Thursday, September 6, 2012

My first PPT (Planning & Placement Team meeting)

There were a lot of people in that room. The principal showed up and ran the meeting, rather than the assistant principal as indicated on my notice letter. Also present were E's Language Arts/Science teacher, a Speech Language Pathologist, an Occupational Therapist and her intern, the school Psychologist, and the schools Educational Diagnostician and her intern.

I guess it could have gone worse. The principal was pleasant enough, and did her job as required, but the but she was definitely aloof. “I hope you don't pull him out” actually came out of her mouth at one point, so my guess is that her experience with homeschoolers in the past has not been good. (Yes, homeschoolers may use up a lot of your time and resources by putting our special ed kids in school until they are brought to grade level, but hey, I pay my taxes too.) It was extremely subtle, and others might have missed it, but I didn't.

Overall the vibe in the room was good. It was a pleasant surprise to walk into a room of so many people all focused on my kiddo. It was a relief actually, to know that his education no longer falls directly on my shoulders alone. But wait, yes it does. Because I'm the one who has to be sure that his needs are being met. And so far that means waiting.

He's been in school for eight days now. In that time his Language Arts teacher had him read quietly in the back of the room with her, as she does with all her students this time of year. She said he got 75% of his words correct, reading an 8th grade level book that he had brought to school to use for silent reading. She noted that his tendency is to leave off the ends of words (suffixes, etc.), but was pleased to see that he does attempt to use phonics when approaching new words. She is going to suggest he choose a silent reading book that is easier for him, since silent reading is supposed to be at his "independent reading level".

"Independent reading level" is the highest level at which a reader has adequate background knowledge for the topic, and can access text very quickly and with very few errors. Think of independent level as the highest level you would ask a child to read without help. Click here for specific grade level criteria.

"Instructional reading level" is the highest level at which a reader is not independent, but has adequate background knowledge for a topic, and can access text quickly and with no or few errors. Think of independent level as the highest level you would ask a child to read with only a small amount of assistance. (1)
Also during those eight days, she had someone test him briefly, using something called a D.R.A:
The Developmental Reading Assessment, Second Edition (DRA2), is an individual reading assessment designed to assess students’ reading performance... The DRA2 provides teachers with information that helps them determine students’ independent reading level and identify what the student needs to learn next. (2)
E read a 5th grade passage (about octopuses) and made one error. He answered 10 comprehension questions correctly, and he read 100 words per minute (average speed for 5th grader is 120-150 words per minute according to the state of Utah). (2) He used two vocabulary words that surprised the teacher, but not me, since science is a topic he loves and remembers. She said that the next test would be on a topic he's not as familiar with, for example, a biography.

Conclusion: E can read orally, and has good comprehension, at a 5th grade reading level. The principal was very pleased to hear this since he is in 6th grade, but knowing he should be in 7th, I was not all that thrilled, especially since he is very behind on his fluency (speed). Still, it's a year beyond where I thought he was.

He was also very briefly tested for math, using KeyMath, but only had time for
If you look at the dictionary definition of 'numeration,' you find three concepts listed. The first is the process of counting or naming numbers. Second is the system of writing numbers. The last is the method of calculating (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) (3)
In this area he was "5th grade average" or "10 years, nine months". I was glad to hear it presented as age as well as grade, since he is 12.

So this is what they've managed to determine in eight days of school. And now they want another six weeks to do additional informal testing to determine if the evaluations I want are required. The principal seems to feel that if it becomes necessary, the reading intervention program they have (I forgot to write down the name - argh) can help without having to get evaluations.

I understand that E has no records for them to refer to, but I'm still frustrated that they are dragging their heels. The Speech and Language Evaluation that I had paid for and included with my request for special ed states recommendations for "psycho-educational testing, and occupational therapy assessment", but
The school district must consider the results of any independent educational evaluation, including the one you pay for, when making decisions regarding your child’s educational program. However, the school district is not required to agree with or implement any or all of the results or recommendations of the independent educational evaluation". (4)
Also interesting was the fact that the principal said that we want to focus on what E can do and not concentrate on what he can't (he has not "officially" been diagnosed) and don't want to label E with something that will follow him. I think she was mighty surprised that I responded with a firm "Of course we do. He's going to be dyslexic all his life, it doesn't go away, and he's got to learn how to seek accommodations for it throughout his entire life." One of the other things I responded with along the way (although I don't remember to what) was "Dyslexia effects all areas of one's life, not just reading and math", to which all the other attendees responded by nodding their heads. So the principal either knows very little about dyslexia, or she's faking it. Either way, she represents a hurdle.

