retin-a, the pill and moving on…

My foxling is 13, precious and full of life, 13 going on 29. =) One minute she can be curled into a blanket with me on my bed, begging me to read her “baby books” to her and make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. The next she will scoff any attention I attempt to lavish on her, retreat to her room and write pages for novels in which her parents are dead, emerging hours later a vegetarian. She is exploring, discovering herself, and deciding who she wants to be, on any given day. She is hot and cold, fire and ice, brilliant and plain-ass dumb. In short, she is a teen. Welcome to my world, I am hoping I will be one of the millions of mothers who survive the teen years and do not have to give up nursing school to check myself into a “facility”. * =)

One of the marvelous things about genetics is the small chance we passed all our best qualities onto this amazing child. Of course, reality intervenes and along with her stellar sense of humor and astronomical IQ, she got the spots. I was lucky to not have had acne badly, but my brother was an absolute mess for a decade and The Professor was on every script available for years as well. So my poor little foxling never stood a chance. She was fine as a child, but the second she hit puberty all hell broke loose. I finally found a DR who takes it seriously, and have an insurance plan that will pay, even if I have to call and throw fits regularly to motivate them.

She has a sulfur wash and lotion for the day, and a retina-a micro treatment that goes on at night. The spots are clearing up and the redness is dissipating as well. Most sunscreen makes her break out, so that was an added bonus to the situation, but it looks like we are making real progress. Last week, her DR also prescribed The Pill, to regulate her cycle and cut down on the breakouts. Yes, THAT pill. Yikes, cannot tell you what that did to my tender mother’s psyche… she is only 13 after all.

I will admit to having some misgivings about the regimen, even before The Pill was thrown into the mix. She is young, and needs reminding, and who would be the one to remind her on a daily basis ? Yours truly… and she feels like I nag her enough, thank you very much. But the more I considered, the more sense it made to let her have complete control over the process. After all, she was so compliant with her Invisalign that the braces were on for only a year instead of 2 ! She also is responsible with her cleaning, school work and online time, so why should this be any different ? I only had reservations because if she does not use the products properly, she could end up with chemical burns, and that is not an option. So for the past month, I have been doling out the products, one at a time. Instructed her as to the procedure, let her read the packaging inserts and let her manage. Last week she began the retina-a without any problems. I was expecting a lot more redness and dryness, but I think that spacing the products a bit helped. She now uses all 3 products every day and is careful to take the time to properly apply each one. She said she feels like she is doing something good for herself, and does not want to rush since that could screw with the results. =) I am glad she came to this on her own, rather than me telling her repeatedly. Means more to her.

So… we as parents are preparing our children to ultimately make every decision for themselves. To understand right and wrong, as it applies to them and their ideals and world. To do their best, to feel comfortable and happy with their decisions and how to deal when things go awry. Some children mature faster than others, but no matter their age when we begin, we MUST begin to let them do for themselves. To fall and break occasionally, and to get back up, brush off the dust, assess and move on. If only there was a gentler way to ease them into adulthood… but if we are too protective and gentle, they end up crippled and unable to fend for themselves. Who knew, 13 years ago as I lay looking at that darling blueberry-eyed baby with the pug nose and silky brown hair, that is would be so hard ?! So we do our best, and with reservation, let them take the reins and hope they don’t plow us all into a brick wall. =)

She has had a lot of growing up to do in the past year. She felt immense guilt for a long while, like her opinion of our situation was what allowed her father to move out. It took me months of constant talking and reassurance to help her see that he made the decision separately from his love for her, and to talk to me when he told her things that made her feel uncomfortable. Our relationship is strong, and she is all good so even thru pain, she has been able to see one can create beauty and happiness out of the rubble left by another’s choices.

She also now sleeps at 2 different houses, with 2 sets of rules. There are not many at The Apartment, as she calls his place. We are more structured, mostly because in our home is where the schooling takes place, and we need the routine to accomplish everything she wishes to do. She has more freedom there, more free time with which to fill in many ways. She is learning how much is too much, and how little sleep she can function on without being a raging witch. =) She is getting more in control of her days, and I allow her as much freedom here was possible, as well. Too much disparity between homes is the hardest thing for a child to deal with, so I have adjusted as much as I can here to make the transition easier for her.

