Thursday, November 29, 2007

Say What You Need To Say

I love me some John Mayer. He is a brilliant musician, a poet. That's enough. We won't even get into the sexy, velvety voice and the plump lips and dark, tousled hair and cleft chin.

I digress.

The point of this post.

His latest single, "Say" which is featured in "The Bucket List" is amazing. I have been thoroughly enjoying it lately.

And because I love you all so much, I thought I'd let you know that the music video is FREE on iTunes right now. Just type "John Mayer Say" into the search box and voila, it will come up along with a couple of other results.

The video is just wonderful.

Go download it now and come back to tell me what you think.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Current Life Goal: Eat More Chocolate

Wow!  Has it really been almost a week since I posted.  Huh.  Well, let's just say it's been busy.  And the busy is only getting started because I still have practically ALL of my Christmas gift shopping/making ahead of me.  ACK!

So, I have this post that I keep meaning to put up here, but it just keeps not getting finished because I can't quite find the exact right words for it.  Let's just say I'm struggling with food right now.  In a big way.  This is a good thing -- the struggling.  It means I am working on it.  It means I am looking tigers in the eye.  It is good.

One element of this work I am doing right now is experimenting with food, figuring out what I really like, what really feels good in my body and what doesn't.  I am trying to learn to love myself and take care of myself.  This means that no foods are off-limits and I can have as much of any food as I like.  It has been interesting.  Among other things, though I am eating grains and fruits and vegetables, much of my diet lately has fallen into two categories: milk and dark.  Yes, the chocolate.  Yum.

I thought you might like to know some of the things I've discovered.
  1. I do not like Little Caesars Pizza.  I am shuddering just thinking of it.  I do not like the taste.  I don't like the smell.  I hate the way it feels in my body.  Makes me sick.
  2. I really, really like potatoes for breakfast.  
  3. Pancakes, not so much.  At least not often.
  4. I love, love, love clementines and could eat at least 10 a day.  For now.
  5. I really love NAKED Blue Machine fruit smoothie.  I love the taste and I it feels good in my body.
  6. I'm learning that there are three types of "good" for me where food is concerned.  Either it tastes good, it feels good or both.  If a food does both for me, it's a keeper.
  7. Good chocolate tastes good, but doesn't feel good in large quantities.  Eating it frequently and in small amounts each day has been good for my body and soul.
  8. Chocolate falls into two categories for me: the good stuff and the brown wax stuff.  
  9. Just because it's chocolate doesn't mean it's good.  And even if it's chocolate, if I don't like it I don't have to eat it.
  10. I can get more satisfaction out of one small square of good chocolate that is eaten simply for the joy of it than I can out of a whole bag of less-than good chocolate eaten in an attempt to fill a deeper need.
It's not much, but it's a start.

And as for the chocolate discoveries here goes:
  • I don't like Hershey's kisses unless they are filled with caramel or cherry cordial filling.  And even then, meh.  I've eaten better.
  • Though Symphony chocolate with almonds and toffee is still one of my favorite American chocolate choices, it's not nearly as yummy as I used to think.
  • The milk chocolate bars at IKEA -- smooth, melty, sweet, chocolate deliciousness.  LOVE these.
  • If I don't like sub-par milk chocolate, I like sub-par dark chocolate even less.
  • One dark chocolate stand-out so far is the Choxie Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar with Cocoa Nibs.  YUM!
  • Cacao Reserve in both the 35% and 65% variety are worth eating.
  • Hershey's Special Dark makes a good doorstop.
  • Cadbury chocolate is almost always good enough to eat, especially when it has nuts in it.
  • Galaxy chocolate is probably still my favorite.
  • I have yet to meet any chocolate with "truffle" in the name that I don't like.
  • I especially have like Hershey's Nuggets Truffles lately.  
  • And Truffettes of France are the kind of chocolates we will eat in heaven.  Trust me.  

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I hope you have all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I meant to make a list of things I am grateful for in my life today. But somehow that just didn't seem authentic right now.

For one thing, no matter how exhaustive, any list I make is bound to be hopelessly incomplete. And many of the things I might never think to put on a list of thankfuls are those things that are shaping me most right now, things for which I should be eternally grateful.

So rather than making a list, I am taking a moment to be here, to be present fully. I am gratitude. I am thankful.

I am so grateful just to be, to know that in this and in every moment of my life there is a deeper perfection than I will ever know or ever see fully in this life.

