Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A post just for Randi

Yes, I'm a slacker!

The visit with Chiara and Elena is going great! Our two airport runs Friday were complicated by heavy traffic and a certain lack of flight information, but by midnight, we had two Italian women tucked into our house and family. Yay!

Saturday was for sleeping off jet lag, settling in, and making contact with friends we haven't seen in two years. Saturday evening, C&E went over to Jared's house in downtown Everett to visit with buds from Everett High.

Sunday day was for family. We had a little festa out at the beach, letting everybody get acquainted with Elena and reacquainted with Chiara. Sunday evening, Ryan came over to show off his newest tattoos and entertain us all (we love Ryan). We finished up the day by watching "Love Actually," which C&E had never seen.

And yesterday, I dropped C&E off in downtown Seattle 'on my way' to work. They spent the day wandering through Pike Place and other shopping meccas, talking to "weirdos" down on the waterfront, and trying out the express bus home.

As for us, well, we're just happy. Our family is whole again. (If we could shake off the dregs of the cold that's been beating us down for more than a week, we'd be even happier.) And I'm loving all of the language-and-customs conversations we've been having. Chiara has lost just a bit of her English—she says she doesn't think in English any more and has to translate from the Italian—but all the slang is coming back to her quickly. She's a fricking genius! (that's an inside joke) And Elena's English is almost as good, so we're doing lots of talking.

Tomorrow, C&E are going to join us at our STUN gathering on the Pilchuck River. It's supposed to be 80, so we picked a good day for it!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chiara is on her way!


Chiara's flight from Paris is well under way. She'll be here in about eight hours!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter 7 part 2

Okay, we've finished it. This post contains spoilers, so I've hidden it. To read, click and drag your mouse to select the blank space below; my words will be revealed as if by magic! For those who don't want to be spoiled, I'll just say that it was a fabulous book, perhaps the best of the seven. But it's not for the faint of heart.

Here's an amazing fact: Chloe chose to be the Gray Lady at the release party for this book, and the Gray Lady (otherwise barely a footnote in the books) plays an important role in this book. How cool is that? Chloe is psychic!

J.K. Rowling is an amazing writer. She did everything that was required to make this book satisfying and complete. All the questions are answered, all the stray details she included in earlier books are wrapped up into a neat package, and there were numerous times when we were moved to tears.

Of course, some of those tears were over the heart-wrenching deaths of a few beloved characters. I wish she'd been a little kinder to our old friends!

But others were over amazingly written sequences, moments of such profound significance to those of us who have lived and breathed Harry Potter for a decade that we couldn't do anything but cry. In this book, we got to revisit almost every scene in the preceding six books, so it was both retrospective and conclusion in one tome. Awesome!

Also, she spread the triumph around. It was great! Neville came completely into his own, winning even the admiration of his crotchety grandmother. And Luna shines as usual. And Mrs. Weasley kicks ass! And a number of people are redeemed for past failings.

Jo said in an interview about a year ago that the last word in the book was "scar." That, like so many of her comments in interviews, has proven to be less than the whole truth. I really admire the way she has protected her own secrets, even to the point of misdirecting her devoted fans.

I can hardly believe it's over. My kids grew up with this saga. We read our first one before the girls were in school! And now they have to muddle their way into adulthood without Harry. On the other hand, Chloe is already talking about re-reading the whole series.

For me, it's done. I know some people take consolation from having two movies still to come, but the movies have never been my thing. It's the end of an era.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It's not easy being green

I thought I was losing it! I took a bite out of my almost daily Snickers bar just now and the filling looked green. Ewww! Fearing a food poisoning trip to the ER, I Googled "green snickers" and learned it's a Shrek 3 promotion. That's when I noticed that the label even says so. Duh!

Reception of the green Snickers has been mixed. Here's my favorite review, even if it doesn't quite rhyme:

I do not like them on a cardboard box.
I do not like them near my tube socks.
I do not like green Snickers bars.
I do not like them Sam-I-am!

(credit goes to shyvixen on this Stewart Copeland forum)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter 7

There is a theory that the seven Harry Potter novels mirror the seven obstacles the kids faced in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." Here is Chloe's writeup on this theory. I found it really interesting.

