Saturday, May 31, 2008

lessons from jr high sex ed

e from e.beck.artist asked what my son is learning from his healthy choices class. I wish I could say he comes home each day excitedly rattling off the day's itinerary.

Not even close.

He walks in the door, hangs up his back pack, skulks through the kitchen mumbling about how hot the schoolbus was, and then disappears down the hallway to merge with his youtube account. An hour later he surfaces and heads for the snack drawer.

"How was school?"

"Fghggghh," he mumbles, or something close to that.

Today I risked asking what he learned new and exciting in his sex ed class.


Maybe I should have left off the "new and exciting" part.

So to decipher what he's been filing away in his gray matter, I've had to mostly settle for reading between the lines of a few questions he'd asked over the past couple days . One question he asked his dad and one he asked me. In that, do-you-know-the-answer-to-this-question style of (confirming he's smarter than us) communicating.

1. The daughter of a teen mother is more likely to:

a. wait until she is older before she has a baby

b. become a teen mother herself

2. The teen boy who gets his teen girlfriend pregnant is more likely to:

a. marry her because he knows its the right thing to do

b. take off and have little to do with his girlfriend or the baby

He later told me "All they talk about is abstinence" and that his book said, "Kids who are religious care more about values" and "If you want to remain abstinent, you can only be friends with kids who are abstinent."

And then he added, "It's so stupid. Noone believes it." (That's my boy.)

Oh, and I thought up a possible explanation for the peculiar seating.

If they were seated girl,boy,girl,boy, what you might get is wiggling red-faced teenagers, with no real paying attention or asking questions.

If they were seated all boys together, it might turn them into homosexuals, OR, it becomes too likely they will egg each other on and dissolve into a snickering fest.

But this way, (girl,girl,boy,boy, girl,girl) the school district is clearly laying the groundwork for threesomes OR wanting each child to sit with a girl and boy on either side. This way, each girl has a girl companion sitting next to her, for comfort sake, but then a boy on the other side to keep things upright and serious.

By the way, if you guessed "b" for each answer, you too can be a jr. high sex ed teacher.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Top 10 List: How Blogging is Ruining my Life

10. laundry piles growing taller and more sprawling across my bedroom

9. patio plants not getting watered or fertilized

8. forgetting to schedule kids dental / cavity fixes / ob-gyn appointments

7. fewer (zero) trips to the gym

6. worsening neglect of office finance and billing duties

5. very dirty car, inside and out, and smelly too, even with the cardboard hangups

4. fewer tennis matches despite perfect weather

3. less time engaged in healthy back stretches and yoga poses

2. ever increasing clutter piles of papers, unread magazines, school reports, mail outs

and the #1 way blogging is ruining my life:

1. less sex with husband, who seems clueless and entirely disinterested in my newfound addiction. Smart man, I think? Only one blogger allowed per household, right?. Still, gotta work on this one. Who cares about the patio plants, anyway?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

everything you always wanted to know about sex, in one week or less

With one week of school left, my son's jr. high science class just began its section on "Healthy Choices," a not-too-shabby euphemism for "Sex Ed."
The last week of school? Really?

Is this,

a. saving the best til last
b. avoidance of the uncomfortable

c. one last ditch effort before the long days of summer
...aka, under the boardwalk we will make healthy choices

d. if we wait til the last week of school, teacher will be long on her way to the beach by the time irate parent finds way to classroom

e. another mindless mandate of no-child-left-scratching-their-behind

f. all of the above

Oh, and the kids had to move their classroom seats to a boy, boy, girl, girl configuration.

Huh? We're both scratching our heads on that one.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

brave soul

One of my daughters performed in a talent contest tonight. She sang the song, New Soul, all by her lonesome up on stage, accompanied only by her choir teacher on piano. She did wonderfully. Of course, my eyes welled up with tears, watching her brave young self, looking so confident and proud. Wow. The imperturbability of a 4th grader. Wouldn't I like a mainline dose of that?

As one grade schooler after another marched up on stage to show off their talents, I kept admiring these girls for their willingness to stick their necks out there in front of a crowd of about a hundred people. And it was mostly girls on stage. Not very many boys at all, curiously. A few boys did puppet show pantomimes of popular music, which isn't terribly risky, hiding behind a sheet, now is it? What is up with that? Maybe boys are NOT the bravest sex, afterall? (wink).