But I feel it and know that all is well, perfect. There is nothing better than right here and right now, no ordinary moments.

And for that I send out my call of gratitude today, for the eternal and utter perfection that is and always was and always will be.

I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Birthday JDub

A little over fifteen years ago I went with my friends to a church dance. I was happy to be wearing a new dress and hoping to dance with some cute boys. I had no idea that my life would change that night.

From my journal, September 5, 1992:

I met this guy named JDub. He is so cute! I danced with him about six times, he's really nice....Then once, when I was dancing with JDub, my friends informed me that my slip was showing, so I told him what was wrong and that I'd be right back. So, I hurried to the bathroom, pulled my slip up, told the other girls in there why I was laughing and hurried back. When I got back he was sitting there swaying and he put his arms around me and said it wasn't as much fun without me. He is cute.
I have only one excuse for the silliness of this journal entry: I was fourteen. We became good friends after that. We talked on the phone a lot because he lived an hour away from me. I had an unrelenting crush on this cute blond army brat who had spent most of his childhood in Germany. He was friendly, but entirely oblivious to my feelings for him. I was terrified whenever I was around him, even though I felt very much at home with him. (Cheesy, I know, but true.) I dated his brother. He moved back to Germany and then served an LDS mission for two years in Chile. It was during this time that we really fell in love. We were able to share parts of ourselves through letters in ways we had never been able to before. Though there were other guys I loved and dated through these years, by the time JDub came home I was certain that he was the one for me.

And he still is. He is my best friend, my home, my grounding force. We have had and continue to have our problems, but they have only helped us grow closer together. I could not be more honored and grateful to be sharing my life with this good man.

Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Just for kicks, here are a few other journal entries. 'Cause I'm masochistic like that and think you'll enjoy reading just how dramatic I used to be.

From June 20, 1994:
I can't even begin to describe it in words. I was so in love with him in that moment, and it was in that moment that I realized that I could never be without him. I mean, not physically or short term. I don't need him every waking moment, but I realized that my life could never be complete without him in it. I love him so very much.
From March 14, 1997:
Today I saw JDub for the first time in over two years. I am in complete awe. He is wonderful. I didn't realize how much I missed him unti lI was able to hug him tonight and have him in my arms. He has had such a tremendous impact on my life.... I find myself feeling awkward in the way I act toward him, but I am amazed at the peace that fills my heart just at having him near. The knowledge taht he is in the same house as I am makes me want to sing for joy.... He is the kind of person I would love to marry. Not only that, I love him. This is not the fleeting, infatuated "love" that I have often experienced. I love him and I am clear-headed. I love him and I want to be a better person.... I am not blind to the fact that he has faults, but I love him for who he is, faults and all. I like him. I don't just like parts of him or things he does. I like him.
(See what I mean? Dramatic much? It gets better.)

April 7, 1997 (The day after we were engaged.)
I am excited to share my life with JDub. I am excited to have children with him and to raise a family. I look forward to the day that we will look back on today and know that the love we feel now has been built upon and expanded through diligence, commitment to each other and faith in the Lord. I have a feeling that we do not comprehend at all what love is and I anxiously await the years of discovery that lie ahead.
Note to Heather in 1997:

You're right. You have no idea. It won't be easy. Some years it will be a fight just to stay together, let alone like each other. But I promise it will just keep getting better and that you'll love each other more than you can now imagine.

Okay. Drama off.

Love you, honey.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alzheimers Here I Come!

We have a joke in our family about my mother. Alzheimers runs in our family, it seems. And my mom is in her early fifties and forgets lots of stuff. There has been at least one Christmas present over the last three years that she has forgotten where it was hidden. Names, phone numbers, the whole bit. Forgetful.

The really bad thing? I'm on the downward end of 29. 29, people! And I am nearly as forgetful as my mom. Already!

Case in point.

Last week sometime Scud was playing his gameboy at an inappropriate time (before jobs and homework were done). He had also been fighting with his siblings over it for days. So, I saidd what any good mother would say.

"Hand it over, Bucko. Your gameboy is now my gameboy."

So I took it. And I hid it. Or set it somewhere random. Here's the problem. I can't remember where I put it. I've looked everywhere I can think of. Kaitybean, Scud and I spent an hour yesterday looking for it. No beans. Nada. Nothing Doing.

