Monday, February 28, 2011

You and Me, Me and You...

Last weekend, Steve and the oldest three boys abandoned me for this:
Purple Mountain Majesty...
Soaring Ski Slopes...
Crystal Capped Conifers...
Fabulous Frosty Family Fun.
After sulking for about 3 hours over my morning coffee because me and my side-kick Henry were each too big and too small to go on the ski trip, I started to imagine my 3 little men rolling into snowballs at uncontrollable speeds down the mountain. Then, I began to freak out.  From sulking to freaking, the emotions were just too much.  Searching for a brown paper sack to control the current hyperventilative state,  I started praying with fury that the boys' guardian angels would rescue them from any potential painful encounters with trees, cliff edges or other skiers.  The sulking subsided, my little Henry awoke, so we watched the news over waffles and OJ.
I agree.  The news is often a real nail-biter.  All in favor of Tom and Jerry say "I."
Even though there's an ice warning outside, should we defy the weather man and go seek out our own fun??
Absolutely!!! Let's shake off our blankies and roll outta this cave!
No respectable man goes to town with his mama with bad hair.  Cherry scented hair spray is the answer.  It smells oh-so-good.  Good enough to make me chase you into the bathtub trap just to sniff those sweet blonde locks! Off to town we go...
There is only so much you can do in a small town on a cold, dreary day.  A local garden center/pet shop was the first stop on our list.  Animals for you, seed and plant day-dreaming for me....
We found some interesting creatures - cute, not so cute, curious and creepy, they had it all.  This is a Halloween crab.  Just chillin.' Ewwww.
Some species of Iguana.  I like his funky striped tail and the tracks he makes in the sand. Kind of like the tracks my rebels are making right now with their skis in the sparkling fluffy white snow.  More sulking.
Mice.  My mama taught me not to hate, but all mental and emotional self-control goes up in flames of fury when I see a mouse.  Or mice.  I hate them with a passion.  No reading of "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" or "Redwall" tales will ever change my mind or soften my heart.  They are gross. They have wreaked havoc on my garages in homes past.  I don't have a garage now.  But if I did, I would fill it with big mean cats and mouse traps.  And, I don't even like cats, but they're waaaaaaay better than their rodent nemesis.
A Boa.  Reminds me of one of my class-mates from elementary school who recited the poem "I'm being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor" at our fourth grade talent show.  Way cooler than my dorky piano number.  From that day on I was snake-a-phobic.  Thanks Kim.
These are diamond doves.  I just thought they were so cute.  I imagined them to be 3 females gossiping about the feisty yellow number in the cage next door.....
 "Whada you lookin' at, huh?" (I told ya he was feisty!)
Is that a Fruit Loop in his bowl??  Is that my stomach growling??  How dare he have a snack attack in front of a pregnant lady!!!!
No, I am not taking you home.  Four boys, a baby and a Ferret in a trailer house is enough to spin any mother into an unhealthy addiction.

Now about that hunger....where should we go for lunch Henry?? What's that you say, McDonald's?? (gasp).  Um, ok, McDonald's kind of sends me into freak out mode (again) but, for you, my love, on this cold, icy day, I'll do anything.
 Do not try this at home.  Only at McDonald's play land.
How dare you fake-nap in front of the sleep deprived pregnant lady?? Don't give me "tired", young man. Napping is no joking matter.  Can we eat now??
Lunch status:  Salad and a water: $5.49. Happy Meal: $4.29.
Juice box=inhaled.
Hamburger = sniffed and rejected.
Fries = two partially nibbled. Leftovers staring at mom in temptation.
Toy = broken.
Box re-purposed into a super rad red helmet = PRICELESS!!! (He gets his re-purpose/recycle skills from Moi.  Such a smart boy.)

And, the helmet, the prize crown of the ruler of McDonald's playland, was the headdress of choice for the remainder of the day.  The post-office.  Target.  Home Depot.  Oh, the looks.  The attention.