"Fluffy, he's easy, the beginning, and all you need is some information and some help, and then you can work the rest out yourself. COS is organic, alive, like devil's snare, but also a deadly trap, pulling you in and killing you. POA is difficult, but it's a chase, trying to find people, catch them. and GOF is, as you noticed, a game. can't really figure out how the troll goes with OOP [note from Ronnie: perhaps the troll represents the death Harry must face in OOP]. HBP involves logic, figuring things out, putting together the pieces so you will know what to do, and then deciding you have to go on alone. and then DH is the real thing. what you've really been working towards the whole time. your goal, your destination. where the thing you're trying to get is so close all you have to do is reach out and take it.

"i don't even know if i believe this theory of course, but this is how it could be true."

The obstacles:

  • Fluffy, the vicious, gigantic, three-headed dog
  • Devil's Snare, a plant that wraps you up and suffocates you
  • Winged keys, very fast moving, and only one will get you through the door
  • A giant chessboard with living pieces that bash you over the head if you get captured
  • A troll, huge, smelly and violent
  • Several potions, some poisonous, with a logic problem to help you know which one to drink
  • The mirror of Erised, a clever and seductive mirror that shows you the thing you most desire

We were in the crowd at the Borders at Alderwood Friday night, picking up our copy of the book. MJ went as Professor Trelawney, Chloe, as the Gray Lady (Ravenclaw's ghost), and I, as Archie, the wizard who thinks any old Muggle clothes will allow him to pass as a muggle. The girls looked great (and were very well received by the crowd at the costume judging), while I looked merely ridiculous.

Photo coming soon!

Thanks to Frank's kindly stop at Borders earlier in the day, we had a coveted orange armband, placing us in the first group of people to get books. This meant we were about 200th in line (no exaggeration).

We're completing our HP tradition and reading the book aloud together. Work is really getting in the way of that! But we have less than a third of it left after a snuggled-in weekend.

One more OCF picture

A photo of our group at the Oregon Country Fair:
Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!
From left to right:
Mary, Neebin, John, Qacei (with Hannah in hand), Ronnie, MJ, Donna, Chloe, Conor

To read Mary's beautiful post about releasing Hannah's ashes at the fair, click here. We have a packet of her ashes to release, too. I have a spot in mind for them, but Diana warned us not to get too attached to any one place; Hannah has her own ideas.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What unschooling looked like yesterday in MJ's words

One of the perils of being a working mom is that I sometimes get disconnected from what's happening at home. This is such a time, and since I wanted this month's "What unschooling looked like" post to be about a day at home instead of a day at the Oregon Country Fair, I had to ask the girls to describe their day for me. We picked yesterday.

Well, I've just received MJ's description of her day. She ought be be writing this blog! So, here's yesterday, in MJ's words:

Woke up with a sore throat, thought I had Chloe's cold, so I called in sick to Hope for Horses, but it wore off later. Watched Return of the Living Dead. Had a fight with Chloe over yogurt, of all things. Fight was resolved. Had pseudo White Castle burgers, continued the movie. Watched The Fifth Element and updated my profile on MySpace. At the same time. Yay for multitasking!

Then I got the brilliant idea to convince my still-sick sister to go to the thrift store with me. It took me quite a while and I composed a list of things I'd do if she came:

Things MJ Will Do If Chloe Goes to the Thrift Store
1. Buy her Toblerones
2. Buy her Things at the Store
3. A Fuckin' Happy Dance
4. Develop Contacts Within NASA and Send Her to the Moon
5. Write Another Chapter of My FanFic
6. Write 55 Pages of Vanguard in a Week
7. Let her Tug On My Piercings Once They're (Gotten and) Healed
8. Take her to get her Laptop Fixed
9. Take AMAZING MySpace Photos Of Her
10. Once her Laptop Is Fixed, I'll Make Her 4 AMVs With Songs of her Choosing
11. Help her look Fabulous (or not) On Any Day Of her Choosing . . . Ever
12. Dance With Her At Steve and Mary's Wedding
13. Watch .hack//SIGN, Deathnote, Tokyo Mew Mew and Any Others.
14. Help Her Write *Eight Days a Week* and *Madame Sarah's School For Strangers*
15. Stop Bugging her to Go to Concerts
16. Take her to IRELAND!!!
17. Find Loki and Make Friends.

