Monday, June 13, 2011

Graduation Speeches

I attended a high school graduation ceremony Friday night for the first time since I myself graduated from high school, twenty-mumble-mumble years ago.  It was a large graduation -- 550+ students.  Several students were given the opportunity to make short speeches: senior class president, salutatorian, valedictorian and the class poet laureate (who read a longish poem written in annoying rhyming couplets).  Each of the student speakers naively told their fellow classmates that they had made the best friends of their lives in high school.  Such statements will be, in hindsight, regretful, but I guess it would be perceived as snotty if they said, "Fellow graduates, you have made the best friends of your lives -- so far."

Be honest -- before discovering Facebook, exactly how many of your high school "besties" were you in contact with?

After hearing three painfully shortsighted speeches and an excruciating poem Friday night, my newly-formed and now earnestly-held belief is that high school students should not be allowed to make any speeches whatsoever at their graduation ceremonies.  Given that they have spent the last twelve or more years filling (and subsequently emptying) their heads of facts and formulas that they may or may not need in the years to come, during which time they were given absolutely no practical information about how to live, there is just not enough time in the typical graduation ceremony for graduates to make speeches about going out into a world of which they know absolutely nothing.  If this is the moment these children must "commence" with their lives, time is of the essence -- there is no time for foolishness.

So I propose that only the following categories of people be allowed to speak at high school graduations (and preferably one from each) about their real world experiences:

1.  Individuals who graduated from high school and who are now on probation for drug and alcohol-related offenses.  It is fine if these people are still struggling with their addictions, so long as they can articulate how quickly you can destroy your future by making one or two idiotic choices.

2.  Individuals who worked fast food for three years after high school before deciding to go to college.

3.  Individuals who just knew that they had met their one and only in high school so either shacked up or got married, and four years, two kids, and a divorce later are struggling to pay the bills and/or child support.  (Even better might be the couple who made it, but who would speak honestly about their struggles in sending each other to college, juggling childcare, etc.)

4.  Dave Ramsey.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Hope Springs Eternal Bamboo and Sunflower Farm

We have some friends who own a florist's shop on Memorial (The Family Flower Shoppe, if you're in Tampa and want to send Dad some baby's breath and tulips on Father's Day -- well tulips might not be in season, so you might want to stick with a more masculine flower like some pretty pink gerber daisies) and we found out that their son Jayson (who graduated from high school last night -- collective "whew!") was planting sunflowers in a little garden by their house for his mom to use in her shop.  Apparently one sunflower fetches $1 in the florist business.

Well, I love sunflowers -- any flowers really, so after discussing it with Flamingo Joe (by not actually saying anything to him about it at all), I told Jayson's parents that if Jayson wanted to plant sunflowers at our house and get more bang for his buck, he was welcome to.  [Now that I'm recalling how this happened, I am not altogether certain if that's how the conversation went -- it's completely possible that Joe offered our house for sunflower growing without discussing it with me but when I asked him just now if he remembered how it all went down, he got that look on his face that means he's not sure where I'm going with this and said, "Whatever."  So my version sticks.]

Pardon this short digression, but in addition to the many convoluted and possibly untruthful paths the above paragraph takes, I rashly declared a love for "any flowers." Not altogether true.  Several weeks ago Casey helped me pick out some flowers for some flower boxes on our porch and he chose these:

For some reason, these flowers make me think of sea monkeys, which doesn't really make sense because I don't think they look like sea monkeys, but they look like something else from the same era that you could grow underwater.  Does anyone remember what that was called?  

The real problem with those flowers is that they end up looking like this:

Or worse . . . this:

Ick.  As I recall, that's what always happened to the sea monkeys, too.

But back to my story.  Jayson and his dad, Jamie, liked the idea of growing sunflowers out here and promptly ordered sunflower seeds.  While waiting for the sunflowers to come in, Flamingo Joe and Jamie prepared the plot:

"Preparing the plot" meant Flamingo Joe dug soil up from one area of our property and moved it to another area with the tractor.  No one bothered to remove the weeds and grass (I use the term loosely) from underneath the area where the new garden was going, so weeding the area is going to be a problem that I will gladly allow Jayson to handle.

If you are familiar with our little piece of land, you will recall that there was once an oak tree here:

That oak tree died, so Flamingo Joe decided to cut it down a couple of weeks ago.  At the same time, though, he needed to cut down a smaller oak across the driveway.

This is where the smaller oak was:

And this is where it ended up after Flamingo Joe went after it with his chainsaw:

It suspended itself in the dead tree and refused to come down.

Joe kept trying to pull the smaller tree out of the dead tree by hooking it up to the tractor with the chain, but that little tree was desperate to stay upright and wouldn't let go.  Flamingo Joe kept having to cut sections off the bottom of the tree until he could get it down.

But this post is about the new sunflower division of the Hope Springs Eternal Bamboo Farm.  Two weekends ago, Jamie and Jayson came out and put the seeds in the ground.  Last weekend, I noticed quite a bit of squirrel activity in that general area.  Too much for our Anti-Squirrel Repellent System (Campbell) to handle.  I asked Joe if he thought the squirrels were digging up the sunflower seeds and eating them.  He said no.  I think he was mostly right.

