Letting Miley Cyrus Off the Hook

Unless you are living under a rock, even if you haven’t actually seen it yet, you know that Miley Cyrus, pop star, tv star, child star, has a lot of people talking about her performance on the VMAs earlier this week.  Mom bloggers are coming out of the wood work to write letters pleading with Miss Cyrus to come to her senses.  Conservatives are updating their Facebook statuses with words of concern about this young woman’s influence over the small girls who once watched “Hannah Montana” and sported t-shirts with her face on them.  Mothers are declaring to keep Miley Cyrus, her music, her face, as far away from their little girls as possible.

But, as usual, I’m here with a very different perspective.  You aren’t going to have read yet another public letter telling Miley Cyrus just how offensive was her performance.  I’m not here to declare how I’m never letting my daughter listen to her or watch her ever again.

No, because Miley Cyrus doesn’t have that kind of power over me, my children, and not even over my daughter.th

We’ve watched the entire series of “Hannah Montana”.  We’ve sung along to her songs.  My daughter has worn “Hannah Montana” shirts, has a “Hannah Montana” pillow on her bed, and her walls have been decorated with “Hannah Montana” posters.  She just simply liked “Hannah Montana”.  So did my son and I for that matter. This summer when Miley’s new hit single hit the airwaves, instead of turning the station, I sang along.  My daughter sang along.  “We Can’t Stop” is actually quite an awesome song.

It’s a sad song.  It’s a song with meaning.  It’s a song that discusses adult topics.  I didn’t turn off the station, though.  I did, however, talk to my daughter about the lyrics.  What did it mean to be “doing a line” in the bathroom?  What did it mean to be getting “torn up”?  What did it mean to be dancing with Molly?  Now she knows that the song is about drugs.  Now she knows that Miley is singing about doing drugs.  And she’s possibly doing drugs herself (one would assume) in real life.  Now she knows that Miley is… human… and flawed.  But wait, she never believed anything to the contrary.  She never had some crazy whacked out idea that Miley Cyrus was some kind of role model or some kind of person to look up to.  She was just the star of a tv show that she liked to watch.  My daughter has no desire to be a star.  She’s a talented actor herself but has decided, for now, to stop doing theater because she just doesn’t like it.  She has other goals.  Her goals have never included being anything like Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus has no power over her.  No influence.

I grew up loving certain celebrities.  Heck, I still love certain celebrities. I admire Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and many other funny ladies in television.  I grew up loving pop stars.  Did they have influence over me?  Power over me?  Absolutely.  But only the ones to whom I could relate.  In my case, it was the B-52s, because they let themselves be weird.  They influenced me to be a vegetarian.  To dress creatively.  To let my freak flag fly.  But in all honesty, those are things that I would have done anyway.  The B-52s just happened to be the driving force behind my finding those authentic pieces of who I would eventually become.

They are not the reason that I went to college or that I got married and had kids or that I have brown hair and brown eyes.

And despite their work for HIV awareness, I still had sex before marriage.

And despite the awful images in my mind of abortion from “Dirty Dancing”, “Last American Virgin”, and this really horrifying poem written on the topic by actress Ally Sheedy, I am still post-abortive.

And despite the “Just Say No” campaign so many pop stars and tv stars of my day participated in, I still smoked weed and allowed myself to be “prescribed” every psych med on the market.

You see, I didn’t make the bad decisions that I made because of pop stars and television stars and movies and I also didn’t NOT make those decisions because of pop stars and television stars and movies.

I made those decisions because the people in my life, at the time, with the most influence over me said those decisions were okay.  Or made those decisions for me.

I wasn’t the biggest influence in my own life.  Because I didn’t have a definitive idea about where I stood on these issues.  I was just sent into my teen years without having any clue where I stood on abortion, drugs, and sex.  I had to make the decision about my stance when I was faced with tough choices and when I was faced with myself.  I had no spiritual or even practical guidance.  I just WAS.

So it was up to those closest to me to help me decide where I stood or in some cases, all that mattered was where they stood.  I didn’t get a say.

I want to thank Miley Cyrus.  Her performance and the reaction to her performance this week has given me an opportunity to reflect upon what kind of influence popular culture truly did have on my painful past.  And it has helped me to set very specific goals as a parent.

Those goals are:

To take advantage of the years that I have with my daughter when I am her best friend and biggest influence.  I may always be her best friend and biggest influence but just in case I am not, it is my intention to talk with her about everything. on. earth. and help her determine where she stands on big issues before she faces difficult decisions.