I'm cold.  Let's go back to our cave.  Hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles anyone???
"Step away from the chocolaty frothy goodness, mama."  Boys are sooooo territorial.  Sheesh!
Do we look like we're having fun, Henry??  We need to look like we're having fun, so we can send this pic to daddy, so he knows we are not hiding under blankies, sulking, freaking out or jealously counting the moments 'till the rebels come home.  Nope, there's only fun here.  So much fun, they'll probably want to come home early! Those purple mountain majesty slopes ain't got nuthin' on us!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kari Jobe: You Are For Me

Suffering is a deep and powerful mystery. None of us can escape it. And, it reaches us at different levels, at different times and for different reasons. Reasons that are never easy, and often incomprehensible.

Perhaps the most confounding aspect of suffering is it's ability, or God's ability rather, to bring fruit into the world, into our communities, our homes, our own personal souls through suffering.....if we will allow Him.

Yesterday I woke up from a very restless night of broken sleep. Splashing cool water on swollen eyes in an attempt to wake a weary body, for a moment I paused, catching a glimpse of the woman looking back at me in the mirror. I couldn't ignore the affects that the physical demands of life these past few years, and 9 months especially, have had on me. That moment was quiet, quick, and still, yet filled with thoughts, questions and emotions that from out of no where crept up and crossed my concious, catching me off guard. I didn't want to feel this way. I squinted through the droplets of water, wondering if I could still see her - the girl of 5, 15, 25 - hidden in the present, swollen and tired 35. 

I leaned over the sink, the cold water still running over my hands, hands so swollen I knew it was time for the wedding band to rest on the dresser for these few final weeks. Tired and achy, I continued the morning routine, trying to ignore those passing thoughts and focusing instead on the simple sound of birds singing outside the window. Their sweetness reminded me of Spring. Every Spring, actually, since childhood until now. Isn't it funny how familiar sounds and scents, can awaken the memory of the soul, breaking through the inner-dormancy that often overwhelms the mind and heart during long winter days, weeks, months?

Thinking about yourself: who you are, who you were, where you've been, isn't always easy. Moving through time, working, aching, giving, sharing, answering to every call, "Yes, I am here" to those who need you. But the startling question of that moment was "I - who am I?" The I am mom, wife, friend, athlete, musician, writer....all the things that we think mark our character or make us unique....sometimes seem grey, feel lost, invisible. That morning I felt worn out, a little empty, a little lonely for the girl of the past, the one I couldn't find in the mirror, the girl of 5, 15, 25...

Then, just as quickly as the inner conversation between mind and soul began, so came the conclusion. I felt the breath of God gently move over me, rescuing me from self-pity, rescuing me from myself. I felt him say, "When you forget who you are, remember Who I Am. I am faithful, true, loving, strong, generous....I am Father. I am with you. I am for you."

I share this with you, because I know that today in some way, you will suffer. No matter how slight or how deep, you will suffer. So many of us have moments that can sneak up on us and send us into places that are difficult to experience, they can be lonely, frightening, frustrating and difficult to share with others. Maybe it's a moment, maybe it's hours, or days. Questions that need answers, or answers that aren't what we expect or want to hear. Whatever it is, wherever it is, when we forget who we are, we can remember who God Is. Amen.

I hope you enjoy this song, it has ministered to me many, many times, especially when it is difficult to pray. (You may have to click on the "Watch on YouTube" link.)

So faithful, so constant
So loving and so true, so powerful in all you do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to you

I know that you are for me I know that you are for me
I know that you will never, forsake me in my weakness
I know that you have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who you are

So patient, so gracious
So merciful and true, so wonderul in all you do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move You love for me to sing to you

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wired for Distraction...

An interesting article that I thought was worth sharing...

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
Courtesy of Kathleen Clare O’Shay Mahala 

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — On the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh’s life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer?
By all rights, Vishal, a bright 17-year-old, should already have finished the book, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” his summer reading assignment. But he has managed 43 pages in two months.

He typically favors Facebook, YouTube and making digital videos. That is the case this August afternoon. Bypassing Vonnegut, he clicks over to YouTube, meaning that tomorrow he will enter his senior year of high school hoping to see an improvement in his grades, but without having completed his only summer homework.

