More e-mail antics

November 1st, 2009 § 0

Alli’s been sending people “forms” to fill out via e-mail ever since… well, ever since we gave her e-mail access when she was maybe 5. Yes, I know that was early but we’re a technological household, and ever since the often relayed extortion shebazzle we’ve become quite a bit more conservative in our position on parental oversight. But I digress. Anyhow, she sends out forms somewhat regularly to family and friends. We think this is mainly as a means of reminding people she has an e-mail address and filling up her otherwise rather spartan inbox, maybe also as a way to learn more about her friends and family, and in part because just it makes her feel all cool and business-like. Most people receive them in the fun and innocent spirit in which they are intended, although she does occasionally get some conspiracist theory responders demanding to know why she needs the information. These humor me almost as much as the forms themselves. The forms used to include requests for basic information, like name, where you live, favorite color, etc., and over the years they’ve expanded to solicit details ranging from job information to favorite stories; I think the latest one even had a field for “Can usually be found:______________”. I have enjoyed watching her thought process on this develop over the years through this medium.

At some point she also started giving people grades on how they did on the form. This humored me in particular because she’s yet to ever receive a grade for anything, having been at a school that didn’t do traditional testing or grade reporting, and now in homeschool. It was also humorous to get a glimpse into the mental rubric she was using to assign grades, and to watch family and friends react to their grades – especially those who got C’s and even F’s on the work. I’ve failed a few myself.

This round she’s taken it a step further and sent a followup e-mail that sheds some more light on said rubric and gave me a little chuckle to boot – never mind my gloating about my first A+…

Dear all,

Hey all! I just replied to someone who is begging for an A or A+, and that made me think you all probably want the highest grade, so I think that you might want to think about retaking the test. You all have three tries to get an A+! I am pretty sure that the only people with an A+ are Aunt Jennie and Mommy (Julie). Down below I have written some rules of why maybe you have not gotten an A+ or A. If you want some tips then read the writing below and redo the test:

1. You may have been silly! Don’t act silly! just type in real answers.

2. You may have skipped an answer on purpose! Don’t do that! It will interfere with your grade.

3. You may have put in answers that are totally not true, and I know that they aren’t. Do NOT do that!

Thank you for reading those clues. I hope this helps you! Now the people who have succeeded and the prizes they won are below:

1. Mommy (Julie) has won: 1 coupon for a free hug! Congrats!

2. Aunt Jennie has won: A cool card! It will show up in her email. Congrats!

I hope you two are both very happy of your prizes! If you want to get one please try once again! I will be happy to award you with a prize! Thanks to all of you who are participating! Thank you, and have a nice rest of the day!


I think I could get used to this…

September 21st, 2009 § 0

So we’ve kicked off week 4, and while our feet haven’t achieved optimal wetness yet, our new routine and learning/life mix is feeling more comfortable. Our house has yet to catch up to it – trust me, “the lived in look” is a lofty goal compared to that which our play and learning wear and tear is generating. But it’s Monday, and thanks to a family office cleaning venture on Saturday and lots of kitchen wrangling by my loving husband over the weekend, I can see my desk and easily found a clean pot for this morning’s oatmeal, so all is good with the world.

There are so many wonderful things that are coming out of this for us. Before I elaborate, I should also be careful not to paint too idyllic a picture. There have been moments of disagreement, doubt, and spades of minor meltdowns along this new path. Alli’s self-confidence and willingness to try new things took a pretty huge beating last school year, and while much recovery has been made, ushering her through anxieties and self-doubt can be a draining process, and when her and my supplies of patience are tapped out simultaneously, that’s sometimes not a pretty scenario. In my dual role as parent and teacher, I find Alli often holds me to a far higher standard for both roles, and as I think about it, I imagine that I too probably hold her to a bit higher standard than a student who isn’t also my own child.

