Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our three day weekend ended in a meltdown.  Little, who is eleven, had a paper due.  One she hadn't worked on over the weekend.  Her weekend was spent being a kid and playing with friends. We didn't find out she had the assignment until the breakdown happened.  At 10:00 pm. The night before the paper was due.

She was bawling.  Her sister had made fun of one of the sentences she'd written.  Little said she knew, she knew,  she was a terrible writer.  TERRIBLE.  And her teacher was going to be mad at her.  HER TEACHER WAS GOING TO HATE HER.

Little's father and I told her not to worry about it.  Don't do the paper.  It's not worth the stress. But she couldn't let it go.  She worked herself into a frenzy.  Her shoulders tensed, knotted, and then she couldn't sleep.  She went to bed around 1:00 am.

Now me -- I'd been working all weekend. Nights.  And Monday was my zombie day.  A day I was awake but not fully present.  A day of recovery.  I rubbed Little's shoulders.  Told her it was okay. But I did not have the energy to help her write. I also did not get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.  Middle, who went to bed at the same time, had to be up a six.  As did Papa.

Papa, graciously, got himself and Middle up.  He let Little and I sleep.  This afternoon he is napping. Because he, too, is exhausted.

Today we let Little play hooky.  I'll be getting the phone calls and admonishments from the school. Because it's not okay to miss class.

Today we went to the library.  And a coffee shop with macaroons and blue cheese and pear sandwiches.  We are working on this assignment.  Eight paragraphs about dogs.  Something that should be simple but now is not.

Little is a good writer.  But she needs to be gentle with herself.  First drafts are just that - first drafts. They are meant to be corrected.  Writing takes time.  And patience.

Little, more than anything,  needs encouragement.  She needs to know it's okay to make mistakes. Goodness knows I love to write and my writing is riddled with mistakes.

And writing doesn't have to be rigid.  Talk to any teacher and they'll tell you no sentence should start with "and".  I do it anyway -- rebel that I am.  The world continues to turn on its axis despite my literary transgressions.

Little also needs inspiration. Right now she is working on her own project. Something for fun. She is re-writing popular lyrics and infusing them with Minecraft lingo.   Is this any less valuable than a report on dogs?

I can accept stress in my life.  As an adult stress is my burden to bear.  But a kid should be a kid; which, to me, means to play and explore.  Not to stress and panic.  Not at eleven.

I worry for our kids.  All of them.  We are sacrificing their beautiful creative minds for quadratic formulas and papers on dog.  I worry our world has moved forward but our schooling has not. Not the fault of teachers but of system that is nothing short of an archaic bureaucratic nightmare.

Right now Little is taking a break.  She's written four of eight paragraphs.  She is petting the dog and singing.  Were she in school her behavior would be inappropriate, disruptive.  And rightly so.  I can't imagine trying to teach 30 to 40 kids, each with different needs.  

We, as a family, are working to find a solution.  For Middle this means a mixture of online and home/unschooling which will start next semester.  Little has also been given this option but she wants to stay where she is -- at least for now.

I'm trying to move forward with an open mind and an open heart.   But I worry.  For your kids and for mine.  What a world.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Quest for One Direction: The Conclusion

Alas our concert quest has come to an end.   Actually it ended with the last day of school and report cards. My daughter's grades simply weren't up to snuff (not even close).  

She worked hard.  Very hard.  She came home from school and babysat.  And pet sat. Then she'd do homework.   But she couldn't do it all.  She had a herculean task in front of her and it was simply too much.  

And so, when school ended, she came to me and told me she was putting the concert tickets up for sale. No fuss.  No moaning and groaning.  I suspect she wanted to spend her summer relaxing rather than working.  And I don't blame her.  

The two big tickets sold this week.  For $900.00 a piece.  No joke. There was a 15% surcharge to sell the tickets.  The rest of the money goes to the girls. They earned it.  The two smaller tickets are also up for sale but haven't sold yet.  

I'm told the band is working on a fourth album.  And with that they are likely to tour.  Chloe tells me she'll be buying tickets (with permission of course).  