On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”
Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

But even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

It is a tension on vivid display at Vishal’s school, Woodside High School, on a sprawling campus set against the forested hills of Silicon Valley. Here, as elsewhere, it is not uncommon for students to send hundreds of text messages a day or spend hours playing video games, and virtually everyone is on Facebook.
The principal, David Reilly, 37, a former musician who says he sympathizes when young people feel disenfranchised, is determined to engage these 21st-century students. He has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.
He pushed first period back an hour, to 9 a.m., because students were showing up bleary-eyed, at least in part because they were up late on their computers. Unchecked use of digital devices, he says, can create a culture in which students are addicted to the virtual world and lost in it.

“I am trying to take back their attention from their BlackBerrys and video games,” he says. “To a degree, I’m using technology to do it.”

The same tension surfaces in Vishal, whose ability to be distracted by computers is rivaled by his proficiency with them. At the beginning of his junior year, he discovered a passion for filmmaking and made a name for himself among friends and teachers with his storytelling in videos made with digital cameras and editing software.
He acts as his family’s tech-support expert, helping his father, Satendra, a lab manager, retrieve lost documents on the computer, and his mother, Indra, a security manager at the San Francisco airport, build her own Web site.

But he also plays video games 10 hours a week. He regularly sends Facebook status updates at 2 a.m., even on school nights, and has such a reputation for distributing links to videos that his best friend calls him a “YouTube bully.”

Several teachers call Vishal one of their brightest students, and they wonder why things are not adding up. Last semester, his grade point average was 2.3 after a D-plus in English and an F in Algebra II. He got an A in film critique.
“He’s a kid caught between two worlds,” said Mr. Reilly — one that is virtual and one with real-life demands.

Vishal, like his mother, says he lacks the self-control to favor schoolwork over the computer. She sat him down a few weeks before school started and told him that, while she respected his passion for film and his technical skills, he had to use them productively.

“This is the year,” she says she told him. “This is your senior year and you can’t afford not to focus.”

It was not always this way. As a child, Vishal had a tendency to procrastinate, but nothing like this. Something changed him.
Growing Up With Gadgets

When he was 3, Vishal moved with his parents and older brother to their current home, a three-bedroom house in the working-class section of Redwood City, a suburb in Silicon Valley that is more diverse than some of its elite neighbors.
Thin and quiet with a shy smile, Vishal passed the admissions test for a prestigious public elementary and middle school. Until sixth grade, he focused on homework, regularly going to the house of a good friend to study with him.

But Vishal and his family say two things changed around the seventh grade: his mother went back to work, and he got a computer. He became increasingly engrossed in games and surfing the Internet, finding an easy outlet for what he describes as an inclination to procrastinate.

“I realized there were choices,” Vishal recalls. “Homework wasn’t the only option.”
Several recent studies show that young people tend to use home computers for entertainment, not learning, and that this can hurt school performance, particularly in low-income families. Jacob L. Vigdor, an economics professor at Duke University who led some of the research, said that when adults were not supervising computer use, children “are left to their own devices, and the impetus isn’t to do homework but play around.”

Research also shows that students often juggle homework and entertainment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found earlier this year that half of students from 8 to 18 are using the Internet, watching TV or using some other form of media either “most” (31 percent) or “some” (25 percent) of the time that they are doing homework.

At Woodside, as elsewhere, students’ use of technology is not uniform. Mr. Reilly, the principal, says their choices tend to reflect their personalities. Social butterflies tend to be heavy texters and Facebook users. Students who are less social might escape into games, while drifters or those prone to procrastination, like Vishal, might surf the Web or watch videos.

The technology has created on campuses a new set of social types — not the thespian and the jock but the texter and gamer, Facebook addict and YouTube potato.
“The technology amplifies whoever you are,” Mr. Reilly says.

For some, the amplification is intense. Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

Most of the exchanges are little more than quick greetings, but they can get more in-depth, like “if someone tells you about a drama going on with someone,” Allison said. “I can text one person while talking on the phone to someone else.”
But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report.

