Sunday, February 26, 2006


These shadows on the snow in our back yard intrigued me. I felt compelled to capture them.

I can't believe that February is almost over! Winter hit full force after our weirdly warm January. We had several -15 to -20F nights. We have also made up for the lack of snowfall and have over 2 ft on the ground.

I guess I've skipped the winter doldrums associated with this month by staying busy. I feel rejuvenated after tackling some cleaning and organizational chores I've been avoiding.

I've managed to clear the clutter in our bedroom and den. I even made dresser scarves from the material I bought 6 months ago. The den is now an organized area for Z to study in, complete with a new computer monitor that doesn't fade out every few minutes. I also sorted and filed Z's completed assignments. I still need to file the future assignments that I have prepared, but who wants to be too organized?

L and I thoroughly cleaned the fridge and the oven. The guys have even been making an effort at keeping their clutter off the kitchen counters. Z has been picking up after himself in the living room, but his room is worse than ever. I guess his room will be our first March project.

I read The Chronicles of Narnia, and enjoyed them much more than I could have in grade school.

I re-started my search for L's adopted brother. I'm actually getting somewhere this time. I'll keep you posted if my search is successful.

Last fall I had my boss' contractor figure an estimate for a GARAGE. He finally gave me the figures last week. The figures are well within our expectations, so we're on their construction list for this summer. Now I have to get a building permit. Hopefully we won't need a variance.

Z and L have been cooking one dinner, every weekend this month. Since they can't always agree on what to cook, they have decided to cook dinner on BOTH Saturday and Sunday nights. That way they each get to choose a menu. YES!!

Hopefully, our ambition will continue through March!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

1st Semester Homeschool Progress Report

Following is the progress report I sent to the school.

We’re just beginning to develop a steady pace of learning with Z. Unfortunately, this pace has been slower than we’d like. Z’s progress makes it difficult to grade his accomplishments. The quality of his work is straight A! The quantity of his work is between D and F. I’ve struck a balance between quantity and quality in grading him this semester.

Co-morbid disorders, especially OCD, continue to escalate as Z enters his TS peaking years. His OCD has caused disruptions in Z’s sleep patterns and has increased his anxiety level. Z is currently seeing a psychologist biweekly. We are looking into the possibility of Z taking anti-anxiety medication. We have a psychiatrist appointment in May, for this purpose.

Z’s science curriculum, this semester, has been the study of the brain and the disorders he has. This, and counseling, has helped Z to overcome a few of his OCD issues.

Our goals for the current semester are to increase the quantity of Z’s work without sacrificing the quality of the work.

Math: B
Science: C
World History: C
English: D
Phy Ed/Health: C
Art: B

I didn't dare tell the school one of the learning issues we're having. Both Z and L are having a hard time accepting the concept of homeschool learning. They both believe that we're failing if we don't have reams of "busy work" in Z's files. I keep telling them that it's what's in Z's head that matters, not what's in his files. "Busy work" is a huge part of public education.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Tyler Amdahl

In my December 28th post, I said that one of the 7 things I wanted to do before I die was: "Meet my husband's brother that was adopted out".

Tyler Amdahl is my husbands 1/2 brother. L's mother gave birth to him while her other children were in foster care for 10 years. L discovered that he had another brother when he was snooping through his mother's papers as a teen. L found adoption papers that stated that his mother had given a baby boy up for adoption in 1955 or 1956(I can't remember which). He never told his brothers or his mother that he had made this discovery. I was the only person who shared this secret.

A couple of years ago L's mother, Ma, received a phone call from Tyler. He told her that his name was Tyler Amdahl and that he was currently living in California. Tyler wanted to meet his biological family. This phone call forced Ma to confess Tyler's existence to her family. L's brother's were a bit put out with him for not sharing the secret. I'm still not quite sure why L didn't tell them at the time he discovered this information.

Ma hasn't heard from Tyler since that phone call. Ma is schizophrenic, and we're not sure what she said to Tyler. He probably decided to back off after he talked to her. I tried searching for Tyler on the internet, but came up empty. So......

If anybody reading this knows Tyler, please contact us, or tell Tyler and have him contact us. You can leave a message in the comment sections of this post. You can also contact me through the email address that's connected to my profile. We'd all LOVE to meet Tyler and share our lives with him!

I realize that this is a long shot, but I have to TRY! I'm hoping that someone, who knows Tyler, will Google his name and wind up here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


This is a little rant that may give you some insight into my background.

I'd like to start by saying that I love my parents very much. They raised me to be a loving, responsible adult, and for that I am grateful. However....

