Thursday, July 31, 2008


Done! And Jerry Oppenheimer's book (I'm not sure it deserves to be called a bio) is waiting for me at the Santa Clara City Library. The newspapers are piling up, unread, but I'm still feeling pretty cocky. I'm glad that I'm going to have lots of time to track down the October book, because it looks longish.

Is it ironic, or just stupid, that my copy of the Oppenheimer book is on interlibrary loan from the San Jose system? SJCL thinks I need to pay them for a book that we actually returned, so I'm currently putting my borrowing their on hold. (It's hard on them, I know.) I guess I should actually check my account and see if they've taken the charge off, but I like the Santa Clara Library so much better that I haven't bothered yet. I haven't been to the MLK library downtown, but I had certainly been to the main branch of the City system, and the SJSU library that was the MLK predecessor. And I have to say, the Santa Clara library is far and away the nicest library I've been to in California.

It's nice, for example, that there's a big park behind it, as well as the International Swim Center. (Remember, we read about the Swim Center right before the last summer olympics?) The library itself is pretty inside, with lots of nice art, and somehow is the bookiest library I've been in in a while. It has the nasty fluorescent lights that I hate so much in every library there is, but they aren't so obvious for some reason. The children's section is huge, the adult section even huger, and the non-fiction collection has its own second floor. Lots of books and videos in lots of languages, beautiful folk literature collection -- I really love this library. And to top it all off, you get a grace period of 24 hours on overdue books. That's right! They don't start charging you until the second day after the book is due! Not that I plan to abuse this knowledge or anything.

Anyone can get a card there for free, so if you have any reason (like Park Day) to be in or near Santa Clara Central Park on even a semi-regular basis, I highly recommend it.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Letter from Debbie Schwarzer

I have been talking to the other statewide groups about the upcoming election. Those who have been around the electoral and legislative block a bunch of times tell me that now is the time to reach out to the people who are running for statewide office and tell them how important it is to you and your family that you be able to continue to teach your children at home without government interference.

It is pretty easy to find out who the candidates for Assembly and Senate seats in your district are. Go to and enter your zip code. You'll be able to see who currently holds those seats and who the candidates in the upcoming election are. Your Senate and Assembly district numbers are probably different, so keep track of which is which.

It is usually a fairly safe bet that Republicans will support homeschooling given the importance of the religious vote to that party. Democrats, however, may not understand that they have current or potential constituents who expect their right to homeschool to be protected. We would suggest that you contact any Democratic candidates (you'll usually see a link on the right of the page you go to if you click on them to their home page, and there will be contact information for their election office). If you happen to be a Democrat yourself, it is doubly important that you tell your candidate that you need homeschooling to be supported.

When you call, ask to speak to the candidate yourself. If he or she isn't available, and you can't schedule a short meeting, ask to talk to the staff member who handles K-12 education. If you are free to visit the office, that's always best, and ask for a meeting slot, but a call is still good. Tell them briefly why you homeschool and why you need it protected. If you happen to be a Democrat who would probably vote for this candidate, make sure you mention that. If they start asking questions about the current legal case in Southern California, you can tell them that it is still in the appellate process and that homeschooling in California is still legal. And tell me if they seem to want to know more than you're comfortable telling them so that I can get in touch with them.

I would be interested in hearing what you hear when you call. If you write to me, please tell me the number of the Assembly or Senate district you're writing about, the name of the candidate and his/her party affiliation, and what you learned.

If you do get a meeting scheduled and want some materials to take with you, I have some in pdf format that you can print out and take. Just ask.


Debbie Schwarzer
HSC Legislative chair


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My husband, nice guy

Since I am more than ready to complain to all and sundry when my husband gets me upset, it seems only fair to give his good qualities equal time.

