A Little Jack Update

 

 

It’s only a matter of time before Jack asks me to quit writing about him online, so I’d better talk about him now while I can.  😉

Here’s a glimpse of our oldest baby boy, who turned 14 a little over a week ago.

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That’s Jack at his birthday pool party, with a good friend, along with Fiona and Alex, and here with some other friends.

Jack had such a good birthday 🎈🎈🎈

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And lest he looks like he’s all grown up and not a kid anymore, here’s another shot from his birthday party.

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Jack is finishing 8th grade, though we don’t pay much attention to the numbers.

He is much taller than I am — though that’s not hard since I’m just under 5 feet tall!  🙂  He’s nearly as tall as his dad, though, and Daryl is just over 6 feet tall.

He’s a huge help to me around the house.  He is probably the biggest help of all of the kids, and I thank him for it often.  He helps with laundry, cooking, taking care of Fiona, garbage, yard work, you name it.

He even took care of my artichoke seedlings while I was in Nebraska for nearly two weeks.

He loves gaming (video, board and role play), music, nature, animals and puns.  He also still loves doing crafts, particularly if he can invent them himself.  He collects and alters bottle caps, and loves all things weapon-related (from swords to nerf guns).  He’s rather introverted and very goofy when he feels comfortable enough to show his goofy side.  He is also the ultimate peace-maker, an important role for a kid in a family of 5 kids!  He would be well suited for any table at the UN with his skills at un-ruffling feathers and calming folks down!

He is still quite left-leaning.  This is a kid who happily pounded one of only two signs in our town that supported marriage equality into our front yard as a little boy, and he remains fiercely caring about the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks and other oppressed groups.

He is not sure what he wants to do with his life when he crosses that imaginary line into “grown up” but I suspect it might have to do with nature or science.  I could also see him as a writer, even though he still balks at any formal writing assignments.  He is so creative that I think he would do well as a writer or game designer.  I am guessing that he’ll come up with his own path that I’d never have seen coming, though.

He can be moody at times (what 14 year old isn’t?) but in general, he is my “easiest” teenager yet.  I have told him and Alex — often! — that they were so exhausting as young boys that they owe me easy teen years, and he seems to be keeping his end of the bargain!  😉

I could not be more proud of him than I am, especially of his soul.  He is so caring, so smart, so giving.  He is a wonderful brother, son and human being.

Jack and Elli at the Civil War ball. #reenacting #firstball #mylittleboyisgrowingup

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Feeling the Bern

bernieselfie

We were hosting homeschool days at the Petroglyphs yesterday but Toria and I left Daryl and the staff in charge and went on a different field trip yesterday.

We carpooled with friends (one old, two new) to see Bernie Sanders in Sioux Falls.

He was not planning to stop in South Dakota this week but he announced on Tuesday that he would come.  He was scheduled to speak at 7:30, with doors opening at 5.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going and looking for company, and Daryl encouraged me to go.  I said yes, woke Toria, and told her the news.  A few hours later we were on the road, by way of Iowa to pick up another Bernie friend, and then stopping in Sioux Falls to pick up another.  By the time we got there via three states, it was around 5:30 and the line went far off into the distance.

One of the members of our party uses a wheelchair and she headed right to the officials in front of the building to ask where we should go.  Our party was ushered right through the doors and through security, where a volunteer pushed Deb’s wheelchair and led us right in and through the crowds.  I must admit that I felt guilty and lucky for their exceptional treatment of handicapped attendees and their parties, because we frankly would not have gotten in otherwise.  I didn’t even realize as it was happening what was going on, our friend was simply efficiently taken care of and they beckoned us to quickly follow.  Even the people waiting in line at the metal detectors just moved over as we came in.  Bernie supporters are a caring bunch.  I guess it sort of goes with the territory.

