JORD Watch Father’s Day Giveaway Winner!

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Since I have gotten to know a lot of you, the kind folks at JORD suggested we use a Random Number Generator to pick the winner of the Father’s Day Watch Giveaway. Et voila:

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Thus, Kyle M (no relation) was the sixteenth comment on the giveaway! Congratulations, Kyle- please email me with your contact information, and JORD will mail you your gift certificate so you can choose from among their beautiful watches.

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Thank you everyone- this was fun!

Father’s Day Giveaway: JORD Watches

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The Dover 41 Watch

I have a long history of loving items crafted of wood- for years I worked in the toy industry in Germany and my children all had wooden teethers, rattles and a myriad of wooden toys. They still do. I have a wooden pen that is beloved. My cutting boards are Boos, and Bean even eats his English Muffins from hand-crafted wooden plates I’ve had for more than a decade. Wood craft has a place close to my heart.

A few weeks ago, JORD Watches sent Dandelion one of their wooden watches to review. I don’t do product reviews very often, and I told them I wouldn’t take any compensation for a good review; if they wanted a review, it would be honest. They readily agreed to provide Jon a watch, and let their product speak for itself. That’s a good start as far as I’m concerned.

First and foremost, JORD watches are beautiful. Jon’s watch arrived in a wooden box with a sliding lid, which in itself is a testament to careful craftsmanship. The watch had been sized for his wrist (I provided the measurements prior to ordering) and an extra link and directions for additional sizing were provided.

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Jon received the 94A Cherry Watch.

Jon set to wearing it immediately. He works in a federal office building in DC, so he spends a lot of time in a typical business environment. He’s your typical dad with five kids on the weekends. His observations:

  • It’s really beautiful, and people notice and commented on it. It’s something of a conversation piece, and his coworkers asked about it.
  • It’s quite lightweight, even though it’s fairly substantial in size. This is not a low-profile or slim watch- which was totally fine with him. He likes a big watch.
  • He was surprised how well it wore- he had expected it to be fragile, and while it really is more of a dress watch (don’t power-wash the deck wearing it- they can handle being splashed, but not submersed. Really not a surprise given the whole wood thing.) it handled basic bumps and knocks of every-day life well.
  • We had a little trouble adjusting the size- it was slightly snug for his wrist- but the company was terrific about walking us through changing the link, and even offered to have us send it back so they could do it. We didn’t need to.

So at the end of his test-wearing, I asked him how he felt. In true manly fashion, he shrugged and said “I really like it.” More to the point, it looks terrific on his wrist, and I like it. Jon’s brother, who is similarly sized, tried it as well, and had a similar reaction, then spent some time looking at the other models on the company’s website. The consensus was that these are just unique enough to be interesting but not so attention-pulling to be a distraction. And the bottom line, they’re incredibly beautiful and work for both professional and casual wear.

JORD has been kind enough to offer a watch as a giveaway for Father’s Day here at Dandelion. If you’d like to enter to win, please leave a comment about the dad you’d like to see wear one of theses lovelies—even if it’s you. A winner will be selected Sunday, June 21. Please do check out their website to see the other beautiful timepieces (they have ladies’ models, too).

Thank you to JORD watches for setting this up, and for thinking Dandelion dads might like their beautiful product.

Imperfect Knowledge

5104d43a0b5cf.preview-620The following is an excerpt from a talk I gave Sunday in my DC Metro area ward.

We are very fond of using the language of certainty when we speak of the gospel, when we give our testimonies, and when we share our faith with our friends and family. We love to say “I know…” and we do so with such confidence that it becomes a linguistic tic of Mormonism. “I know the church is true…” What does that even mean? And what message does the language of unwavering certainty send to people whose faith is formed from different mettle? We sometimes imagine proclaiming knowledge is solid and comforting, and perhaps to some— or even to many— it is, but as an adult convert, I believe the framing of certainty, of “knowing” as the only expression of testimony can actually create an unintended gulf between members of the body of Christ’s church. Continue reading

Reminder: Spiritual Vampires

This is a post I wrote a few years back. It’s actually kind of astounding how important this is to remember.

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Dear children, of all the wisdom imparted on me by your father, one of his greatest lessons was that there are such people as vampires. Oh, now, don’t be all silly- as much fun as it might be to imagine moldering old French vampires preying on the criminals of New Orleans, or as shallow and vapid as those sparkly versions that came later might be- that’s simply misdirection.

The vampires you must be careful of- the vampires that are not fun to imagine but who do exist and can actually harm you are Spiritual Vampires.