Scud is verrrrrry unhappy with me. I CANNOT even fathom where it might be.

So now I'm worried. Not about the gameboy so much. It will turn up. But, um, do you think there's something wrong with me?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Summer (and Fall) of Weird

A really long time ago I promised you, my lovely friends, this SOS post. I'm finally getting around to it.

Before I go on, I'll direct you to Kate and Brillig's site of anonymous soapiness, which is hosting this week's Soap Opera Sunday.

On to the story...

I was sixteen and had just broken up with my abusive jerk of a boyfriend. I don't remember really feeling the need to date anyone. But perhaps I appeared to be more unhappy than I really was, because my sister and her best friend Karen* decided to set me up with Karen's older brother.

I think they did this because we had soooo much in common. We'd been friends in the sixth grade. We both played soccer. We both had two ears and a nose. Formula for a perfect match, no?

Or maybe he asked them to do it. I honestly don't remember.

I agreed to go on a date with him, mainly because I knew him and knew that he was probably pretty safe. Safe was good at this point.

So, for our first date he picked me up in his little gray car and we headed out. I think we went somewhere simple to eat, then drove around talking.

Oh, but let me back up, it started out a little weird. When I first got into the car he told me to look in the glove compartment. In it was a bracelet. Pretty, nothing expensive.

"Yeah, ok, what about it?" I asked.

"It's for you," he grinned.

"Um. OK," I replied and slipped it on. Why on earth are you giving me a bracelet within the first five minutes of our FIRST date?

And it got even more strange from there on, which is why I think I've forgotten most of the other details about our date.

A little while later he told me to get something for him that was connected to the sun visor. I pulled the visor down and a ring fell in my lap. I wish I were kidding here. A ring. It looked like it had come from a plastic bubble.

Jeremy smiled at me excitedly. "Put it on!" He urged me.


I smiled. Um. What else was there to do? I adjusted it and put it on my right pinky finger.

So, we continued to drive around our small town, talking. I enjoyed talking with him, really. He was a decent guy. We'd known each other most of our lives. Except for the over-the-top oddness and awkwardness of the random giving of random and strategically placed jewelry, it was a fairly comfortable first date.

Then, just when I thought we'd gotten past the weirdness, Jeremy stopped at a small park at the southern end of town.

He turned to me and grinned and told me to look in the cubby in my door.

Not again, I thought. Jeremy, my friend you're trying WAAAAY too hard here.

But I looked. Surprise, surprise. A necklace.

"May I put it on for you," Jeremy said with mock seriousness, obviously giddy at his apparent success at wooing me. I hadn't run screaming from the car yet, after all, though at this point I was definitely eyeing the door handle.

To be continued...

*Names have been changed for the sake of these good people who I still see occasionally.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And For Daniel

My candle is also lit for Daniel.

A young man who has been loved by a family I scarcely know, but have fallen in love with in spite of myself.

His young, exuberant life is ending far too soon.

Just looking at his eyes, I can't imagine he could really be dying right now.

Today I Lit a Candle

I lit a candle today.

In remembrance.

For love and hope.

And with the unshakable knowledge that life goes on, forever.

To remind myself that, though the flickering light of candle flame may go out, it never dies. Like life it simply alights elsewhere and continues to burn with love and joy.

On Tuesday my mother called to tell me that one of my dear friends and mentors lay dying. She has been a family friend for many years and was one of my young women leaders. She trusted me, one week between my junior and senior years of high school, to care for her sweet children. Now that I am a mother, I understand the sacred trust that was. She was always so good to me and to so many others. She lifted me up and made me feel sure that I would grow up to be a good woman. I loved her so very much.

So did the rest of my family. Her husband and my father have been like brothers for many years. She and my mother have been dear friends, which is why she got a call on Tuesday to let her know that Heidi was dying. So she could have a chance to say goodbye. She called me on the way and we wept together and talked of the good woman Heidi has been. I told her to tell Heidi goodbye for me, as well, to tell her how much I loved her.

I wanted, that very day, to drop everything I had to do and also go to her side. But, I realized that what I really want is to reclaim the years I've lost in wanting to rekindle the relationship and never acting on that wish. I wanted her to know my sweet children, for them to know her. But, I never got around to it. I realized that running to say goodbye would not change that, so I left my mother to send my love and give my goodbyes for me. And I took my daughter to the dentist and my son to preschool and did the laundry and loved my baby. I called JDub and told him what was going on and how I really wanted to go see her, but felt I needed to stay with my children and keep on.