Thousands of people were unable to get in to see him.  Over 2,000 got in to see Bernie, but over 2,000 had to wait outside (I’m wondering if they were in overflow rooms with monitors, as it seemed afterwards that masses of people were coming from a different area than we were).  I assume that this was because they didn’t have security to control that large of a crowd, because there were additional walls they could have opened up to greatly increase capacity and they did not open them.  There were lots of secret service agents and local police, but since it was a last minute gig then I’m guessing they felt they could only guarantee his safety in that size of a space.

Because of this, it felt almost intimate in spite of being in a crowd of 2,000.  I’ve seen some of the crowds that have come to see Bernie, and we were in a room that could have held a (very) large wedding party to see Bernie Sanders.  It was surreal.

We got there at 5:30 and he wasn’t scheduled to speak until 7:30, so there was a lot of standing and waiting in what felt a lot like a mosh pit.  It was standing room only, other than the section for the disabled (they asked us to stand in a separate area from Deb once they got her in her spot, so wheelchairs and people who needed the ASL interpreter were all in one area to the left of the stage).

They had occasional speakers and entertainment as we waited, including a local band that played some fun songs and a phenomenal, moving performance by Native American dancers and musicians.  Several candidates and local politicians spoke also, with a focus on their collective message that they shared with Bernie.

Bernie was greeted with thunderous applause, of course, but also with a bit of annoyed booing when he accidentally called the town Sioux City (a city in Iowa) instead of Sioux Falls in his opening sentence.  🙂  I cringed and figured the local news would lead with that and not much else.  The crowd quickly forgave him and he proceeded to give an inspirational, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent speech about not only what he wanted to accomplish as president but how important the people were (not him) in effecting change and how important it was to change the current political rules and climate.

Look how close we were!

bernie

Among the issues he discussed were:

  • Injustices against Native Americans (he also met with Native Americans at the impoverished Pine Ridge reservation this week)
  • The importance of acknowledging and heading off climate change
  • Eliminating fracking and the dependency on fossil fuels
  • Creating jobs for all workers displaced by moving to clean energy
  • Taxing wall street speculation to fully fund free college education
  • Enacting legislation to allow all Americans to refinance existing student loans at the lowest available interest rates
  • Creating American jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, railway)
  • Creating paths for citizenship for immigrants
  • Taking care of disabled veterans (this was mentioned often)
  • Taking care of our elderly and ensuring that social security and medicare are protected
  • Establishing a $15 minimum wage
  • Ensuring that women finally get equal pay to men
  • Taking political power back from the very rich and putting it back in the hands of the people
  • Getting rid of Citizens United
  • Getting rid of tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes
  • Sending the message to American companies that they need to employ workers here in America and not take advantage of slave labor options in other countries or we will not buy their products here
  • Dealing with race inequality and issues for Latino and African American communities
  • Making companies provide a living wage for their employees so the American people no longer have to subsidize the billionaires
  • The importance in taking part in democracy
  • Using our money on building our country, not wars

Bernie talked a lot about the importance of thinking big and thinking outside of the box.  He also pointed out that no significant change has ever come from the top — it has always come from the bottom up.

He talked about the African Americans and their white allies who helped end slavery, often at the expense of their own lives.  He talked about the women and their male allies who helped get women our right to vote (pointing out that only a hundred years ago, women did not have that right).  He talked about women who went on hunger strikes, were jailed and who sometimes lost their lives to bringing about that change.

He said that if someone had told you 20 years ago that we’d have our first African American president in a few years, you would have said it was impossible.  He said if you’d said 10 years ago that we’d see gay marriage legal in every state in America by 2015, you’d say it wasn’t possible.  He said that five years ago, if someone said fast food workers would win the right to a $15 minimum wage in cities and states around the country this year, you’d say that was an impossible number.  He gave many examples like these of things that people thought were dreaming “too big” and we’ve made them happen.

And again and again, he said it was the people who did it.  When the crowd would shout, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…” he would smile and shake his finger and tell us, “No… You.”