But I feel that we are navigating that path well – better than I expected, for certain. In the process of me taking on a bigger role in her life and learning, I do think our relationship is deepening and we are learning to work together as a team in new ways. The unexpected bonus for me is that I feel a new focus and find that I am able to be more present to her than I think I have ever been as a parent – and I like that feeling, and the spark I see in her as a a result. My child is engaged, happy, eager, and getting meaningful learning experiences. The style that is evolving for me as a teacher – a relaxed, child- and interest-directed learning partnership – is feeling even more fulfilling for me personally and professionally than I hoped it would be.

The schedule we drafted before starting is, as expected, a very loose guideline for us. As most of her ‘external’ activities and classes are in gear, I’m now trying to get a sense of what “our” time actually looks like with all of the transitions. Alli’s desire for a firm schedule seems to be waning a bit as she realizes that she enjoys having some choice in what she feels interested to pursue on any given day, and I’m enjoying that freedom as well. I do still feel pulled by a desire to provide the balance, breadth and depth, and to ‘cover’ some of the basic skills I think Alli needs in order to pursue some of the higher-level learning and problem-solving that she craves to do and that I think will serve her well in life. Additionally, there’s still a significant part of me that feels a little tied to ensure we hit on the ‘standards’ she would be expected to meet if she were to go back into the ‘system’ without heavy transitional pains – regardless of my distaste for much of that whole realm.

Fortunately, I am blessed to have a child with what seems like a never-ending set of interests and craving for new knowledge, so I don’t generally find myself working all that hard to engage her – most of the challenge right now lies in sorting through places to stop and focus along the way. We do spend time filling in some of the basic mechanics – for instance, we’ve started working towards building automaticity in multiplication facts so that she isn’t so slowed down on higher-level stuff. Alli is loving and breezing through U of C Math almost independently, we write almost daily in some form, I’m experimenting with new models for helping her to structure her writing (and me to relax my expectations of her writing, something I’m sure I’ll write more about later), and we have begun tweaking elements of the ‘cursive’ handwriting she invented (when she was about 4) into a more standard form.

But we’re also doing a lot of fun, integrated interest-based things, like dissecting owl pellets we retrieved from the Museum of Science and Industry to learn more about what owls eat (she’s fascinated with owls since embarking into the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series). In addition to our “economics class” last week at Ethical Planet, Alli’s been busy planning and creating wares to sell at a homeschool craft fair, sorting out the economics of that venture and beginning to think about starting a cat-sitting business. Watching Alli’s excitement during our visit to the Dearborn Observatory when she got a real-live look at Jupiter was a truly joyous sight to behold. I’m beginning to think the timing is good for us to venture out soon to the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art too, as she’s just started a class in Art History and Museum Design.

Classes are providing a wonderful component of her learning, and watching her expand her social network to a wider range of ages has been a really nice side benefit. She sees other kids regularly, home schooled and schooled, and has regular opportunities to interact with others in both learning and play situations. As a whole, I’d have to say that so far I think the social interaction she has had with other home schooled children has had all of the positives of other relationships she formed in school, but has been lacking some of the more negative elements that I was witnessing so heavily in her peer group (cattiness, bullying, peer pressure and the like – and that was only in 2nd grade!). I love watching the kids during park days, where Alli blends in and is accepted seamlessly with groups of kids ranging in age from preschool through junior high. I don’t see that Alli’s social needs or skills are suffering as a result of home schooling.

I, too, am beginning to develop relationships in the home schooling community, and am looking into an additional local network with a ‘gifted student’ focus to see if we might find some additional camaraderie there. I know that the relationships I build with other home schooling parents will also help to sustain me during less sunny days.

In the meanwhile, I am thoroughly enjoying a lifestyle with days like this wonderful fall morning – when my abnormally tired child crawls into bed with my own still tired self at 7am, and instead of fighting about clothes and shoes and packed lunches and getting out the door, we can indulge our mutual desire to snuggle under the covers together for a little bit longer, knowing that all of the learning in the world will be patiently waiting for us.