To do everything I possibly can to help my daughter learn to trust herself and to show her that respecting herself is absolutely mandatory in order for her to succeed in life.

And of course to continue praying for her, her husband, and her future.

So you see, I’m not concerned about the influence that Miley Cyrus’s VMAs performance might have on my daughter.  In fact, I officially declare Miss Cyrus “off the hook”.  Because Miley Cyrus has no power over my daughter.  But thankfully, for now, I have plenty.  And I plan to use that power to my full advantage.

And Miley, even if your next single is also about the scandalous life of clubbing and drugging that you are leading, we’ll keep singing along.  And I’ll continue to use your material to teach my children about how they don’t want to live.


Secular Homeschool Co-Op in the Boro: Classes Day 1

Yesterday, my children and I were finally able to witness the fruit of months of labor.  I’ve been organizing a homeschool co-op for students in or near my town.  I won’t lie.  It’s been stressful at times.  But overall I feel like the results were worth all of the work.

Our co-op works like this:

We will meet once a month for a morning of classes at the Wilderness Station, a lovely little place set in the woods at a local park.  This building and the learning environment created around it is a wonderful resource which my family takes advantage of on a regular basis.  Last school year Hunter, my oldest child, took a monthly class at the Wilderness Station.  We liked it so much and we were so impressed with the quality of the information he gained that he will be retaking the class next year with his sister.  So when my friend who was helping me get the co-op started suggested the location when another one fell through, it made perfect sense to me.

The group will also meet once a month for field trips.  Our first field trip at the end of August is a hula hooping and creative movement workshop.  I mean, how awesome is that?  Occasionally we’ll also meet up at local parks for play dates, on weeks when we aren’t otherwise in class or on a field trip.  This will help the children get to know one another a little better and foster stronger bonds.  It is our intention for the children and the parents in co-op to create a sense of community.

Our classes were held for the first time yesterday.  I went in expecting there to be several hiccups and kinks to be worked out.  While it took us a few minutes to get into the groove, it all came together just fine.  Frankly, much better than I would have expected even.  I’m excited that it seemed to go well and I hope this means we’ll keep it up and running for a while.  I’m already looking forward to next semester.

We divided the classroom in half using an accordion door partition in the center of the room that we rented from the Wilderness Station.  One half of the room was for the preschool class.  The other half was for the “school aged” class.

My youngest child, Drayken, participated in the preschool class.  He did a craft, had story time, enjoyed a snack, and had fun playing with his classmates at the nature playground recently built by the staff at the Wilderness Station.


Drayken playing with toys on the rug during the first day of co-op.

My other two children, Hunter and Ronin, were excited to start their new classes at co-op.  Some old friends (who we met three years ago when both of our families were walking the leukemia/bone marrow transplant journey together) and some new friends are also involved with co-op.  And of course they were excited about the potential future friends as well.

Our school aged children are participating in three different hour long classes.

First period is basic hand sewing.  Yesterday they learned to thread a needle using a threader, how to wind their thread around a little card for easier access, how to use chalk to mark off the lines of their project, and how to sew on a button.  The final result of this first project will be a felt book for holding their needle and thread.

Hunter and Ronin learning the basics of hand sewing.

Hunter and Ronin learning the basics of hand sewing.

Second period is a history/show and tell class.  For the first day, to serve as an ice breaker, we allowed all children to bring in an object that would help tell us a little something about their own personal history.  Ronin brought her Barbie phone which represented her imaginary friends (she uses the Barbie phone to call them).  She told everyone about Sarah, Ashley, Larry, Kyle, and Anushaneegu.  And how most of them are in jail. Okay then.  Hunter brought in his radiation mask and his two different lines (Port and Hickman) and used them to help him talk about when he had leukemia.  This was hard for me to hear… I’ve never heard him talk so openly and honestly about his cancer experience before.  I had to walk to the back of the room to compose myself.

Our hands-on-history class is going to be a lot of fun.  We were told that this semester we’ll get to meet with a real live historian.  We’ll be able to look through a trunk from the local state museum.  And we’ll have a chance to look at photos from our city’s history as well.  Good stuff.

Third period is a nature class.  Yesterday’s class focused on identifying trees.  The students learned about leaves, talked about the importance of trees, took advantage of the wilderness station’s gorgeous surroundings and explored the tree covered area near the building, and then learned how to do rubbings with leaves in their notebooks.