All in all, it was a long, incredible experience.  I can’t speak to Victoria’s perception of it (though she is certainly a Bernie supporter and seemed to really love it) but she often just had a big smile on her face.  It was quite an experience for a kid who turned 18 just this month and will be voting for her first president this fall.

What a field trip.  🙂

(If anybody wants me to post a video clip or two, or more pictures, I took plenty.  This has taken a long time to write up and I have dinner to start and a dart game to play with my hubby, so I wasn’t going to add more unless anybody was actually interested!  Let me know if you’d like me to post them!)

 

An Afternoon Visit 7 Miles Under the Sea

Most of our family went to Sioux Falls today to do our regular trek to Costco, the science museum and thrift stores.  We try to combine fun and educational things with practical trips like grocery shopping every time we can so we have memberships to the science museum and zoo to help make it easy to stop by even for an hour or two any time we head to the city.

We usually get there in the afternoons and miss the free films at the cinedome, but this time we got there early enough to catch today’s movie, which was James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenge.

Alex, Fiona, Rhia, Toria and I went and saw the 39 minute 2-D film (I suspect it may be longer in the 3-D version in some theaters) and we loved it.  It was just wonderful.  It was educational, inspirational, beautiful, exciting…. all you could ask for, especially for kids ranging in age from 4 to 17.  Here’s the synopsis:

As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. This film is the dramatic fulfillment of that dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench—nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface—piloting a submersible he designed himself. The risks were astounding. The footage is breathtaking. JAMES CAMERON’S DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D is a celebration of science, courage, and extraordinary human aspiration.

 

I visited the film’s site when I got home and saw that they have all sorts of lesson plans for educators.  If you get a chance to see the movie either in theaters or once it’s available at home, I highly recommend it.

In the movie, Cameron talks about how he’s been obsessed with visiting the deep sea since he was a child.  He also talks about how important it is for us to keep discovering and exploring, and how today’s children will be going on their own wonderful explorations.

Afterwards, Alex (8) really wanted to talk about how Cameron did his job (making movies) in part to pay for fulfilling his dreams (going 7 miles down to the deepest part of the ocean where nobody had ever been).  He’s really thinking about what jobs would be best for him and what dreams too.  Hopefully he can combine the two.  🙂

 

The Tricky Part of Blogging in the Teen Years

riandty

Some of you know that this blog has been around for a really long time (originally at Homeschool Journal).  I’m not sure how long.  Maybe 8 years?  It’s been a while, though, and I have always been a rather transparent blogger.  I believe in full disclosure, shots of messy houses, confessions and real stuff.

Which all gets tricky in the teen years.

You may have noticed that I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  Part of the reason is because I’m pretty darned busy.  I have 5 kids to homeschool now, plus I write four columns, cook three meals a day (or so) from scratch, do several billion loads of laundry per week, do all kinds of crazy homesteading and foraging jobs, and occasionally try to check in on two blogs.  And that doesn’t even get into all the housework I should be doing.  🙂

But it’s also because my little homeschool students are growing up, and they don’t necessarily want me broadcasting their news to my world.

rhiax

Look how that little girl that I kept accidentally giving mullets to over the years has grown up!  And she’s the little sister.  🙂

My big kids don’t necessarily want me broadcasting their lives, and I don’t blame them in the least.

But still, this is hard for me, for many reasons.

  1. I love them and am proud of them, and still want to tell all about their current loves, interests and accomplishments.
  2. I have always used this blog to try to share advice and support from a BTDT perspective, to help others who might face the same issues.  This worked fine when I shared information on surviving your four year old, but it’s not really okay to share specifics on surviving your sixteen year old when said sixteen year old may have friends reading (I’m surprised and confused at how many of my teens’ friends apparently read this blog!).
  3. Their lives are a big part of my life, which makes it hard for me to come here and talk about my own life if I need to respect their privacy.
  4. It seems disingenuous to blog about fluffy things when big things are a big part of our life at times.  During those times, I stay silent because it feels fake to just talk about the little things.