“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”
Some shyer students do not socialize through technology — they recede into it. Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

Escaping into games can also salve teenagers’ age-old desire for some control in their chaotic lives. “It’s a way for me to separate myself,” Ramon says. “If there’s an argument between my mom and one of my brothers, I’ll just go to my room and start playing video games and escape.”

With powerful new cellphones, the interactive experience can go everywhere. Between classes at Woodside or at lunch, when use of personal devices is permitted, students gather in clusters, sometimes chatting face to face, sometimes half-involved in a conversation while texting someone across the teeming quad. Others sit alone, watching a video, listening to music or updating Facebook.

Students say that their parents, worried about the distractions, try to police computer time, but that monitoring the use of cellphones is difficult. Parents may also want to be able to call their children at any time, so taking the phone away is not always an option.
Other parents wholly embrace computer use, even when it has no obvious educational benefit.

“If you’re not on top of technology, you’re not going to be on top of the world,” said John McMullen, 56, a retired criminal investigator whose son, Sean, is one of five friends in the group Vishal joins for lunch each day.

Sean’s favorite medium is video games; he plays for four hours after school and twice that on weekends. He was playing more but found his habit pulling his grade point average below 3.2, the point at which he felt comfortable. He says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else.

“Video games don’t make the hole; they fill it,” says Sean, sitting at a picnic table in the quad, where he is surrounded by a multimillion-dollar view: on the nearby hills are the evergreens that tower above the affluent neighborhoods populated by Internet tycoons. Sean, a senior, concedes that video games take a physical toll: “I haven’t done exercise since my sophomore year. But that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I still look the same.”
Sam Crocker, Vishal’s closest friend, who has straight A’s but lower SAT scores than he would like, blames the Internet’s distractions for his inability to finish either of his two summer reading books.

“I know I can read a book, but then I’m up and checking Facebook,” he says, adding: “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything. It’s the absence of doing something, but you feel gratified anyway.”
He concludes: “My attention span is getting worse.”

The Lure of Distraction
Some neuroscientists have been studying people like Sam and Vishal. They have begun to understand what happens to the brains of young people who are constantly online and in touch.

In an experiment at the German Sport University in Cologne in 2007, boys from 12 to 14 spent an hour each night playing video games after they finished homework.
On alternate nights, the boys spent an hour watching an exciting movie, like “Harry Potter” or “Star Trek,” rather than playing video games. That allowed the researchers to compare the effect of video games and TV.

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

Markus Dworak, a researcher who led the study and is now a neuroscientist at Harvard, said it was not clear whether the boys’ learning suffered because sleep was disrupted or, as he speculates, also because the intensity of the game experience overrode the brain’s recording of the vocabulary.

“When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store,” he said. “Your brain might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary.”

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory.

In that vein, recent imaging studies of people have found that major cross sections of the brain become surprisingly active during downtime. These brain studies suggest to researchers that periods of rest are critical in allowing the brain to synthesize information, make connections between ideas and even develop the sense of self.

Researchers say these studies have particular implications for young people, whose brains have more trouble focusing and setting priorities.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.”

“The headline is: bring back boredom,” added Dr. Rich, who last month gave a speech to the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled, “Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from the River of Electronic Screens.”
Dr. Rich said in an interview that he was not suggesting young people should toss out their devices, but rather that they embrace a more balanced approach to what he said were powerful tools necessary to compete and succeed in modern life.

The heavy use of devices also worries Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who is known for research showing that children are not as harmed by TV viewing as some researchers have suggested.
Multitasking using ubiquitous, interactive and highly stimulating computers and phones, Professor Anderson says, appears to have a more powerful effect than TV.
Like Dr. Rich, he says he believes that young, developing brains are becoming habituated to distraction and to switching tasks, not to focus.

“If you’ve grown up processing multiple media, that’s exactly the mode you’re going to fall into when put in that environment — you develop a need for that stimulation,” he said.

Vishal can attest to that.

“I’m doing Facebook, YouTube, having a conversation or two with a friend, listening to music at the same time. I’m doing a million things at once, like a lot of people my age,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t.”
“If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, “I also wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life.”