Nature class!

Nature class!

Once our classes were over, several of the families met at the playground and had lunch together.  This gave the children a chance to play and it gave the moms an opportunity to chat.  Which I personally enjoyed very much.  The socializing after the co-op, I think, is going to be vital in helping the children form important bonds with one another.  We stayed much later than I expected us to.  Until 3pm, actually.  Everyone was just having such a great time we hated to break up the party.

Everyone in my house is looking forward to getting together with the group again.








Shoveling Through the Mucky Muck

We are no longer unschoolers.  We are very much homeschoolers now that we have adopted the use of curriculum, the notion of a “school” day (and I actually use the word now because, even though we aren’t doing our stuff in an actual school, I’m no longer comfortable with shying away from the use of the word… so school it is), and the concept of the school year starting and finishing.  It fits us all pretty well, for the most part.  I still contend that my daughter is a perfectly good candidate for unschooling but she does just fine with homeschooling as well, so here we are.  Loving what we’re doing and experiencing more peace because of the structure and guidance I have provided.

We still follow many unschooling guidelines and notions, however.  Unlimited, very seldom censored media intake.  Choosing their own activities for when school is not in session.  Co-sleeping.  Parenting without punishment (and while I’d like to include threat, I can’t… sometimes it’s all I’ve got).  The list goes on and on.

I still have great respect for the unschooling movement.  I still read about unschooling weekly and enjoy keeping up with many of my favorite unschooling families on line.

Which leads me to the point of this post…

I have long since stopped following or heeding the advice of any unschooling “leaders”.  I have several parents, some who unschool, some who homeschool, a few of who public school, to whom I will reach out for advice if I need parenting feedback.  Any unschooling “leaders” or “gurus” or “prominent voices” have lost their appeal to me, many moons ago, when I felt they weren’t always nice or when I felt they were scary or when I felt they were creepy.  I just decided to drop the labels and do things my own way, by trusting my instincts and focusing on my children.

Yet information about so-called leaders in the unschooling “community” (if there is one) continues to seep through my dismissal by way of Facebook.  The recent controversy that has come to light surrounding a family in this community (either you know what I’m talking about or you don’t, that’s okay) has been a source of great stress for me.  Not because I’m taking sides.  Because I’m not.  Not because I’ve decided that one group is right and one group is wrong (on many levels I believe both groups are both right and wrong).  But because it’s become a bit of a crash course in sociology.  A dirty, sad, scary and upsetting peak into the human psyche.

I am often naive.  I have my gut reaction to things and that is all I’ve got because it’s not always easy for me to determine, using my head, if what someone does or says is okay or not.  So the gray areas that have become apparent during this entire ordeal have allowed me to read a lot about a real live situation where people do things that are very much out of my comfort zone, on both sides.  I find it both fascinating and educational.  The aspie in me is fervently taking notes.

This morning I awoke from yet another dream about this situation and these people.  I awoke with an idea.  I’d make a list of ten things that we could do in order to feel like we’re doing something productive if we’ve had a hard time processing what has unfolded.  A list of items we could use to restore some peace and calm back into our lives and the universe as a whole.  Perhaps I’m the only person on earth who is struggling with what is going on here… but I doubt that I am.

1.  Pray/Send out good vibes.  Say prayers for all parties involved, affected, and hurt by the circumstances surrounding this ordeal.

2.  Do a service project with your family.

3.  Speak with your children about honesty, integrity, compassion, and online bullying.

4.  Represent homeschool/unschooling well in your community.

5.  Apologize to a friend or loved one you may have hurt.  Really mean it.

6.  Become more transparent.  Show your true colors once in a while, both online and in real life, so that people who may be looking up to you and trying to emulate you can breathe a sigh of relief when they see you aren’t perfect or even when they see you aren’t trying to pretend that you are perfect.

7.  Live authentically.  Choose one thing inside of yourself that you need to work on.  And then do the work.

8.  Reach out to someone who you know might be in pain.  Offer them some words of encouragement.

9.  Be present with your children.  Turn off your phone, your iPad, your computer and be. with. your. kids.

10. Trust your gut.  Your instincts will tell you so much.  If only you will listen.

So, that’s it folks.  My prayer is that after writing about this, my poor tired brain will be able to lay it to rest.  I’ll be able to start doing some of the items on this list and move on.  I have healing to do and I wasn’t even a fan, friend, or follower of any of these people.  I can’t imagine the hurt they are all going through.