Alli, Hannah, Lauren and Noelle after seeing Jupiter through the telescope

Alli, Hannah, Lauren and Noelle after seeing Jupiter through the telescope

Testing Phone posting

July 11th, 2009 § 0

Just testing WordPress iPhone app. Maybe a new posting means will rejuvenate blogging mojo?

Worlds collide

January 29th, 2009 § 0

I find that it’s difficult to sustain good blogging mojo after as many years as Andrew & I have been doing this shebazzle thang (10? 11?).  It seems particularly difficult now that I’m frittering away my precious free time with my new Facebook addiction.

So, I’m cheating and posting a meme that Andrew & I both responded to on FB.  I think it’s kind of amazing how much we revealed (explicitly and otherwise) by simply fulfilling a request to write “25 random things”.  And as I shared with my husband after reading his, I feel a need to direct people to read his in an effort to explain how he can completely rock my world and drive me nuts simultaneously.


1. I’m a pretty open person, emotionally.
2. Most people don’t know I’m almost as crazy as my crazy husband. He will tell you that I’m crazier. He might be right.
3. I love being a mom, most days, but am really not so good at the traditional mom stuff (cooking, cleaning, etc.)
4. I have the worst memory known to man. I don’t think it was always this way. Was it?
5. I have slightly high ideals for how the world should be. Ok, maybe that’s an understatement.
6. I do also expect a lot of myself. Way more than I expect from other people. This has caused me a not insignificant amount of anxiety in life.
7. I’m more of a risk-taker than people think. I disguise it well.
8. I was lucky to grow up in a school that was more racially integrated than most. I can remember hearing a (racist) neighbor calling one of my friends “colored” and thinking she must have rainbows hidden somewhere underneath her clothes.
9. I think I also believed in Santa much longer than my peers.
10. Some people bother me more than they should. I’m working on that.
11. I’m envious of people who seem to be always happy. I wish I could be more like them. Without medication.
12. I cry at almost anything sad or sappy. I especially cry at anything involving children being hurt. I also sometimes cry when people I didn’t know die.
13. I occasionally dream about living on a farm. Or running a bed and breakfast (and yes, I see the irony in that given my skill level on the cooking and cleaning front).
14. Lately I’ve been dreaming a lot about having foster children.
15. I need to make more time for photography. Sometimes I wish I had pursued this earlier or as a career.
16. And then I think about the student loans I just racked up from grad school and I kick myself for thinking that. I do enjoy teaching too.
17. I think I was cut out for a nontraditional career. Am still trying to find the right path.
18. I snore. Always have. My daughter has a cute snore, for now. I have a feeling mine is not so cute.
19. I have a lot of shame about being overweight. It’s difficult to feel that you walk around displaying one of your biggest struggles in life. Some people can hide theirs much more easily.
20. I am working on all aspects of taking better care of myself, and trying to make my health a priority. This does not come easily to me. I am the person who will equip the whole flight with their oxygen bags before finding my own.
21. I would like to go parasailing sometime. Or at least ride a big zip line.
22. I don’t tend to hold grudges. I get angry, I process it, I’m done. I wonder if my husband will agree with that.
23. I like bike-riding. Especially going really fast downhill. It makes me feel free. I need to do more of it. I would like to recapture my more athletic days.
24. I can ski, kind-of. I’m not so good at the turning side-to-side thing or the stopping thing, but I like going down hills really fast. I guess it’s obvious by now that I’d like roller coasters.
25. I love easily. I especially love my husband and daughter. I am trying to come to terms with the possibility that we may end up as a family of 3. We’re a nice family.


1. I know that many people will expect me to use the words “goats” or “chicken” in this list. But there is absolutely no way I will use either the word “goats” or “chicken” when typing out this list. So, please, adjust your expectations now (Marie). No goats. No chickens. No bull. No shebazzlin’.