She agreed and we got ready, went to the bank, crossed the street to the bus stop, waited, bought gum, waited, got on the bus and went to the Thrift Store. I looked for clothes for Rocky Horror and Chloe looked for dresses. She tried on two fancy ones and I took pictures. We shopped some more, added up how much we were spending and checked out. The guy that rang us up was the hot gay guy I saw at Pride. We chatted with him about Rocky Horror while we checked out. He said he liked my shirt (the one with the rib bird cage).

We left and got on the bus for home. We got off and went to the grocery to get the promised Toblerones (and to look for Vincente, Sexy Bagger Boy), but they had none. We got a Snapple and walked home. Chloe put on her dress and showed Alecia and Lilly [neighbors] and I showed them what I'd bought. Went inside, found the hot glue gun, and listened to Countdown while I glued, in tiny pearl beads, the letters D-A-N-C onto the red shoes I bought. In time, they'll say Dance the Blues. Checked MySpace. Sewed up a hole in my jeans, made the lace gloves I bought into fingerless lace gloves. Read FanFiction, drank Snapple, blah blahh blahhh.

Talked to Conor on MySpace for a while and I was made a Goddess. I declared that the 11th Commandment was 'Thou Shalt Watch Fight Club.' We talked anime, then I went to bed, but not before writing a journal entry about Cody, Alex Beam, and Conor. Woke up this morning and got on MySpace. Talked to Madelyn, tried to make plans for Rocky Votolato [rock band concert tonight], made plans for El Corazon [rock festival tomorrow night]. Downloaded a ton of music, listened to more, talked to Mom, showered. I have yet to eat. It's gonna be a good day.

Academic translation by Ronnie:
Clearly, writing was involved! :-)
Art of negotiation
Socializing and socialization and lots of it
Home ec
Art class
Current events
Math at the bank and while shopping

About MySpace:
Beyond its value for socializing, "playing" on MySpace leads to a lot of learning. To achieve the profile one desires, one might have to learn some HTML coding, look up facts, or do art projects (such as MJ's Visual DNA, a collage of images and words that illustrate her view of herself). And then there's the conversations! I stay out of her MySpace business for the most part, but I can give you two examples from my own recent MySpace cruising:
1) I joined a group called Grammar Geeks. We talk about grammar. It's really fun, really wonderful to be in the company of so many people who write well, and I've learned a few things I never knew.
2) Every so often, a quiz comes through. I recently got to think up a variety of words that start with the first letter of my name. It was challenging, creative, and fun, and I Googled a couple of different things in my effort to provide unique and interesting answers. (Using Google always leads to learning, in case you were unaware!)

About the movies:
"Return of the Living Dead" is a spoof zombie flick that contains lots of cultural reference jokes. MJ gets all the jokes. I've learned not to underestimate the value of this kind of knowledge! There are no ivory towers around here.

"The Fifth Element," besides being a visual treat and an entertaining movie, deals with some interesting themes: what it means to be human and whether sacrifices to preserve humanity are worthwhile.

Chloe's description is still forthcoming, so I might post more later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


"Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn't."
-- Byron Katie

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Frank's not so happy Sunday

Frank spent Sunday prepping for his colonoscopy Monday a.m. He was not a happy camper!

But the bright side is, it went just fine, and he's done with *that* for a decade!

Happy hippie weekend

It was another busy weekend for us! This seems to be the developing theme of our summer — always something to do.

On Friday, the four of us went to the STUN gathering at Morgantown Park in Snohomish. This turned out to be a really nice spot (I picked it pretty much at random from the Snohomish Parks Department Web site), with access to the Pilchuck River. We spent pretty much the whole time in the river, which was about two feet deep all the way across. We waded in the river, played frisbee in the river, skipped rocks in the river, played improvised softball in the river, and had nice conversations in the river. Fun!

