how to have your mom turn 47

What I was really (really) most excited about this year when it came to my birthday was that I’d bought a new writing textbook. I was chomping at the bit to get the kids to use it. Public school had ground them into such a mold with “writing”… “about” their weekend, “about” a trip, … that not only was their writing often smattered with lies (like saying things were “really cool” or “really fun” when they had not enjoyed them), but it had a weird cadence to it. A weird, Stepford-student cadence.

“I’m not using transition words anymore when I write!” Claudia had said defiantly the other day. I didn’t know what a “transition word” was. “You know,” she said, switching to a simpering voice for her examples. “First, I did this thing. Next, I did this. Finally, I did this…”

For years now my friend Arun and I have had a joke about the phrase “As you can see…”, since it had ended almost all of Claudia’s school journal entries. Often just this phrase alone made them comedic.

I was excited to have a new textbook that offered them a wider range of ways to pre-plan, and rethink, their own writing. So that, first of all, it actually reflected what they felt. (Kind of important in writing.) And, to understand that opinion pieces, narrative pieces, etc., are all different types of writing.

On the morning of my birthday, I was so jazzed to have them ready to experience something that they could write about the next day! And that was — watching me get the linework done on a large tattoo of Leon Russell.


Ow. The hell.

My kids are clever people and have decided that when Leon is all done — shading and whatnot — that when I do shave my legs (which are pretty hairy), I should shave only around Leon’s face, and leave his hair and beard with hair on it!  I guess they are going to have to figure out how to do it for me — this is the back of my calf.

Our plan after the tattoo was to go to dinner, but I had spent so much energy hurting (it tires you out!) I honestly did not think I could sit up through a meal. We got P’unk Burger delivered and had our first pound cake from Stock’s.

My favorite part of the day was around eleven p.m., when Claudia came up to see Tuck and I halfheartedly playing with zipties to make St. Brigid’s crosses. My birthday is on Imbolc, a Pagan Sabbath, and is the day for making Brigid’s crosses as well. I had wanted to do it. We did. Tucker’s was best.


Then Claudia did this for me; probably my favorite thing about my birthday, although it might have happened after midnight.

Today we did the pre-writing exercise about our visit to the tattoo parlor. I will share it in an upcoming post, hopefully with the first draft that follows it. But after two months of homeschooling, I see that they don’t view writing as a way to express themselves. They may feel they can do that in “secret” writing; I have come across some things that have surprised me, in piles on the living room table. But they do not view public writing as a vehicle in which they are allowed to express, not only feelings, but individuality. And that is not okay.

At the end of last school year — the last day of school, in fact — I was sitting on the grass in the playground and ended up in a circle of other moms who were looking over their kids’ journals and commenting that no matter what interesting and unusual thing they did with their kids over the weekend, the kids would write about going to Whole Foods. And that is when I realized, of course: they don’t write in school to differentiate themselves from each other — they write to show how they are all similar and do acceptably similar things.

I feel like we need a bigger focus on reading and writing in general. Expressive writing.

Today, Leon was looking a little more healed and complete (still waiting for shading which will not happen until a few weeks from now):


And I realized Claudia had drawn a pentagram on her doll Kylie’s head.


I do not think Claude is aware that there is a belief system that has anything to do with pentagrams. She said that she had done this on my birthday, but also that it had something to do with St. Brigid — I’m not sure and I don’t think she is either. BUT, regardless of Kylie’s spiritual beliefs, she does believe in SCIENCE, and was right there (no lab coat, but what can you do) while they moved the rocks to the final, FINAL step — polishing — this afternoon with Tucker.


Suit up for Science and get ready to March in April! (And tomorrow is Materials Day at Drexel, and we are hoping to make it there!)