Clicking Toward a Future
The woman sits in a cemetery at dusk, sobbing. Behind her, silhouetted and translucent, a man kneels, then fades away, a ghost.

This captivating image appears on Vishal’s computer screen. On this Thursday afternoon in late September, he is engrossed in scenes he shot the previous weekend for a music video he is making with his cousin.

The video is based on a song performed by the band Guns N’ Roses about a woman whose boyfriend dies. He wants it to be part of the package of work he submits to colleges that emphasize film study, along with a documentary he is making about home-schooled students.

Now comes the editing. Vishal taught himself to use sophisticated editing software in part by watching tutorials on YouTube. He does not leave his chair for more than two hours, sipping Pepsi, his face often inches from the screen, as he perfects the clip from the cemetery. The image of the crying woman was shot separately from the image of the kneeling man, and he is trying to fuse them.
“I’m spending two hours to get a few seconds just right,” he says.
He occasionally sends a text message or checks Facebook, but he is focused in a way he rarely is when doing homework. He says the chief difference is that filmmaking feels applicable to his chosen future, and he hopes colleges, like the University of Southern California or the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, will be so impressed by his portfolio that they will overlook his school performance.

“This is going to compensate for the grades,” he says. On this day, his homework includes a worksheet for Latin, some reading for English class and an economics essay, but they can wait.

For Vishal, there’s another clear difference between filmmaking and homework: interactivity. As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.

“I click and something happens,” he says, explaining that, by comparison, reading a book or doing homework is less exciting. “I guess it goes back to the immediate gratification thing.”

The $2,000 computer Vishal is using is state of the art and only a week old. It represents a concession by his parents. They allowed him to buy it, despite their continuing concerns about his technology habits, because they wanted to support his filmmaking dream. “If we put roadblocks in his way, he’s just going to get depressed,” his mother says. Besides, she adds, “he’s been making an effort to do his homework.”

At this point in the semester, it seems she is right. The first schoolwide progress reports come out in late September, and Vishal has mostly A’s and B’s. He says he has been able to make headway by applying himself, but also by cutting back his workload. Unlike last year, he is not taking advanced placement classes, and he has chosen to retake Algebra II not in the classroom but in an online class that lets him work at his own pace.

His shift to easier classes might not please college admissions officers, according to Woodside’s college adviser, Zorina Matavulj. She says they want seniors to intensify their efforts. As it is, she says, even if Vishal improves his performance significantly, someone with his grades faces long odds in applying to the kinds of colleges he aspires to.

Still, Vishal’s passion for film reinforces for Mr. Reilly, the principal, that the way to reach these students is on their own terms.

Hands-On Technology
Big Macintosh monitors sit on every desk, and a man with hip glasses and an easygoing style stands at the front of the class. He is Geoff Diesel, 40, a favorite teacher here at Woodside who has taught English and film. Now he teaches one of Mr. Reilly’s new classes, audio production. He has a rapt audience of more than 20 students as he shows a video of the band Nirvana mixing their music, then holds up a music keyboard.
“Who knows how to use Pro Tools? We’ve got it. It’s the program used by the best music studios in the world,” he says.

In the back of the room, Mr. Reilly watches, thrilled. He introduced the audio course last year and enough students signed up to fill four classes. (He could barely pull together one class when he introduced Mandarin, even though he had secured iPads to help teach the language.)

“Some of these students are our most at-risk kids,” he says. He means that they are more likely to tune out school, skip class or not do their homework, and that they may not get healthful meals at home. They may also do their most enthusiastic writing not for class but in text messages and on Facebook. “They’re here, they’re in class, they’re listening.”
Despite Woodside High’s affluent setting, about 40 percent of its 1,800 students come from low-income families and receive a reduced-cost or free lunch. The school is 56 percent Latino, 38 percent white and 5 percent African-American, and it sends 93 percent of its students to four-year or community colleges.

Mr. Reilly says that the audio class provides solid vocational training and can get students interested in other subjects.