So she is 13, creeping up to 14, and is about to start high school. Those years that are so important for now, but after earning a Bachelor’s become completely inconsequential. I had a real heart to heart with her recently and decided to allow her to choose who she lives with, and if she transitions into a public high school. I think that regular high school will not showcase her talents the way that a tailor-made education in a private, online school would. But I also see the draw of moving to Ca with her dad and his new family. The fun and excitement of it, the beach access, her granddad and uncle being right there… it is everything I could want for my darling girl, other than the school and the fact that I will not be able to participate. Oh, I know, she was leaving eventually anyway, but the shock that came with the possibility of this scenario playing out in 2 years was hard to shake off. Now that I have had weeks to become accustomed to the idea, I am thrilled for her, in every sense of the word. She is exactly like me in that aspect; the belief that the best things in life come from making an educated guess then racing off a cliff to jump into the unknown… =) I want her to live a life of possibility, of nerve and calculated risk, not one of fear and wondering what might have been. So I have turned the kaleidoscope so to speak, and am looking at this as a chance of a lifetime, which it is. These may very well be the last years she has her granddad, and I want her to be able to build a relationship with him, just like she was able to do with my dad. And seriously, a chance to be in sunny CA surrounded by people who love you ?! What on earth would prompt YOU to say no ?! =) =)

So now, the only stress I am feeling is about how to best prepare her for the move. CA is notoriously unaccommodating to home schoolers, especially those from another state. According to the administrator of the school district in question that I spoke to recently, the chance is minuscule that any of these high school credits that she has already earned will transfer to their system. Let me be clear, according to the colleges I spoke to, backed up with ISBN numbers and test scores, along with work samples, these are indeed high school credits, with more work accomplished than the average Honors courses here. I am nothing if not thorough in her education. But CA is very hard to please, and if the classes were regionally accredited, than this would not be an issue. National accreditation is sticky as well, but not as much as good old fashioned home school work, no matter what you can back it up with. As an aside did you know that over 23% of all high schools in the US are not accredited ?!

My foxling has been working on high school honors level since grade 6. She has even had some classes that are college level. Now to find out that if she moves, and we continue doing what we have been, she may have to begin over and attend sumer school for 3 years just to graduate on time… fucking absurd. But I will leave my thoughts on state control of national education requirements for another day. Another aside, Brown and Bard think she is being well-prepared, as does the medical school at UConn… AND SHE HAS NOT EVEN BEGUN HIGH SCHOOL YET ! =) But what matters right now is not my indignation, or the insanity of a cross-country move with an eclectically-educated child. What matters is getting the most out of the next 2 years with her, making her look as good as possible on paper, for the powers that be. While I am confident I can usher her into any selective college in the nation, the public high school system in CA is going to be a challenge. So I need to figure out a way to give her the interesting and quirky classes she wants, while fitting her requisites into the obscenely run-of-the-mill packaging that the school system demands. While my first instinct may be to scream FUCK YOU, MORONS… this is HER dream, HER goal and I, as her mother, educator and administrator, have her best interests at heart. So I begin to play the game that I have avoided like the plague for the past 14 years… gods help me.

I will keep you posted as to what we decide to do… the deadline for applying to the large, local high school for AP and honors classes passed in May, and we are not in the new house yet so cannot legally even apply for regular attendance yet. As, the plot thickens.


* Again, take my words in the spirit with which they are thrown on the page… humor, not judgement or cruelty. =)

random prettiness…

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Pretty days are here, cool breezes and happy clouds… The weather is warming up a bit, and we will have rain off and on. The birds are out back in full force… jays, chickadees, larks, robins and cardinals all vie for the best branches, and can be seen chasing one another in and out of the trees.

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, beginning with school on Monday, a trip to MA on Tuesday followed by The Historian having her friend over to play and have lunch yesterday. Today was fairly quiet, a trip to the grocers to replenish our stock of fresh veggies, and then a latin test; on which my foxling scored 100% =) We are all very proud of this little girl, I can tell you. Tomorrow, we are headed up to Maine, to visit a The Professor’s friend from his first college days. The forecast predicts rain the whole day, but I know we will have a good time, nonetheless. Hopefully, I will have a few snaps to share upon our return.

This weekend will be more school work, wrapping up our summer trimester. One more week, then we will break for 10 days of so before jumping into our new routine and books. It is nice to intersperse the craziness with days of learning at home. It keeps me energized and motivated, and The Historian wouldn’t have it any other way.


In 1994, J. Halstead wrote “Some of my best friends are books: Guiding gifted readers from preschool to high school”. This book is an informative read and it has really made me ponder some of the choices we have made with my foxling and her reading materials. She has always been a voracious reader, and age seems not to have changed this aspect of her personality.