When I went out to inspect the sunflowers that started sprouting up at the beginning of this week, I noticed that there were some sprouts with no leaves (just a little tiny stem sticking up out of the soil with nothing on it) and also some brand new sprouts that still had part of the shell on one of the leaves.  So I think that as soon as the sunflowers sprout, the squirrels are attracted to the part of the shells that are still on the leaves and nibble off the shell and inadvertently take off the leaves.

But it does appear that we may have some sunflowers that may make it past their first day from the soil:

The sunflower is the sprout in the middle.  My vision of an entire yard filled with sunflowers is probably not going to come to pass, unfortunately.  Most of my landscaping visions fall short in the actual execution of them, though.  In this case, at least, someone else is doing all the work.

Flamingo Joe has started making noises about a koi pond -- currently there is an oversized goldfish occupying our small aquarium, waiting for his new habitat to built out in the yard.  I don't hold out a lot of hope for the successful breeding of koi, but I'm supporting Flamingo Joe's newest dream.

I need a place to raise my sea monkeys.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Homeschool Convention

Heidi and I attended the FPEA (Florida Parent Educator Association) Homeschooling Convention last weekend in Orlando and it was a rocking good time.  That could be overstating it a wee bit . . . but we did have fun.  I will be homeschooling Casey in the fall and Heidi's homeschooling future is still up in the air, but we both have been researching like crazy for the past four months or so.  Word to the wise: if you are ever considering homeschooling for the first time, do not let a visit to the annual FPEA Convention be your first glimpse of all the resources available to homeschoolers.  Because if it is, the sight of the Exhibit Hall alone may scare you off the whole thing altogether and you will beat a hasty retreat out into the hot parking lot of the Gaylord Palms Hotel from whence you just came, where you will have to catch the shuttle to take you all the way back to the ESPN Wide World of Sports overflow parking where the Gaylord's employees and others (like me, for example, who arrived a little late in the morning), had to park because there were thousands upon thousands of homeschoolers at the convention:

I took this photo from the very back of the vendor hall so there is no way for you to grasp how many people were at this convention, but it should give you an idea of the number of vendors.  It was very disconcerting to be surrounded by thousands of teenagers and children who walked around as if they had the sense to pull their pants all the way up and did not seem to mind being within five feet of their parents.  I only saw one inappropriately-dressed teenage girl with short shorts on and I assumed she just followed a nice homeschooled boy into the convention hall after he had held a door open for her somewhere else in the hotel.

So we checked out curriculum and I bought timelines and science kits and a Well-Planned Day planner (it took me two full days to get up the nerve to buy that planner -- to actually set myself up for "well-planned" days seemed like a bar under which I was destined to fall short).

There's Heidi buying a box full of Greek and Latin roots.  Wondering why it's relevant? Here's a sample:

Card 1:  Able -- Able means to be possible.
Card 2:  Edible 
Card 3: (cartoon picture of man eating a sandwich on front of card) Edible. Able means to be possible.  Edible means able to be eaten.
Card 4:  Potable 
Card 5: (cartoon picture of drink and lime halves on a tray on front of card) Potable. Able means to be possible.  Potable means able to drink.
Card 6:  Perishable
Card 7:  (cartoon picture of tray with fresh fish beside picture of fish skeleton) Perishable.  Able means to be possible.  Perishable means to be able to become rotten.
Card 8: Navigable
Card 9: (cartoon picture of sailboat on water) Navigable. Able means to be possible.  Navigable means able to navigate or find your way.

You get the idea? How helpful would those cards have been when you studied for the SAT?  If you would like a set of those cards for your very own, go to and I'm sure they'd be happy to send you a box for about $20.  I tried them out on Dez and Shelya the other night and they both stared at me like they were waiting for the punchline, but they're all grown up now and really can't feel the excitement lurking in Greek and Latin roots -- it's a forgivable (able to be forgiven) offense, really.

We also went to several helpful sessions at the convention.  We attended the Orientation to Homeschooling session and there did not appear to be any misspelled words in the Powerpoint presentation.  

Because of our extensive research, Heidi and I pretty much already knew everything presented in the orientation, but we were glad we did the class because then we knew we hadn't missed anything in our research.  And we got to look around the room and see about a hundred other skittish faces, so it was comforting.  

I also attended the "10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Homeschooling" session.  You may be surprised to learn that "you still have to bathe your kids even though they're not going to school the next day" was not on the list.  I was.

During our downtime, we explored the hotel.  The Gaylord Palms is incredible (not able to be believed).

That's the atrium area.  It's ringed by restaurants and shops (and a large movie screen that showed family-friendly movies all weekend) and in the center is a miniature fort, complete with live alligators:

If you wander around long enough in there, you'll also find the Everglades:

(I'm going to stay in that room up in the tree next year -- if the tree is scalable [able to be climbed].)

You'll also wander into Key West if you're not careful and find yourself split in two. 

Heidi's divisible. 

Able to be divided.  

Help me, please, I can't stop myself.