Common folklore tells that a vampire cannot see their reflection in a mirror. Spiritual Vampires cannot see their own reflection in anything. A Spiritual Vampire cannot see how they effect others or what repercussions their actions have on other lives and souls. Even more damning, they refuse to see or acknowledge their part in anything that happens in their lives. Everything— everything— is the fault of someone else. It doesn’t matter how many loving people try and give them genuine feedback, try and guide them, plead with them, hold up mirrors (if you will) for them to see themselves accurately, it doesn’t work. The Spiritual Vampire cannot see themselves except from their own side.

Just like a French Vampire or a sparkly one (if you insist. sigh) these vampires prey on the weak or those who wish to please. It’s in their interest to keep people naive to their natures, and they will obfuscate and manipulate and deceive, and the part that makes them so (very, very) dangerous is that they believe their own lies. When prey ceases to surrender to the narrative of the vampire, when the mark starts to question the story, or look askance, the vampire must slander or excise that person from their lives, lest the fear of being discovered- or worse, having to look at themselves. This must be avoided at all costs. All roads lead to their own control. A person who actually sees the Spiritual Vampire is a great threat to their perceived well-being.

These folks burn through friends. Or at least, what they call ‘friends’. It’s impossible to cultivate a real friendship with a vampire, because they cannot let go of their control, or of their insatiable thirst for validation of their own rightness of position. It’s not blood they need to survive, but undying loyalty to their rigid beliefs. Do remember, the weight of their own construct is crippling. Have pitty. But don’t get too close.

If you find yourself engaged with a Spiritual Vampire, your life actually can be in danger— no, you won’t be exsanguinated— but your energy, your identity, your will to power, your individuality, your unique opinions and sense of self will all be expected to be sacrificed upon their altar to support their construct and beliefs. And all that you have to offer will never be enough.

In fighting this kind of vampire, just as in the models of yore, sunlight is your best weapon. Fling open the windows, invite in fresh air, speak what you know as your own truth, and never be sucked into the idea that you are responsible for anyone else’s self worth. Never let anyone convince you that they are the arbiter of yours, either. Treat people with love, kindness and honesty, take responsibility for your own actions, don’t manipulate, control or blame others. Stand in the sunlight. If anyone tries to tell you that you owe them more… get out your mirrors. Or…just get out.

The emotional and psychic drain of a Spiritual Vampire is real, children. Consider yourself warned. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to watch old reruns of Buffy. (Of course that’s true for a multitude of situations and is always good advice.) Now, here, eat this garlic bread and go play. Love, Mama

Random Crap: End of the School Year

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We got some fire. It’s amazing how mesmerizing fire is- the kids have been having a blast making s’mores.

Every year, I forget what a tornado the end of school becomes. Everyone has assemblies, ceremonies, activities, parties, testing, recitals, practices, and promotions. It’s pretty clear I forget, because I also had the bright idea of scheduling everyone their dentist appointments and physicals as a fun addition. Then add in two surprise business trips back to back for Jon, out of town friends popping in (though wonderfully welcome, I haven’t figured out- yet- how to be three places at once) and family visiting.

No wonder staying in bed all day binge-watching Star Trek and Friends sound so good.

I have a small promotion coming up for Father’s Day- details forthcoming. I think we’re giving away a handcrafted watch Jon’s been test-wearing. It’s truly beautiful, if not completely practical. It’s okay for some things to be extra pretty, but not suitable for pressure washing the house, right? I think so.

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Jeffrey won an award for being good at playing the baritone. He’s pretty excited, as you can see here.

As of next week, I have a high-schooler. It’s so weird- this is where my own autonomy kicked in, and I’m watching my kid make that transition. He’s counting down the days until he can get his driver’s license, he’s considering playing football, he’s tested into AP classes for the fall, he’s half a foot taller than me and can pick me. It’s weird.

Bean’s Home-Schooling Adventure is… well, it’s almost over. I’m less than impressed with some of the support from the district— big surprise. They let a week lapse before the teacher even contacted me, and now the school doesn’t want to pay her to make up the hours. Again, big surprise. Never mind they have a legal obligation to provide him with a certain amount of hours of instruction. Yes, less than impressed.

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Abby’s cruising along- she’s going to have a modified curriculum next year, and spend time every week in a separate classroom doing math, writing and science at her own level. This is a very good thing; she’s bored all the time in class, but she’s had two really good teachers for third grade, so at least there’s that. She’s also decided to make origami as tiny as humanly possible. See above.

Me? I’m considering some big changes for next year. Not ready to talk about them yet, but they involve retooling grad school courses and maybe biting off something new. We shall see.