So now I wait for six weeks; end of October. In the meantime, I want to sit down and craft a letter to the principal "confirming" what I understood to be the end agreement of our meeting.

He will be evaluated. Or they will ave a tornado on their hands.


Monday, August 27, 2012

My 12 year-old’s first day of school (ever)

Such a tumble of thoughts. Am I doing the right thing for him? Is it really the right thing for me? I started out sending him because I was at my wits end and needed a break. Is this still the case, or have I really managed to convince myself that it's for him?

He's dyslexic. In the extreme. School is going to be challenging for him. He is terrified. And so am I.

I know I need a break. I've told him that he deserves to have a mother who is not always so stressed about the pressure of having his whole education in her hands. A mother who is patient again, and not tense all the time. A mother who can help him with his frustrations, rather than yelling back at him.

Perhaps the school will actually help? Frankly, I'm an ultra anti-school person (check out some of my favorite quotes on school here) so I've been having trouble convincing myself that that is the case. However, deep down, I do hope that the school can help improve his reading in a way I haven't been able to. I just don't feel like I have the fortitude to do all the hard core remediation that is necessary right now. But I have concerns that the school won't do it either. I'm afraid that by 6th grade they are teaching coping skills and not reading skills in special ed. Time will tell.

They wouldn't just test him for an IEP on my word, so they are keeping him in regular classes for a week and a half to observe him. I meet with a group of people on September 6th to discuss testing. Originally I was pretty upset to wait so long to discuss testing him; he'll be in school for quite some time before he actually gets an IEP in place. But now that I've had time to think on it, I know it makes sense for the teachers to have the opportunity to observe and assess him. And since he clearly needs IEP, it will be nice to have them assisting me on getting his needs met. Hopefully I won't feel alone in advocating for him.

I hope he is doing well right now. The amount of guilt I feel is overwhelming. I can't help feeling like I've let him down. Intellectually I know that's not the case, but heart-wise I'm otherwise.

I searched for some reading on the subject after the bus pulled away this morning, and came across this:

A crucial part of making a smooth transition to public school is for the parents to have a positive and upbeat attitude. Reassure your children that they will do well in school and that it will get easier each day. If you are anxious and tearful, your children will be the same way! I had to really put up a brave front for my daughters during their first couple of weeks in public school. I held it together each morning while they were getting ready for school, and then I would cry as soon as I pulled away from the school.
It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there crying over the transition from homeschool to school.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Things That Were Better “Way Back When”

[Originally posted in February 2008. Bumped by request in comments.]

Thought I'd give this meme a try. It's been interesting to think about. It's amazing how I am so ensconced in my role as mother, that even a simple list that might start out elsewhere leads to my children and why I homeschool...

1. Way back when, people used to know how to live within their means.

So many people I know are struggling to make ends meet. Someone I know lives in a house rent free with no mortgage, and Mom still has to work. I just don't get it; why don't people know how to budget themselves anymore? And why to people walk around with this sense of entitlement?

I think the baby boomers are screwing it all up for the rest of us. They are gliding into retirement without a care in the world, while the rest of us are trying to keep up. Everyone is all about the "stuff". My generation, "Generation X", is going to be in serious trouble down the line. Not many people are putting enough money away for retirement, and after the boomers are done, social security will probably be non-existent. So "Generation Y" will not only have lots of stuff, and no idea how to pay for it, they'll also have aging family members to support.

2. Way back when, people didn't waste food the way they do now.

That probably somehow relates back to #1, when we lived within our means.

Way back when, we didn't have to worry about genetically modified foods or eating cloned animals.

Or at least back then, we would have been appropriately grossed out by the idea.

Way back when, there were very few fat people around.

I remember when I was little when we saw a fat person it was a really big deal. We'd notice how it was so unusual. Then microwaves became readily available, and so did lots of processed food. We were also told to avoid fat, and in doing so, ended up overdosing on carbohydrates. So here we are with an epidemic of diabetes on our hands, and people who don't cook anymore. We just heat things up.