“Today mixing music, tomorrow sound waves and physics,” he says. And he thinks the key is that they love not just the music but getting their hands on the technology. “We’re meeting them on their turf.”

It does not mean he sees technology as a panacea. “I’ll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen Smart Boards,” he says, referring to the high-tech teaching displays used in many schools.

Teachers at Woodside commonly blame technology for students’ struggles to concentrate, but they are divided over whether embracing computers is the right solution.
“It’s a catastrophe,” said Alan Eaton, a charismatic Latin teacher. He says that technology has led to a “balkanization of their focus and duration of stamina,” and that schools make the problem worse when they adopt the technology.

“When rock ’n’ roll came about, we didn’t start using it in classrooms like we’re doing with technology,” he says. He personally feels the sting, since his advanced classes have one-third as many students as they had a decade ago.

Vishal remains a Latin student, one whom Mr. Eaton describes as particularly bright. But the teacher wonders if technology might be the reason Vishal seems to lose interest in academics the minute he leaves class.

Mr. Diesel, by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: “Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.”
Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a “breath of fresh air” with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.

But Mr. Diesel adds: “If Vishal’s going to be an independent filmmaker, he’s got to read Vonnegut. If you’re going to write scripts, you’ve got to read.”

Back to Reading Aloud

Vishal sits near the back of English IV. Marcia Blondel, a veteran teacher, asks the students to open the book they are studying, “The Things They Carried,” which is about the Vietnam War.

“Who wants to read starting in the middle of Page 137?” she asks. One student begins to read aloud, and the rest follow along.

To Ms. Blondel, the exercise in group reading represents a regression in American education and an indictment of technology. The reason she has to do it, she says, is that students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own.

“How can you have a discussion in class?” she complains, arguing that she has seen a considerable change in recent years. In some classes she can count on little more than one-third of the students to read a 30-page homework assignment.
She adds: “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations.”

As the group-reading effort winds down, she says gently: “I hope this will motivate you to read on your own.”

It is a reminder of the choices that have followed the students through the semester: computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future?
Mr. Reilly hopes that the two can meet — that computers can be combined with education to better engage students and can give them technical skills without compromising deep analytical thought.

But in Vishal’s case, computers and schoolwork seem more and more to be mutually exclusive. Ms. Blondel says that Vishal, after a decent start to the school year, has fallen into bad habits. In October, he turned in weeks late, for example, a short essay based on the first few chapters of “The Things They Carried.” His grade at that point, she says, tracks around a D.

For his part, Vishal says he is investing himself more in his filmmaking, accelerating work with his cousin on their music video project. But he is also using Facebook late at night and surfing for videos on YouTube. The evidence of the shift comes in a string of

Facebook updates.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A couple of months ago, the fierce winter temperatures took the day off and opted to let warmer winds prevail for a day.  Halleluia!  Great weather is always a superior motivator when it comes to getting school work done.  Recess that particular morning involved a serious brotherly game of football.  
While the older two warmed up, I wondered where the younger two were hiding.  Minutes later, they came out decked in old Halloween costumes.  
Game face on.  Game attire on.  Game on.
Can you tell that George's costume dates back a couple of years?  Thank goodness high-water anything doesn't make him self-concious....
...or impair focus, concentration or good times!

What is it about a costume, be it a character from television or one imagined and fabricated from various attire buried in bottom drawers, that somehow magically transforms a child's attitude, ambitions, motivations...
...speed and agility??
Clearly this is not George Husband...but not Spider Man either.  We may have a little character confusion going on here. I think we've crossed over into Incredible Hulk or Tarzan land (or maybe it's just macho-manness.  That would come from beneath the costume - genetics, pure genetics.)
Henry opted out of the game, but maintained a serious game face and a positive attitude - gotta love that!  Who is he??  A Transformer I believe, with a stocking cap, just in case.

If costumes could possibly have the same effect on mommies, then I'll take one Wonder Woman and a June Cleaver please.