So I’m still trying to navigate these years as a writer/blogger/jabbermouth.

I respect my kids and will not post about things that are personal to them, but I also believe in the community of blogging in order to support each other and form a new sort of network for this new age.

And considering how many bloggers have completely given up on the idea of blogging for connection and community and have instead embraced blogging as a way to try to make money, there are fewer and fewer authentic blogs out there of moms just trying to support each other.  I don’t want to give up being a part of that.

Good grief, do I know how much we need connection, community and support during times in parenting, homeschooling, and yes, raising teens.

Luckily, I still have little ones to write about and design lesson plans around and all that fun stuff.  And I hope to start posting about them soon, too.

But I also hope to post more about the teen years here in the near future.  All with permission, of course.  Because frankly, we need each other in those times as much as the others.

And I miss the blabbing.  😉

vandg

 

 

Great Site for Tween/Teen Health Questions

I stumbled onto TeensHealth yesterday while looking for answers to a puberty-related question for one of my kids.  The answer was thorough, helpful and reassuring (turns out about half of all boys have the same thing happen).

This particular question was rather specific and it was something I’d never heard of — not that that means much, since I went through puberty as a girl, I suppose.  🙂  I was impressed that the site had such specific information, though, instead of just the standard “here’s what to expect” pages.

It looks like a good site to share with boys and girls who might have their own questions about changes they’re going through.

The teens’ Q&A section has questions from teens on all of these subjects, with answers from experts.

Girl Stuff

Guy Stuff

Periods

Birth Control, Pregnancy & STDs

Sex

Relationships

Friends

Parents & Family

Emotions & Mental Health

Depression, Suicide & Self-Injury

Body Image & Self-Esteem

Dieting & Weight

Food & Nutrition

Fitness, Exercise & Sports

Alcohol & Drugs

Smoking

Personal Hygiene

Skin

Sleep

Doctors, Hospitals & Medicine

Mononucleosis

Metabolism & Growth

Health Conditions & Illnesses

School & Jobs

The site has larger sections for kids, for parents, and for teens.  It looks like a good resource for health and sex ed.

I have not read through that much of it, though, so you might want to preview it yourself before recommending it to your child.

If you have any other health/sex ed sites you recommend, please add them in the comments!

CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit

I’ve had my eye on this chemistry kit that caters to homeschoolers for a while now.  I featured it in my column back in 2011 here  and wrote:

If you’ve ever tried to put together your own chemistry kit for homeschooling, you know what an overwhelming (and expensive) task it can be. A new chemistry kit is now available to make it easier and more affordable for homeschoolers.

The CK01 Chemistry Kit contains everything needed (other than a few basic supplies like table salt) for a one year chemistry course, along with lecture notes.

The kit contains over 40 chemicals (such as Phosphoric acid, Thymol blue indicator solution and Copper), 25 types of equipment (with multiples of many of these, such as pipettes, beakers and alligator clips) and other related consumables such as cotton balls, cotton swabs, a lab notebook and pH test strips…

I have not tried the kit and have no affiliation with the company, but it sounds like an easy and affordable way to assemble a pretty thorough year of chemistry.

The kit now costs $184, with shipping available at an additional cost to countries such as Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The manufacturer says:

Because chemistry is widely considered to be the most difficult lab course to do well—particularly on a tight budget—we offer the CK01A Standard/Honors Home School Chemistry Laboratory Kit. It provides a comprehensive, rigorous laboratory component for a first-year high school chemistry course, and does so affordably. With the exception of standard household items (such as table salt, sugar, vinegar, aluminum foil, foam cups, and so on) and other minor items that are readily available locally, the kit contains all of the special equipment and chemicals you’ll need for a complete chemistry lab course…

It’s a serious science curriculum, too, which can be modified to make a lighter version:

For a student who will go on to major in college in chemistry or another science, the kit provides a rigorous, comprehensive first-year chemistry lab experience. For non-science majors, you can, at your option, reduce the rigor and scope of the chemistry lab experience simply by doing only selected core lab sessions, while still providing an essential introduction to chemistry lab concepts and procedures.