Way back when, kids had free time after school.

My kids don't even know what it means to go "call for" a friend. There's no need to, when nobody would answer anyway.

Way back when, there was no such thing as ADD or ADHD.

Kids were just kids, and boys were given time to play out in the playground when they needed it. Their energy was respected as something that was needed for the future. But back then, teachers were being accused of only calling on the boys, and favoring them, and blah, blah, blah. Now we have a classic case of backlash, and boys all over the country are on drugs for not being able to sit still for abnormal amounts of time. Which leads me to...

Way back when, girls didn't behave as if they were the superior sex.

I mean, what's up with shirts that say "Princess" and all the other stupid and mean sayings these days? Of course I would never want to go backwards, but how about a little humility ladies? We are not the supreme intelligent life on the planet any more than the men are. Girls are getting so snooty and downright conceited, just by virtue of being a girl.

Recently I read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, and it really enlightened me as to how obnoxious we've become. I'm not usually a fan of the super conservative Dr. Laura, but what she says in this book really makes sense:

...what is the cause of this self-centeredness? I believe it's a result of the women's movement, with its condemnation of just about everything male as evil, stupid, and oppressive...The result is women get married thinking largely about what their marriage and man can do for them, and not what they an do for their men...
This book is filled with tidbits about how women think of ourselves as superior, and ridicule and micro-manage our husbands. And it all starts with the teenagers and the "Princess" shirts.

Princesses, get over yourselves.

8. Way back when, people protected their kids from violence on TV.

And now we can add gaming systems to the mix. Man, even the commercials for these things are over the top. And many people are totally ignoring the age recommendations on them. Are people clueless? Do they not care? Or perhaps they simply don't want to argue with their kids. Which leads me to...

Way back when, parents taught their children self-discipline.

Kids get away with so much today. Many of them are rude and demanding. What happened to parents expecting their children to behave nicely? Why do they let their kids boss them around? I've seen preschoolers at playgroups over the years kick their mothers, who then respond with "Oh, don't do that, it's not nice", and send them off to play. When that was my kid, we left playgroup and went home.

Way back when, people were nice.

This statement was pulled from a comment someone left on a post I made a while back: "
Not everyone deserves respect. The lady that grills my child about what he/she knows might deserve a blunt response that wouldn't be considered respectful by mainstream America."

My response was this: "...when the word respect is defined as 'courteous regard for people's feelings', yes, I expect my children to show respect for all people, same as I do. Even to 'the lady that grills my child about what he/she knows'. A blunt response might be where I end up, but hopefully never where I start."

I have to admit I don't have much respect for "mainstream America" anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Shadow Effect DVD Review

So I agreed to write a review in exchange for getting a free copy of this DVD. Unfortunately it arrived at a time when a lot was happening in my life (like my husband having to go through chemotherapy and me landing in the hospital for a couple of nights with alarmingly high blood pressure) so I was a little busy wallowing in self-pity to actually get to it for a while.

Once I did, I tried to watch it with a critical eye, knowing that I would be writing this review, but after a while I decided to just fall into it and watch it as a plain old viewer. I figured I go back and watch it again to be able to critique it more closely, but the problem has been that I simply don't want to. I can't get myself to watch the darn thing again.

I had hoped that The Shadow Effect would be as convincing as The Secret, which I have devoured several times. And during the first 30 minutes, I thought that perhaps it would be. The premise is a good one: we all have “undesirable” sides (our “shadows”) that prevent us from living to our full potential, and we become better people if we learn to embrace those sides of ourselves, forgive ourselves for having them, and try to incorporate them into our lives as a piece of who we are, instead of keeping them buried and hidden away. I especially liked the visual metaphor of trying to hold a bunch of beach balls under water, but eventually running out of energy and having them fly up out of the water in a mad rush.

I have been on a journey to become a more mindful being, and have already uncovered some of my darker sides through other venues. So this information was not new to me, and I felt comfortable acknowledging its reality. Also, the idea that what bothers us most in others being what we hate most in ourselves, was not news. But I can see how this information, this learning about how we all have these “shadows”, could be enlightening for some viewers who may not have explored that side of themselves previously, although I have to believe that most of those who would watch this video to begin with, would likely already be working on learning from their past and incorporating forgiveness into their lives.