Ok - So wonderwoman clearly has some modesty issues, but couldn't I at least channel her "I'm in shape and can handle anything" attitude??? Being 33 weeks prego and unable to tie my shoess sends me pining (momentarily) for a treadmill and a waistline.
June, you rock.  Modest, self-less, sensible, and master of red lipstick and pearls.  

Game On!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Our Lady of Lourdes

For all of my Catholic cohorts out there, if you are looking for a simple and fun way to celebrate the Liturgical Calendar in your home with your kids or grand kids, I cannot recommend this site enough:
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  We are celebrating Mary, the Immaculate Conception, and her appearance to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France with a few of the projects from their website.  Many of them are cooking/craft based, so they are fun and yummy!
This is one of the recipes - simple rice crispy treats - used to make the grotto.  A grotto is a shallow cave-like opening in a mountain side.  Found all over Europe, they were perfect shelters for men and women shepherding their flocks during the middle ages. Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in one of these grottos.
All of the boys' construction experience with blocks and Keva planks came in very handy today.  Notice Henry in the background - proudly the official taste-tester.
I happily sat back with my cup of coffee and let them go to work - masterfully ignoring the sink full of dishes behind me, and the crunch of breakfast cereal beneath my sneaks.
Nice work, guys!  
The final little project I found came from Illuminated Manuscripts.  A grotto kit perfect for George to assemble.
All finished!  We have found that our Faith really comes alive when we are able to incorporate a few simple, yet fun projects throughout the year into our daily life.

If you are celebrating this feast day as well, below is a link to a prayer, the Litany to Our Lady of Lourdes, that is perfect to pray with your family before bedtime or at supper tonight.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday, Peyton Jean!

Little girls are precious gifts, wrapped in love serene. Their dresses tied with sashes and futures tied with dreams. ~ Author Unknown

I have always thought that my younger brother, Scott was adorable.  Such words will make him squirm, I know.  But, he was such a sweet, cutie-tutti little brother.  When we were little, I loved doting over him. His chubby, rosy cheeks were irresistibly made for to smooching and pinching. Sorry, Scott, I did both.
Well, Scott grew up, handsomely (although I still reserve the secret right to call him adorable), and married a beautiful young lady, Stephanie.  It's still a mystery how my brothers married such amazing women, but that's a whole other story.  Anyway, a year ago, they welcomed a precious little girl, Peyton Jean, into the world.

Peyton is one of those babies you just can quit staring at.  She is magically sweet, lovely, charming. She is yummy, delicious...
For me, the world stops when she's in the room.  My boys become momentarily invisible.  Sorry boys, girls rule!

I cannot wait to see who she becomes, what and whom she loves, what her interests and talents will be, how she will soften her (adorable) father and beautiful mother with her charms, and how her presence in the world will continue to make everything sparkle.....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not Just Another Girl...

The boys in my household have a general feeling about girls, almost all girls, give or take a couple of cousins, grandmas, aunts....

I wish I could say that their feelings are positive ones, but they're not.  If the word "girls" comes out of their mouth it is usually accompanied by a fantastic eye roll and words like gross, stupid, annoying etc. They don't like girls.  At all.  And, they have even decided that if I give birth to a female, their world, as they know it, will come to an end. (They got that one right!)

But there is one girl who has managed to make her way into their hearts.  To them, she's not a girl.  She's Elena.  And, they love her. Love, love, love her.  She used to babysit for us when we lived in Olathe.  Then, to our dismay, she had to grow up and go off to college.  We were mad at her. Very mad.
A year has passed since they last saw her (she studied abroad in France, then we moved, then she went back to KSU...we just couldn't seem to connect).  But, last weekend, she came to the boys' wrestling tournament.  And, it was as if not a day, not a moment had passed since they had seen her last - time just picked up where it left off.
She patiently listened as they shouted out over the crowd of cheering fans everything that had happened in their lives in the past 365 days....from star wars and farming to school and sports.  And, for 5 minutes I was on "listening with enthusiasm and excitement" vacation while she took over.  I love her too!!

There are just certain people who come into your life, and make you wonder how you ever got along without them.  You never want them to leave.  You hope that they will always be there, and want to be there.  That's how we feel about Elena.