2. I hate this. Everybody claims to hate this. This does not seem like a random thing about me, or anyone, really. Nobody really likes to talk about themselves, do they? At least to other people. I’m happy to talk to myself about myself. I usually avoid using the words goats or chickens in the process. However, I do often talk to myself. I can usually not do it in front of other people, however I will sometimes get busted talking to myself when walking home from the train and I don’t realize that someone is walking behind me or coming out their front door…also, very often at work, I talk to myself. This used to be sort of embarassing, but I’ve learned to roll with it. I talk to myself. I sing to myself. Why wouldn’t I? Deal with it.

3. I tend to avoid serious situations by deflecting them with humor. This usually drives people nuts. Especially my wife. What people don’t usually understand is that I’m still being serious on the inside. I just don’t like uncomfortable situations. Well, that isn’t totally true. I do like creating uncomofortable situations (that amuse me).
That also drives my wife nuts.

4. Speaking about worry… I am borderline OCD at times. I have to check the front door lock about 15 times a night before I can go to sleep. On the odd occasions where I find that I had neglected to lock it earlier in the evening I will do a small victory dance and feel vindicated and justified in performing this behavior for another 6 months. I often make excuses to go to the kitchen a few hours after dinner just to make sure all the burners are turned off. I press the lock button on the car key fob about 6x just to make sure the car is locked. I even “lock” the car doors as I pass the car on the way back from walking home from the train. I still check to make sure Alli is breathing in the middle of the night when I go to bed and anytime I wake up to pee. There are many more, I don’t think I’m even conscious of them all.

5. I really want to have my facebook status read “Andrew Bernatein ain’t afraid of no ghosts” just because it would humor me. Alas, it would be a lie. Ghosts petrify me. I do not like the word “ghost” to be uttered in my house for fear it will disturb any spirits hanging out in our 80 year old building. We had a (several?) ghost in our old apartment building in Evanston. Thankfully, he wasn’t too scary. Not like the one that was in the front hallway there. Marie and I named the back stairwell ghost “Max” and tried to help him get to the other side. Our significant others mocked us. I didn’t think that was wise at the time.

——Beginning of the “Andrew is not only crazy, he’s a chicken” section——

I’m afraid of a lot of other things too. Four of them that pop to mind are…

6. Dogs. Dogs scare the crap out of me. I have gotten better over the years, but I’m still afraid of all dogs until I get to know them and there are very few dogs that do not scare me after a time. Julie will claim that one time when we were walking her Mom’s dog, and a crazy rabid giant dog ran at us, that I ran away across the street and left her for dead. This is totally not true as I did what any sane person would do, which was to run away from danger. I assumed my wife was smart enough to do the same.

7. Heights. I am scared of heights. Being inside a building at a height does not scare me. Walking up normal steps does not scare me. Standing on a 3 step ladder to change a lightbulb SCARES me.

8. Public toilets. I do not like to do my “business” in public restrooms. As I have aged, I have loosened this restriction a little in emergency situations, but I LOATHE public restrooms. I like to poop on my own turf. Or at least friendly turf. One time when we were out of town visiting a friend, I borrowed his car to drive myself from the restaurant we were at to his house (abt 15 minutes away) during the middle of dinner just so I could make a deposit in his bathroom rather than the restaurant.

9. Lightning. Terror consumes me. I run like a small school girl from the car to the house. I have to fight back tears when I walk home from the train in a thunderstorm.

——End of the “Andrew is not only crazy, he’s a chicken” section——

10. I hate the Dave Matthews Band. Hate is not strong enough of a word, actually. Despise? I don’t know. Kill me. One of my most prized posessions is a folded piece of paper I found in a park while walking to the train about 7 or 8 years ago. It was a piece of yellow construction paper that said “Bob Sagat is the Devil and the Dave Matthews Band worships him.” If I wasn’t afraid of needles (should i put that above), I’d get that tatooed on my bad self.

