Bedtime & Books

Frankly, I don’t enjoy the reading of “Goodnight Moon” or “Who Loves Baby” or any of that toddler junk that kids like to hear when they are under five years old.  I know that most people stop reading to their kids when the kids can read to themselves, but in my opinion that is when the books finally get interesting.  As a result, the kids and I read together every night. I have two rules.  First, I get to pick the book and it can’t be a book the kids could read on their own. My second rule is that they can’t interrupt the reading with questions that are unrelated to the story.  It has taken awhile for these rules to settle in but we have a pretty good rhythm now and I’ve used this opportunity to read children’s books that I never had a chance to read as a kid.

OH MY GOODNESS!! Okay, I now understand why children’s literature is an actual major.  These people are messed up – these “children’s” stories are written by deranged individuals.  Have you read anything written by Roald Dahl?  Drugs. It is the only explanation.

The best part is having the kids recognize the differences between the movies and the book.  For example, did you know the “Wizard of Oz” movie is hardly anything like the book and the book has a horrible ending.  Seriously, Lucy and I complained for days about the terrible ending. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” – the movie not even remotely anything close to the book except there are penguins and a guy named Mr. Popper.  This is quite possibly the best book club I’ve ever been a part.  The kids and I look forward to our time with a good book and I love hearing them plead “one more chapter”.  Well, Lucy pleads, Max usually falls asleep after the first chapter is read. I thought I would share a list of our favorites:

1.) The Wizard of Oz

2.) Mr. Popper’s Penguins

3.) Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

4.) The Twits

5.) The Secret Garden

6.) The Fantastic Mr. Fox

7.) The Littles (several volumes)

8.) Peter Pan

9.) Winnie The Pooh

10.) Alice In Wonderland

11.) Charlotte’s Web

12.) The Wind In The Willows

We stopped reading “Ella Enchanted” because it was God awful slow and neither Lucy nor I could ever get into “Little House on the Prairie”.  We are definitely open to recommendations so please leave suggestions for books that you and your kids have enjoyed reading together.  The next couple on our list include:

1.) Tom Sawyer

2.) Through The Looking Glass

3.) Mary Poppins

4.) Jungle Book

5.) Swiss Family Robinson



As expected homeschool is not all rainbows and butterflies.  Surprising, I know.   The kids and I have had our share of run ins over doing their work, fighting with each other and the normal things that would be expected from children.  However, the most unexpected challenge has been the making of new friends – not the kids making new friends, but me.

I miss my moms.

I miss chatting in carpool and catching up with friends at those stupid school fundraisers.  I miss the circle of support that you receive from a friend rolling their eyes with you during curriculum night. The knowing glare when the teacher explains the daily reading log and you’re both thinking, “yeah, that will never happen”.   The communal groan when the sign up sheet gets passed around for  the third classroom party.  The community you feel knowing that you are all just trying to survive – together.

Don’t get me wrong, my friends – my real friends – have been incredibly supportive.  We’ve had play dates and phone calls and I know that they are around me supporting me in my choice, even if it is different from their choice.  That is real friendship – a friend who can still support you while doing something different.  But I miss the community of people who ARE doing the same thing.  I miss the comfort and confirmation from other mothers knowingly nodding their head in agreement and encouragement.

Recently the kids and I attend a homeschool event and as we walked into the room we realized that everybody already knew everyone and as everybody happily chatted and played we were left in the corner.  I tried to make eye contact with several kids and moms but most smiled and looked back to their conversations.  The awkwardness and isolation washed over all of us — Lucy, feeling it the most acutely. As we left having not a single person talk to us Lucy said, “I need a break from meeting new kids.  Can’t we just hang out at home?”

I slinked home feeling defeated and insecure.  Perhaps I was not the best person to teach my kids to make friends. Perhaps I made the wrong decision ripping them from the bosom of their friends at school.  Perhaps they will grow up to be social outcasts.

Wednesday came and the kids and I went to Max’s first speech class.  As we sat in the lobby waiting for the speech therapist another family walked in.  The mom tall with long red hair, a young girl with glasses, about Lucy’s age and their youngest daughter with long beautiful blonde curls.  The speech therapist arrived and the youngest girl and Max walked off to class.  I introduced myself and asked if they were also homeschoolers (it was in the middle of the day so it was a safe assumption). She timidly responded, “yes, this is our first year” – I controlled my enthusiasm as much as I could when I responded, “ours too. How old is your daughter?” She pulled up a chair next to me and said “This is Madison, and she’s ten”

Thank the Lord above!!