The computer is not the only electronic item in the house that gives us grief. Our DVD player is part of an elaborately jury-rigged system that needs to be run through a VCR, but unfortunately the VCR I had had since Jenny was a teenager broke. Which meant a new one. Which meant I didn't really know all the ins and outs of recording and timers and whatnot, so that in order to simplify my own life I asked my husband to please tape Mad Men for me.

What followed next was a somewhat amicable disagreement about our content provider (Dish Network), which I think is more or less on Eastern Standard Time, and in any event is not set up so that we get programs at their regularly scheduled time. I was expecting Mad Men at 7. Just to confuse the issue, we found out at 8:30 that it had started at 8, so taping it was temporarily out of the question. I just gave up and went to bed.

It was a nice surprise Monday morning when my husband woke up briefly to tell me that the recorder was set to tape it this morning at 8. He suggested just watching it, but I prefer not to have it on while kids are passing to and fro. I really appreciate his taking the trouble to figure out the scheduling and set the VCR, though, and when I checked the tape Monday afternoon everything seemed in order. So now I've got an interesting evening of television to look forward to.

Thanks, honey.

The sequel:

I woke up thirsty night before last, right around when my husband was getting in bed. Since he was still up, he got me some water. This morning I woke up to find him putting a fresh glass on the bedside table. Sometimes little things like this are all it takes to remind me that I'm glad we're together.


Monday, July 28, 2008

In Their Own Words: Harriet Tubman

by George Sullivan

This book is part of a series for children that uses primary sources when possible. Although Harriet Tubman didn't leave writing of her own behind, two biographies published during her lifetime contain many quotations. They are:

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1869) and
Harriet: The Moses of her People (1886)

by Sarah Bradford, a schoolteacher who was Harriet's close friend.

Going back over this book with Ziad and Maya, I realize that I didn't retain all that much of what I read. As I glance through it the second time, though, I remember how I was struck by a few things: Harriet's early life, not in the deep south, but Maryland, considered to be a less hellish place for slaves than the Deep South, is nonetheless terrible to read about. After her first escape, the Fugitive Slave laws required her to conduct all other escaping slaves all the way to Canada, where they could not be apprehended and sent back into slavery. Harriet was also connected with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, just as the abolitionist movement became intertwined with the struggle for women's suffrage.

I've heard that children's books are a good way to become informed about subjects, since they tend to be concise in their presentation of information. This book certainly fills the bill in that regard, while being interesting and well-written to boot. I think I'll read it again and see if I can remember more this time.

Maya says:

I thought that all slaves had to be in slavery, but I learned that the slave master's will could free them and some slaves could be freed. I learned that because John Tubman, who Harriet married, was a freed slave. Harriet went to a lawyer who read the will of her mother's first owner. Harriet's mother should have been freed she turned 45, but instead she had been traded to another master. Now it was too late, and no one would listen to Harriet's claim, even though Harriet felt that legally she should be free.

Harriet told her husband that she wanted to escape, but he told her that he would tell on her if she tried. Then Harriet tried to escape with her brothers, but they got scared and turned back. Finally she escaped by herself. She became part of the Underground Railroad and helped other slaves escape. Her master offered a reward for her return.

One time she was waiting for a train and some people thought they recognized her. When she heard them talking, she opened a book and stared at it like she was read, and the people said she couldn't have been who they thought she was because slave couldn't read. I thought that was clever of her, because the really couldn't read, even after she was free.

During the Civil War, she worked in a hospital and also served as a spy. I really admire her and think that she was a great person.

Ziad says:

Harriet Tubman was slave who ran away and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She conducted more people to freedom than anybody else. She knew John Brown, the white man who attacked a warehouse full of weapons and tried to free slaves, but failed. She had a dream about him being killed before he was hanged. Harriet was impressed because John Brown died for slaves when he could have done nothing about it.

She worked as a spy and nurse during the Civil War. AFter the Union won, when she tried to take a train, the conductor put her in the box car with the animals. She felt that the Union hadn't really won, if people still treated black people so badly.