But after that enlightenment, it wall went downhill. Yeah, the part about the surviving concentration camp prisoner forgiving the woman who was a Nazi at the time, was very inspirational, but forgiving our enemies is not really the same thing as embracing our dark side. And let's face it, it probably would have been impossible for that Nazi woman to forgive herself if she didn't have a surviving prisoner around to tell her to.

The biggest issue I had with this DVD though is that it points out what's wrong with me, tells me to fix it, and ends. Want to learn how to fix yourself? Buy the next DVD!

In the meantime, the DVD does actually continue by talking about how we all need to take responsibility for the negative energy in the world, and starts getting into politics; pointing out what and who the producers think is wrong in this world, and telling us who we should be inspired by to help fix it. What the heck? Don't you think I feel crappy enough about not knowing how to embrace and incorporate my own issues without taking on the world's? It's a self-help video...I am watching it to help MYSELF.

At this point, I have to admit, I started getting petty. Debbie Ford's Botox lips started to really grate on my nerves. What can I say, I have a hard time accepting self-help advice from someone who is vain enough to do that to themselves. It's a pet-peeve of mine that I take full ownership of, but those lips really did start to get in my way. (Debbie, if they're not botoxed, I give you permission to go ahead and spend the money to get them fixed so they don't look like they are.)

The production also started really annoying me. The dramatic music was so obvious, as was the use of lighting to create giant shadows behind people who were still struggling, while Debbie and the others who were apparently enlightened were shadow-free behind them.

I also can't forget to mention that I thought it was kind of bizarre to have a member of the band Earth, Wind & Fire as a speaker along with all the New Age folks; definitely noticeably out of place.

Once the thing ended I felt pretty gypped. I would rather have read a magazine article about it all in Prevention; at least that would've given me a bulleted list of concrete things to try to better myself.

But wait! There are bonus materials! Surely they will have some information on things I can do for just that!

But wait! The bonus materials are previews of the interactive version of this movie! And I can buy that version for only $15! So basically, this “free” DVD is a big infomercial to get me to buy the real one. Pretty frustrating, considering that I am paying for the original one with this review.

I want my time back.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Motherhood is hard
The boredom can overwhelm
But they are worth it

Thursday, July 16, 2009


No school bus for us
Homeschoolers get to sleep late
We are more relaxed

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Prescription Drugs For Long Eyelashes

Is anyone else disturbed by this new drug called Latisse? I've seen the commercial for it, it makes your eyelashes longer. A prescription. To make your eyelashes longer.

The drug was originally used for glaucoma and one of the side effects for those patients was longer eyelashes, so naturally they had to start selling it just for that. There are other side effects for this drug too...

“...frequent complaints of glaucoma patients included temporarily red eyes, itching and darker eyelid skin. But in a few glaucoma patients who used eyedrops containing a prostaglandin, he said, green or hazel irises permanently turned darker after 6 to 12 months of treatment.”
In reading the article I did when looking for the side-effects, I also came across this, which really struck me...
“Latisse might have more value to Allergan as a gateway drug that brings new patients to cosmetic medicine and leads them to try Botox.”

What is probably even more galling to me than the existence of this stuff, is that Brooke Shields is the one who's doing the commercials.

I always had real respect for her. But I can't believe she needs the money this bad. Accepting this job has changed what I think of her, and likely many women out there. Bad move, Brooke.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Rocks water sand dirt
Homeschooling is magical
I always see sky

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My experience in a Christian support group

Yeah, it still surprises even me that I can write that as a blog title.

I was tired of driving so far for my kids to play with other kids. It really annoyed me that "friends" in our homeschool group would not venture out more than 15 minutes away; that we are always the ones who had to travel the 30 minutes to them. It was frustrating that the group founder would not change the day of playgroup to accommodate us despite the fact that we were one of the four families that always showed up and that we had been part of the group from the start, and instead accepted our absence (to participate in a preexisting co-op) with seeming indifference.

The co-op was too good to not try so we were basically friendless again. Then I read about a support group that met on Fridays (a day we could go) just 15 minutes away! I immediately emailed the woman who posted the info to the statewide yahoo group, and we corresponded a few times until finally I wrote:

"I was raised Catholic, but no longer practice. So we'd prefer a group which does not gather based on a shared faith", and was replied to with this: "I'm sorry C, the St. Anthony group is probably not the group for you. You are welcome to join us at New Life Church as we are not affiliated with any particular religion."