"Don't worry," he said. "You are just being the good woman she always hoped you'd be."

And, of course, the tears came fresh and hot.

She passed peacefully Wednesday evening -- at home with her family. Her funeral is tomorrow.

And I am left to wish I had done more to reach out these last few years, as multiple sclerosis tore her body apart while keeping her mind intact. I wish I had gone to be with her, to talk with her, to help her. Too late. Too late.

So, I will do what the living do. I will light a candle and I will LIVE. I will fold the laundry and write poetry and eat chocolate and love my children desperately.

And I will hope that the love I give and the life I live are fitting tribute to those who have given so much of their love and lives to me.


I realized a while ago that I've left a few loose threads hanging out around here. So, I guess it's a good time to wrap them up.

-I'll start with the most recent: Mashuga and the carseat debacle. I don't have a permanent solution, yet. But we're working on it. My sweet friend, Kristin's, comment woke me up to a very important truth. I've been spending so much time talking, cajoling, begging, pleading and yelling at Mashuga about the issue that I've completely forgotten to listen. I haven't been listening to him and to what he needs and wants. I haven't been listening to my own mother-heart and the still small voice that never leads me in the wrong direction.

So, here's what we're doing. For now, Mashuga's carseat is buckled in the passenger seat next to me. This serves many purposes. First of all, it puts him in arms reach so that I can prevent him from unbuckling at inopportune times. It also puts him more firmly into my realm of consciousness, so that I know when he's getting restless or unhappy and I can meet those immediate needs before they progress to the ultimate, desperate attempt at freedom. It also gives us the opportunity to talk, to enjoy one another. He's already given me plenty of ideas on how to help him. He'd love a more comfortable carseat. Actually, he'd like to have a booster seat, but he is still only 33 pounds dripping wet and only barely tall enough for a booster. I feel much safer with him in a carseat right for a bit longer. He'd love to have a little bag with books and toys to play with in the car. He is a wise little teacher and a wonderful boy.

Sometimes I forget what I have learned over and over as a parent. Usually my children's "bad" behaviors are just an expression of an inner need. If I take the time to listen carefully and look more closely, we can usually find the best solutions together.

-Scud's school situation has improved drastically. It's been like night and day and he is LOVING school now. What changed? His former teacher resigned because of family needs. I imagine this may have been part of the problem -- that she was simply stretched too thin. So, though I am compassionate enough to wish her well and hope she has success in her future, I admit that I did a little jig in my kitchen when I learned that Scud would be getting a new teacher.

And she has been EVERYTHING I had hoped for. First of all, she adores Scud and makes him feel so good about himself. And she is one of those teachers who is in it because she loves the children. It is more than just a job for her. Her classroom management skills are fantastic. She is challenging Scud, teaching the curriculum and working with the other 1st grade teachers to divide the children into skill-set groups for math, reading and spelling. To say I am pleased would be putting it mildly. I just want to kiss this woman every time I see her.

Now I am curious about the rest of the first grade classes at our school. Are they improving? Rynell, I'm especially curious about what you're seeing with your son's class. If there's still a problem with the rest of first grade I still want to help.

-Another Scud update, though I'm not sure I've mentioned this here before. When Scud was 2 1/2 he was diagnosed with an articulation disorder. They suspected he might have developmental apraxia of speech, which meant that he knew the words he was trying to say but his brain and mouth were not coordinating well enough for him to make the sounds he needed to make. He was basically unintelligible until he was about 3 1/2 to 4 years old and even then other people had a hard time understanding him. It was an interesting journey. He acquired language rapidly and talked A LOT. We just couldn't understand him most of the time. It was very frustrating for him. People were always asking him to repeat himself and I always had to translate for him (when I actually understood him).

But, after 2 years of speech therapy he tested at an age-appropriate level and we were told he didn't need speech therapy anymore. I walked away with a bit of trepidation, but reminded myself that even my precocious Kaitybean still pronounced her r and sh and th wrong at 4 1/2.