So anyway, all these girls, with their strong, lean bodies, their slender, muscular legs, not letting their fear of ridicule stop them from showing us their stuff, from having fun performing. So much innocence and trust and self-confidence.

I kept thinking, enjoy this while you can, girls. Enjoy feeling carefree in your bodies, doing dance steps and martial arts and splits in front of a crowd, because eventually adolescence will hit and the cult of self-consciousness will win the day.

I wanted time to stand still more than any (recent) moment in this journey called parenting.

Here's a video of New Soul performed by the artist, Yael Naim, for those of you who don't know the song.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

another child of the big sky

Australian psych blogger Alison, of Woman and Child First, got me thinking about one of my favorite musical artists, Kasey Chambers. Chambers was raised in the big sky of Australia's Southern Outback, learned when I saw her perform at the Old Settlers Music Festival a few years ago. Chambers' best known song may be Not Pretty Enough but she has been on my most played CD list since the day I heard her song, Captain, on my car radio. It was one of those musical "driveway moments" for me, a term I first heard on an NPR broadcast. I talked a little bit about driveway moments in a previous post, but didn't give the term its proper credit.

"You're driving along, listening to a story on NPR. Suddenly, you find yourself at your destination, so riveted to a piece that you sit in your idling car to hear it all the way through. That's a Driveway Moment."

Here is Chambers singing one of the songs my kids like best, Pony:

And this video is Chambers performing with her husband Shane Nicholson. They've just released an album together (found out just now as I surfed for this post .. yay .. blog perk of the day) where she's returning to her alternative country roots, the genre I'm drawn to again and again.

So tell me about one of your driveway moments.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

indian blanket morning under a big sky

Whenever a three day weekend approaches, I want to take advantage and go someplace special. What comes to mind is heading toward the hills, hiking outdoors, spring fed rivers and skipping stones, having my fill of big skies and natural landscapes.

My kids, however, are at an age where they make weekend plans of their own: sleepovers and birthday parties. Which spells no weekend getaway for taxicab mom and dad.

Feeling a little restless this morning, I called a neighbor friend and lined up a walk. We took our usual path, a cut through on grassy fields behind our houses. It was a gorgeous day, with a clear blue sky, sunny and hot, but with steady cool breezes. It's almost the end of May and we have been experiencing temps that feel more like summer, so I was surprised by the wildflowers blooming in full peak: Indian blankets everywhere, a few bluebonnets, lantana and coneflowers the color of fire, yellow prickly pear cactus and blue sage.

Usually we do a once around the hill but today we wrapped around twice, just to take in the full beauty again. We ended the walk by sitting for awhile on my back patio, drinking water, and finishing our conversation.

A little later, a different neighbor friend and I took the kids to a swimming pool. We lazed in the sun, kick boarded some laps, took a ride down a tube slide, and finished in a hot tub.

Dinner was some yummy home cooking: green beans and new potatoes fresh from a neighbor's garden, corn on the cob, sliced cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. No complaints from my kids (a first?), the vegetarian wannabees.

With an hour's worth of daylight left, we enticed my oldest away from his new video game system and took all the kids, plus one, roller blading on top of a nearby parking garage. My husband Sam and I sat in camp chairs, looking at a downtown skyline, holding our breath, hoping the kids wouldn't skid themselves into the emergency room. They didn't (whew) despite their speedy games of tag and chase.

We ended the evening with ice cream sundaes for the kids and feeling energetic (with date lapsed buttermilk in the fridge), fresh baked lemon scones for Sam and me.

All this for the easy backdoor bargain price of free. No packing the car. No ice chests to stock. No highway robbery gas prices. No squabbling kids asking, "Are we there yet?"

I still would rather get away and explore new territory, but today was a reminder that a stay at home weekend can be pretty great, too.

Typing this post, I was reminded of a song, Child of the Big Sky, by little known singer songwriter, Kim Miller, a native Texan. The album (of the same name) is one of my favorites on quiet mornings. Have a listen, here.

So how is everyone else spending their Memorial Day weekend?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

jong rings the gong

On Obama.
Erica Jong has long been a favorite fiction writer (Fear of Flying) and more recently, non-fiction (Fear of Fifty). I'm thrilled that she's writing political pieces on Huffington Post. A Hillary Clinton supporter like myself, she captures some of my cynical sentiments about the primary race, here.
I plan to rally behind Obama when, presumably, he is chosen as the official democratic candidate. I believe he has excellent political instincts and moving oratory skills. But he's fairly untested in the large scale arena and that's a worry during such challenging economic and international times and a curiosity that he would win more favor among voters.