11. I could fill the rest of this with the common answers to the vegan questions. Yes, even though I am “husky” I am vegan. No I did not go vegan for my “health”, but I’ll take any extra health mojo I can get. Yes I feel better now than when I was vegetarian, and yes I felt better as a vegetarian than as a meat eater, but in the end, you just adjust and it all feels normal. No, these shoes are not leather. Yes, they look like leather Yes I can show you the website that sells them or the label on the inside to prove it. No, I do not miss X, where X, most likely equals CHEESE. I still have nightmares about the time I ate goat. Why vegetarian to vegan? You don’t really want to know. But if you insisted that you did, you’d hear something about how I realized that many of the animals I was trying to avoid torturing were still being tortured by the dairy industry. Then you’d ask me how cows on a dairy farm are tortured and I’d try not to tell you, then you’d keep pestering me and I’d tell you more. And then I’d start to get annoyed because I’d start feeling guilty again about the first 38 years of my life. Yes, you are right, I had no idea that plants have feelings too. Wow, what a revelation. I’m going to eat a hamburger now, jackass.

12. I miss my mom. Miss is the wrong word. And it isn’t so much my mom (though I do miss her in the traditional sense) but rather all that comes along for the ride there. But “miss” is close enough, I guess.

13. I met Julie on April 3, 1987 while we were high school seniors looking at colleges. We had our first kiss on April 3, or April 4 in the wee hours of the night. She’ll claim the opposite, but she totally kissed me first. I waited up the rest of the night after I dropped her off at the dorm she was staying at to make sure we could exchange addresses. I still have the little corner of the piece of paper she wrote her name and number on. I laminated it. I like to laminate things. Watch your back. I might laminate you.

14. I am good at making acquanitances. I am not good at making friends. Or I’m not good at understanding who is my friend and who isn’t. I have high expectations. I have a lack of follow through. I have a force field of humor, wit and sarcasm protecting me at al times. I am judgemental and snobby. I am an evil evil person. Or I’m just a loser. I don’t know. Julie is my best friend. Alli is a really close acquaintance.

15. I am addicted to kale. This week between Wednesday and Thursday, I ate a one pound bag of kale. I hope we get a community garden plot this year in order to grow kale. I am also addicted to sriracha. I do not know if you can grow sriracha bottles, but I’ll look into that closer to the growing season.

16. I cannot remember any punctuation rules from school. I’ll often cover for this by just throwing out some “…” and stuff. or just dropping punctuation all together. I am looking forward to Alli learning all these rules so she can re-edify me. Oh, I also tend to not use spell check. I also don’t proofread what I wrote. I regret these

17. Spoons and cups are loaded topics. First of all, you are an idiot if you don’t believe that certain beverages taste better out of certain forms of cups. Water, for insance, should NEVER be drunk out of a ceramic Coffee Tea Club cup. It is wrong. You could die from doing that. Stop now. Same with juice. Of any kind. The list goes on… don’t get me started. Also, you cannot drink water out of a cup and then put another beverage into it afterwards. That is just gross. Though, in our house, since I do most of the dishes, I’ll allow it to happen for Julie and Alli, but I would never do that myself, cuz I don’t want drink cooties.

Regarding spoons. Spoons trump forks. Grapefruit spoons are close to being the ONLY utensil you need. If they were a little larger to account for the eating of soup, methinks we’d only need one kind of utensil in our drawers. Beware, however, spoons can be evil. You don’t want to be caught eating out of some freaky spoon. I can’t describe a freaky spoon, but I know them when I see them. When you are met with a freaky spoon, you may need to use the fork more than you would, but suffice it to say, you are using your fork too much, and your spoon not enough. I know you. I know this is true. You can admit it.