Friday night, the girls and I piled into the van and drove down to Eugene, Oregon. We spent Saturday hanging around town (one of MJ's favorite places) and going to their Saturday Market, then on Sunday we headed out to the Oregon Country Fair. What a wild, wonderful experience! It's a real hippie haven, with lots of happy people, new-age and age-of-Aquarius wisdom, arts and crafts, music, dancing, people watching, and liberal politicking. Fascinating place! And it was interesting how many people knew each other there. Thousands of people, small community. A frequent overheard greeting: Are you having a good fair?

My favorite thing—absolute favorite, can't wait to experience it again—was the Drum Tower. A couple dozen people, using a variety of drums and percussion instruments, sit together and DRUM, baby! "Drum circle" doesn't describe it; there are bleachers and benches and a dusty dancing area in the middle, and none of these people has rehearsed with the others. The energy was amazing, a tangible thing, and the gradual, synchronous shifts in rhythm were astonishing. I could have spent the whole day soaking it up. If we go back next year, it will be with a drum!

The downsides of the day were twofold: One, Chloe fell ill, suddenly covered with goosebumps despite the 85-degree heat. She spent most of the afternoon sleeping in the van (and is still under the weather today). And two, we got separated from and didn't get to see much of the Golds, our Corvallis unschooling buddies and the organizers of LIFE is Good. We spent the morning running into each other even when we'd separated, so I got casual about it when I left to take Chloe back to the car and didn't arrange a meeting place. That was the last I saw of Mary and Jon, although I did manage to locate MJ again eventually! As one woman told me, that's the fair for you!

Some photos:
Make-your-own arts and crafts
Make-your-own snowcones (peddle power!)
Make-your-own beat
Make your own judgment

Here are some more photos, on Mary's blog post from the 2006 fair. I bought a card-sized print of the fire people. Love it!

Family news from New Orleans

Judy and Gary have found some Wednesday help with Marty: Lori! She wanted some extra work, and J&G are thrilled to have someone they know will take excellent care of Marty. Now J&G can more easily get some weekly errands done, schedule appointments for themselves, and maybe even have the occasional date. Hurray!

Lots of weekend news from here, too, but I have to run. More later!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A small rant about spelling and grammar checkers

I hate to break it to you, dear readers, but you can't trust your spell-checker. I've spent today writing in Microsoft Office Word and being disgusted with the number of things it tells me are wrong that are actually correct. Here are a few examples:

Word thinks "noninventory" is misspelled. Actually, Word thinks just about any word starting with "non" that doesn't have a hyphen in there is misspelled. This is simply not the case. The Chicago Manual of Style and the American Heritage Dictionary agree: "non" words are nonhyphenated unless:
  • The hyphen is arguably needed for legibility (non-native)
  • The "non" comes before an already modified compound
  • The non is part of a Latin phrase (non sequitur)
Watch out for this sort of spell-checker confusion whenever you're using a prefix. Chicago says compounds made from all of these prefixes should be closed (no hyphen, no space) in most cases: ante, anti, bi, bio, co, counter, extra, infra, inter, intra, macro, meta, micro, mid, mini, multi, neo, non, over, post, pre, pro, proto, pseudo, re, semi, socio, sub, super, supra, trans, ultra, un, and under.

Word has as much it's and its confusion as the next guy. Word told me that "it's" in the following sentence should be "its".

The file is not ready for review, but it's close.

This is simply not the case. That "it's" would only be "its" if I were talking about the close (of business, of the letter).

"It's" is a contraction standing for "it is." The verb that is tucked in there means "it's" tends to come before adjectives ("it's hot") or gerunds ("it's going to be another hot day tomorrow"). It's active or descriptive.

"Its" is about possession and always comes before nouns (although the nouns might be modified by an adjective first, as in "I was distracted by its faulty reasoning"). It's its own thing.

Word can't handle a little creative writing. Finally, Word is forever getting lost in my sentences and telling me my subjects and verbs do not agree, when clearly they do. Of course, this one might be just the tiniest bit my fault for writing such long sentences. :-)

Anyway, the point is, don't turn off the spell-checker or grammar-checker in your head. If you think the checker in your software is mistaken about something, you just might be right! Get a second opinion!