Well, Lucy and Madison hit it off right away with a whole list of things in common and as the mother and I chatted so did we.  As we walked back to the car Lucy turned and said “I made a new friend.”  Friendship is always easy with the right person.



4 Reasons Why Being an Old Mom Rocks and 1 Reason Why It Sucks

I was 39 when I gave birth to Harper, medically classifying me as a mother of “advanced maternal age”.   It is so nice of the medical community to not just call me “old”.  Since then I’ve had more than one woman ask me if I have regretted having children later in life.  I find this to be such an odd question because it somehow implies that I chose to have children this late in life.  Although I’m sure there are many women who actually “chose”, I did not.  My late motherhood is a product of the natural progression of my life (marriage at 30 + infertility issues + one miscarriage).  As I watch my high school friends send their children to prom and college and begin to enjoy their empty nest I’m still trying to get my last little chick to poop in the potty.  And although I sit here physically exhausted after spending the past week dealing with three children with the stomach flu I can’t imagine my life unfolding any other way.  Here are my top 4 reasons it’s awesome to be an old mom and 1 reason why it sucks.

1.) I Didn’t Give Up Anything

Our society is obsessed with the role of women.  There are books written about it and specialists and therapists and TED talks all about the choice women face between career and family.  It is rather absurd since the real answer is unique to each person.  I feel lucky that I have been able to be both mother and professional.  I started working in advertising and media in 1992. I started in radio, moved to non-profit, then online media.  I’ve worked as a strategist, project manager, consultant, business analyst and a myriad of other titles.  I’ve had clients in England, France, Japan, Columbia, Mexico, Canada and elsewhere.  I’ve traveled and met CEOs and had large expense accounts, managing million dollar clients.  It was fun and exciting and when I walked away from that in 2006, when Max was born, I didn’t think twice about leaving.  I have been able to have both – family and career – and for that I’m lucky.  As an older mom you have the unique ability to experience both sides of the fence – wholly and completely without feeling like you are choosing one over the other.

2.) Selflessness Versus Selfishness

When you are young you are selfish and myopic.  This isn’t a bad thing, this is just biology.  You are consumed with your own life, your own career, your own needs.  Sometime in your mid-twenties you are ready to think about somebody else and so you get married but children demand a whole different level of selflessness.  In order to be a parent you must be willing to give up practically EVERYTHING.  The demands of parenthood are extreme.  The thing about being in my thirties is that I don’t mind giving all that stuff up. It is easier for me to understand the demands of the now versus the demands of the later.

3.) Money

I’m more financially stable.  With fourteen years of career under my belt and a solid salary I was able to pay off debt, invest in a 401K and build a nest egg. Yes, children are expensive and my kids won’t be going to private schools or fancy colleges but they also won’t be in debt. In addition we can afford the vacation here and there, a bigger house, and we don’t have quite all the same money worries that so many young parents face.

4.) Confidence

There are few areas of life that are filled with as much unsolicited advice as parenting.  The sheer number of books that populate the world telling you how to be a parent is mind boggling and when you add that to the advice given from well meaning relatives and friends — well it is a miracle anybody gets it wrong.  All that advice can make you doubt every step, every decision and you can find yourself feeling the need to stand so firmly in your convictions that you become the self-righteous parent.  The nice thing about being an older mom is that I don’t give two craps what other people think.  Your late thirties and forties brings you a good dose of self confidence and belief in yourself.  As a result the whims of parenting trends don’t ruffle my feathers nearly as much.

All of this sounds lovely but there are definite downsides to being an older mom and the number one reason is biology.  When you’re twenty and have kids your body bounces right back. The weight melts away and your stomach retains it’s shape.  The burden on your body is barely felt.  In my thirties having children has left an indelible mark.  My bladder control was gone after child number 2.  My ability to keep my stomach acid in my stomach left after child number 3.  My abdominal muscles were permanently damaged after child number 2 and just made worse by child number 3.  Far too often I hear doctors say to me, “yeah, well we can’t fix that, that is what happens after three kids in your thirties”.  These young mothers who so self-righteously complain that if women just watched their weight and exercised they could fit back into their bikini need to have their third child at 39 and then tell me how easy it is.  For the record I never gained more than 20lbs with any of my pregnancies and yet the damage to my body would tell a different story. The nice thing though is that nobody expects me to look good in a bikini at 43 so I guess it doesn’t really matter.