Harriet Tubman was very brave.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Bookclub miscellany


I just finished reading Howard's End. WHAT an interesting book. I'm really glad Zelda chose it, and really sorry we won't be discussing it sooner. Maybe I'll use the time to try to learn more about the author, or read some criticism or something. Hopefully I'll also be able to look through it before we meet again. In the meantime, though, I also have my eye on


for which we are reading The Devil Wears Prada. Since I was within an inch of choosing this myself, I am again grateful to Vivian for having beat me to it. I've been looking around for supplementary reading, but all I've found so far is Jerry Oppenheimer's Front Row: Anna Wintour, The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief, and In and Out of Vogue by Wintour's predecessor (or, as some might say, the woman whose job she stole). There are also a few books that Wintour herself has contributed to, and you can watch some interviews with her on the Charlie Rose web site. However, in the spirit of making everything flow smoothly, I am also looking at


which is my pick, and that pick is Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It is funny (hoorah!), not a memoir (all right!), relatively modern (always thinking of you, Lesley), and has been adapted for TV several times, so there should be a version we can watch on DVD if we're so inclined. Although I think it's a good idea to have read it first, because some of the characters speak in such heavy accents that it's nice to have the general idea of what they're saying ahead of time. This book is clearly a satire of a certain genre of British literature where farmers and rural inhabitants lead lives of squalid desperation, and it might have been nice to read a few of those books so as to appreciate the humor more, but who has time, really? It's actually very funny just on its own.

The ball's in your court now, Lesley.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mea culpa

Am I anti-human? Maybe. Although when I think of what I've got against people in general, I tend to think more about genocide, torture, human trafficking, and child pornography. In terms of people's effect on the planet we all inhabit, I don't think that it's anti-human to be concerned about environmental degradation. I personally want the earth my children grow up in to be as healthy and welcoming a place to live in for them as it has been for me. The fact that I don't see that happening is something I view as cause for concern. It doesn't mean that I think people should vanish from the face of the earth.

Do I want to get back to nature? Not so much. There are plenty of natural phenomenon that scare me silly. I want no part of mountain lions, bears (either black or grizzly), landslides, avalanches, or wildfires. I KNOW that I would never want to live way out in the country because I prefer my hospitals within easy driving distance, and I wouldn't like to live so far out that a fire engine would have trouble getting to me. I know, furthermore, that advances in modern medicine have saved not only my life, but the lives of many people I care about. Good old days? Not hardly. Even something as simple as Kleenex, something I take for granted most days, has recently seemed like a minor miracle to me. Going through box after box with this summer cold, I think to myself every day, "How gross would it be if this was a cloth handkerchief that someone had to clean? There wouldn't be enough rags in the house to handle all this. What if I just had to spit into a bucket? What if I couldn't do any of those and just had to choke? THANK GOD FOR KLEENEX!"

I know I'm just a big nervous Nellie when it comes to chemicals. I do want to reduce the amount of chemicals in my life. But you know what? It's not necessarily all that expensive. Concerned that "natural" cleansers are more expensive? Plain old lemon juice, baking soda, and salt are surprisingly effective. You can also cut down on chemicals if you just clean less. Admittedly, this option is ridiculously easy for a lax and slothful housekeeper like myself. However, in a day where organic foods are sold at Walmart and soy-based detergents are available from Costco, the price argument starts to lose some of its force.

And you know what? I think that one reason organic foods and plant-based cleaning products are becoming cheaper and more widely available is that more and more people have been willing to buy them even when they were more expensive. The increased profitability that comes with mass-marketing would not have been an option if there hadn't been a growing market. It's hard for me to see how someone would claim that the increasing availability of items people have demonstrated a desire for would be a bad thing.

