Author Archives: drasch

Sharp stick in the eye

So KVON posted a link to an excellent blog post the other day called “It’s OK to be a Boy.” This struck home with me, especially this point:

What if we assumed that boys’ instincts and inclinations were good and right, instead of inherently destructive or deviant?

 That’s me, waving my hand over here. Because as a mother, I struggle with the inherent destruction that comes along with boys. Have you ever seen the ‘definition’ of the word ‘boy’?

boy: noun A noise with dirt on it.

In my experience, parenting two of them, this is true. If E chooses khakis to wear to school, they will come home with grass stains and a hole in the knee (even though they had indoor recess). An activity as quiet as coloring at the table will result in G sporting a red bandito mustache and fingers as black as Crayola markers will make him.

As mothers, we protect our kids from the moment we find out they’re fluttering in our wombs. We eat as well as morning sickness will allow, we abstain from alcohol and tobacco, we avoid dangerous activities that could harm our growing child. We craft a birth plan to help our medical providers ease our child into the world, including the “cut me open without anesthesia if he’s in distress” clause (was I the only one who had that conversation with my husband?). The first time we leave the house with him, we wish madly for a way to erect a force field around our car to protect him from the insane drivers. He’s the most precious thing, and we’re charged with protecting him until he can protect himself.

Fast forward eight years, when you’re fighting over bicycle riding boundaries and “Why do I have to wear a helmet when D—- down the street doesn’t?” and you can’t exactly explain to your hazel-eyed negotiator that your husband has been first on scene to a kid vs. car accident where the kid’s head hit the curb and it’s smashed like a cantaloupe because he wasn’t wearing a helmet. So you say the word that they hate more than all others (except for ‘leftovers’), which is SAFETY.

Boys hate safety. They hate it. Mine roll their eyes and airquote me when I ask, “What’s the most important thing?” And I’m learning why they hate it. Because they’re wired to take risks and climb trees and jump off the garage (I had to shut this little experiment down again just last week). They do backflips off the pool ladder, they have kick fights (you should see their shins) and take turns sliding off the top bunk bed on a piece of cardboard. They live for danger, thrive on it, look for the chance to balance on the edge of a rock wall and set ants on fire with magnifying glasses. They learn and create through excitement and destruction.

It’s why, when I see a boy with his arm in a cast, I smile and nod knowingly at his mother. I hope that smile conveys my understanding.  

He’s a boy. He does these things. He’s dangerous with a purpose.

My husband recently cut down two trees in our yard, and the boys helped stack the smaller limbs by the fire pit. The last few times we’ve had a fire, G & E have been picking out long limbs, catching the ends on fire, then running around the darkened yard with their ‘torches.’

This sets my heart to hammering. Because I remember the first fall, the first head bump, the first bloody lips, the first finger avulsions, the first fractures resulting in ER trips and X-rays. And I see in my mind one of my precious, dirty boys getting poked in the eye with a sharp (fiery) stick. And I have to bite my lip and my tongue and let them be.

Because they are boys. And they are dangerous with a purpose.

Toad House

When we were turning the garden beds last week, my husband found a toad. There’s an old wives tale that having toads in your garden are lucky, which probably stems from the fact that they eat tons of bugs that would otherwise destroy your plants.

One of the best ways to encourage toads to make their homes in your garden is to create a toad house. After checking out some gardening web sites and amazon, and finding a few cute houses (none under $40 that I liked), I found this post which described how to make your own. It’s simple; take an old terracotta planter, epoxy small smooth stones to one half, bury it in the ground, and make sure there’s a nearby water source.

I announced to my four-year-old daughter that we were going to make our own toad house, and she was excited to help pick out the stones. (She chose the orange ones).

Click over to the original post for materials and instruction, courtesy Diane Rixon.

 Our version:

I found that working from bottom up was best. Also, a quick-setting epoxy set quicker, but is a pain to mix and spread on both the stone and the pot.

Small stones with one flat side seem to work best, and the flat, brightly-colored stones seemed to set better than the small river stones. I may make another one as a gift, but I’ll use a smaller pot (I picked a 14″ one and it seems a bit big) and I’ll definitely use brightly colored stones.

In all, the kids are excited about watering the ‘toad pool’ and keeping an eye out for a new friend. I hope we make his acquaintance again soon.

Lapbook on Black Holes

George has been complaining that he’s bored at school. (This is usually followed by a ‘can I PLEEEEEEZE homeschool?’ to which I reply, ‘You think school is tough now, it’s NOTHING compared to what it would be like to homeschool with  me, dude.’)

