. (The Willow photos are all queued up, but I'm passive aggressive.)

So today, I'm going out on a limb. I'm going to begin to chronicle our time at the Live and Learn Conference. The story will run in fits and starts, because I get twitchy about sharing it before I'm even done processing it. There will be gaps in the story, too, because for once in my camera-addicted existence, I didn't take oodles of photos. I was very much in-the-moment at all times and couldn't be bothered to interrupt the flow with a "Say Cheese!"

I didn't even get pictures of our van before we left. And all the mid-road trip photos were taken with my cellphone and you do know I haven't a clue how to get those off there, don't you? It's true.

So we'll start with our arrival. It's funny how the family picks up on patterns I didn't know existed, or I didn't know were so transparent. I was a bit nervous to jump into the swirl. I'd only met most of these people in the blogosphere, and all those "do these jeans make my butt look fat?" kinds of worries were plaguing my consciousness. "No, silly, your BUTT makes your butt look fat." *snort*

What if we don't hit it off in real life? What if I'm not what they expected? What if they find out they filled in the blanks with much better fodder than what I'm really all about? What if the kids don't have fun? What if Rob hates the whole thing? It must've showed, because I was getting a bit impatient with things like, oh, Rob's driving up the mountainside, and Rob alerted the boys that "Mom gets a bit wiggy at this point."

At this point? Are you suggesting....?

Nevermind, he's right. Score 1 for Rob.

Our room was in a Family Lodge. This is the only photo we have of it:

We found our room and hauled in our things. I was eager to get the initial meet-up over with, but first things first, said Brady: Who claimed the window nook for his guitar and laptop area, and Rob:Who had to see if we could get a wi-fi signal from our room (we could), and Jonathan: Who had to test each mattress for its comfort factor.

'Twas time to enter the swirl... somebody on the planning committee (where planning committee equals Kelly Lovejoy) was thinking, because the first funshops were tattoos and body art! Oh yes, it was time to be adorned. And if you know me well at all, you'll know that adornment is a must-do rite of passage for me. (Teabag headdress, Joanieji? :-)

A peace-and-love tatt for my shoulder, and another for my, ahem, chest...

And a lovely bit of mendhi...
And it was time.