It may well be that people are now engaging in meaningless shows of politically correct environmental awareness. That doesn't make the environmental movement bad. It just means that there are always people ready to jump on the latest bandwagon. Those people are obnoxious regardless. It doesn't really matter what way they use to demonstrate their superiority. Greener-than-thou may be the new mommy wars, but it won't be the last. There will always be mommy wars. I've gotten sucked into a few myself. On balance, though, I think I prefer "My car gets better mileage than yours" or "We only eat organic food from the farmer's market" to "How sad for you that your child is so woefully inferior."

Do I think humanity is wasteful and careless and selfish? Yes, I believe I probably do. Hell, I think I'm all those things. And if my own personal self-assessment isn't enough, human history is full of examples of societies dying out because they degraded their environment past its ability to support them. Closer to home, how can it happen that my son can walk around a nearby lake and pick up over 100 bottle caps, and then find as many again the next week? Why do people go to a nearby hilltop with a stunning view over the valley, then smash bottles so that there's broken glass all over the ground? Pardon my white elitist ass, but I think that's flat-out disgusting. (Let me hasten to add that I'm not saying the people who do that aren't white too. Maybe they're even elitist. In any event, they suck.)

However, I also think humans are ingenious and selfless and kind. It's possible for humanity to be good and bad at the same time. Even though I am frequently misanthropic, I generally like most of the people I meet. So it's possible to like and dislike humanity at the same time. It makes no sense to insist that humanity be all one thing or another. As to which qualities predominate, I couldn't pretend to know.

It's seems odd, though obvious, to point out that the albatross will never pick up the plastic that is killing him. No, he'll just eat it and die. It seems even odder, though, to call him stupid for that. To me, it just means that his mechanism for recognizing food has lagged woefully behind the explosion of plastic in his environment. According to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Reserve website:

Laysans are surface feeders. Therefore feed on anything that floats on the surface of the water; squid, fish, crustaceans and flying fish eggs.

It's only in the last 50 years or so that that list has included enough floating plastic to starve a bird to death. Oh well, evolve or die, isn't that right?

And according to the LA Times article linked below,

Albatross are by no means the only victims. An estimated 1 million seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic nets or other debris every year. About 100,000 seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, other marine mammals and sea turtles suffer the same fate.

Which actually brings me to my main point. It wasn't that long ago that I had no information about this garbage floating in the sea. It was only a chance remark of a science teacher who was teaching a totally unrelated program that brought it to my attention. It's information I'm glad to have, though. It's relevant even to those of us who don't live by the ocean, because

About four-fifths of marine trash comes from land, swept by wind or washed by rain off highways and city streets, down streams and rivers, and out to sea.

And though people may not care about the albatross (fine and dandy by me), this plastic is getting into the food chain, and I care about my children who will probably one day be eating it.

The chemical components of plastics and common additives can harm animals and humans. Studies have linked the hormone-mimicking phthalates, used to soften plastic, to reduced testosterone and fertility in laboratory animals, and to subtle changes in the genitals of baby boys. Another additive, bisphenol A, used to make lightweight, heat-resistant baby bottles and microwave cookware, has been linked to prostate cancer.

Which is why if someone wants to drink from a bisphenol-containing plastic bottle, I'm fine. Knock yourself out, I say. But if someone wants to throw that bottle out the window of their car, I have a problem. Because even if that's just someone doing their thing in nature, it can come back to bite me in the ass.

Eco-bullying or self-expression? Eco-scaremongering or just spreading the word? People have to judge for themselves. I do know this, though. There hasn't been, and there won't be, progress toward a healthier planet without a lot of popular support. I suppose it's not possible to word the message so that nobody gets ticked off, but that's too bad, because the message itself is worthwhile. And the message is not that humanity is bad, but that it's time for a good look around. We shouldn't be kicking ourselves for liking what we have, but asking what we can do to keep it so that our children can have it too. And their children. And maybe even people in third world countries. Because face it, this level of extraction and consumption cannot possibly last, not with petroleum, not with natural resources, not with nutrients. That shouldn't really be a downer. Solutions are possible; in the works, even. They won't implement themselves, though, which is where the benefit of letting people know that change would be a good thing comes in.