Friday, May 16, 2008

freshly firthed

Just saw Helen Hunt's directorial debut, Then She Found Me. I thought it was excellent, excellent, excellent. My kinda film. All the ingredients of authentic human drama: poignant, funny, heartbreaking, uplifting, disappointing, kind, thoughtless, smart and idiotic. My friend and I were laughing out loud throughout (when we weren't dabbing at tears). It was the right blend of quirky and emotionally touching. And Colin is awfully nice to look at (my secret boyfriend, Mrs. G). He had me with "you need to get some sleep." Plus a couple of my other favorite actors: Bette Midler (awesome) and Matthew Broderick.

If you don't know what this movie is about, I suggest you don't read too many reviews. Maybe not any. There were critical plot pieces that I didn't know anything about and was happily surprised. I've been looking over reviews to link to but they all give away too much.

So I thought I would help you out. Here's a review by Marjorie Baumgarten, one that does the film justice, minus a few details I think you're better off not knowing:

Hunt's debut as a film director makes me glad she found us. This story about a 39-year-old woman whose biological clock is ticking loudly and whose life is not turning out as planned is a work of maturity – at least in its humanist perspective if not always its cinematic scope. The film delivers a nice blend of drama, comedy, and the unknown, in other words, an accurate reflection of life as we live it. Based on a novel by Elinor Lipman, Then She Found Me finds just the right tone for detailing its heroine's problems. It's neither a sob story nor a satire, which helps make the character's problems seem both genuine and worthy of exploration. Hunt also stars as April Epner, the story's central figure, a casting choice that was probably a necessity for getting the movie financed but a wearying position for a first-time filmmaker to find herself in. This factor no doubt contributes to the drab appearance of April, a plain-Jane New York schoolteacher who, on the verge of 40, marries a mama's boy from the neighborhood (Broderick) in order to start a family. Her own mother has advised her to adopt, but April wants a biological baby. April, having been adopted herself, rudely insists to her adopted mother that there's a discernible difference. In short order, April's husband abandons her, then her mother dies, leaving April a mother to no one and a daughter to none. During this time, two individuals enter her life – Frank (Firth), the single dad of one of her young students, and Bernice (Midler), the woman who blah blah blah.... Midler plays the character with lovely control, creating a realistic human being who also suffers from unrequited needs, rather than a cartoonish and self-centered busybody. Of course, one could look at the scenario and see blah blah blah and one ex-husband for the quintessential Mr. Darcy. However, the screenplay has more subtle complications to its credit and never strays far from what's realistic. (The film is especially satisfying in regard to April's expression of her Judaism.) Hunt's visual palette often looks as drab as the character she plays, but the film's rhythms are well-tailored yet pliant. A scene at a benefit for one of Midler's pet causes, River Keepers, rates a smile, but when blah blah blah shows up in the role of April's gynecologist, the odd casting may take a viewer out of the movie for a second. Some may dismiss Then She Found Me as a mere "women's film," but it's really a more honest and mature take on sex and the city.

thank you

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

anonymous blog stalkers

Maybe some of the seasoned bloggers know about this, but I just heard about it for the first time. Around this time last year, a popular woman blogger shut down her site due to fear. Kathy Sierra was afraid for her physical safety after threats of sexual assault were written in anonymous comments and escalated to website posts. An example of negative comments gone nuclear.

When I first started looking for psych blogs and meandering around the blogosphere, I came across a feminst blog that took a pro-woman view of traditional bible interpretations. It just so happened that within a short week of me finding her blog, she posted that she had removed all personal information, and numerous entire posts. She explained to me that someone was anonymously leaving vile, personalized and threatening comments. She chose to withdraw and as far as I know, she hasn't posted to the blog again.

These scenerios got me thinking: what to do if you feel afraid of someone's threatening, stalking or otherwise harassing comments? I looked around and Bloggingfeminism covered most of the suggestions I found:

1. moderate comments. delete as needed.

2. bloggers can help each other by outing authors of anonymous threats and harrassing emails: track their IP or email addresses of threatening commenters and notify the targeted blogger; post the harasser's email address

3. talk about it with other bloggers, "out loud" - identify the comments as threatening and harrassing

4. pool resources and create a site for public outing: join with other bloggers, collect harrassing commenters IP addresses as a means of identifying their origin or identity and post this information. prosecute whenever feasible.