P.S. I should clarify something. It is not that Word actually thinks "non-inventory" is preferable to "noninventory." There are simply too many possible "non" words for all of them to be in Word's dictionary. So, it doesn't recognize "noninventory" at all, but when you type "non-inventory" instead, it recognizes "non-" as a prefix that is in the dictionary, and it determines that "inventory" is spelled correctly. I don't know why it doesn't recognize "non" as a prefix without the hyphen; that was evidently too much refinement for the developers to cope with.

I should also point out (or maybe I just want to) that if you previously had blind faith in your word processor's spell-checker, you're not alone! I've had professional writers and editors tell me I was misspelling a word because Word didn't recognize it. That's one for the pet peeves file.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


The Pacific Northwest is HOT, baby!

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Free Hugs

Have you seen someone (like maybe one of my daughters) carrying around a big "FREE HUGS" sign? This is why:

Juan Mann started it all, now it's spreading all over the world. Look at
all these Free Hugs videos! Korea, New York, Hollywood, China, Amsterdam, Romania, Spain, Italy, Canada, Seattle (of course!), and thousands more.

Free Hugs Campaign Home Page

Monday, July 9, 2007

We could be rich!

Big BHD news!!! Check out this auction for the 45 that the Better Half Dozen released in ~1966.


Scroll down a bit to see just how rich we could be (if we could ever bring ourselves to part with this cherished item in our record collection).

Learning all the time

I'm having a good time reading on this site:


From their "Our beliefs" page:
As of 2006-JAN, we consist of one Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist. Thus, the OCRT staff lack agreement on almost all theological matters: belief in a supreme being, the nature of God, interpretation of the Bible and other holy texts, whether life after death exists and what form it takes, etc.

Helloooo, baaaby!

Friday, July 6, 2007

More on teens

I love this quote from one of Sandra Dodd's teen pages.

"Teens who were always unschooled *know* things that other people don't know. My children, for example, know one can learn to read without being taught. They don't think it, kind of believe it, or have a theory about it. They know that it's possible to be honest and trust your parents. They know it's possible for a fourteen year old girl to hang out with her older brothers pleasantly and at their request. They understand why those with unlimited TV in their own rooms can go a long time without turning it on, or why they might want to leave it on to sleep. They have years of experience with the fact that someone with the freedom to choose to stay awake will get sleepy at some point and want to go to bed and sleep. They all understand when it's worth going to sleep even though fun things are going on, and they know how to decide when it's worth setting an alarm to get up.

"There are many adults who don't know those things."

A quote and a wish

The quote:
“There is no argument worthy of the name that will justify the union of the Christian religion with the State. Every consideration of justice and equality forbids it. Every argument in favor of free Republican institutions is equally an argument in favor of a complete divorce of the State from the Church. History in warning tones tells us there can be no liberty without it. Justice demands it. Public safety requires it. He who opposes it is, whether he realizes it or not, an enemy of freedom.”

-- Benjamin Underwood, "The Practical Separation of Church & State," an address to the 1876 Centennial Congress of Liberals

The wish:
That one of these days, we won't have to talk about the separation of church and state any more because it will be a lasting fact of life.

More about Benjamin

Now you can see LIFE is Good

Oh, what a happy discovery! Now you can see how much fun the LIFE is Good conference was!

Frank and his guitar and I are in an early scene, and I spotted my good buddy Mera and STUNning Michelle. There is unfortunately not any footage of the stairwells, so I don't think you'll spot MJ or Chloe. Let me know if you do!

A billion thanks to Fergus' dad for posting this! And a billion more thanks to EccentricSimplicity for bringing it to my attention. It took me right back into the boundless heart of LIFE is Good.

The cure for Adultitis

Are you stuck in a rut, bored with your life, perpetually grumpy, or otherwise excessively adult? You might suffer from Adultitis. Take the quiz and find out.

Regardless of your diagnosis, you might enjoy the cure. Read about the 40-day Challenge Escape Plan.