So, I have embarked on a project; every other month he chooses a science or history subject he’d like to do research on, and on opposing months he does a book report (his choice). The first subject he chose was black holes. And here’s a video I took back in November of the lapbook I created for him.

The materials I used were all from the juvenile science section of the local library. The one book that was most helpful was Eyes on the Sky: Black Holes by Don Nardo (ISBN 0737713666). It’s written for ages 8 and up, and the index and glossary were simple enough for George to navigate.

As my first lapbook attempt, I can say this: Thank God I have a Xyron sticker maker. It made the process so much faster.

He did a great job; in fact, he took it to school to show his teacher, who in turn sent it to the principal, who wrote him a nice note about what a great job he did. (He was very proud).

I’m hoping he picks a reasonable book for his next report.

Homeschooling Public Schoolers

Two of our three children are in public school, and the youngest is homeschooling for preschool. We agonized about the education decision; public vs private, homeschool vs traditional schooling. The main reason why we elected to send our kids to public school is (a) cost and (b) the fact that I’m going back to school for my degree so that I can carry benefits once George retires. If I planned on staying home, or returning to work part-time only, I’d be homeschooling. Simple as that.

This year, both boys have fantastic teachers; Ethan’s Kinder teacher is smart, kind, and loves her kids. That’s something that can’t be faked. (George’s Kinder teacher was… well, let’s just say we requested that E NOT have the same teacher. It was bad; very, very bad.) George’s second-grade teacher this year is excellent, and both teachers communicate exceptionally well.

Here’s the thing; I still consider myself a homeschooler. Yes, I send my children to public school, but ultimately, I’m the one responsible for their education. I review the work sent home, maintain an open line of communication with the professional educators, see if there are projects we can do where the kids need reinforcement in certain areas, or ‘rewards’ in others. For example; George loves creative writing. In fact, when he’s working on a ‘non-fiction’ writing project at school, he has a tough time not embellishing or adding anecdotal information. So, when he is successful with his non-fiction writing, I reward him with a creative writing project. A few months ago, when he told me he was ‘bored’ at school, I had him choose a subject to for a lapbook report. He chose black holes (not much information on this subject at the 2nd-grade level, but we managed) and did an excellent lapbook report; one that got a note from his principal saying how impressed she was. (I did a video showing the different parts; maybe one day I’ll actually get around to posting it.)

Ethan seems to have some issues with differentiating between b and d and p, g and q. He also prefers to guess at words instead of sounding them out. So, I made a flip book of sight words, which he goes through at least 4-5 times a week. We also use Funny Words (from Confessions of a Homeschooler‘s K4 Curriculum), where he flips the C-V-C letters, sounds them out and writes down whatever words he makes up. His Kinder teacher gave us a new game called Valentine’s Monster Mash, which is a similar concept but requires him to sound out all of the letters in the nonsense C-V-C ‘words’ in order to keep the card. It’s great practice for him.

It comes down to choice; how involved are you in your child’s education? There are parents who choose traditional schooling who are very involved, review homework, plan their own educational field trips, talk to their child’s teacher regularly to make sure both are on the same page. There are homeschoolers who rely completely on a software program and their child’s autonomy for his or her education. And there are the rest of us, who fall somewhere in between in terms of involvement and impetus. I think I’ll always consider myself a homeschooler, regardless of where my child officially attends school. Because I alone am responsible for educating my children; the public schools and all they offer are merely tools to that end.

REPOST: Boycotting Valentine’s Day

Here’s my post from Valentine’s Day last year. We had an interesting discussion on Ravelry about both the pros and cons of V-Day; some couples celebrate it come hell or high water, some focus on the religious traditions of the feast day, some use it as an opportunity to be goofy with each other. (Considering that one year, I hot-glued a match to a handmade card that said ‘You still start my fire’ with a heart drawn around it, I think George & I fall into this latter category.)

But when you get past the goofiness, at its core… I hate Valentine’s Day. More than just solidarity with my single girlfriends (and my married girlfriends with unromantic husbands), it’s about as far away from true romance as you could possibly get.

Boycotting Valentine’s Day
I hate Valentine’s Day. HATE IT. To me, it’s the most offensive holiday ever invented. Men are bombarded by advertisements for everything from jewelry stores to flower delivery to stuffed animals and crappy pajamas, all in an effort to say “You aren’t capable enough to be romantic on your own, so we’re going to stick a date on the calendar in order to force you into it.”

Valentine’s Day is the equivalent of telling your husband or boyfriend, ‘You know, it would be nice if you brought me flowers’ and having him come home from work with them that very day. That’s not romance; that’s coercion.

