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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


If you asked my sister-in-law if her cup is half-empty or half-full, she'd probably look at you funny and say, "It's not "half" anything! It's full! Full-full!"

Some of you may remember reading that she had to undergo a double mastectomy for breast cancer back in April 2008. A double mastectomy that meant that her dream wedding and dream honeymoon would be cancelled so that she wouldn't have to worry about chemotherapy ruining things.

That alone would have crumpled more delicate flowers, but my sister-in-law is made of stronger stuff than that.

Not only did she come visit us a couple of weeks post-op, she got married on the beach shortly thereafter and, oh yeah, went through a surprise pregnancy during chemotherapy.

Then she found out that her baby--her one-and-only baby--had spina-bifida.

But a lot more than nutrients seems to have passed through that umbilical cord: My niece isn't letting anything slow her down, even walking on her own this year and making me wish more than ever that they didn't live so far away.

And today, she is two.


Happy Birthday little one, from your family way up here in Massachusetts! We can't wait to see you next year. And, Nancy (and that cute husband of yours), enjoy that birthday cake and the extra birthday hugs. You (both!) deserve all the love you give back in spades.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Six years

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year and, today, the days get gradually longer, minute by minute.

I woke up thinking this on the sixth anniversary of my dad's death: He died on the morning after the darkest day, as if he wanted us to remember that things will soon be brighter.

I think of him a lot, of course, though six years seems to be my threshold for that punch-in-the-gut sadness I used to feel. Now, I remember him with sadness for all he has missed--continues to miss--, but also with a kind of stoicism and resignation that yes, we all are born, live and die. The End, time marches on, and can I have a snack, Mommy? It's hard to dwell when there is so little time for quiet.

But, my dad would've hated anyone dwelling on him too much. He would've delighted in the lives my sister and I have carved out in this world, and he would've been pleased to see our mother staying active, making friends, keeping busy.

He would've loved to have a beer with you. He would've worn a goofy Santa Hat just to make my kids smile. He would've offered to help with that squeaky door.

He would've told us all another story.

Unfortunately, the only story I can seem to remember, even six years later is this:

On December 22, 2004, my father died. And, though the days are getting brighter, minute by minute, I don't think they'll ever be as bright as they were when he was here.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Target practice

It's no big secret that I'm not a super-confident homeschooler. Maybe if my kids' orders had been reversed, I'd be different, but I didn't get my early reader/early math lover until my third child, leaving me to believe that I absolutely suck at teaching my own kids.

The truth is, kids learn at different rates, and nothing taught me that with more sweaty palms than my oldest needing until she was about seven years old to read a book. And though I believe that kids learn at different rates, I've always wondered if maybe she just needed a different teacher to get through to her. . .

Hence, one of the reason we DO have another teacher, through our new virtual school.

But, one thing just happened that has given me a huge confidence boost and made me feel even better about our past four years as a homeschooling family: I found out my girls are On Target.

Just last week, they both were required to complete Scantron assessment tests in Reading and Math. After they finished, I sat back and waited to hear the worst: Your Children Have Learned Nothing At Home.

The results came through yesterday and with my husband looking over my shoulder, I nervously read the letter explaining the three segments each childs' score can fall into: At Risk, On Target, and Advanced.

They were On Target, both girls, in Math and Reading in their respective grades!

I can't even tell you how many times I've gone back to look at these scores, making sure my eyes didn't trick me, making sure I was comparing their scores against the right chart. Even in the individual "skills" breakouts, there were no glaring issues to indicate that they are majorly deficient in any area.

So, no extra "classes" or worksheets or worries.

OK, I'll still worry.

But, I feel a heck of a lot better now knowing that I got them this far, and feel relatively confident that I can get them through the next few years with one little step forward at a time.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Our first days in Massachusetts' new virtual public school

Christmas in December!

Look what arrived on Monday:


Inside these boxes is our new curriculum. We are officially now part of MAVA, the new virtual public school in Massachusetts.

(well, at least the girls are. My son, D, is still a free-flowing, hippy homeschooling kindergartner)

We've plunged right in which is why you haven't seen anything new on this blog all week. Holy crow, there is a lot to figure out, though I've had enough people say TAKE IT SLOW that I get it.

Take it slow.

But, ZOMG, look at all of this? I'm part giddy with excitement and faint from fear.


But thank goodness for my friend Miriam who is a few months ahead in this journey and has answered my desperate, need-an-answer-right-now questions like, CAN WE WRITE IN THESE BOOKS?!?!?!?!?! (her voice-of-reason answer? yes, most of the materials are consumable and here is where you could've found out the answer for yourself before you wrung your hands for an hour).

The best was last night when I told her about my hatred of Study Island, a standardized test-prep program, where new math concepts were being thrown at my girls in multiple-question format and threatening to sink our floundering ship. She looked concerned and asked, did they watch the lesson first?

Lesson? There is a lesson? Somehow, without a smirk or an eyeroll, she dragged me over to our friend's computer and pulled up the program to show me where "Lesson" clearly was stated next to the test area.

So, that has been my week in a nutshell: Moments of Oh My God I Can't Find Anything How Can They Expect Me To Do This I Don't Have All The Materials followed by oh. it's right there.

We've also "met" our teacher on the phone and in virtual classrooms, and we all like her. She is thankfully also the same teacher that my friends have, so the kids can "wave" to each other when they are in the same class.

I'll try to chronicle some of our new homeschooling journey here even though some people may not exactly call this homeschooling. But, to me, this doesn't feel all that different from what we've been doing for the past four years except we have more of a schedule now and some online classes to attend (though almost everything is flexible). I'll let you know if at some point I really feel like we have entered Public School Land.