In the aforementioned book, Halstead contends that gifted girls tend to prefer fiction to non-fiction, while boys’ preferences are reportedly the opposite. It is possible that gifted females choose fiction because it allows them to be “themselves” in a way that our real world does not… a place their talents can be developed, and role models which they can strive to emulate. Developing their talents is a real desire of the gifted adolescent female, and access to books showing them how many other women did just that can be a way of “fitting in” for them. Finding a setting where the things that you value are valued is what we all want, and feeling different, or outside the norm, can take a toll on a young person. Books can be a way for these children to set their sights on the future, while feeling accepted in the present. A common bond with a main character, or using a character’s situation to deal with her own struggles can enable her to see her differences from peers in a positive, rather than negative light. To be able to reinforce their identity thru books is a way for them to begin the self-actualization process that will help them adapt, grow and become the person they wish to become. And to think, we can accomplish all this with a little thought and a trip to Barnes and Noble. =)

orthodontia update…

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My alarm sounded this morning, I quickly turned it off and jumped up out of my warm blanket cocoon. I slipped on socks and made my way quietly downstairs, wondering why I pounced up so quickly. The recycling gets picked up on Mondays, but there was something else… as I measured coffee and poured water, I remembered… a visit to the orthodontist for The Historian.

She has been wearing the Invisalign braces for just over 6 weeks now, and had an appoint this morning to check the fit and her compliance. I have to tell you, my foxling ROCKS !!!!! She has to take them out to eat, then brush carefully before putting them back in. She has been so careful and responsible, we knew she was going to do well; but she has exceeded our expectations thus far. I am happy to report she got kudos from everyone in the office. =) This system tends to move the teeth quickly at first, with time built into the treatment for maintenance. I hope these photos do not gross you out, but I wanted to show what they are like. The trays on top in the pictures are the old ones, with the new set on the bottom. I do not know if you can tell from the trays, but there is a big change so far, even this early in the game. She is progressing so well, she does not have to go back until April ! She has no issues, everything is moving right along, and I am so glad we went with the Invisalign and her orthodontist. BTW, how cute is that carry-case she picked out ?! That sums her up; swirly, cool and a bit different. =) Score one for the kid who brushes after every meal !

giftedness and societal expectation…

I have been deep in thought this year. Not the normal, new-semester thinking. But deeply profound THOUGHT. I teach The Historian, so as well as learning objectives and how to do this most effectively, what is really important to me to give her, as a mother and  role model, as well as her teacher ? I am thinking about the issues that face gifted girls, particularly their loss of  “voice”. The gifted girl tends to disappear rather than offend or intimidate those around her by going against our cultural norm. Research shows gifted adolescent girls are caught between their intelligence and their sex role. For instance, a very bright boy who asks lots of questions is “engaged” and “living up to his potential”, while a female asking the same questions tends to be labeled “aggressive” and “interrupting”. I have seen this in person in the classroom, and hear often of this from teachers whose opinions I value. This is not an issue with our education at home, but the world at large still bleeds into her concept of self. I cannot tell you how many times I am told that my daughter is indeed bright; but she is a GIRL, and that is why she can patiently draw, write beautifully, memorize Latin, act with decorum… She is of an age that this makes her angry, she knows how hard she works, and to have that effort dismissed because she was born with a vagina is infuriating to her. When she expresses this, I am told she is argumentative, outspoken or takes things too personally. I take a deep breath, and inwardly seethe because I know she will face this for the rest of her life.

A young woman who has a SAT score of 2300 vs. a young man with the same score do not face the same scrutiny from the colleges to which they are applying. Assuming the exact same socio-economic status, race and school size/type, the boy will be granted the scholarship. Why? Because “the female has the POTENTIAL to learn more quickly at an earlier age than the male”. We know this to be a true, but invalid argument, because by high school, the male is outperforming the female in maths and sciences, which are considered the harder, and more “weighted” courses.

In our culture, being gifted and a female is a contradiction in terms. Think for a second before you dismiss this. I do not know what  infuriates me more, the fact that my peers look down on me for not having a “real job” and my social security is sinking faster that the Titanic while I have the audacity to raise the child we brought into this world, or the fact that I am perpetuating the cultural definition of femininity by assuming the role of “woman” by self-sacrificing and focusing on my daughter’s needs, putting my own academic achievements on the back burner ! What is an intelligent, caring mumma to do ?!

I am not stating that girls “have it harder” than boys, merely that both sexes have their personal struggles within the society that they are a part of. My concerns are with the gifted adolescent female because that is my child, my viewpoint, my reality. I love my foxling, and have a desire to educate and equip her with the tools she needs not only to be a productive member of our world, but to be mentally healthy and aware. Years ago, before my grandmother died, The Historian and I were visiting her and I mentioned this conundrum. She laughed at me, and told me in her day, women’s roles were more clearly defined, and we were better for it. I asked if that wasn’t limiting, and didn’t she have dreams, desires that went unrealized ? As we colored with my then 3 1/2 year old foxling, Grammy went on to tell me how she had dreamed of becoming a writer, but believed it was dangerous to let a person think they could be anything, as we all have limitations and responsibilities. She told me it was better to tell a child this at a young age, than to let them have false hope. My heart broke for her that day, the woman who was put into the role of mother by a society that could not see the brave, intelligent woman sitting with me on the bed.