I Don’t Wear Glasses Anymore

After two and a half decades of wearing glasses (or contact lenses), I am no longer in need of visual repair.  Oh no, don’t worry, this isn’t some testimony about how I healed my eyes through the Law of Attraction or any other whooy wooy story that seems to be the trend among radical weirds such as myself.

No, I simply got laser surgery.

I’m not saying I regret getting the surgery.  There have been some cool things that I’ve noticed or enjoyed since ditching glasses, which I intend to note later.  But man, it was a pretty horrifying experience.  The anxiety I went through before the appointment over the unknown was pretty bad The anxiety I went through during the appointment about whether or not it was a reputable place or if I’d do something to somehow screw up the procedure and dealing with one particularly rude and condescending staff member (my husband backed me up on this one) was worse.  And the anxiety after the surgery, when I had to wait two weeks to really drive or see the tv very well… that was pretty terrible.  I convinced myself that I might never see again.  As ridiculous as it sounds, this is how my brain works.  I keep thinking about the procedure itself.  The red lights.  The tension in my body.  The deep desire to get up and run away.  The unimaginable pain that I was in for several days, particularly that night and the next day.  It was worse than my labors.  Because at least once those were over, I picked up a sweet little baby to cuddle and kiss on.  Sigh.  Fresh baby smell.

But I digress.

There are a few cool things that I can note, however, now that I can see just fine again.

They are…

*I can see in the shower.  To shave my legs a little better.  Not that it matters much. Since I don’t use a light in the shower because I prefer to not see. in. the. shower.

*I could, in theory, get in a pool without worrying about my glasses getting wet and also being able to see.  Except I don’t really like pools.  So I’ve not done that.

*I can see the clock when I wake up at night.  Which I hate.

*I don’t have to clean my glasses anymore.  This one I like.

*Sunglasses.  Two pair.  Cute ones too.

*Apparently I look even younger. And “different”.  I look different now.  Not sure that’s a good thing.

* No more looking for my glasses or asking people in the house to help me find my glasses.  Which I couldn’t find because I wasn’t wearing them.

*More pleasant jogging/walking/exercise experience.

*Dropping my glasses before I go to sleep and then having to either get up and find them and put them on my night stand or remember where they landed in the morning.  That sucked.

*No longer falling asleep in my glasses and waking up to either my husband or my daughter removing them (the later would also throw a sweet kiss in as a bonus)…. aww…. I kinda miss this one.

To be honest, I kinda miss my glasses.  I had black geeky glasses and funky red ones with yellow flowers and well… they were just such a fun fashion accessory.  But what’s done is done.  And having good vision is always a good thing, right?  Plus, if I were to ever pursue acting again, either professionally or within the community, I’ll be a more versatile candidate for various roles, right?







you decide. (not that it matters anyway.)

DIY Homeschool Owl Study

This summer we did a couple of Unit Studies.  The kids were allowed to choose what topics we covered.  Ronin chose owls and that was a-okay by me because, well, I like owls.  I like to scour the internets and put together Unit Studies that work for my particular children.  This is what our owl study has consisted of:

* I used two nonfiction books from the library about owls to create questionnaires (fill-in-the-blank, True or False) for each child in his or her writing journal.  The questionnaires were different for each child and I included the page numbers where  the answer of each question could be found.

*We read every owl picture book we could get our hands on at the library…  Favorites include Owl Moon and Owl Babies.

*Visited the owl at the Wilderness Station near our house.  I was also able to purchase owl pellets from the Wilderness Station, which we dissected.  Ronin especially enjoyed the dissection.  She was particularly excited about identifying the bones of the rodent that the owl had eaten.  “Oh, a jaw!  A hip bone!”


*Completed an owl word search and owl cloze worksheet (you can google these key words and find ones that fit your needs)

*Watched an owl documentary on YouTube.

*Read, discussed, and watched “The Owl and the Pussycat”

*Tried our hand at drawing owls.


*Enjoyed a tasty owl snack.


Lunch meat with gluten free crackers, cream cheese spread and pickle slices.

*Each child chose a type of owl to learn about.  He or she learned about the owl, recorded five facts about the owl type, and later presented the information to their dad.

*Watched The Legend of the Guardians

We have really enjoyed learning about owls.  They are interesting creatures.  I’ve enjoyed it so much that I decided to read a book about an owl all on my own.  Wesley the Owl is “The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl”.  It was a fantastic book and helped me enjoy learning about owls that much more!