Valentine’s Day is about guys making Grand Gestures and overspending for things that we really don’t need. Teddy bears? Heart-shaped filigree pendants? Ugly pajamas?

And the worst part is that women buy into it! We have expectations for receiving presents from our significant others just because American Greetings and Hallmark like to pepper the airwaves with vignettes suggesting that men can’t possibly think of their wives and girlfriends on their own.

Now I’m not suggesting that people who celebrate Valentine’s Day are automatically unromantic. I’m simply stating that romance is about more than picking one arbitrary day and placing importance on something that should be part of your relationship year round.

You know what’s romantic? My husband makes sure that I have money in my wallet, gas in the tank of the van, and windshield wiper fluid. He scrapes the snow off my van and asks if I need anything from the outside refrigerator. He shovels the sidewalk and puts down salt to make sure that I don’t fall. He brings me a beer and builds a fire so that we can sit and talk about our day while I knit. He tells me my hair is pretty (when it isn’t) and that he likes my face when I’m not wearing a stitch of makeup. He offers constructive criticism on my meals and calls to thank me for packing his breakfast and lunch every day.

That, my friends, is romance. It cannot be shouted from the radio or played out in a sappy television commercial. Real romance is the bond that makes you want to do for your spouse, to give to them, to make their needs and wants important to you. Romance is in the small details of daily life, not just in the grand gestures of holidays.

Growth

I learned something today, courtesy my 8 year old son.

We’ve had the same morning routine since late August. Each child has his/her own laminated routine, with pictures (for the non-readers). They’re expected to do the same thing every school day. For over 100 days now; dress, brush teeth, oatmeal bowls into the dishwasher, backpacks/jackets by the back door.

I tend to be a stickler for routine, since it helps me to maintain our home. Routine is comfort in knowing what comes next. And since change is difficult for me (we’re talking quantum physics difficult), I struggle with the flexibility required when there are interruptions in that routine.

Today, while waiting to drop George off, I asked the boys if they’d remembered their tennis shoes. (Six inches of snow on the ground here in NE Ohio over the weekend.) Both boys gasped; “Aw, Mom, we forgot our shoes!” Ethan got angry (his typical response) because today is gym day and if he doesn’t have tennis shoes, he can’t participate.

George, however, started to cry.

My sweet, caring, control freak of an 8-year-old (he comes by it honestly, as you can imagine) was terribly upset. He asked if we could go back home to get them; I told him no, that if we did that, both boys would be late for school. This set off a fresh wave of tears, and we had to sit for several minutes for him to settle down enough to get out of the van.

Something went off in my brain. A synapse fired that told me Something Isn’t Right. I didn’t know exactly what, but I made a split-second decision.

I turned around and went home.

After grabbing the boys’ shoes and dropping Ethan off (last car, but in time nonetheless!), I swung by George’s school and had the secretary call him to come get his shoes.

My child walked into the office, red-eyed and in his stockinged feet, with a smile that hasn’t been seen since he opened his newest LEGO set on his birthday. I realized immediately why he’d been so upset; he would have spent the entire day walking around in his socks. Which, to an eight-year-old who doesn’t like to stand out from his peers (really, what child does at this age?), would have been tantamount to being clad only in his underwear.

I can’t tell you why I chose to listen to that little voice. Not the one saying, “This is going to upset your entire morning,” but the one that said “This is going to hurt him.” I am a firm believer in choices and consequences and letting my kids suffer a little when they make the wrong choice. But sometimes, though we don’t deserve it, we receive compassion. And sometimes it’s more important to model compassion than it is to model correctness.

Instead of holding fast to the routine, I decided to hold fast to my child. I’m glad I did, because I think it taught us both a very important lesson.

Thoughts on Penn State

Joe Paterno passed away last week, and it caused the sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky to resurface. And it caused me to think about how this situation is not just an indictment of how men put the needs of an institution above the rights of a child; it’s about something much more insidious in our society.

Fatherless boys.

Jerry Sandusky, who is alleged to have sexually abused several young boys over the years (I believe the current count is ten), started the charity in 1977 as:

“…a statewide non-profit organization for children who need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact. The Second Mile plans, organizes, and offers activities and programs for children – and adults who work with them – to promote self-confidence as well as physical, academic, and personal success.”

from http://www.thesecondmile.org/aboutUs.php

Basically, underprivileged, potentially at-risk children, largely from dysfunctional homes without one (or both) parents. Through The Second Mile, Sandusky had access to hundreds of vulnerable boys. The details enumerated in the grand jury report against Jerry Sandusky reads like a pedophile handbook; find a vulnerable boy, groom him, buy him gifts, take him places, make him feel obligated… then take advantage of him.