At this point I realize I was wrong in assuming that she meant the group was secular, but perhaps she could have done a better good job conveying that although they were not affiliated with any particular religion, they were in fact, all Christian, and did actually "gather based on a shared faith". But back then I had no idea what I was getting into.

The first day we arrived at the church my kids were thrilled to find at least 50 other kids. They were having a sports day with games, and both boys, although shy that first day, did have a good time and wanted to go back. But I should've known something was up when a woman who was directing the children just about hyperventilated when I wouldn't tell her my last name because I prefer everyone call me by my first. And I guess the prayer at the end of the meeting was a good indication of what was to come, as well.

The boys and I talked it over and decided we could be respectful of their prayers without having to believe in what we were doing, and participated in a hay ride with our new friends the next week. It was then that the boys started clicking with a couple of others. So I paid my $20 membership fee and hoped for the best.

Then along came First Lego League. My 11-year-old got an invitation to participate in it with some people we had met through some nature classes and we jumped on it; FLL is something I had really wanted to get him involved with, but didn't know how. Unfortunately though, it meant missing several Fridays of our new playgroup until after the tournament. I wrote to the president of the group and let her know, but didn't hear back from her.

I received an email explaining all the activities that were planned for over the next few months. There were a couple of things I didn't want my kids to participate in though. One was current events, since I was concerned about the context in which it would be presented, and the other was Keepers of the Faith. This is an excerpt of how it was explained in a separate email:

The purpose of the program is to:

  • Build character in their children
  • Teach practical skills
  • Rear children who walk with Christ
  • Establish lasting family ties
  • Strengthen their home school curriculum
  • Create true quality time with their children
  • Make the Scriptures a real part of their children’s lives
  • Teach children how to serve others
We, as a homeschool group, are utilizing this program, and the structure it provides, to teach our children many different things. In a way, it is similar to the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, in that as the child is taught and shows competency in different skills or areas of knowledge, and various requirements are met, they are able to earn a badge as an award for their work. The "badges" are actually metal pins (no sewing, Mom) that can be clasped to a sash, banner, or hat - very nice looking and of an excellent quality. Last year the kids made personalized banners to mount their growing collections.

But what really got me is this part:

Each boy will need "the Contenders for the Faith handbook for boys, ages 7 through 14, to equip them to become godly men and competent providers for their future families. The handbook is unquestionably an excellent skill-builder. The boys will learn how to handle finances, do home maintenance, and develop skills in leadership. Plus, extensive Bible reading, memory work, and Bible study are included to aid them in developing good habits in their own walk with God. Whether your son is a member of a club or uses it as part of his home education, it is an absolute Christian character-builder!"

Each girl will need "the Keepers at Home handbook for young ladies which is perfect for girls 7 through 16. The handbook is crammed full of information to teach and prepare girls to become godly, competent keepers of the home, Christian wives, and mothers. It not only includes extensive skills for practical living and creative handiwork, but provides for spiritual growth as well with a variety of Bible reading and memory work, and even a study on Proverbs 31. Whether your daughter is a member of a club or uses it as part of her home education, it is an absolute character-builder! No future homemaker should be without it!"

This is when I realized that this group was not a good fit for us, and we wouldn't be returning after First Lego League was done. Then I got this email:

Due to the phenomenal growth in [our group] this year, a decision has been made to close membership. Anyone inquiring about membership from now on will be placed on a waiting list. Further, everyone currently involved with FAITH needs to realize that membership requires a commitment to attend most activities and meetings. It is understood that everyone will miss some events but this is not a group where attendance is on an "as convenient" schedule. If you can not attend regularly, you may be placed on the waiting list until such time as your schedule permits regular attendance. This will allow those who are prepared to commit to the group to be active and allow those with schedule conflicts to complete their other activities.

This was good news because it meant I could get my 20 bucks back!

I have to say that there is definitely a part of me that is saddened by the fact that Christian homeschoolers segregate themselves, but I suppose it becomes necessary, as their religion is such a huge part of who they are that it oozes into every aspect of their being. (Kind of like a fag I was friends with back in NY; he oozed his sexuality to the point that I didn't even want to be with him anymore.)