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We managed to brave the beltway traffic and catch dinner and a move at this fancy place. It was good.

Now I have to go drag my teenager out of bed. His alarm just went off and Simple Minds is crooning at me from down the hall to don’t you forget about me… it’s really weird my kid is listening to music I remember slow-dancing to in 7th grade. He’s older than that me. Weird. Getting the kid up now.

Onward. The only option.

Mothering Bean: Part Eternal

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Right now, this beautiful child is sitting next to me, watching Bill Nye, while we wait for his home-study instructor so we can begin the journey to finish 5th grade from the safety and security of our home. Home-schooling has never been something I felt called to; it’s only something we’re embarking on because we’ve come to the end of our rope with a mismatched and poorly suited 5th grade year. There truly was no other option.

I’m pro-level with Special Ed;  I’ve done M.Ed level work, and I’ve got my own kid in-house.  I’ve been doing IEPs for nine years, and we’ve had predominantly stellar experiences. Bean has had wonderful teachers, tremendous therapists, deeply committed members of his team, over two states, and five schools. In the three years we’ve been in the DC area, he’s changed schools three times because of re-districting. I have moved once. He’s the worst possible child for that to have happened to, but I was powerless to stop district gerrymandering. He’s also gone from having the very best academic and social year of his life- a year where he excelled at every subject, made friends, loved his teachers and his school, and where his IEP team praised him for making such great leaps and being such a wonderful kid. In one year, he went from that, to our deciding, after 8 months of almost daily calls from the school, to pull him and spend the rest of the time before 6th grade rebuilding the damage done to him by his current school.

He’s still the same happy, quirky kid here at home. But I now have a concrete example of an educational team where an IEP can be followed to the letter, but where there can be zero investment in the child. I knew, the day I first walked into his classroom, that it wasn’t going to work. His assigned teacher may be a wonderful teacher for other kids, but for this particular child, she was wrong. I regret tremendously not asking to have him switched right then. I talked myself out of it. It was a mistake.

I try and teach my children responsibility and I don’t automatically assume my child is without fault. I wait, I weight things out. I talk to my kids, and to their teachers. The importance of the individual teacher cannot be overstated. Many kids can navigate many teachers, and there won’t be blips. Some kids do phenomenally with some teachers, and then some kids are catastrophically failed by some teachers. This was one of those times. At every chance, Bean was read and interpreted as a problem. When someone sees you as a problem, you start to believe you are a problem.

When you child comes home from school almost every day and cries, something is wrong. When on Sunday evenings, he realizes school is the next morning, and he bursts into tears yet again, something is wrong. When the teacher, who is armed with an IEP an inch thick and a full-time aid in the classroom, calls me 4-7 times a week, something is wrong. Last week, she called me three times in one day. Something is very wrong.

I am also a fervent defender of my kids, and when I walk into the district offices and ask for a meeting, it’s because I’ve been up all night reading the legal briefs and the actual legislation for IDEA (Individuals with Disability Education Act). I will be able to cite case law, and point out where federal (not state, not local, not school district… Federal) law has been violated, and I will ask if we should be recording this meeting.

Basically, don’t mess with me.

So when I walk into the district offices and ask for a meeting with the head of Special Education Services, I get one. And while I’m really glad that my reputation allows me to get that meeting, and my phone calls afterwards are taken, I am really *really* angry that a school district has to be coerced into following law they should be following for every. single. child. What about the mother who doesn’t speak English well, but whose child qualifies for services he’s not getting? What about the single mom working two jobs who simply cannot take off for yet another meeting? (Jon has used almost a week of his vacation because of IEP’s this year.) What about the mother who lacks the education to walk in armed with legal citations and the ability to advocate? The gulf between the privileged and the disadvantaged widens, and I am furious on their behalf. It’s really not enough that I, in a position of very real privilege, can advocate for my child. It should not be this hard.

FAPE (Free Access to Public Education) is something to which every single child in America is entitled. It’s not only for the kids in good neighborhoods, or whose mothers know how to work the system. It’s not only for the parents who can take time off to attend another meeting because the school is failing to meet the standards set out in an IEP. Every child. Every time. Every school.

So last week, after a phone meeting with the head of Special Ed for the school district, we made the very hard decision to throw in the towel and homeschool Bean for the rest of the year. He will still receive instructional support from the district. A (new) teacher will come to our home for 420 minutes a week. He will still receive all his special ed services, including therapy and counseling, here at our home. He will still receive music instruction, and be able to attend activities with his classmates, but he will not ever enter that classroom again.

