Being authentic

When I finally decided to take a leap and head up Sun Tail Mermaid, my business partner and I initially structured the operating agreements so that my identity could remain hidden. Not because we thought we were doing anything wrong, but because I didn’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable for anyone that knew both myself and the individuals involved with the other company.

Sensitive Species

But, as I’ve mentioned, it was soon apparent that we’d need to patent my monofin. But how to do it? Could you patent a product in the name of a company? Yes, but the inventor’s name was required by law to be on the documents. Documents which would eventually be public. Couldn’t we patent it in someone else’s name? Sell them the idea, but retain the rights? Too risky, and pretty unconventional besides. My patent attorney was baffled. Never, ever, had she come across any inventor not wanting their name up in the big lights, so to speak.

Yes, well, how do you do? My name is Jessica and I want the spotlight exactly zero.

We were also discovering it would be more challenging to launch a business without even being able to utilize our own personal and professional networks. Coming out of the closet, so to speak, was becoming more and more important.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it all created quite the existential crisis.

Panic button

This is navel gazing at it’s finest, you guys. But here goes.

I was rather loud and obnoxious and spotlight-loving in high school. I was in the drama club, for crying out loud; where the goal was, to literally be on a stage under a spotlight. It makes my throat close up to even talk about it now.

And my friends and I regularly did really stupid attention-grabby things. Amber and I would rig our backpacks to split, and then have an ocean of tampons and maxi-pads spill from the slit in the middle of the hallway, then kneel scraping them up and shoving them back in, acting embarrassed and purposefully bonking into people and generally causing havoc. Or we’d spray our crotches with water before we went on stage to make an announcement at an assembly.

spartans cheerleader

I might on-purpose tuck a long stream of toilet paper into my panties and let it trail behind me in the crowded school halls like it had gotten stuck there whilst in the loo. Sheelagh gave me a fart machine from Spencer’s Gifts in the mall, and I’d let it rip during a history exam, then watch gleefully as students hastily scooted their desks away from my person, disrupting the class and annoying the teacher.

After more idiotic antics at college, I moved away and became involved with a manipulative freak-show of a human being. To put it bluntly and succinctly, it was a scary, twisted, nightmare of an abusive relationship and when I finally emerged three years later, I felt like an empty shell.

My high school years seemed horrifying from this new, broken vantage point. More so, I think, than most, because I was so over the top. I mean, who isn’t at least vaguely embarrassed by their teen years? But I’d gone from one extreme to the other and couldn’t tell where I was supposed to land. I wasn’t comfortable with the pre-nightmare persona, and had no idea who I was post-nightmare either. It seemed the only answer was to clam up and observe.

This clamming up became quite a comfortable place to be.

Go away, I'm introverting

Twenty years later, I was sitting in my little office contemplating what, exactly, I was so afraid of. My health, after steadily improving had taken a nose dive as I tried to gird my loins for the mermaid-out-of-the-closeting. I’d burst into tears trying to put my real name on Facebook. I couldn’t do it.

I finally faced the fact that some of this old, moldy baggage was still mucking about in my heart and brain spaces.

This was alarming. I am not one who enjoys lying on a psychiatrist’s couch marinating in the past (no offense to those of you who do). I had no desire whatsoever to contemplate endlessly, my formative years and analyze them under a microscope in order to sort out what might have led to what, and why I now identified so strongly as a quivering, little brown church mouse.

Baggage Dept

So I mulled things over. The then, the now, the in between. And thankfully with only a handful of phone calls to my lovely mother and without too much introspective headache, I realized something that is probably quite clear to you already — it was something I already knew on some level, but just hadn’t connected all the dots.

The crazy personality in high school was a form of armor, because of course it was. It was safer to construct the embarrassing situations myself rather than wait for one to come along and surprise me. I’d had too many rejections and mortifications in elementary school and junior high, so this way, I was in control. I laughed at everything (and I do mean everything) as a way to show that my status as misfit didn’t bother me. And if people didn’t like me, it didn’t matter, because I wasn’t being real with them anyway.

245/365 - Never let your guard down

It likely wasn’t much different than any other coming-of-age survival tactic, a variety of which I’m sure are regularly deployed in institutionalized learning environs the world over. From the goths layering on a thick coat of “I don’t care,” to the jocks with their hard, shiny veneer of toughness – we were, many of us, just shielding and protecting ourselves from the various horrors of high school (and life in general), no?

These were things I already knew. But what was a bit more of a revelation was the fact that I was still toting around some fairly heavy-duty armor in my grown-up late 30s. Only it was of a different sort. I know, right? Duh, everyone says.

Armor complete with a vast moat; thick, impenetrable walls of stone; and a drawbridge, tightly drawn. It’s a wonder how my small band of friends ever managed to survive the crocodiles and various man eating fishes to forge across and batter through.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

I should clearly order this book straightaway.