All suggestions worth considering.

Missing from the suggestion list, however, was advice that I imagine Gavin DeBecker, author of The Gift of Fear might give. I read his book as a means of coping with a personal stalking experience. I had received mixed advice, including, from my local misguided police officers, the exact thing DeBecker said NOT to do: face my stalker and tell him to stop contacting me. Which was exactly the thing I did do. Theh result? The stalking escalated.

So I read The Gift of Fear and followed advice to victims of stalkers, which, in a nutshell, is to minimize contact with the perpetrator, to zero, when at all possible. No conversations, no rebuttals, no arguements, no bad mouthing in return, no requests, no talking to those in contact with the stalker -- there's a chance it will get back to the stalker, which is an indirect form of contact. Because, according to DeBecker, the stalker wants to have a dialog with you and get a reaction from you. Any forms of communication are feeding the stalker's desire to interact.

So given DeBecker's recommendations, it seems to me that the best advice of all is to delete and ignore (which moderating can accomplish). Elevating a threatening post to a public discussion may, in some cases, give the hate-commenter exactly what he's looking for -- attention. He gets to learn that his post had it's intended impact -- fear. Shutting down a blog is one way to ignore and become unavailable and in the case of the blogger mentioned, she was so fearful she felt this was her only way of coping. But deleting and giving no "airtime" to these hate mongers is something to consider first.

Credit goes to Ezra Klein at
The American Prospect, where I first learned of this story. Because Sierra became the subject of much scrutiny, and in some cases, criticism for shutting down her blog, Slate published a defense of her reaction, explaining why women bloggers needn't apologize for feeling fearful of these kinds of attacks. Picture of the anonymous blogger was lifted from Chamber Music Today.

Monday, May 12, 2008


One morning over the weekend I finished showering and noticed my bedroom door was wide open. My husband was doing yardwork, my son was sleeping and my other kids were at a neighbor's house playing. So, still nekkid, I walked across my bedroom to close the door and finish dressing.
Just as I reached the door, my teenage son turned the corner. There we stood, facing each other, for what seemed like the longest millisecond in the history of time and space. In a futile gesture, I did the two handed cover-up and grabbed the door shut. Once hidden, I peeked around to croak, "Sorrrrrry!"
Just in time to see him turn his back, raise his face to the ceiling, and groan, "ewwwwwww."
Yeah, he nailed it. On so many levels. Poor kid.
The above image snagged from one of my favorite pick-me-up blogsites bitsandpieces.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

compliments that count

I'm reading about the debate on complimenting our kids. The controversy involves educator Alfie Kohn 's assertions that some forms of praise used by parents and teachers are harmful. I don't agree with a lot of Kohn's tenets and arguements but I do agree with him that there are preferred ways to use compliments as positive motivators.

And I hope Paula Abdul is reading this. As an American Idol viewer, I cringe each time it is her turn to give constructive criticism and feedback to the contestants, especially those who know they didn't give such a great performance. Her gushing, global praise, "You are just you and you are beautiful!" is an excellent example of what not to do.

So for Paula and parents and teachers who are trying to be a help and not a hindrance to the emotional wellbeing of those we are granted influence, here are some tips.

(1) Be sincere. Find something, even if its the smallest, most seemingly insignificant behavior that you believe belongs in the plus column of life skills and praise that with a genuine feeling of joy. Find that joy and convey it in your words and voice tone. It's there, even if its buried beneath a pile of frustration, fatique and disappointment. If its phony, stale or token praise, its not effective.

"Thank you for telling your sister there is gum on her seat. I feel so much pride and relief when I hear you looking out for your sister."

(2) Praise about a specific behavior or intention, not larger, global aspects or traits:

"This hand stitching on the hem is so neat and even."

NOT: "This skirt looks wonderful! Good job!"

(3) Praise what your child is actually doing, not what you believe she is overall or personality wise.

"You are picking such pretty colors for your painting! I'm so excited to see how it all comes together"

NOT: "Well done! You're a wonderful little artist!"

(4) Compliment about growth and process, about the small steps and effort toward an achievement.

"Its great seeing you studying in your room with your door closed. You are really putting in some effort on doing well on your test tomorrow. Hooray for you."

NOT: "You are so smart. You are going to ace the test tomorrow!"

(5) Avoid praise that induces competition.

"What a nice dive! Your legs were straight that time."