Maybe it's when we get the School Lunch requirements. Heh.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Travel in Time with Raving Rabbids and snag a copy for yourself

Last Christmas, our friends gave us a Raving Rabbids game for the Wii and I eyed it suspiciously. It looked kind of ridiculous, promised to be too loud, and seemed a bit juvenile.

Is it any surprise we liked it?

So now the kind people of Ubisoft have sent me a copy of the newest in the "Rabbid" family: Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time. And for those of you who love ridiculous, loud and juvenile like we do, I think you'll dig this new game.

First, to explain: The Rabbids are pretty much rabbits, albeit with big googly eyes, loads of attitude and lots of sound effects. And in Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time, the Rabbids are using a washing machine to travel back and forth in time.

Like most video games, I have to be upfront and say I understand very little of the overall objective, which drives my kids crazy. I will run around in circles for ten minutes until one says, "Mom! You are missing the big clue RIGHT THERE", and I'll realize I was supposed to scoop up the blinking gem or do some other important thing. So, although I played this game for a while, don't turn to me for indepth commentary on the main objectives.

And, as a rule-follower, it took me a little while to realize that whenever a warning came on the screen to say "do not push A to scream" or "do not smash", the point is to DO those things in order to progress through the game. This game will make a sick-to-death-of-rules tween very happy especially if they also giggle uncontrollably over fart noises.

No, highbrow this is not, but I sure had fun stretching my "wings" and flying through space. And I also stretched my brain a bit in a quiz where I was asked questions about history, the game itself and video games in general. Let's not talk about how I did.


I do wish the transition between the "minigames" was a little quicker since I'm very impatient with anything computerized. And there is only so long anyone of us can handle the Rabbids level of energy. Toddlers and younger kids will definitely become frustrated, and since many of the instructions pop up on screen in small letters, readers with decent eyesight will get the most out of this game.

But my kids call it "cool" even though some of the game is beyond their ability. And they definitely think the farting noises are hilarious.

WANT TO WIN A COPY? If you'd like to win a copy of Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time, please leave a comment below before 5pm on Wednesday, December 15 naming one of the costumes your Rabbid can be customized to wear (see Amazon listing). I'll pick a winner at random. Contest is open to Continental U.S. residents only.

CONTEST IS CLOSED! Congratulations to Janice (commenter #11) who was selected at random. Thanks to everyone for commenting!

Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time is available at Amazon or Toys-R-Us. It is rated 10+ for alcohol reference, crude humor and mild cartoon violence.


While Ubisoft sponsored this review, the opinions I've expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Thanks to Ubisoft and Clever Girls Collective. I promote Blog with Integrity.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holidays captured


Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year. I love Christmas cookies, eggnog (now in latte form), twinkling lights, buying gifts, opening cards from far-away friends. . .all of it. Even the year my husband lost his job a month before the holidays, when we had to cut waaaaay back on our gift-giving, I still loved it.

And even though I lost my dad almost six years ago just a few days shy of Christmas, at least this is such a time of reflection and family, I always have time to sit by the tree, look at the lights and think about all he did for us.

But, it's hard, isn't it? Hard to keep up the energy required to be a parent at Christmas. It's the shopping that mostly gets me down----not the actual picking out of gifts (which I love to do), but the barrage of ads, the midnight sales, the "what do they want?" questions from everyone.

The tick-tick-tick in my head makes me wake with a stomachache and sweaty palms most mornings. I recently wrote on Facebook: Confession: I'm so not in the Christmas spirit this year. It's usually my favorite holiday, but I'm not feeling it this year.

I can't change the commercialism or the ticking clock, but I did sign up for another photography journaling class---this one aptly named Picture the Holidays.

And, strangely, it's working. Looking at the holidays from behind the lens of my little point-and-shoot, reminding myself to: Stop, Hold Still and Just Look, is working.





What helps you get in the Christmas spirit?

And, did you know that I thought eggnog was supposed to be served hot until a couple of years ago?

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Oh, the irony!

Here are the three books that are sitting on my bedside table:


What's ironic? I just lost my voice.


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Last chance to Just Dance (2)

This post is an update of my Just Dance 2 contest announcement. Please see all details, legal gibber-gabber and contest rules on the original post. I've closed comments here since you need to head over there to enter the contest anyway.

I've had a hard time getting off my butt lately---oh sure, I was running all summer (and probably nauseating all the non-runners with my "did 3.2 miles this morning!" tweets), and even tackled the 30 Day Shred a few times (for much, much less than 30 days, btw).

But, I've lost that loving feeling for working up a sweat, preferring instead my laptop, bad reality TV and chocolate.

But, Just Dance 2 may just be the ticket to get me moving again. No, I'm not getting the workout I'd get lacing up my running shoes and hitting the pavement, but it gets my blood going, makes me laugh and, when I do it with my kids, makes me realize that they inherited their father's dancing gene (that is a good thing, trust me).

I love the music, especially Ke-dollarsign-sha's Tick Tock which thankfully bleeps out some of the choicer words, though it isn't fooling my nine year old at all who smirks her "I know what she really says" smile. Hold me.

So, take this post as a reminder that if you want to win your very own copy of Just Dance 2 for the Wii, you need to hop back to this post and leave a comment with the name of the first song you'd pick from the Just Dance 2 lineup. And if you really like to win stuff, check out all the other awesome bloggers who are involved in giving away loads of other great Ubisoft games.

Just do it before December 3rd when a winner will be picked!