And so ends an interesting story in our lives. I hope lessons were learned.   


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April One Direction Update; The Girls are Out of Debt (and this is no April Fool's)

Indeed, it's no joke.  The girls are in the red.  It took them four months to pay off their debt. They have five months remaining to earn the rest of the money for their trip (airfare, hotel, rental car, food). They might just meet their goals. 

Chloe has been doing a lot of babysitting and petsitting.  In addition we held two jewelry parties last month. Our initial jewelry investment has been paid off and Chloe can now profit from her efforts (anyone want to host a party? Virtual or otherwise?)

We did have to write an addendum to the contract as Chloe received a C+ in Geometry(the contract stated she could get nothing less than a B). I breached the addendum with her while in the car. 

"Chloe," I said, "Your father and I have talked about it.  We are going to write an addendum to your contract."

"What?!! No! You can't do that. It's a contract. You can't just change it!"

"Do you want to hear me out?"

"No! You can't just go around changing contracts.  That's not the way it works. It wouldn't be fair to change it."

"Chloe. It will be to your benefit."


I explained to her that contracts often contain addendums and they are perfectly legal so long as both parties agree to the terms.  

Here is our addendum: 

Addendum to Agreement 

dated April 1, 2014

I acknowledge that I did not meet the requirements put forth in our original contract; I received a C+ in geometry last trimester. 

It has been noted that this is a challenging class and I am in the highest level of math at my school.  It has also been noted that significant effort has been put forth in my schooling and my grades have dramatically improved since the contract’s initiation. Therefore the One Direction concert tickets will not be disposed of as previously stated.  

Rather I must continue to work hard in school.  To counteract the C+ I must receive an A in one of my core classes next semester (Geometry, Science, Spanish, Advanced Language Arts or Advanced Social Studies).  It is also noted that, though important for my physical health, an A in Physical Education is not an appropriate counterbalance to Geometry.   

I understand that the remaining terms of the contract shall continue as previously written. 

I, the undersigned, agree to this addendum in full. 

After this addendum was fully explained Chloe did agree to its terms.  

One of our recent jewelry parties was hosted in Eugene by a high school friend of mine (thanks Michelle!).  My parents live in the valley so it was a no brainer to travel for a spring break party. 

I had three passengers for the ride over, Chloe, Ava and one of Ava's friends. Guess what we listened to the WHOLE WAY THERE. Oh yes. We listened to One Direction's collection in its entirety. We started with their initial album and worked our way up to their current album (three total).  Chloe wants to make sure I'm well versed once the concert rolls around. And I am, whether I want to be or not. 

Oh the things I never planned on when these kids were born.  

And that, my friends, is our latest update.  Someday I shall write of other things -- like my plans for rooftop beehives in downtown Bend or my desire for more backyard chickens or the story I'm currently writing with my children as characters. 

But for now this is all I've got.  



Monday, March 10, 2014

March Update; We Continue to March Forward Towards the 1D Concert.

As you can see the girls have been making steady progress on their debt.  Only $269.00 to go to pay off four concert tickets. Today I was given an additional $50.00 (birthday money).

They still have to save for airfare, lodging, food, etc. Nonetheless I am proud of their accomplishments thus far.   

But earning enough money is not the only stipulation in this contract. Middle must also maintain a B average.  Here is the exact wording:

I also understand that my schooling can not suffer.  I must, from this point forward, get no grade less than a B.  If my grades are lacking I understand the tickets will be immediately disposed of.  I will, however, still be responsible for the monies borrowed.  

Today the grading period closes.  As of this moment Middle has four B's, two B minuses and a C+.  Yes.  A C+.  1.5 percentage points away from a B.  She is hoping to turn in some overdue work tomorrow. She hopes a)her teacher accepts it and b) this is enough to raise her grade.  There are also 15 ungraded points pending from another assignment.  Talk about walking a fine line.  