NOT: "What a dive! You're almost as good as your big brother!"

(6) Praise something you believe is important to the child. Something meaningful to THEM. Sometimes we focus too much on things that mean very little to the child but mean a whole lot to us. The bookworm who is praised for their batting average, for example. Again, we're not helping the child increase their feelings of positive self worth when we make it clear something they are NOT doing is more valuable to us. In an indirect way our message conveys, "you're not good enough the way you are."

(7) Try indirect praise. Start by asking a question instead of issuing a statement. "What did you do differently to make the eyes in this drawing look so real?" Again, the effort and progress is noted.

I know that my kids have picked up on my distracted attempts and phony praise and have let me know it. "You don't really mean that, Mom." Or "Yeah right, Mom! You didn't even look at it!" This happens more often than I'd like to admit.

Kids may feel demeaned when they are given a half-hearted, blase "good job" instead of our full attention. And the goal is not giving our child our full attention at all times. Not at all. We parents have busy lives with our own interests and obligations. Kids can get saturated with or grow too dependent upon too much attention. So for those times when we cannot (and don't need to) give our undivided attention, we can instead say, "I don't have time right now to appreciate what you've done. Please show it to me later when I'm able to look more closely at it."

A nod to Coert Visser for his Solutions Focused suggestions on complimenting effectively.
In addition, Carol Dweck, PhD at Stanford University has also researched and written about the effects of praise.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

your blog as graph

Have your url address handy (http) and try this.

I don't understand all the color points and what they mean, but its fascinating anyway.

Monday, May 05, 2008

finding mona

Sometimes Mondays require some artsy color to chase away the work week gloomies. So here's a little art and a little fun. Can you find Mona Lisa in this painting, titled Mona's Heartstrings, by ebeckartist?

It took me several takes, the final take through my google reader, to finally see that elusive smile.

Here are two more art illusions, evoking springtime and womanly images (found here):

Still feeling too Monday? Dr. Deb's HiddenTiger is another fun art puzzle. And if you're looking for some crystal ball inspiration, check out Woman and Child's vintage pick of the day.

And one more before I go full forth into my Monday (Is it obvious to anyone but me that I'm procrastinating?).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

what a difference two months makes

Taken in mid-March on our last trip,
here's a shot of the cypress trees
that line the Pedernales River:

And here's a shot of the same cypress trees
just two short months later:

Oh wait, I didn't take any pictures this past weekend. Why? Because, oh yeah, I LOST my camera. Focking arghghg! Left it behind Thursday as I sat beside Barton Springs Pool slurping prickly pear cactus margaritas with my friend, B, of 30 years who was visiting from New Jersey. Guess I was feeling a bit too prickly to remember to take

(1) a picture and
(2) my camera with me when I left.

So, the above is a picture of Cypress trees in their full greenery taken last year along a different Central Texas river, the Frio. Oh well, you get the gist of my contrast here. The Pedernales was every bit as green and beautiful this past weekend.
And lots of skipping stones fun was had by all.

And just so you get an idea of where some lucky visitor found a perfectly decent camera with several saved pictures of a happy, smiling, vacationing family that apparently didn't make said finder feel guilty enough to turn it in to lost & found (I checked), here's a picture that someone else , presumably sober, had the good sense to take of Barton Springs Pool.

For the record, our view was every bit as lovely.

Friday, May 02, 2008

lecko my gecko

Spring means romance, even for little Iguanidae. At first I thought the big lizard was eating the smaller one and then, duh, it dawned on me, they're bumpin' uglies. For the record, she didn't look like she was enjoying the ride.

Scientific note: they aren't gecko's, they're called Green Anole lizards, or Anolis carolinensis for the true naturalists among us.

Here's an actual gecko taking an evening stroll in my kitchen sink. I think she was admiring her own reflection, given how clean and shiny it is, thanks to tips from FlyLady (ignore the globbish smudge in the right hand corner of the photo, its an aberration, I assure you). We're packing for a camping weekend, or, rather, my husband is doing the bulk of it, while I am sneaking a blog fix, and he's shooting me subtle evil looks. So more on FlyLady later, an excellent site (though a bit cheesy) for the chronically disorganized, house cleaning haters of the world.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

serious question and a request

Dear American Idol fans,
Whychuleta Brooke go home ...
and not the elfish little David?

I mean, stick a pair of plastic ears on the boy
and send him to Mousketeer land.