Valentine's Day, Z and I took cards over to my parents. Dad is 76, Mom is 73. They're both healthy and quite active. They spend 4 days a week at their remote northwoods cabin, where they cut wood for their barrel stove, snowmobile, and enjoy the birds and wildlife. My parents have 1 major fault; they're very closeminded. EVERYTHING is either right or wrong to them. Shades of gray don't exist.

We TRY to stay on "safe" topics of conversation with them, but there are times when this just isn't possible. Tuesday was one of those times.
It all started with a conversation on the rebuilding of New Orleans. Mom has decided that it shouldn't be rebuilt, because that would eliminate their "evil" Mardi Gras celebration. Mardi Gras IS an occult celebration, you know. Z patiently tried to explain that Mardi Gras was French for fat Tuesday and that it was a Catholic celebration before the start of Lent.

When that didn't work, Z tried changing the subject to his homeschool English lesson: Haiku. Mom can't understand why kids today have to study Japanese poetry. Her generation didn't study stuff like that; the old English and American poets were fine for them. I tried to explain that Haiku was a very simple form of poetry that ANYONE can write. It's a great place to start when introducing kids to poetry.

This topic segued into a conversation on Hiroshima and how some people think dropping the bombs was a bad thing. I said that I'd read an article that said MAYBE we were engaged in peace negotiations with Hirohito when we dropped the bombs and that MAYBE it wouldn't have been necessary. Rule #1-NEVER discuss WWII with my mother. She's very passionate on the subject and often doesn't have her facts straight.

My Dad changed the subject by asking if we were going to the movie on Tuesday night. What movie? The gay cowboy movie, of course. I should have seen this one coming. I told him that L didn't want to see it, but I wanted to rent the video when it comes out. They think it's wrong to make a movie on this topic. They did acknowledge that SOME homosexuals are born that way, BUT why encourage this behavior in a movie? I guess I should be grateful that after 20 years of arguing this topic with them, that they have finally decided that SOME people are born that way. They used to think that ALL gays CHOSE their sexual orientation.

At this point Z decided that we should be getting home so he could finish his schoolwork for the day. Smart kid; quit while you're behind. Z saved me from going into a rant on how horrible I think it is that the local evangelical and Baptist churches have boycotted our new doctor, who recently moved here with her partner and their new baby.

When we got home, I took 2 Tylenol with a rum and coke. Much better!
After I got rid of my headache, I made us our Valentine dinner of broiled shrimp, linguini with garlic butter and parmesan cheese, and broccoli with cheese sauce. Dinner with my sweeties and SANE conversation saved the day. Z is STILL giggling about his Grandma thinking Mardi Gras is occult. Laugh it up kid, you didn't have to live with them!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Education in REAL Life

A few days ago, our friend Laura at wrote a brilliant post on the Function of Education. I suggest that you all read it, before trying to decipher my twisted comments on the subject.

Laura states that: "..our system of education is not set up to create whole generations of highly educated professionals. Our system is set up to reproduce the status quo social order."
According to former Sec'y of Labor, Robert Reich, the status quo is 20% of the WORLD'S jobs are high paying jobs. Apparantly, the other 80% are blue-collar and lower jobs.

At first, I was dismayed by these statistics. Then I started thinking...
We can only support a limited number of stock brokers, advertising executives, bankers, politicians, CEOs, etc. The rest of us need to keep our society running. Where would ANY of us be without teachers, truckers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, sanitation workers, mass transit workers, postal workers, retail workers, janitors, road crews, police, firemen, military, farmers, factory workers, and on and on and on....

Laura goes on to say: "Also, when the market is saturated with too many people who have degrees and not enough jobs requiring degrees, the value of the degrees themselves is decreased." BINGO!! I remember watching one of Clinton's State of the Union Addresses, where he said that his goal was to give EVERYONE a college education. At the time, I thought this was ridiculous and a huge waste of money. I still do. Not everyone is college material. We need college grants to be based on need AND performance, not just need alone. We NEED 80% of us to feed, clothe, educate, protect, and entertain our society. Who says blue-collar workers aren't intelligent? Let's remove the stigma associated with this term.

Does this mean that we should continue to "dumb down" our educational systems? Absolutely not! We need to teach our future voters world history, so they understand what's happening in the world TODAY. We need to teach biology. A working knowledge of ecosystems is necessary to protect the world's resources. We need to teach the appreciation of art, music, and literature. We need beauty to calm the frazzled nerves of the masses. A calm mind thinks more clearly. AND, trust me on this folks, we ALL need a working knowledge of algebra. I don't know anyone who wouldn't use algebra almost every day, if they understood it.