This C+ also presents a parenting dilemma.  Middle's grades are not an accurate reflection of her intelligence.  They are, however, an accurate reflection of her ability to turn in homework. And we've been working to remedy this.  These grades are a massive improvement from the D's and F's she had at the beginning of this trimester.  We've spent a lot of time at coffee shops pouring over geometry texts and reading "A Tale of Two Cities".  I can't begin to tell you how many hours have been spent encouraging and cajoling. If we stick to the strict letter of the law her incentive to succeed in school will be removed.    

Now I realize she will eventually need a different incentive (to do well for doing well's sake).  But I'm hoping the desire to go to the concert will be enough to help her develop beneficial homework habits. And I'm hoping these good homework habits will stick for life (perhaps a bit optimistic but, then again, perhaps not).  

So what's a parent to do?  Her father and I thought long and hard about this. And we've come to a conclusion.  In "real life" contracts are often altered, changed to meet mitigating circumstances.  Thus (now don't tell her this just yet) we will let a C+ slide.  We will write an addendum to the contract; something along the lines that the challenge will continue.  However at least one (if not more) A's will be expected on the next report card to counteract the C+.  

I may not need to write the addendum. She might just pull it off.  But the truth of the matter is she has been working hard -- both in school and on the incoming earning front.  I'd like to reward her positive behavior and continue to help her grow into the best human she can be.  

And I'm not yet ready to stop this experiment. Thus far I've seen nothing but good come from it. I'd like to see the trend continue. 


Oh, and PS, we have two jewelry bars scheduled for March(hooray!).  If you are interested in helping "the cause" you can check out our jewelry site at peculiarfamily.origamiowl.com. Also, if you live in our area I know a great baby and/or pet sitter.  :o)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Quest Continues (One Direction Here We Come)

As of right now the girls have their One Direction balance down to $754.81.  I am told there is another $400.00 or so pending from my daughter's cohort (Christmas money and from the sale of an xbox).  I've yet to receive these funds and am thus not counting my chickens before they hatch.

As an additional source of income Chloe and I have started a small business; we are now independent designers for Origami Owl.  Origami Owl is a social selling jewelry company that allows mother/daughter teams.  Thus we are learning the ins and outs of small business; costs vs profits.

To start this venture we had to make an initial investment of $175.00 (the starter package plus shipping).  I agreed to front the starter money.  However, Chloe will not be able to profit from our business until the starter money is earned back.  We are nearly there.  If you are interested in supporting our cause and getting some fun jewelry at the same time check us out at:


If you remember from our initial contract Chloe had to get all A's and B's on her report card.  She is a smart cookie so in theory this should be easy.  However she has had trouble turning in her homework (a component of her attention deficit, which by the way, was a major contributing factor to the impromptu ticket purchase).  Her mid-trimester grades were not up to par; not even close.  We've been working very hard to bring these grades up.  This means less time with friends and lots of time with Mom at coffee shops, work and other venues.  And our efforts are paying off.  If Chloe keeps up all the hard work she will have all A's and B's before the trimester ends.  

A side effect of all this school work; I can now tell you that the Louisiana Purchase was 3 cents an acre. I can also tell you Oregon joined the union on February 14, 1859.  And I can now solve this:


and this


Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?  

Chloe has a big assignment in her Advanced Language Arts class.  They are reading "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens.  She will be expected to keep copious notes on all the characters in the book.  This is an assignment that she can not afford to get behind on. 

Neither Mr. Peculiar nor I have read this book either.  Thus we purchased two extra copies and have started a family book club; it should be educational for us and help keep Chloe on track.  Our goal is to read 10 pages a day.

So yes, the learning continues; for father, mother and daughter.  This has been quite an adventure and thus far I have no regrets.

We still have a long way to go.  Once the ticket debt is paid off monies still need to be earned for travel (plane tickets for four people, rental car, gas, food, housing, etc).  

People in town still ask my daughter about her ticket purchase (the lady who owns the knitting shop, her school counselor, etc).  These are people I have not told directly.  Word has simply gotten around.  I suspect this is a life lesson that won't quickly be forgotten.  