Well, it's been nearly 3 years and he hasn't made much, if any, progress in his speech. He still can't pronounce r, th, sh, ch and mutates a few vowel sounds. Over the last couple of years I've listened to him and his speech just sounded a little off, still. A few weeks ago I finally decided that this wasn't going to resolve on its own and called the special ed director at our school. The speech therapist evaluated him and sure enough, he has moderate articulation delays. He will be attending speech therapy once a week again and I am so, so glad. After a few years of being on the borderline of normal, people have begun asking him to repeat himself again and his speech abilities are again recognizable as delayed. I have always felt strongly that I wanted to do everything possible for him while he is young and other children are more forgiving of differences so that this does not negatively impact his self-image. So, I'm very happy about this. And sometimes it is nice to have my intuition validated by something as official-sounding as the Arizona Articulation Proficiency Scale.

One funny story that illustrates my point about Scud's speech beginning to get in his way again. In class a few weeks ago Scud's teacher asked the class what they would take with them on a long car trip. Scud told her he would take a book about sharks, to which she responded "Scud, that is not appropriate for this class." Now it is impossible to fully explain this in type (or in person really) but try to imagine the way Scud says sharks. Because it contains both an sh and an r sound it gets really mixed up and sounds just like the word "sharks" and the word "sex" perfectly morphed together so that it is VERY difficult to tell, out of context, which word he is trying to say. Scud, being the cool kid that he is, simply said "What's so inappropriate about a book about sea animals?" And his teacher said "Oh! Sharks! A book about sharks! Yes, that's a great idea." Scud later deduced that she had thought he'd said "A book about sex." and related the story to me with great glee later that afternoon. He found it very humorous, as did I. But it also clued me in to the fact that I was probably right and it was time to revisit the speech therapy idea.

-One last update -- JDub's work. I have mentioned here several times that JDub is in an interesting work situation. The last few years have been veeeeerrrry interesting. As of two months ago, we were certain that he would need to change careers by the end of this year. He was getting paid far too little for too much work, he was being kept from doing his job properly and was not allowed to hire enough help to keep his end of the business prospering. We were ready to go elsewhere, across the country if necessary. One day he felt prompted to mention this to his employer, that he was looking for work elsewhere. Oh boy! It has been like night and day since then. They bumped his income up considerably, changed him from hourly wages to salary, renegotiated his commission ratios for both websites and gave him the go-ahead to hire two more employees. Yippee! We feel so very blessed. Best of all, he is now being given the respect he deserves at his work. He is consulted on purchasing decisions and now has the authority to make all of the important decisions he needs to make to keep their profits high and their productivity at a decent level. He mentioned to me the other day that he is getting a bit "wigged out" by the lack of complaints he's had to deal with lately. They're getting everything shipped out on time. Orders are being handled in a timely manner and are done correctly. So, he is no longer running around crazy trying to put out fires and has the time to actually improve the websites, add more products, tweak systems to make things run better and sharpen the saw. Very nice. I'd say that's a good kind of "wigged out."

So, all in all, things are going well around here. Hope you don't mind reading through the long list of updates. I did go on, didn't I? Ah, well. It's a curse I have. Just let me know if there's anything else I've forgotten to update you on and I'll be happy to write another novel.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why I'm Not Posting Much

  • Coco has one of those unexplained fevers with no other symptoms.
  • This is the one week of the year that JDub works from 6am until 10pm.
  • I am working on a new book/project with my friend Edge that I am super excited about. You'll just have to wait and see, but it will be cool.
  • Took Kaitybean to the dentist and to get her hair cut today. Woohoo! She looks great with her new front tooth and layers and bangs.
  • I got some very sad news today. I'm not ready quite yet to write about it, but I'm sure I will.
  • According to Mashuga, there are wild wolves coming to our house. They know how to open the door. And he will be the king of the wolves. And the wolves got out of the zoo. And werewolves are just giant wolves the size of our house. And... And... And... GAK! I'm glad he is sleeping now.

So, I'm hoping you can help me solve a little dilemma I have. Mashuga will. not. stay. buckled. in his carseat. Sometimes rewards work. Sometimes bribery works. I've even tried good old-fashioned murder threats. No beans. The kid sometimes can't even make it out of our driveway without unbuckling himself. He has even unbuckled and shot out the door while we were waiting for a train. So, what to do?

Remember, unless you are the parent of an honest-to-goodness, sword-wielding, uber-spirited indigo child, you may think that the regular tricks might work. Trust me. I've tried most of the regular tricks. (That doesn't mean I'm not open to hearing repeats. Maybe you have some simple, obvious solution that I am too blinded with frustration to see. I'm desperate here. I'll take anything.)