Warning: Graphic Content

People say that sometimes you can see your child’s future profession by observing their strengths and disposition.  If this is true than Harper is destined to be a dictator of a small South American country.

Harper has all the typical personality markings of a toddler.  She demands infinite and total control of her surroundings and her minions, aka Mommy, Sister, Brother and Daddy.  This expression of total control can be witnessed in every aspect of her life.  She refuses to brush her hair, wash her hair, take a bath, wear shoes, wear appropriate clothes or clothes at all, take medicine, eat her vegetables, eat food, drink water, buckle her seat belt, share her toys, etc.  In other words, she will do what she wants, when she wants or Lord help the person standing in the way.  This willfulness and domination has also included potty training.

Yes, I am going there.

Harper is 3 years and 8 months old.  I started potty training her at 18 months.  She pretty quickly caught on to peeing in the potty and hated wearing a diaper at night and so her ability to “hold it” was quite advanced at a very early age.  Harper has total control of her kidney and bladder.  As a matter of fact if we could isolate the gene for this total control perhaps we could solve the obesity crisis.  This child has the ability to “hold it” for up to 15 hours.  She “holds it” for so long that I’m amazed that she hasn’t given herself a kidney infection.

As a result you can imagine how this affected our ability to get her to go “#2” in the potty.  At first she clung to using her diapers but when I produced a Minnie Mouse pink bicycle and told her she could have it once she pooped in the potty – well, the gauntlet had been thrown.  If I knew then about the battle of wills that was before me I don’t think I would have bought the bike.  Harper agreed to not poop in diapers.  I rejoiced in my success and smugly felt I had beaten my tiny dictator.  But before my victory lap was complete she announced that she also was not going to poop in the potty.  She explained quite sweetly that she wasn’t going to poop – EVER.

Now, you and I know as rational adults that you can’t do this.  We know that your body will make you do this whether you want to or not.  UNLESS YOU ARE HARPER AND WIELD UNQUESTIONABLE CONTROL OVER YOUR ENTIRE SURROUNDINGS.  Harper didn’t poop – FOR SEVEN DAYS.  I’m not sure how much experience you have being around a constipated and control freak 3 year old but let me show you what it was like:


After several hours of blood-curdling screams and impassioned pleas by me, Harper agreed to sit on the potty.  She screamed and cried, sweat was pouring down both of our heads.  I frantically rubbed her back and tried to say soothing things while tears streamed down my face.  She screamed and screamed and screamed and finally she pooped.  And as we both sat there in the bathroom, slumped on the floor, emotionally exhausted, Harper wrapped her little arms around my neck and said, “Do I get my bike now?”

The First Week Of Homeschool

We finished our first week of homeschool.  The anticipation and excitement has faded and now all that is left is the realization that we will be doing this every day. I thought I would share my top four revelations of the week.

1.) Stress

I never realized how much stress is added to my house during the school year until it was gone.  Lucy and I had developed a nasty habit of fighting every single morning of school.  It was a constant stream of me nagging her to get dressed, brush her teeth, brush her hair, get her clothes on, eat her breakfast, don’t forget her lunch, etc, etc.  Most mornings we were left with the bitterness of anger in both of our mouths as we started our days.  That is gone. Vanished. No more. And it is a welcome respite. In addition, was this intense pressure at night to hurry up and do homework, take showers, pack lunches and get in bed because school starts in the morning.  Although this didn’t always spill out onto the kids it ate away at me, this constant cloud of “they have to get enough sleep, did you sign everything? Pack everything?” The kids still need to wake up and get dressed and we start school at around 9:00 but since we are the ones in charge there is no bell to answer.  If we happen to start at 8:45 (which we did on Monday) then fine and if we start at 9:30 (like we did on Thursday) well that is okay too.