PS -- as I type this my youngest daughter is upstairs belting out "The Story of my Life" at the top of her lungs.  She is also a huge 1D fan and is very much looking forward to the concert.  As you can see from the account statement she has contributed funds for the trip.  She has also been a valuable resource pressuring her older sister to earn money and get good grades.  If Chloe falls short we will either take Ava to the concert on her own or refund her money.

Friday, December 20, 2013

One Direction (They're So Dreamy) -- An Update on our Concert Fantasies

For those who need catching up see the post here.  In addition to the first set of tickets (4th row!) two nosebleed seats have been purchased for the chaperone and her ten-year-old companion (aka me and Little).  These additional tickets were purchased with cash as no further credit is being extended.  The money came from two sources:  babysitting money and cash for goods sold.  Also the first credit card payment was made (interest plus 1% of the balance).  Thus far the girls are on track to see One Direction in September.  Of course they have a long way to go. 

Here are their financials thus far: 

The Quest for One Direction

Concert debt:
$243.10 -- second set of tickets
$1252.50 -- first set of tickets
$1495.60 total expense

$196.00 Chloe
$90.00 Lily
Total: $286.00

- $286.00 (this covers the second set of ticket for chaperone and companion ($243.10),
as well as, the first credit card payment ($42.90).

Total remaining: $1209.60

The girls figure their total expenses will be somewhere around $4000.00.  This includes concert tickets, airfare for four, hotel, meals and incidentals.  


It's interesting the feedback I've gotten on this project (some positive and some not so much).  One friend pointed out that with a traditional after school job the girls couldn't even begin to hope to earn enough money for the trip.  My friend is right.They won't earn enough money without thinking outside the box. And that's just what I'm hoping they'll do.  After all the the power of the young mind is amazing (let alone two minds together).  

I have no idea what will transpire.  But I have to tell you -- I'm eager to see what comes.  All too often we give kids a hard time for their mistakes and forget to celebrate their achievements.  

And I'll leave you with this. One Direction's #1 Fan: 


Thursday, November 28, 2013


We are having Thanksgiving at my parent’s house; a house with which I am familiar but not the home I grew up in.  My sister and her family are not here.  Instead, indefinitely,  they are in Panama on a sailboat.  Someone is here in my sister’s place, Cindy.  Cindy used to be my sister’s nanny.  Now she has a family of her own; a husband, baby Grace, and two foster girls.  What must these girls think of our motley crew?  

The foster girls go up to Cindy and give her gigantic hugs.  They are sweet and polite and full of affection. They’ve only lived with her family for two weeks.  I wonder what has happened in their life such that they would end up here.  I do not want to ask, especially not in front of them.  I am in awe of Cindy and her husband and the way they are contributing to our collective whole.  

I listen to their story and realize I could not be a foster parent.  My chaotic and well-lived in house simply wouldn’t pass inspection. But these girls?  Oh I would take these girls.  They are running around with my own girls as naturally as if they were cousins.  For today at least, they are family.  

I am tired, from traveling and from getting up early for fun run. From eating too much.  And from the wine.  

The television is on, football, and I am partially deaf.  This makes conversation difficult.  I find myself saying “what?” all too often.  Middle jumps in and translates for me.  It’s nice to have an interpreter.  

Tonight some knitting.  And some pie.  Tomorrow a movie.  No shopping for me. I can’t handle the crowds.  

And I am thankful.  For food.  For family.  For friends.  For days off work.  I am grateful to those who are working in my place; I’ll pay you back at Christmas when the roles are reversed.  

I am grateful for my senses; sight, touch, taste and smell.  I am grateful for the hearing which remains.  I am grateful for the balance that, more often than not, stays under control.  I am grateful for this body which propels me through this world; a vessel of experience.  

I am grateful for children who require me to step out of the box and to think differently.  I am grateful for other children who allow me to stay in the box, crouched in earthquake position, hands covering the back of my head.  

I am grateful for the internet and connections and opinions right and left.  I am grateful for the kindness of most folks (I'm sorry for the others).  

This life. It's messy and challenging.  It's tiring and worrisome.  It's heartbreaking.  But it is good. Oh so good.