So, what was I saying? Oh yes. Mashuga and the no-likey being safely restrained in the carseat and the Mommy about ready to resort to desperate measures.

Like zip ties. You know, the ones that swat teams keep on their jackets in dozens to be used as restraints for hostage-taking lunatics? Yes, those little guys. I've contemplated buying some to use either to hold the straps of Mashuga's carseat together. Or to hold his hands together. I'd just have to carry a pair of scissors in the car and set him free whenever we get to our destination. Now, aside from that being very wasteful and such, I also have visions of our car bursting into flames and me not having time to get Mashuga AND Coco out in time and Mashuga being unable to free himself.

Like I said. Desperate. He must stay buckled in his carseat. We have talked and talked about the importance of being buckled up to stay safe. He has talked with a highway patrolman about it. Officer Urban explained to him how important it is to stay buckled. I have told him how precious he is to our family and how horrible it would be if something happened to him. When he blinked at death, I explained to him that he could also be hurt so badly that he couldn't play or run or protect others with his super-powers. As I said, I've tried rewards. I've tried "catching" him being good and taking him out for ice cream because he stayed buckled for every car trip during the day. I have tried sooooooo many things.

I keep thinking that there must be some gentle, mindful solution. Something that will protect his body from being broken without the need for breaking his spirit. Some way to get one of the world's most dynamic and formidable forces -- Mashuga's own will and choice -- on my side. (This is always the goal with this kid. If I can get him to make good choices on his own, because it's what he wants, there is NOTHING that can stand in the way.) I know there's some way, but I haven't found it yet.

So, I'm opening it up to you and your vast wisdom. Any ideas?

And so much for not posting much.

Friday, November 09, 2007

10 Simple, Sure-fire Ways to Make Today Your Best Day Ever

Do you have to follow these things step-by-step? Not at all. Find your own methods, or pick and choose a few of these. Main thing, though: take steps to make today your best day ever.I loved this article. Hope you will too.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Isn't This a Wonderful Country?

I won't lie to you. I'm disappointed.

But isn't great to have the freedom to agree or disagree with an issue, to work hard for something you believe in, to make your voice heard and to respect the sound of other's voices?

Truly we lead a blessed life. I'm grateful to be who I am and where I am.

There have been many negative comments made today about those who voted against Referendum 1. I don't want to go there. Though I think Referendum 1 was a good idea, there were many sensible people with sensible reasons to vote against it. And it's not the only good idea for improving education.

So, my snarky side has been alive and well today, but "bamboozled" is the strongest word my better half will let loose. Let's just say that I'm not impressed with how things went down on either side when it came to the homestretch.

I will always and forever be a school choice advocate. But I have no patience for anyone who feels the need to demean another person or that person's beliefs in order to make one's own ideas seem more sound.

It's been an interesting month.

Thanks for playing along. Thanks for listening and reading.

May the force be with you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Did You Vote Yet?

If you haven't already voted, please remember to vote today.

It is an honor, a privilege and a duty to make our voices heard at the polls.

Remember that "WE the people" stuff? Part of that "WE" is "YOU!"

Thanks for remembering to vote. It's good people like you who make our country so wonderful.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Missing My Girl

On Tuesday I went to my niece, Hannah's grave and took her a twig with lovely autumn leaves and berries. The colors of fire this time of year are so beautiful, one of my favorite things about this beautiful earth. I wanted to share them.

I visit Hannah every once in a while. Partly for her, but also because it gives me a physical place, a special time to remember my own little girl who never got to stay with us. Samantha. My daughter who grew in my heart and in my womb for 10 weeks, then went away. She never really even had a body for me to hold, but her spirit touched me in a way that left me forever changed. She was never real to anyone else, but she was achingly real to me. And sometimes I just miss her.

Referendum 1 Q&A #3

I'm finally answering Kim's question about tuition and such.

Q. Ok, so we have been talking a lot about this in our home. We were both ready to vote yes until we saw the income guidelines. It seems that not many people could actually afford the rest of the tuition. It helps a few, those who could already afford tuition, but the rest of us who don't make much money couldn't afford it.
For example, those who make $30K and have 2 children are the ones that would get the $3000, but then they still have to come up with the other 2K.
Then you have those who make $150K, already send their kids to private school because they can afford it and they are going to get an extra $500/year that they don't really need.