2.) Easier Than It Looks

This first week was pretty easy and with a little planning was not hard.  Most days we finished our school work by 1:00-2:00.  The kids had an agenda and worked pretty quickly through what they needed to get done.  Don’t get me wrong, we had arguments. Max had to write lines this week and Lucy got sent to her room on two separate occasions, but overall it wasn’t difficult to get them through handwriting, math and science without even blinking.  Unlike regular school we have so many more creative options.  Max woke up Tuesday not feeling well and so elected to watch a 1 hour documentary on the Mars rover (thank you AppleTV and Netflix) and built his own version of the rover out of Lego. Once he had perked up we went on to do math and his other more structured lessons.  Without the confines of a school the kids really take the lead in their own education.  Once we started our unit on outer space they came up with their own lesson ideas and activities.  Next thing I knew we were building alien landscapes, Lucy was creating a powerpoint presentation on the planets and we were searching for directions on how to make Mars sand.


3.) The Problems Are Obvious

As a parent you have suspicions regarding your child’s educational strengths and weaknesses, but unless you are in the classroom there is no real way of knowing. In a week I’ve learned more about my kid’s strengths and weaknesses than I have the last three years combined. The struggling that I knew Max was experiencing is actually far more challenging than I suspected.  However, his strengths in math and science were impressive and I was glad to see he has an area of confidence from which we can build.  To see how much he is still struggling in writing, reading and comprehension really reinforced the importance of our decision to keep him home.   Lucy is working at lightening speed and although I knew she was bright even I was not prepared for the speed in which she can quickly work through a lesson.  I had this idea that certain subjects I would be able to teach them together, but fundamentally I don’t think that is going to work.  Although Lucy is academically strong she has developed HORRIBLE study habits and we will definitely be working on fixing those this school year.

4.) The Reward

I love being a teacher and have found it to be an incredibly rewarding career.  It never occurred to me that I might find teaching my own children even more rewarding.  As a teacher you live for those “light bulb moments” – the moment a student looks at you and says “I get it!”  I can live off of those moments for days, sucking every last drip of professional contentment out of them.  I never expected that if I combined that moment with the love I have for my own children that that moment could actually be made better. The highlight of my week was overhearing Lucy from the kitchen yelling, “MAX! DID YOU KNOW THAT IT IS 365 DEGREES ON NEPTUNE? I’D HAVE TO TAKE ALL MY CLOTHES OFF AND SHAVE ALL MY HAIR JUST TO STAY COOL!” or hearing my kids discuss which letters they like to write while finishing their handwriting practice.  Wow, that’s pretty awesome.

I’m sketching out the lesson plans for the next couple of weeks and as of now I could not be happier with our decision.  I know that challenging times still lay ahead for us but I feel confident that we can manage them since we control our own educational destiny.

We All Have Dreams

A former student of mine is an illegal alien.  I’ve written about Jennifer before and her struggles to become a legal citizen – a system that is mired in bureaucracy and unreasonable expense.  With the re-election of Barack Obama Jennifer and her family have been working hard to become legal citizens under the lenient statutes that Obama has rolled out. This is a costly process ($1,500 for Jennifer and her two siblings) and the only reason that they’ve been able to pursue the process is because of donations  (and we are still $300 short).  Jennifer submitted all of her paperwork and the immigration lawyer told her that her case was solid and so when she received her initial rejection, which requested yet more documentation,  she was shocked.  I wanted to share with you the email she wrote to me.  These immigrants are not faceless — not to me.  Many of them are my students and I dare you to read this (unedited) and not cry or feel your heart ache for this brilliant, talented young woman who is facing a dismal future without her papers.

“I wish there was something more you could do, but the letters are more suited to people who see me daily since I need to prove I was here continuously for 2012 and specifically for June 15, 2012. What we think happened is that they didn’t exactly read the letters but just glanced at all the dates, because if they had read them then it would be apparent that 2012 falls between 2011 and 2013. I’m not even joking. One of the letters was our lease agreement for where we’re living now, and we moved in here June 2011 and have been living here since. The letter stated, “Jennifer has resided here since June 2011 to the present date.” Anyone with basic comprehension skills would know that the year 2012 was included there, but I imagine if you just did a cursory glance you’d take note of 2011 and nothing more. I don’t know, it feels like total crap. Ugh.