Blog ring

In case you haven't noticed, this blog is now part of the LIFE is Good blog ring. To enjoy the wonderfully varied blogs of other unschoolers, click the Previous and Next links in the LIFE is Good Tribe Member box at right. The behavior is a little random right now (or stochastic, as Frank would say), but Mary is working on that.

Adding labels

I've spent some time today adding labels to the blog. (Once an indexer, always an indexer.) Scroll down to see the list of labels in the sidebar at right, then click a label to see related posts. I've got more than 200 posts on this blog, so I may not have applied the labels to everything that needs them, but it's a work in progress. Feel free to let me know if I've missed something.

Some notes:

  • The sailing label is (in theory) on posts about sailing rather than posts about hurricanes. I can understand your confusion on this issue when it comes to this particular blog, but I tried to separate the two. See the katrina and hurricanesother labels if you want storm stuff.
  • The unschoolingtoday label is for my monthly "What unschooling looked like today" posts. These come out approximately mid-month.
  • I think the entertainments, photos, and quotes labels are particularly fun. You get a real hodge-podge with those.

Send label suggestions if you expected to find something and didn't! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Marty and Molly

A photo stolen from one of Jerry's MySpace photo albums.

Skiing in Dubai

Aunt Jorene sent an e-mail about this place. Amazing!


And on a lighter "Firefly" note

All you fans of the Big Damn Series, Big Damn Movie, and our lovable Big Damn Heroes might enjoy the Big Damn Site.

South Park Jayne cracked me up.

And as long as I'm link-happy, here are some more:

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=147037658 (Jewel Staite's MySpace page)

I am Dua Khalil


The link above is to an essay by Joss Whedon on the recent "honor" (????) killing of 17yo Dua Khalil, while dozens looked on and even videotaped but did nothing to help her. Joss is the creator of (among other things) our much-loved "Firefly" TV series. Here, he gets political—or perhaps simply human.

If you want to watch the horrific video—and maybe we all owe it to this girl to at least look head-on at what was done to her—the video is available here.

You can help! Speak out against violence against women. Contribute. Join the I Am Dua Khalil awareness campaign. Use your online presence to publicize the essay or story above, or simply link to my blog.

I am Dua Khalil, and I refuse to accept honor killings and the inequality of women as an acceptable status quo.

Bravo, Keith


Watch and understand why I wasn't waving an American flag yesterday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Just the facts

Once we thought the earth was flat
What of that?
It was just as globos then
Under believing men
As our later folks have found it,
By success in running round it;
What we think may guide our acts,
But it does not alter facts.
-- Charlotte Perkins Gilman

To learn more about Charlotte, visit this Freethought of the Day page.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

On enjoying teenagers

The other day, I was on my office phone working a transportation deal that involved some intensive juggling, car swapping, backtracking, and a number of teenagers. When I finished wrangling, I hung up and let out a heartfelt "Phew!" Then I commented to my officemate that having two teenagers is sometimes rather complicated. She said she imagined so, then I added, "But it's more fun that I thought it would be!" Even without knowing my history, this comment surprised her. She, like so many of us, has bought into our cultural animosity toward the breed: Teenagers are dangerous and scary.

It was this general state of fear and loathing that led me to regard my own children's adolescence with apprehension—even before they had been conceived. MJ recently uncovered a piece of paper that apparently dates back to the early years of my relationship with Frank. On it, I had listed the pros and cons of having kids, and the teenager thing made the Cons list (one of the few cons I, as a rabid kid-lover, had been able to come up with). Needless to say, we carried on with the baby-making even with the dreaded horrors of puberty looming ahead. MJ arrived in all her glory and I was thrilled.

And then came The Talk Show. When MJ was two months old and cousin Chelsea was a newborn, my sister-in-law, Denise, and I were having a little visit, each with infant in arms. The TV was on in the background, and some talk show came on. The topic of the day was teenage girls who hate their mothers. We listened to the venom spewing out of the mouths of those girls and their moms, looked from the TV set to our sleeping cherubs, and then looked at each other in horror. Ohmigod, is that what's in store for us?