Those are our only issues with it. Any thoughts? :)

A. Okie Dokie. I'll try to do my best to answer some of your questions and concerns.
As you said, a family of 4 who makes $30K per year would receive $3000 per year under this program.

According to, the average private school costs $4000 per year (not including boarding schools like Rowland Hall, whose tuition rates are astronomical and won't be accepting vouchers anyway). Just for kicks, let's do the math on this "average" school.

If a family receives a $3000 voucher, they are then accountable for the remaining $1000 for that year's school tuition. Divide this number by 12 months and the amount a family of four who makes $30,000 each year is responsible to pay per month is about $83.33. People pay more than this each month for cable TV.

Now, of course this is just one child going to a private school. If the same family sent two children to the same school the per month cost would be $166.66 per month. Still a bargain in my book, especially if your child is truly in need of a different type of education.

(When we were living in Littleton, Colorado and making about $25,000 per year we sent Kaitybean to a private preschool that we loved. Her tuition was $125 per month. We had three children at the time, paid approximately $1000 per month on housing expenses (about half our monthly income) and we were still able to swing $125 per month for school tuition because it was important enough to us at the time.)

So, that's the math for the "average" school. But knowing that average means that many schools are higher and many are lower, I think it might be more helpful to look at a case study.

I called the private school closest to us to find out information on their tuition. They charge $5700 per year for K-8th grades. Without a voucher this would be $475 per month, per student. Not doable for a family that makes $30K a year. However, if this same family were to receive a $3000 per year voucher, they would then be responsible for $2700 per year. This works out to $225 per month, per student. That may seem hefty, but is about the cost of an average car payment. Easily doable? Maybe not. If your child is struggling and desperately needs a different choice? Most parents I know would find a way to work it out.

But, even if the parent could not work it out, there are other options. This same family of 4 making $30,000 would be eligible for this particular private school's lowered tuition rate. (In order to qualify, the student's family of 4 must make less than $38,023 per year.) Unless classes are full (which usually isn't the case), this nonprofit school offers to simply "eat" 40% of tuition costs per student. This would bring tuition costs down to $3420, leaving this family with only $420 per year to come up with on their own (that's $35 per month). This is, of course, best case scenario. The woman I talked with said that they were not sure whether or not they would continue this program as is after Referendum 1 is in place. She said that, if they do not continue the program in its present form, they will most likely still offer some form of tuition assistance to low income families. For instance, a lower percentage discount (a 20% discount would leave parents responsible for $1560 per year or $130 per month). Or, perhaps 40% off of the remaining tuition after the voucher. 60% of $2700 is $1620 or $135 per month, about the same.

This case scenario could be repeated at nearly all of the private schools in Utah. Almost every school I looked up offers financial aid in some form: tuition assistance, grants or scholarships. There are resources to help parents cover the additional tuition cost after the voucher amount is applied.

Another resource is an education loan, such as those offered through Sallie Mae. Taking out a loan to pay for private school may not be the ideal solution any more than student loans are an ideal solution for higher education funding. It is, however, one in an arsenal of many solutions.

There is definitely a gap between the voucher amount and the amount of an average private school tuition. But, for a parent whose child is in need of a different choice, making up the difference is doable. There are many resources available to help parents make up the difference.

As for the $500 voucher for wealthy families, here's the reasoning behind that:

First of all, parents who already send their children to private school are not eligible under this program to receive any voucher money. Parents who already have the money and the desire to send their children to private school will not benefit from this program. This is only for children who are new to private schools.

So why should a family of four making $150K per year get $500 from the state to send their children to private school? For them, it is simply a token, an incentive. Wealthy parents can afford to pay for their children's education, but many still choose to take advantage of our public schools. Wouldn't it be great if we were, somehow, able to convince these parents to take their children out of public schools and to fund the majority of their children's education on their own? This would lower the class size while still leaving the wealthy parent's (usually considerable) taxes in the education budget. The $500 does simply that. It doesn't make much difference in actually paying for a private education, but the cost of giving a parent a $500 incentive to pay for their own children's education is much less than the amount of taxes that parent is likely paying into the public education system. Seems like another win-win.

I'm sorry I've gotten so wordy. I'll try to finish this up.

Since the maximum voucher amount is less than the average private school tuition, funding the remaining amount will be a sacrifice. But funding the remainder is doable for a committed parent and it is made even more doable through already available financial aid resources.