It’s the fact that it’s not personal that aggravates me actually. And I think aggravates most DREAMERS because we are, above all, human beings you know? I am a PERSON, not just a collection of facts. Like, this is intensely personal for me and one could even say that my entire future is riding on it. I can’t not take it personal. It’s my life. IT’S MY LIFE. And the fact that there’s someone out there who is looking at all of the facts without taking into account everything we’ve been through for this, everything we’ve suffered and lost and sacrificed…that’s hard. It’s hard because all I’ve ever wanted to do was go to school and study and learn and…just be normal, and I’ve never really been able to do that…

It is so easy for us to cast large stereotypical nets.  We complain that all welfare families are drug addicts.  We complain that all immigrants are lazy drunks who are after our jobs.  (Yes, because there are so many people lined up to mow lawns in 100+ degree heat.) But, we must not lose track that we are a country founded by immigrants, for immigrants – these dark faces that we see staring at us could very well be our grandmothers, grandfathers or ancestors. Would we want the good, ambitious bright individuals thrown out with the proverbial “bath water”?  If we start closing our borders to immigrants than we have lost track of the very heart of this country – the very thing that makes us strong – the very thing that we should be most proud: the American Dream.

And So We Begin

As most mother’s prepare for the first day of school so do we – only this year the first day of school rests squarely on my shoulders. I find myself swinging between giddy excitement and absolute terror. After spending several months reading books on homeschooling and attending workshops I have come to the startling realization that homeschool is a lot like having a baby – people can tell you what it is like but until you’ve done it you have no idea.  The kids and I have been busy preparing the school room and although I wish I could tell you I bought all new furniture — I didn’t.  My biggest investment was a $40 book sling that I bought for Harper off of Craig’s List. Most of my time, energy and money has been poured into organization and buying books. I’ve bought LOTS OF BOOKS.



As public school families discuss teacher and room assignments homeschool families talk about curriculum selection. The one advantage I have as an experienced teacher is the knowledge that all textbooks and curriculum seem fantastic during the planning stage before school starts, but can quickly turn to crap midway through a semester. At the end of the day each teacher picks books and curriculum that plays to their strengths.  There are no “right” choices or some “perfect” curriculum that will magically teach any child.  Sometimes, as a teacher, you are simply making the least worst decision.  I thought I would share some of my curriculum choices.

Saxon Math:  I wanted a very detailed, structured and specific math curriculum because it is my weakest link as a person. Saxon Math has come highly recommended and I like the fact that it has a two steps forward, one step back approach to math.  There is a lot of repetition and building on skills.

The Story of the World:  My mother-in-law purchased this set of history books and I went ahead and bought the workbooks to go along with them.  These books teach history chronologically and with a classical bent.  This most definitely plays to my educational background and I agree that history should be taught chronologically – it gets too confusing when bouncing around.

Language Arts:  This is where I’m free-styling.  With two degrees in English I feel pretty confident that I can teach my own children reading and writing.  I didn’t buy a curriculum. I will use some Spalding with Max to help him progress with his reading and comprehension but overall I’m going to focus on a lot of reading books, a lot of oral and written book reports, and story starters.

Music: Lucy is taking violin lessons through the Music Institute of North Texas.  Max will start playing recorder at home this year and we have some field trips planned to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Art: I have purchased two used art textbooks that we will be using in conjunction with the free lesson plans that the Dallas Museum of Art provides.

Handwriting: I’m also using a daily handwriting practice book for both of them.  I have lefties.  They need more practice.

Unit Studies: We are working our science into our unit studies which will include Outer Space, The Human Body and Dinosaurs – for the first semester.

Lucy is also taking dance classes and Max will join Boy Scouts this year.  It will be a full year.

As a teacher there is joy in the planning stage of the school year.  Pencils are sharpened. Bulletin boards are tidy. Lesson plans are neatly written out. The vision of the school year is pure and pristine.  However, the reality of the school year crashes in and we do our best to dodge and weave – accommodating and modifying our plans along the way until the school year ends in a place we never could have foreseen. I know this truth and that is what frightens me.

What’s In A Name?


Lucy calls me “Mommy” because she fears growing up and away from me.  It is her desire to never lose me that she clings to her childhood.

Max calls me “Mama” because he doesn’t want to be like his sister.  He’s a tough guy  – a guy who doesn’t want anybody to know that in his quiet moments he needs his mommy like everybody else.

Harper  calls me “Mom” because she desperately wants to be a big kid and free of all things that classify her as being a baby –  except actually using the toilet.