I still have not tried the kit myself, but I have tried the book that it was created to accompany, Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science) (affiliate link), and I love the book!

This is truly a book for kids who want to do real science with real materials.  I loved reading about how the author discovered science as a child and how he worked to create a chemistry kit like those of his youth, before they were so “dumbed down.”  The book makes for a very thorough chemistry course/lab, and it is perfect for kids who love science or for kids who want to love science.

The book is not necessary to use the kit.  It comes with a complete PDF manual.  I do recommend the book in addition, just because it’s such a fantastic, thorough resource.

The CK01A kit provides 39 hands-on chemistry experiments in 14 topic areas:

Topic I. Separating Mixtures

Session I-1: Recrystallization
Session I-2: Chromatography
Session I-3: Solvent Extraction
Session I-4: Salting Out

Topic II. Solubility and Solutions

Session II-1: Solubility as a Function of Temperature
Session II-2: Conductance of Ionic and Molecular Solutes
Session II-3: Colligative Properties of Solutions: Boiling Point Elevation and Freezing Point Depression

Topic III. Chemical Reactions and Stoichiometry

Session III-1:  Observe a Composition Reaction
Session III-2:  Observe a Decomposition Reaction
Session III-3:  Observe a Single Replacement Reaction
Session III-4:  Observe Double Replacement Reactions
Session III-5:  Stoichiometry of Double Displacement Reactions

Topic IV. Reduction-Oxidation (Redox) Reactions

Session IV-1: Observe Oxidation States of Manganese

Topic V. Acid-Base Chemistry

Session V-1: Determine the Effect of Concentration on pH and the pH Range of Indicators
Session V-2: Determine the Molarity of Vinegar by Titration

Topic VI. Chemical Kinetics

Session VI-1: Determining the Effect of Temperature, Concentration, and Surface Area on Reaction Rates
Session VI-2: Determining the Effect of a Catalyst on Reaction Rate
Session VI-3: Determining a Reaction Order

Topic VII. Chemical Equilibrium

Session VII-1: Observe Le Châtelier’s Principle in Action
Session VII-2: Determine a Solubility Product Constant
Session VII-3: Observe the Characteristics of a Buffer Solution

Topic VIII. Gas Chemistry

Session VIII-1: Observe the Pressure-Volume Relationship of Gases (Boyle’s Law)
Session VIII-2: Observe the Volume-Temperature Relationship of Gases (Charles’ Law)
Session VIII-3: Determine Gas Mass Ratios by Effusion (Graham’s Law)

Topic IX. Thermochemistry

Session IX-1: Determine Heat of Solution
Session IX-2: Determine Heat of Fusion of Ice
Session IX-3: Determine the Specific Heat of a Metal
Session IX-4: Determine the Enthalpy Change of a Reaction

Topic X. Electrochemistry

Session X-1: Observe Electrolysis
Session X-2: Observe the Electrochemical Oxidation of Iron
Session X-3: Measure Electrode Potentials
Session X-4: Build a Voltaic Cell

Topic XI. Photochemistry

Session XI-1: Photochemical Reaction of Iodine and Oxalate

Topic XII. Colloids and Suspensions

Session XII-1: Observe Some Properties of Colloids and Suspensions

Topic XIII. Analytical Chemistry

Session XIII-1. Determine Boron Concentration with Curcumin
Session XIII-2. Determine Salicylate Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-3. Determine Vitamin C Concentration in Urine
Session XIII-4: Detect Lead in Household Materials

Topic XIV. Synthetic Chemistry

Session XIV-1. Synthesize Esters

If anybody out there has used this kit, I’d love to hear your experiences with it!