The fact that there is going to be some sacrifice involved for families taking advantage of this program makes the program much more viable, much more likely to succeed and much less likely to damage public schools in the process. If the voucher amount per family was equal to private school tuition, many more parents would take advantage of it. This would put a much higher burden on the state and make the program far too expensive to implement. As it stands, only parents who are truly committed to sending their children to private school or whose children have true academic need for a change will take advantage of vouchers. The voucher amounts (which I'm certain were carefully decided upon by legislators) serve to make the program self-limiting. As I stated in my last Q&A post, a voucher system that limits the numbers of students who take advantage of it (whether by lottery or by this type of logical self-limiting) is more likely to succeed and also more likely to be used by students from diverse backgrounds.

And lets not forget that a voucher program benefits ALL students, even public-schooled students whose parents either can't or choose not to fund the difference between a voucher and private school tuition. Public schools have been shown to improve greatly within a few years of implementation of a voucher system. See Caroline Hoxby's article, the link to which is in this post.

I hope this has been helpful and not toooooo terribly long.

Thanks Kim. Let me know if any of this has not made sense or if you have any additional questions.

John Stossel on Utah's Referendum 1

Utahns Can Vote for School Choice Tuesday
By John Stossel
October 31, 2007

Next Tuesday, Utah voters go to the polls to decide if their state will become the first in the nation to offer school vouchers statewide. Referendum 1 would make all public-school kids eligible for vouchers worth from $500 to $3,000 a year, depending on family income. Parents could then use the vouchers to send their children to private schools.

What a great idea. Finally, parents will have choices that wealthy parents have always had. The resulting competition would create better private schools and even improve the government schools.

But wait. Arrayed against the vouchers are the usual opponents. They call themselves Utahns for Public Schools. They include, predictably, the Utah Education Association (the teachers union), Utah School Boards Association, Utah School Employees Union, Utah School Superintendents Association, the elementary and secondary school principals associations, and the PTA. No to vouchers! they protest. Trust us. We know what's best for your kids.

They say they're all for improving education but not by introducing choice. "When it comes to providing every Utah child with a quality education, we believe, as do most Americans, that our greatest hope for success is investing in research-proven reforms. These include the things parents and teachers know will make a difference in the classroom, such as smaller class sizes and investment in teacher development programs. Focusing on this type of reform will bring far greater success than diverting tax dollars to an alternative education system."

Please. I've heard that song for years. Government schools in America fail while spending on average more than $11,000 per student. Utah spends $7,500. Think what an innovative education entrepreneur would do with so much money. It's more than $150,000 per classroom!

The answer to mediocre public schooling isn't to give a government monopoly more "teacher development programs." The answer is competition.

Bureaucrats and unions tremble at the thought. On my "20/20" special on education, one teacher had the nerve to sneer, "Competition is not for children!" The opposite is true. Competition and choice mean parent power. It's parents whom the education lobby really fears. The last thing it wants is a system in which parents choose their children's schools. Parents might not choose the union-dominated establishment schools. Better not take that chance.

Opponents of choice managed to a referendum on the law, hoping voters will veto it. I hope they don't.

Vouchers will make schools accountable to parents rather than a bureaucracy. Principals and administrators will have to convince parents that they are doing a good job. That's real accountability. And the Utah law requires private schools to submit to independent financial audits and give students a nationally recognized test each year. The results would be publicly disclosed, giving parents information they can use to judge schools.

This anti-voucher coalition says vouchers will only benefit children who would have gone to private schools anyway. But the Vote for 1 Campaign points out that current private-school students would get vouchers only if their families are low-income. So the law would give new opportunities to parents and children who today have no options at all.

The coalition claims that "vouchers will cost at least $429 million ... funds that could be used in public schools to reduce class size, provide textbooks and supplies." But voucher supporters note that since an average voucher would be worth only $2,000 and the state spends more than $7,500 per student, government schools would have $5,500 more per lost student to spend on the remaining students. They should be happy about that.

For over a century, American children have been in the hands of education bureaucrats. For over 40 years, the government's system has been dominated by a protectionist teachers' union that puts itself ahead of the children entrusted to its members. The results are what we should expect from a monopoly financed with money extracted from taxpayers: poor quality, lack of innovation and bored children.

The parents of Utah should be the envy of the rest of the country because on Tuesday, they have a chance to take back control of their children's education.