Harumph. I guess the shoe fits.

*LA Times (below)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I bet I'm not the only one who didn't catch this first time around

The Albatross

Often, to amuse themselves, the men of the crew
Catch those great birds of the seas, the albatrosses,
lazy companions of the voyage, who follow
The ship that slips through bitter gulfs.

Hardly have they put them on the deck,
Than these kings of the skies, awkward and ashamed,
Piteously let their great white wings
Draggle like oars beside them.

This winged traveler, how weak he becomes and slack!
He who of late was so beautiful, how comical and ugly!
Someone teases his beak with a branding iron,
Another mimics, limping, the crippled flyer!

The Poet is like the prince of the clouds,
Haunting the tempest and laughing at the archer;
Exiled on earth amongst the shouting people,
His giant's wings hinder him from walking.

— Translated by Geoffrey Wagner

The original:


Souvent, pour s'amuser, les hommes d'équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l'azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d'eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu'il est comique et laid!
L'un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L'autre mime, en boitant, l'infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l'archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l'empêchent de marcher.

— by Charles Baudelaire

Friday, July 18, 2008

It is an ancient mariner, and he stoppeth one of three

From the LA Times:

MIDWAY ATOLL -- The albatross chick jumped to its feet, eyes alert and focused. At 5 months, it stood 18 inches tall and was fully feathered except for the fuzz that fringed its head.

All attitude, the chick straightened up and clacked its beak at a visitor, then rocked back and dangled webbed feet in the air to cool them in the afternoon breeze.

The next afternoon, the chick ignored passersby. The bird was flopped on its belly, its legs splayed awkwardly. Its wings drooped in the hot sun. A few hours later, the chick was dead.

John Klavitter, a wildlife biologist, turned the bird over and cut it open with a knife. Probing its innards with a gloved hand, he pulled out a yellowish sac — its stomach.

Out tumbled a collection of red, blue and orange bottle caps, a black spray nozzle, part of a green comb, a white golf tee and a clump of tiny dark squid beaks ensnared in a tangle of fishing line.

"This is pretty typical," said Klavitter, who is stationed at the atoll for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We often find cigarette lighters, bucket handles, toothbrushes, syringes, toy soldiers — anything made out of plastic."

It's all part of a tide of plastic debris that has spread throughout the world's oceans, posing a lethal hazard to wildlife, even here, more than 1,000 miles from the nearest city.

Midway, an atoll halfway between North America and Japan, has no industrial centers, no fast-food joints with overflowing trash cans, and only a few dozen people.

Its isolation would seem to make it an ideal rookery for seabirds, especially Laysan albatross, which lay their eggs and hatch their young here each winter. For their first six months of life, the chicks depend entirely on their parents for nourishment. The adults forage at sea and bring back high-calorie takeout: a slurry of partly digested squid and flying-fish eggs.

As they scour the ocean surface for this sustenance, albatross encounter vast expanses of floating junk. They pick up all manner of plastic debris, mistaking it for food.

As a result, the regurgitated payload flowing down their chicks' gullets now includes Lego blocks, clothespins, fishing lures and other pieces of plastic that can perforate the stomach or block the gizzard or esophagus. The sheer volume of plastic inside a chick can leave little room for food and liquid.

Of the 500,000 albatross chicks born here each year, about 200,000 die, mostly from dehydration or starvation. A two-year study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that chicks that died from those causes had twice as much plastic in their stomachs as those that died for other reasons.

The atoll is littered with decomposing remains, grisly wreaths of feathers and bone surrounding colorful piles of bottle caps, plastic dinosaurs, checkers, highlighter pens, perfume bottles, fishing line and small Styrofoam balls. Klavitter has calculated that albatross feed their chicks about 5 tons of plastic a year at Midway.