If any of you are pro-level home-schoolers, I’d love and welcome some suggestions and feedback. As far as I’ve gotten is asking him to write me a list of five things he really wants to learn about. He wants to know how birds build their nests, how centrifugal force works on wheels, how light bulbs work, why humans taste things as good or bad, how clocks work.

And it’s straight-up privilege that I can do this to make sure he gets what he needs. It should never come to this.

Get on the Horse, Slay the Dragon

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This crew decided that the last girl had to finally learn to ride a bike. Her grandma got her one last year for her birthday, but there really aren’t enough swears to tell you how badly that experiment went. It was so bad, she gave her bike to Bean and let him paint it teal green, while she swore she would get a “large tricycle” like her great-grandma, which I made the mistake of telling her existed.

We tried. We tried everything possible. We took turns. When I was exhausted and frustrated, Jon took over. Then when he was pulling his hair out and she was crying in the middle of the street, Jeffrey and Bean took over. Kelsey gave her pep talks, we spend time on the grass, with training wheels, with no pedals, with no pedals with training wheels. We went to the church parking lot, we went down hills, we went up hills, we tried dirt, sand, sidewalks, and the lawn. Nada.

So for a year, we gave up.

As spring sprung, Jon looked at me and said. “This is it.” He rummaged through the girls’ closet and came up with Kelsey’s roller-blading elbow and kneepads, and told Abby to meet him out front. The other kids gathered on the porch, in eager anticipation of the show sure to follow. Previously, Abby had stood in the street wailing. She had thrown herself to the ground. She had used all her significant powers of arguing to convince us that she simply was not made to ride a bicycle, and we should just give up. The problem was, she was believing her own PR. The other kids would take off on their bikes, and she would sit on the porch, chin on hands, staring morosely down the street.

It was time. This was the rock meeting the mountain.

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We explained to her that this was it. We knew she could ride her bike, and we had to show her that she could. We were no longer taking no for an answer. She was going to get on her bike, and that was all there was to it. It was not a discussion, it was not an argument. No, we weren’t going to listen to all the reasons she couldn’t do it again. No. Get on the bike.

The first day, we spent the entire evening just getting on the bike in the front yard.

On day two, we drove to the track. The older kids swarmed the neighborhood and met us at the track, while Jon and I wheeled Abby and her bike to the nice, smooth, even, level oval. She hadn’t stopped arguing yet.

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I’m not a push-it type mom. I seldom “make” my kids do things. I encourage. I make room for them. I let them express themselves. I don’t micromanage. But this time I had the very strong impression there was conquering that desperately needed to happen. She had let this build up so long she honestly believed she could not do this thing. But we knew she could. We could see her balancing before she would literally fling herself to the ground in our yard, wailing “See!” It was almost comical. She was self-sabotaging, and we would hide our muffled laughs in the crooks of our arms as she dramatically tried to illustrate how incompetent she was.

Time to slay some dragons.

At the track, we set her bike up, strapped on her pads, and told her to get on. She told us no. She couldn’t do it and she wouldn’t. For the first time in my parenting life, I stopped being persuasive. I stopped listening. I bent down, told her to get on the bike.

I can’t.

Get on the bike.

I can’t.

Get on the bike now.

I can’t. (wailing)

Get on the bike. (dispassionately)

I CAN’T!

Get on the bike. (quietly)

I can’t. I won’t!

We’re not leaving here until you get on that bike and ride it. It can take all day. It can take tomorrow. It doesn’t matter. We’re not leaving. You can do this, and we know it, and you need to know it.

And on and on and on it went. And then it went on some more.

We simply were not moving. We didn’t negotiate, we didn’t budge. She tried everything. The other kids rode round and round the track, shouting encouragement, cheering her on, while she stood there.

She finally got on the bike, and literally within moments, she was riding alone.

It took a year of back and forth, and about 60 seconds of actual riding. She had this little demon who had told her she couldn’t do something, and we had to excise that idea from her. We couldn’t give it an inch. I had tried “nice” for a year. It finally took us building a wall and saying “This far, and no further.”

Which, of course, isn’t really about learning to ride a bike at all. Since that day, we haven’t been able to keep her off her bike. She comes home from school and wants to go for a ride. She wants to ride all weekend. She goes out with siblings, and she goes out by herself. She rides up hills and down hills and over bumps and off-road. She is suddenly fearless. I see the resolve in her eyes- she needed to win that battle, and she won by losing the battle with us.

My finest mothering moment? No way to tell. I know how it looks, but I honestly believe this was what this child needed in this moment. Parenting is hard. We’ll know if I was right nor wrong when she someday writes her book if there is a chapter titled “The Childhood Trauma: Why My Parents Suck” Until then…