These folks are such truly nice people, and there are some of us out here on the outside of the bubble who try to put that out there, but can't find enough people to reflect it back. It's so unfortunate that many Christians are incapable of bringing their goodness to others without bringing their god into it. Some of us appreciate the intrinsic value of being good, and don't feel religion should be part of that; be good just to be good.

I will miss this group immensely, but learned a lot from this experience. The most important thing is for us to stay true to who we are.

And keep looking for the goodness in secular groups.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My anti-war kid

“Mom, how come if you kill someone here it's called murder, but if you kill someone in another country they call you a hero?”

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Homeschool?

“The school system in this country—public and private—is designed for the industrial age. We’re in a technological age. We don’t want our kids to memorize. We want them to learn.”
...............Jada Pinkett Smith

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

YouTube Tuesday

We can learn from this, or get frustrated by it. (4:09)

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Friday Five

1. What were some of the smells and tastes of your childhood?
Until I was 12, we lived in an apartment where the entrance was behind a deli; I remember the smell of baked shells. I remember the smell of all the grapes growing on the vines in the backyard of that apartment (yes, there was a backyard). My great-grandmother used to come and pick them with us. Once my parents got divorced and we moved into my grandmother's house, the smell of my Uncle E's Ivory Soap in the bathroom after he took a bath every night, is still something I vividly remember.

Tastes? Something I actually remembered a couple of weeks ago as my younger son asked me how we'd celebrate our birthdays in school, was Fudgetown Cookies. I couldn't find a photo of the box as it existed when I ate them, but least you can see what the cookies themselves looked like. They were scalloped shaped chocolate cookies with fudge in the middle. Yum!

Here's a cel from a commercial showing the characters they used to advertise them on TV. I can actually remember them!

In the box there were four packages of six cookies, and I'd give out two to each child in my class on my birthday (back in the day when we could still do that). They were great!

Another taste that I remember is a Marathon Bar; an eight inch long braided caramel bar coated in milk chocolate. I wish I could find a photo of what the candy bar itself looked like. Apparently there are some curly candies out there which are supposed to be similar, but the packaging, complete with the ruler on the back to emphasize its large size, was definitely part of the experience.

2. What did you have as a child that you do not think children today have?
Time for free play outside; a neighborhood of friends to call for. I also had a longer time to be a child. People don't protect their children from maturing too early these days. I played with Barbie Dolls till 8th grade. That's 12 years old. Know any 12-year-olds playing with Barbies now? (Barbie has such a giant head and big lips now anyway, who would want to bother?)

3. What elementary grade was your favorite?
Second grade, Sister Mary, St. Luke's School, Whitestone, NY. She was so wonderful I even invited her to my birthday party. She dropped a present off but didn't stay. She was so gentle and kind and I adored her. Otherwise elementary school was filled with cliques and I didn't belong. I was happy to get out.

4. What summer do you remember the best as a child?
My summers from my childhood (before my teens) are all a blur. I guess because they were pretty much all the same. My grandparents had a house on a lake in Maine, and they built another house across the road from it (we still to this day, refer to it as the "back house"). We'd go up for a few weeks every summer. Eventually my parents bought a little summer cottage on a pond in the same area, and once divorced my mother managed to hang on to it. Every single summer my mother packed us all up and we went to Maine the day after school ended in June. And we returned home to NY the day before school started the following September.

Although as an adult I can appreciate that my mother wanted to get my out of "the city" for the summer, the fact is, I was really lonely. We saw my mother's extended family there, but I didn't have any contemporaries. I am the oldest of my generation in my extended family. After me comes my brother and a slew of boys. The girl closest in age to me is nine years younger than me. There were no girls in our area on the pond either.

I was such a bookworm at the time. And I can remember my mother telling me to go outside and play. I remember thinking "doing what, and with whom? Most parents would be thrilled to have a child who reads all the time, what's the problem?" Thank goodness for my books; they kept me sane. I can look back in my diaries today and check the lists of books I read all summer. Someday maybe I'll drag one out and post it here.

I will say that however lonely I was for girls my own age, I did at all times feel very loved. When I think back to those days, especially in my grandparents' back house before my parents' divorce, I feel warm inside. I felt safe and secure and loved.