Albatross fly hundreds of miles in their search for food for their young. Their flight paths from Midway often take them over what is perhaps the world's largest dump: a slowly rotating mass of trash-laden water about twice the size of Texas.

This is known as the Eastern Garbage Patch, part of a system of currents called the North Pacific subtropical gyre. Located halfway between San Francisco and Hawaii, the garbage patch is an area of slack winds and sluggish currents where flotsam collects from around the Pacific, much like foam piling up in the calm center of a hot tub.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been studying the clockwise swirl of plastic debris so long, he talks about it as if he were tracking a beast.

"It moves around like a big animal without a leash," said Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer in Seattle and leading expert on currents and marine debris. "When it gets close to an island, the garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic."

Some oceanic trash washes ashore at Midway — laundry baskets, television tubes, beach sandals, soccer balls and other discards.

Nearly 90% of floating marine litter is plastic — supple, durable materials such as polyethylene and polypropylene, Styrofoam, nylon and saran.

Want to read more? It's here.

The poem? Here.

For those with short attention spans, I'll cut to the conclusion:

Farewell, farewell ! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest !
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small ;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone : and now the Wedding-Guest
Turned from the bridegroom's door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn :
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

Monday, July 07, 2008

more from Debbie Schwarzer

I think many of you, in the coming months, may field questions from family, friends, even reporters about what you will do if the appellate court comes out (again) with a ruling that tries to limit the right to teach children at home. Some of those people, particularly from the media, will be hoping to get a frightened answer from you. They like the image of the cowering mom oppressed by the government, about stories of frantic scrambling to get kids enrolled in school or even move out of state.

I hope I can give you the confidence to deny them the pleasure.

If people ask me what I think will happen if the court rules against homeschooling, I will say what I've been saying for months. Nothing will change immediately. Our attorneys will attempt to stay the ruling until the appellate process runs out. I think the likelihood that the number of Californians who homeschool will be drastically reduced due to some court action is very, very small.

The court could rule similarly to how it did before, in which case we will try to enjoin enforcement while we go to the Supreme Court. There, we will continue to press our message that this interpretation violates the Constitution, which makes it unenforceable against us (and not, as some of the amicus briefs suggested, our problem to take to the legislature to fix -- if it's not constitutional, that is THEIR problem, not ours). It could rule that our interpretation is acceptable, in which case we start breathing again and wait for some crackpot to introduce legislation against us. It could rule that it can't interpret the law and needs the legislature to do something, in which case we take our tents
and trailers to Sacramento and kill ourselves working to make sure that we don't end up with a law like North Dakota's. If the legislature wants to see fury as it hasn't seen it before, try to take this right away from us or burden it with micromanaging regulations!

But I am willing to bet very large sums of money that in one, three, five years' time, people will still be homeschooling in California in relative freedom. There may be some additional restrictions in the law that either prevent some
people from doing it easily or make it unattractive, we might still have the statutory structure we have now and worry that it will all happen again, I don't know. But no one is stuffing this genie back in the bottle.

I would recommend that we not give doomsday scenarios to the media. I think we need to portray strength and confidence. I am bothered, and I fear for the continued impact of this on my personal life, but I am not afraid. Homeschooling isn't going away, and I have utterly no problem with our giving a confident message to the world. We WILL win in the end, because we are doing the right thing.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who needs some reassurance that it might turn out OK.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Vacation Blogging

Well, we're back! 17 days of hectic and educational sightseeing behind us, jet-lagged and fatigued, glad to be out of the humidity but unhappy about the sore throats from the smoky air, here we are in California again. As usual, I can think of many blog posts that could spring from the vacation that is behind us, but will probably follow through with only a small fraction, my innate inner sluggard being only enabled by the continuing technical problems that attend our pitiful efforts to get consistent access to the internet. Nothing more frustrating than losing your connection right as you attempt to save a particularly brilliant (ahem) blog post.