18. I hate the telephone. If I don’t call you, don’t take offense. I hate the telephone. I hate the telephone. I do not like it at work. I do not like it at home. I hate the telephone. As a kid I was afraid (chicken alert) to call places for fear they might…I don’t know, come through the phone and mock me. I would be, for instance, afraid to call a bowling alley and ask if they had open bowling today. As an adult, I’d like to say that has changed. I can’t. I’m still afraid to call people on the phone. I inherited (learned) this from my mom. On a related note, I love my iPhone. Maybe a little too much.

19. I wish I was a better father. I constantly worry that Alli and I won’t be friends when she grows up and this makes me sad.

20. My wife is the smartest human I have ever met. I wish I did a better job of convincing her how amazing she is. At everything. I love her more now than the day we got married. I wish I could do a better job of convincing her of that as well.

21. If I am mocking you, it means I either like you or I hate you. Or both. Or it could just mean that you are alive. Oh, wait, or dead too. I might have a tendency to be a little sarcastic. I’m not sure people notice. I can be quite subtle and tactful. I think those words describe me so very well. Add normal in and you have a wonderful trifecta. Subtle, normal and tactful. Andrew Bernstein. Boo yah.

22. I have not been to a White Sox home game since Julie surprised me with a ticket for Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. I am not sure any game will ever live up to that. I did see the White Sox on the road a few times since then and Alli and I did go see a woman’s professional softball game as well. I miss baseball. I miss playing, reading, simulating, living baseball.

23. I am constantly convinced that nobody likes me. I’m needy like that.

24. I humor myself. A lot. I never get tired of the following jokes:
“On purpose?”
“I used to date __________ back in 1972”
The fist

25. I often say that I am psychic and telekinetic, yet haven’t harnessed the powers yet. I am only partially joking. I am 53% sure that I am psychic (I knew I was going to say that.) My parents did a lot of drugs when I was a kid, so who knows if this is true, or just the qualudes talking, but I was tested at the University of Chicago for psychic ability cuz I predicted something or another. I often have a feeling of deja vu, I attribute this to the untapped psychic ability. I have other examples. I’m too tired to list them.

On the telekinetic thing, I just need a few hours to sit down and master the skill, and I’ll show you all. Just like juggling. Nobody thought I could do it. Three balls and one afternoon later, who had the last laugh? Me. That’s who.

P.S. Alli’s webpage

June 26th, 2008 § 0

Alli’s website

Alli’s desire to create her own website and blog coordinated nicely with my need for some downtime during the summer days to get the work done for my part-time job that I was used to doing while she was in school.  After a teensy bit of instruction to Apple’s iWeb software, she is off and running.   As a precaution, we have password-protected her website.  If you’re interested in access, e-mail Julie.

In transition

May 16th, 2008 § 0

Begging for indulgence with some redesign experimentation wherein my urge for a better blog design is writing checks that my actual spare time combined with my current skill set can’t cash. I feel like this template has potential if I can sort out what I want to change and how to do so, so might let it sit here for awhile.

21st century girl

February 24th, 2008 § 0

Following Alli’s discovery of “a really cool band but they’re all REALLY OLD” (the Beatles), we dug out an LP to show Alli what a “record” was.

Another reminder of our generation gap occurred during a hotel stay this weekend, where Alli drug out the yellow pages and asked, “what in the world is this?”

We explained what a phone book was and were greeted by an eye roll.

“Can’t you just look numbers up on the INTERNET?” 

Praise be to Al Gore.

Guess what Andrew just won at a conference?

February 20th, 2008 § 2

Big hint:



And apparently also a pair of night vision goggles.

So now he can go out and hunt vegetables in the dark.

Hats off…

January 10th, 2008 § 0

If you’re a parent, consult this post regularly for a well-earned chuckle on those days where you feel your parenting license should be revoked.

New year, new design?

January 9th, 2008 § 3

I’m toying with some new site designs.  Isn’t ‘Mint Chocolate’ tasty?  Needs some tweaks and some personalization, but I’m going to try it on for size for a bit.  Maybe one of these days I’ll start posting more content too… 🙂

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