I am not going to change our country’s, and our world’s expectations of women in general, and my daughter specifically. I do not have the magic pill that will allow every person to life to their fullest, without limitations. I wish for this, pray for this, work toward this… and know that my small efforts, if combined with many others, could be the drop in the ocean that, thru time, can make a wave to turn the tides. Until then, I can use my voice. Please do not say “what a pretty little thing ” when you see a beautiful girl at the park with her mother, but look this child in the eyes and smile at her, with a simple “hello”. Please ask the male child in your life what he likes to play with, not what sport he is going to try out for. Please ask the little girl you know what she is reading instead of showing her how to apply lipstick. Please look at our children, ALL children, not at their beauty or physical strength, not at their gender, but look deeply at the possibilities within them, the person they can become one day, if only we let them.

snap circuits…

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On our weekends, we like to do things together, for enrichment as well as entertainment. The Historian played some of her Harry Potter video game today, and was happily chirping away to herself for an hour, while mindlessly switching between characters and earning coins and trophies. A photo of her glazed-eyed in front of the telly would be pretty pointless, so instead the camera came out this evening while learning about electricity. This is a Snap Circuit set, and has provided hours of learning and play. The Historian is also learning troubleshooting and all about short circuits, and how they drain batteries and can damage components. My uncle is an electrician with the Army Corps of Engineers, and I always meant to expose her to circuitry sooner. I love this companies’ many sets, as they are independent and practical with their approach, and every lesson has a project you build. The result was as expected; another lesson learned under the title of “play time”…  Yes ! Score one for the mumma ! =)

Dinner was quite late, and therefore, an easy meal. A large mixed-greens salad with seeds and dried fruit, a greek yogurt, and 1/2 of a beautiful wrap. It was filled with beans, rice, veggies, cheese and a touch of beef. My foxling ate it up quick as a wink ! =)  As The Professor’s next semester start date looms closer, we are having as much fun as we can pack into our days, to tide us over for the long winter ahead. What do you like to do with your weekend free time ?

braces, boobs, bonsai… and the wish for wings that worked

Good morning, and by that I mean it is so chilly and I already need more coffee !   We are in the process of choosing an Orthodontist for The Historian, and have it narrowed down to 2 practitioners.  We are committed to using the Invisalign System, there were many factors that prompted this decision; most importantly the lack of gum disease in patients due to ease of brushing and flossing.  My foxling is excited about getting them fitted, and I know she will be compliant with all instructions.  With any luck, by Thanksgiving, she will be on her way to a straighter smile !

Further evidence of her maturity is her growing bra collection.  We found a style she liked, and got the next size up, as well.  She still is comfy in them, but… she is a bit more filled out that I was at her age.  I am now on the lookout for a sport-style, something that will keep the jiggles at bay.  She works out most days and REALLY needs the support.  We did find a wonderful bra alternative for the winter, she chose several tank tops with inner shelf support, which is fine for every day use, and will keep her back toasty thru the cold days of our New England winters.  Score !! =)

My rosemary plant is fed up with moving, and it appears she has boycotted life… she is as scraggly as a new bonsai.  While I am a HUGE fan of the tiny, stinted plants, this is not what I am looking for in an herb plant.  Our old plant was over 2 feet in diameter before it was “appropriated” by rotten neighbors a few years back.  This little lady has none of her predecessors charm or fullness, but I will keep up the good fight…

I do so wish for more hours in the day at times, maybe a couple hundred extra for several years…  I adore our home education model, and where we are in our journey.  The Historian is only at the end of 6th grade, but I can see the glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel.  I want those aforementioned hours to fill her little head with MORE… MORE maths, MORE Latin, MORE of the really fantastic History we use… just MORE. =)  We are a “less is more” type family, apparently the exception being her schooling. =)  I love the light that fills her eyes as new and exciting information is processed, the smiles and exclamations over knowledge sinking in… how everything is connected and she is GETTING it !!!!!  She recently told me she would really enjoy getting her Letters in Classics… a Ph.D. program that boggles my mind… and she wonders if there is enough time to do that, become a History Professor, and study Physics as well… oh, and Quantum Mechanics is interesting, and Bioethics… but I can’t forget about Maths… as I smile at her, in all her enthusiasm and seriousness, I wish for wings that worked.  My wings are strong, and beautiful, and get me where I want to go… but to have wings that really worked… I would scoop her up, fly away to that dream-realm where knowledge is valued and the quest for the knowledge is greatest feat of all.. we would go to that mysterious place of thousands of years past, where one can take 20 years to formulate and learn, decide, develop and grow.  They say we all could have been born to a different time and place, to flourish there, and as I see in her the dire NEED to understand all of the world around her, I can see the truth in this statement.  The real question is… where will HER wings take her ?


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