In the interests of completeness, while I wait for pictures to be downloaded by someone other than myself, I will start with an overview of our itinerary:

1) Fly into Atlanta, spend the night.
2) Drive to Tennessee, about a five-hour trip, so we can go to Dollywood.
3) Go to Dollywood. Drive back to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains. Stop briefly at a place where the Appalachian Trail crosses the roadway, which is actually in North Carolina. It turns out there are places where North Carolina is in fact west of South Carolina. Spend the night at a state park in Georgia.
4) Because Ziad is getting obsessive about it, go to Dahlonega and pan for gold. Then drive through the mountains to a spot where you can hike into the Appalachian Trail, and hike on it. Continue on to Atlanta.

While Nabil is at his business conference in Atlanta, take the kids on three days of intensive sightseeing.

5) Day one: American Girl Place, History Atlanta. This may not sound like a lot, but take my word for it, it is.
6) Day two: Georgia aquarium, World of Coca Cola, Cyclorama, Atlanta Zoo.
7) Day three: Mississippian mound culture, Cherokee city, house of wealthy Cherokee leader, all in Northern Georgia (we practically wound up in Tennessee again) requiring hours of driving, but very very worthwhile.

8) Drive from Atlanta to Charleston, SC. Stop briefly in Augusta to stretch our legs on the Riverwalk, which is pretty but not necessarily worth the detour. Spend the evening doing laundry on the hotel's single washing machine while someone from a semi-professional soccer team is breathing down my neck because she wants to wash their uniforms.

9) In the morning, visit Fort Sumter. In the afternoon, during lunch, get caught in the first of many intense thunderstorms featuring rain that causes impressive flooding of the city after only 1 1/2 hours. Spend lots of time trying to avoid driving through water up to our hubcaps (it is a rental car, after all) and no time at all seeing beautiful historic homes. Alas.

10) Visit Charles Town Landing, a state historic park and archeological dig on the site of the original settlement. Highly recommended. Then take off for Hilton Head in South Carolina. Huge thunderstorm drives everyone off the beach and out of the pool in the early evening. Right after we got there.

11) Spend the day at the beach, where Nabil and I get horrific sunburns. Maya's face gets a little red, and Ziad, who uses no sunscreen ever, seems to get a light burn on the back of his ears. Drive on to Savannah. Impressive huge thunderstorm in the clouds over Savannah as we arrive.

12) Visit the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low in the morning. Then stop by the Maritime Museum of Ships of the Sea. In the afternoon, walk down by the river, a commercial touristy strip that reminds me of Pier 39 in San Francisco.

13) Drive to Orlando, stopping briefly in the non-historic part of St. Augustine, and a Florida state park I remember from my last visit to Florida, Washington Oaks. It is every bit as magical as I remembered. While we are at the park, guess what weather we encounter?

14) Disneyland (thunderstorms).

15) Disneyland. Drive to Mt. Dora, another place I remember fondly. Also still wonderful. Thunderstorm en route.

16) Spend the day at Mt. Dora recuperating from two exhausting days at Disneyland. Thunderstorm in the afternoon.

17) Drive back to Orlando and visit with Nabil's cousin who has four kids, some of whom are about the same age as Ziad and Maya. It is a nice visit, unfortunately all too brief. Get lost in Orlando attempting to find the rental car return, then spend frustrating hours trying to take shuttles to the hotel airport.

Then up at 4 the next morning to get everything organized for an early morning flight. Return home after several hours spent in some odd non-sleeping, non-waking, headache-inducing fatigue zone and feel completely disoriented. Notice that Lesley has very kindly gone way above and beyond merely watering the plants and has left my yard prettier, neater and way more organized than she found it. Thank you so much, Lesley.

Yesterday was spent indulging in fogginess, and today we're back to reality. Guitar lessons and dentist appointments loom on the horizon. Ziad and Maya are really happy to be back, and I am too, I guess, but part of me wishes we could spend more of our time in unknown places, learning about their many wonderful secrets. It really was a great trip.

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