5. What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self, and at what age?
Don't read Emese's journal.

At age 14 my best friend Emese (pronounced Emma-shay) got her first real boyfriend, where making out was actually part of their regular activities. I kept asking her questions about what it was like. And she'd tell me she wished she could tell, but Jack (I think that was his name) told her not to tell me anything. So one day I said "well, what if I take your journal and read it, so this way you wouldn't have technically told me anything". And she replied "I guess that would be true!". Except that then she got all pissed off at me when I actually did it. We had been friends for nine years. She was my best friend all through elementary school. And she threw it all away on a stupid boy.

I suppose I did too. I threw it all away because of jealousy over a stupid boy. So now I'd tell myself "mind your own business." I so wish that at some point Emese would have forgiven me. I mean, she did tell me I could read the darn thing; I wouldn't have done it if I didn't feel she was okay with it. But when my parents divorced we moved a few blocks away, and we went to different high schools, so we never saw each other.

In the long run, I suppose it was meant to be. Everything happens for a reason. Would I be the same person I am today if she were still in my life?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review of the Titanic Exhibit

Yesterday my 11-year-old son and I went to see the Titanic exhibit at the Hartford Civic Center. I couldn't find much online about the exhibit. The page on the Civic Center website is pretty "unappetizing" and I was concerned that it'd be a rip-off. But once we went, we found it was well worth it.

When we got there, we were handed two "boarding passes" and were told that we should look at the wall at the end of the exhibit to see whether we survive or not. We went ahead and purchased two audio tours and headed in. (The audio tours were of the wand-type, and could easily be shared between two or three people. They were $7 each.)

The first "room" was set up to suggest the docking area. Here we saw artifacts having to do with the outside of the boat, including the only piece of rope they have been able to retrieve. They also had big murals depicting people planning and building it.

So we stepped up on board and entered a hall which was set up like the hall would have been in first class, with doors and beautiful carpeting leading the way down to the next area. They had great sound effects too, with what sounded like a crowd cheering the ship off. The hall led to an open area with dozens of artifacts depicting what traveling in first class would've been like. It was fun to read about Margaret Brown who we knew about from the movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown. And as students of "Titanicology", we really, really loved seeing all the genuine artifacts that they pulled out of the water.

Next was another hall which depicted third class. We saw a tiny room with two bunk beds in it, and got to hear what it would've sounded like down in the bowels of the ship, so near the motor. After that was one of the boiler rooms. They had a huge chunk of coal which they had retrieved from the site, and rows of furnaces where the coal was inserted (this was actually ingeniously presented with a short row elongated with mirrors). This is the room where the exhibit began to present information about the crash. On the end of it was a "wall of ice" which people were invited to touch, and thereby understand that most people died from hypothermia rather than drowning. (I had to swipe this photo off Google Images, since I actually adhered to the no picture-taking rule.)

The room we arrived in next started the focus on the retrieval efforts; a bunch of items in cases were in the middle of the room, and along the walls were those same items in photographs as they were found at the site of the wreckage. Finally we learned about the people on the ship. Along the walls were written the stories of various passengers, and below each story were artifacts connected to that person. It was really fascinating. They actually had vials of perfume from someone going to the U.S. to sell them, and holes in the exhibit so we could smell them!

Also in the last room were a couple of large panels telling stories of people specifically connected to Connecticut, and of course, the large wall where we could take out our "boarding passes" to find out if we survived.

It took us about two and a half hours to walk through, and we were really sad when it was over. Since they did not allow photographs, I was really disappointed not to find postcards in the gift shop. (Why doesn't anyone sell postcards anymore?) All they had was a book about the exhibit for 15 bucks. I just wanted a few photos so I passed and bought myself a pencil. My son was thrilled when I treated him to a piece of coal from the ship, which even comes with a certificate of authenticity. It was 20 dollars for a piece the size of a marble, but totally worth my boy's excitement at owning something which was actually on the Titanic.

I have to say that this exhibit was phenomenal. It was so well conceived and executed, and truly involved all the senses, which helped make it so memorable. It brought the story alive in a way that all the DVD's and books have only done in a way that we now realize was superficial.

If you are fans of the Titanic, I'd highly recommend it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Using your brain is hard work

Eight year old E: Hey Mom, I can count to 100 by 2's, wanna hear? 2, 4, 6, 8... 94, 96, 98, 100.

Me: Nice job E, I didn't know you could do that.

E: Wow, that really hurt my brain. There's a big hole in it now where I used it up.