And thus began for me a years-long stretch of what-ifs and how-can-we-avoids. Books like Reviving Ophelia and Odd Girl Out both hurt and helped my state of mind: they vehemently, painstakingly confirmed that I had Something to Fear while at the same time offering a glimmer of hope that school was at least part of the problem. Aha! I didn't have any real hope that I'd be able to avoid an adversarial relationship with my future teen girls, but school—and in particular the red flag danger zone of middle school—we could do something about. Our tentative homeschooling plan was born.

As most of you know, that homeschooling-for-middle-school plan has evolved into an unschooling-from-3rd-grade-on plan. What you may not know is what it's meant for my relationship with my daughters, including Chiara. And all their friends. And teenagers everywhere.

I found out something fascinating! Did you know that teenagers are PEOPLE?! Yes, really! It's the most amazing thing! They have ideas and interests and opinions, insecurities and hopes and dreams. They tell me things I never knew ALL THE TIME. They introduce me to people and places and experiences I would have missed otherwise. And it takes so little effort to make friends with them, I'm embarrassed for adults everywhere who freeze up when faced with a teen to talk to. As a group, teenagers are the most creative people I know, with eager brains and compassionate hearts. And all they really want from us is respect.

Why is this such a well-kept secret?

I think the answer is this: Most adults do not want to give teenagers any respect. It's inconvenient. It's not how we were raised. It's scary. And the simple fact is that it seems easier to just lay down the law. "My way or the highway" and "As long as you live under my roof."

Of course, that is exactly false. It is that attitude right there that leads almost inevitably to that adversarial relationship I so feared, a relationship that is stressful, difficult, and time-consuming in the extreme, one that often leads to lifelong damage and expensive psychotherapy.

There is an alternative! The main thing I had to do to become what I am now—a parent who is thoroughly enjoying her teenagers and who feels privileged to be a part of this great adventure they're on—was to learn to really listen to my kids. For years, I have made an effort to put myself in their shoes in every situation, to see through their eyes. And now that they're teenagers, I try to remember that it is their job right now to expand their own horizons and build their own lives.

That knowledge of their quest makes every decision a simple one—not always easy, but simple. It is not my timetable that matters, it's theirs. Any attempt I make to hold them back from what they feel ready for is going to lead to resentment, anger, secrets, and fights. Sometimes what they're ready for isn't comfortable for me. Sometimes it takes tremendous courage for me to set that discomfort aside and trust what they know. But I do it, because it's not about me. It's about them, and it's about saying "yes" to the steps they want to take.

MJ feels ready to hang out with 17 and 18 year olds. (Deep breath, you'll call me if there's drinking and you need a ride, okay, yes.) Chloe feels ready to walk the neighborhood alone. (Deep breath, you have the cellphone, okay, yes.) MJ feels ready to see an intimate documentary about an illegal drug. (Deep breath, you can talk to me if any of it is upsetting, okay, yes.) Chloe feels ready to experiment with haircolor. (Deep breath, you understand hair dye is permanent, okay, yes.)

It's about reexaming my own attitudes about... oh, everything. Sure, I have my own experiences, my own lessons learned, and I do my best to share my nuggets of wisdom with them. But when it comes to their lives, I am the ignorant one. I am the learner. I don't really know this world they live in; it isn't the same world I lived in when I was their age. I don't really know what's best for them. All I know for sure is that my girls will always tell me how it is and what they need from me.

Contrary to popular wisdom, my job is not to set limits. I don't have to restrict their exploration or make judgments about their choices or set curfews or punish them for transgressions against my arbitrary rules. Instead, my job is to work with them to recognize the principles that we all want to live by, principles of trust, respect, honor, legality, and good manners. My job is to support them, to listen, to be available, and, yes, to arrange transportation. My job is to offer resources and time and nuggets and—rarely—a shoulder when one of them discovers she's made a bad choice.

Yeah, that's a lot of jobs! :-) I'm working pretty hard, and sometimes it gets complicated. But we're all having a good time! No venom here. And I'm doing my best to spread the word: Teenagers are fun!