All the while, the boy’s mother thinks it’s wonderful that her son has a strong male figure in his life; successful, trusted, well-respected in the community. In short, someone her son can look up to.

But in this day and age, when divorce is more prevalent than not, and mothers are the ones often left shouldering the burden of raising their children alone, how do we insulate ourselves from the potential of this type of tragedy?

Author Gavin de Becker in his book “Protecting The Gift”, discusses how human predators select their targets and how parents can protect their children. A boy with a single working mother, absent father, disadvantaged, is a prime target for these types of predators.

If nothing else, this terrible situation should serve to remind us to care for the least among us. Be observant and speak up if we see an adult exhibiting inappropriate behaviors toward a child. Reach out to the fatherless boys in our communities and build them up in a healthy manner so that they are less likely to become fodder for predators.

Review of Wen by Chaz Dean UPDATED

6/12 – UPDATE at the end.

One day while slogging away on the treadmill, the infomercial for Wen by Chaz Dean came on. And since one of the children had run off with the remote, I watched it.

For those who aren’t aware, Wen is a haircare line by celebrity hairstylist Chaz Dean. The product claims that it’s different than other shampoos because it doesn’t contain sodium laurel sulfate or other lathering agents, which strip the oils from hair and cause it to dry out.

I have naturally curly auburn hair that is both very dry and very fine. I wash my hair once a week and rinse it every few days ago specifically because it’s so dry, and washing it often makes it worse. So my ears perked up when I saw how the product worked.

I Googled the product to mixed reviews; some reviewers claimed that product worked for them, others said it didn’t. Some complained about the sales tactics (they push the auto-ship program, and some customers have claimed that they have not received reimbursements despite the money-back guarantee. Google “wen chaz dean complaints” and come to your own conclusion).

I decided to bypass the Guthy-Renker reorder issue and purchase from a seller on Amazon.com. When I searched the Wen page, I could not locate this version; I’m not sure why they only seem to have the Sweet Almond available for purchase in 90-day supply. I didn’t want the entire line; I only wanted to try the conditioning cleanser. So this review is really only for the cleanser; I can’t speak to the rest of the styling products in the line.

I wanted the Lavender Mint cleanser, so that’s what I purchased from Amazon.

The mint fragrance is definitely stronger than the lavender, but I’m OK with it. It isn’t overpowering.

I rinsed my hair as I normally would — one to two minutes is what is recommended on the web site — and then applied the product to my hair. FIRST MISTAKE: I didn’t comb out my hair like I normally do before washing. It took longer as a result. But, I ended up leaving the product in for closer to ten minutes.

The product has the consistency of a good conditioning treatment; not as light as a leave-in, but not as heavy as a hair masque.

After combing through, I rinsed well and dried with a towel. Normally after rinsing my hair (but before towel-drying), I add a nickel-sized amount of argan oil to my hair, but I wanted to see how the Wen would work without extra product. I was surprised to see that my hair looked smooth, as if I had added the oil. That was a big plus in my book.

I wanted to dry my hair as normal (head down, with a diffuser) but I noticed when I started drying that there were was some frizz. So about halfway through, I stopped drying and added about a quarter-sized amount of the argan styling creme that I normally use. I finished drying, and was very surprised by the effect.

Usually I use argan oil, styling creme, frizz-taming gel and hairspray to achieve volume right after I’ve washed my hair. But I actually have a fairly decent amount of volume without anything but the conditioning cleanser and the styling creme.

VERDICT:
I’m impressed. I will probably add this to my normal hair routine to “confuse” my hair every once in a while, but due to the price of the product (I paid $38.95 for a 16 oz bottle; the three-month supply is right around $90) I don’t think it will be something I use on a weekly basis. Of course, I can only speak to the efficacy of the cleansing conditioner, since I didn’t try any of the other products in the line.

And now for the un-retouched before and after photos:

Photobucket
BEFORE

Photobucket
AFTER

UPDATE: June 2012
I did a little more research on hair and have found that the Curly Girl Method works better for me. As a result, I no longer use Wen because it contains non-water soluble silicones that build up in hair. I’ve been using DevaCurl products, and my hair has never looked better. It’s like, after 36 years, I finally know how to care for my curly hair!

Loss

This past Thanksgiving, an online friend’s son died from brain cancer. He was just shy of his fifth birthday.

Recently, my friend posted on his blog about a dream he had about his son. That he was the way before he was ill, before he struggled to breathe.

I was reminded of another friend and former co-worker. His