We also need to reinstate guidance counselors in our schools. Our school system eliminated this position several years ago. We should be educating each according to his/her talents. Instead of wasting time and money tutoring our kids to take the NCLB tests, let's develop aptitude tests that reflect the job market of TODAY. With the knowledge gleaned from aptitude tests, guidance counselors could develop a curriculum that suits the student.

We need to take back our power in the voting booth. C'mon people, we're the majority! We're the ones who pay the taxes, which keep our country running. Let's elect people who will spend them wisely.

As parents and mentors, we need to instill self-esteem in our children. We need to teach them to question authority. Our kids need to know that their opinion DOES matter! This is not a topic to be learned in school. This is our responsibility!

Reading Laura's post strengthened my resolve to homeschool. I now understand why Z's needs weren't being served in Special Ed; they didn't think he was worth the bother.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

WATCH Your Plumber!

My boss is having some work done on a rental house she owns. The contractors/carpenters have been coming in for lunch everyday, and we've been discussing their progress. They're repairing the bathroom floor, which had started to sag.

It seems that when the plumbers installed the toilet in the house, they cut a chunk out of the floor joist. WTF?! No wonder the floor was sagging! Other than a full refrigerator, I don't know anything in a house that exerts more psi(pounds/square inch), than a toilet with someone sitting on it. Floor joists support EVERYTHING in a house, including the walls. WHY would they cut out the the only thing supporting the toilet, other than a 3/4 in sheet of plywood?

The contractor, Dave, says that this is a common practice. That's why he INSISTS on being present when the plumbers are on-site. I asked him if the building codes allowed this practice. Dave shrugged and said: "The plumbers don't care. If the designer says a fixture has to go in a certain spot, they do it, ignoring the structure of the building." When I asked how this passes inspection, Dave said: "The inspectors rarely look at structure. They just check the plumbing connections."

Keep this in mind if you're planning a kitchen or bathroom remodel! If possible, mark your floor joists before the designer arrives. Then INSIST that they work around, not through, the joists. This also applies to furnace and AC ductwork. When the plumbers arrive, plan on having a knowledgeable person there, who isn't a member of the crew. Professionals rarely like homeowners staring over their shoulder, but that's tough!

Dave said that many electricians are also guilty of this practice when installing ceiling fixtures. Drilling a small hole through a joist or stud, to accomodate wiring or water pipes, is fine. Just don't EVER let them cut THROUGH a stud or joist without beefing it up in an approved manner.

Educate yourself before the so-called professionals arrive. In the long run, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches and money!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In the Minority Once Again

Last week I read an article that stated that on any given night in the US only 32% of our population actually COOKS dinner. The majority dines on take-out food, while eating out comes in second.

When our daughter was a teen, I forced her to learn to cook. I knew then that cooking was becoming a "dying art"; a trip to the grocery store will tell you this. It was bad enough when people stopped making their own chicken noodle soup and gravy, but now I see items like frozen PB & J sandwiches, frozen mashed potatoes, dehydrated scalloped and au gratin potatoes and crock pot helper. Now it seems that people are too busy to be bothered with microwaving and rehydrating their entrees.

Pizza night, at our house, is a treat. Most of Z's friends consider pizza, frozen corn dogs, and boxed macaroni and cheese, staple foods.

How did our society lose the family dinner? The first culprit is people living too far from their workplaces. I know many families who drop their kids off at daycare at 6 a.m. in order to drive 50-100 miles to work. This also means that they don't pick their kids up from daycare until 7 or 8 p.m. This doesn't leave much time for cooking. The second culprit is the family that's overactivitied. Where is it written that children aren't happy unless they're involved in an activity every night of the week? When do these kids have time to play, do their homework, bond with their family, or eat a healthy meal?

I know this may sound anal to a lot of you, but we have a homecooked family dinner EVERY night. We go out for dinner 2-3 times a year. We eat at fast food places 5-6 times a year. On our tight budget, we can't afford to have others do our cooking for us. L and I both work full time, in addition to homeschooling our son. If we can have family dinners, anybody can.

It's actually easier than it sounds. I write up a month's worth of menus at a time. I also don't repeat the same meal twice in a month. When I make my weekly trip to the grocery store, I check my menu for the ingredients I'll need. I always make big batches of soup, hotdishes, and lasagna and freeze the leftovers. On the nights that we're too busy to cook, I grab a ready made meal out of the freezer.

During a recent family meeting, L and Z volunteered to start cooking dinner on Saturday nights. They're in charge of all the planning, cooking AND cleanup. This gives me an evening to myself. Woohoo!!