Recognizing this made for quite a significant paradigm shift. I wasn’t really all that afraid of potential feelings or sticky relationships, I was simply afraid to put myself out there; to be authentically me.

It was an uncomfortable thought to consider that my cozy, agoraphobic, hermity ways might not be entirely the true me. I decided if I deconstructed some of the bullet proof glass and bomb shelter walls that made up my comfort zone, I’d maybe find a happier, more self confident person inside. Or at least one unafraid to stand up and say, “Hey, I made something rad. I think you might like it. And if you don’t, that’s cool.”

Stuart Smalley would be so proud.

An ancient SNL skit for the uninitiated.  The inimitable Stuart Smalley.

After all, the painful years of youth are long since past, and certainly no one on Facebook (I finally braved it, thank you) gives a rat’s banana what I may have or mayn’t have been like over two decades ago.

Oy, the navel gazing has turned into outright belly button lint gathering*, so I’ll sum up. It turned out that merely discovering and acknowledging this whole armor wearing thing was more than half the battle. I am definitely, and authentically still very much an introvert, but I’m a braver and more courageous one, and I’m not ashamed to say this has been my theme song of late:

I promised no more to-be-continueds so I won’t say to be continued… I’ll just say that perhaps I’ll write more on this subject should the fancy strike, mayhap at some loosely defined appointment in the foggy future.

*Do not, I repeat, do not search Google images for belly button lint sculptures. I am going to need to vomit.

Last call for the Omnibus


I meant to post this yesterday, but I haven’t been feeling very well. For those of you waiting ’till the last minute I hope this reminder gets to you, as last year I had a few “Oh noes!” after it was over.

Until midnight tonight (Sunday) eastern-time, you can still download over 100 homeschool e-books for $25.

Sale is over, thank you!
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Instant Homeschool Library

The Homeschool Omnibus is here! What is that, you ask? Well. It’s a pretty sweet sale that only lasts a few days.


There are 94 brand new titles in the collection valued at over $545. The entire collection is available for only $25, but for a very limited time only. The sale ends just before midnight on August 24.


Why so cheap, ladies and gentlemen? Because we are all homeschooling parents. We know what it’s like to purchase the supplies, curricula, and helps we need each year. Plus, my very own Out of this World packet is included, and I really think you’ll have fun with it. My little packet is in good company, too. The planners alone are incredible!


I’ll send you my Discover Europe packet FREE when you purchase the Omnibus through my purchase link, just email me a copy of your sale receipt.

Sale is over, thanks all!

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School Plans for 2014-15

You guys. I am so excited for school this year. Life is all kinds of topsy turvy, but one thing is certain and that is ME getting to homeschool again. I have MISSED THIS.


We clearly need more stuff. This is nowhere near enough. I mean where is the GLITTER?

Also? I think I get high on buying school supplies. Is there anything better than purchasing pencils and colored paper and new markers? Glue sticks and rulers? Fresh stacks of lined paper, and replenishing all the paints and Play-Doh? There isn’t. I’m sure of it.


These beat-up bins have been a marvel and a wonder. I highly recommend them for corralling school crap.

Before our last family camp-out this past week, I inventoried all the kids’ school boxes and figured out where everyone was on which subjects and made a list (a glorious, marvelous list) of the supplies we needed to stock up on (my favorite part, did I mention that already?) Then, while I lounged around on a mountainside, periodically swatting mosquitoes, I made more lists and plotted out lots of stuff on graph paper, because graph paper. Then, this weekend when we got home? I BOUGHT ALL THE THINGS.

So. Here’s our line up for this year:


J. 7th grade

  • Solo Reading – For at least an hour every day, I don’t care what he reads. Getting in an hour of reading is not a problem. Getting him to tear himself away from whatever he’s engrossed in can be a bit more challenging.
  • Writing Strands – E. tried The Write Foundation with J. last year, and it did not go very well. I looked over what we have and while I think it’s probably a lovely curriculum, it’s a little dry for J. I think Writing Strands 3 will be more enjoyable for him… if it’s too easy, I’ll bump him up to 4.
  • Singapore Math – J. blew through 6A and 6B last year, but then stumbled on the end of year review tests, so E. had him start over and re-do 6A with more hands-on instruction. He’s halfway through doing 6B over again, so we’ll finish that up. He’s pretty grumpy about having to do everything over, but I think it’s been good for him to make sure he has this stuff down solidly. As soon as he’s done, we’ll start up with Dimensions Math 7A, also through Singapore.
  • Life of Fred – J. will continue working through the Life of Fred Middle School math books as well. He’s finished with Fractions and Decimals and Percents and will start on Elementary Physics this year.
  • Xtramath – He’ll continue drilling basic math facts through the wonderful and free XtraMath. He’s advanced up through their ranks and continues to increase his speed.
  • Khan Academy – I am ashamed to say that we really underuse this amazing, free resource. But I know now that I’m in charge of school again, it’ll get more use. Math is my weakest area, so I’m certain we’ll be turning to Khan Academy a lot for instruction as I am regularly lost on both the older boys math workbooks.
  • History – E. skipped around a lot with our history CDs from Peace Hill Press – most recently going through Volume 1 again, so we’re picking up with Story of the World, Volume 2. We’ll use our history notebooks and timeline figures and whatever else sounds fun along the way.
  • Science – For the past few years, we’ve just worked our way through The Usborne Science Encyclopedia as I never could find a science curriculum I really liked. I’m going to be doing Chemistry Level 1 by R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey with Miss K and N, but it’s a little young for J. He (and probably the others, too) will be utilizing this awesome chemistry kit and this spine: Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments: All Lab, No Lecture (DIY Science).
  • Handwriting / Penmanship – J. has finished up the Getty Dubay italics series we’ve liked so well. His handwriting is lovely, and I’m so pleased with the course. He’ll be continuing to exercise his penmanship with Character Italics – Level III Advanced Cursive.
  • Grammar / Language Arts – He’ll be continuing with Growing with Grammar level 7. Everyone has really liked this series and I’ve been happy with how independently they can work.
  • Spelling – We’re still very happy with Spelling Power. J & N are not natural spellers, but we’ve seen such marked improvement using this book. You can print the practice / test pages with the CD that comes with the book, but I like using the workbooks. They’re pretty affordable and I think I’d spend more on ink printing the sheets myself.
  • Typing / Keyboarding – We’ve been using the free Typing Web for the last few years, and will continue to do so.
  • Computer ProgrammingIrishMum turned us on to beginning programming with Scratch, and all the kids are hooked. J worked his way through Super Scratch Programming Adventure! last year, and this year will be using Learn to Program with Scratch: A Visual Introduction to Programming with Games, Art, Science, and Math
  • Music – Our beloved piano and violin teacher (who came to the house each week!) has moved away. I’m still hunting for a replacement, but meanwhile, I will continue to crack the whip and have the kids practice. J. is making nice progress on the violin, and though he grumbles, I love to hear him play.


N. 5th grade

  • Solo Reading – This kid can read all day, and usually tries. I don’t know why I even schedule this in. I loooove that I have kids who love to read, yay!
  • Writing Strands – I’m going to start N. on Writing Strands 3 this year. If you hear whining and moaning, it’ll be coming from this general vicinity. This kid hates writing, but he does enjoy making up stories so I’m hoping he’ll dig this, or at the very least, not completely hate it.
  • Singapore Math – Starting 5A this semester, and will do 5B next semester.
  • Life of Fred – N. is just about through all the Elementary math books, and will be starting on the Intermediate books this year. We love Life of Fred!
  • Xtramath – Same as J., N will continue drilling basic math facts with XtraMath. He grumps about this, but he’s progressing well.
  • History – Same as J, we’ll do this as a family.
  • Science – As stated above, we’ll do Chemistry Level 1 by R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey and I’m sure he’ll be involved with J’s labs.
  • Handwriting / Penmanship – N. is on the last Getty Dubay book: Workbook F. His penmanship is not as pretty as J’s, but I’m confident it’s better than it would have been without Getty Dubay. I’ll definitely be getting him further practice when he finishes this book up.
  • Grammar / Language Arts – N. is on Growing with Grammar Level 5.
  • Spelling – Chugging along with Spelling Power, same as J.
  • Typing / KeyboardingTyping Web also.
  • Computer Programming – He adores Scratch as well!
  • Music – Oh the grumbling, but his piano is coming along, especially when he’s not pounding the keys to annoy me.


Miss K, grade 3

  • Solo Reading – The older boys got their own basic Kindles last year, and at the time, Miss K wasn’t super interested. But since, she’s inherited E’s underused Kindle Keyboard (gray graphite version) and quite likes it! Hooray! Three readers down, one to go! I do schedule 30 minutes of reading into her day, but she usually goes at least an hour.
  • Singapore Math – K. is halfway through Singapore 3A already, so we’ll just sally forth.
  • Life of Fred – She adores the LOF Elementary math books and we’ll continue working our way through.
  • Xtramath – Same as the older boys, but with less grumbling.
  • History – Same as the older boys — she loves her history notebook.
  • ScienceChemistry Level 1 by R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey with N, and I’m sure she’ll be involved in J’s labs, too.
  • Handwriting / Penmanship – My daughter definitely enjoys writing / drawing more than her brothers. She’s halfway through Getty Dubay Italic handwriting book D. I’ll get book F on the way for her.
  • Grammar / Language Arts – K. will be starting Growing with Grammar Level 3.
  • Spelling – She’s a bit more of a natural speller than the boys, but I’m doing Spelling Power with her anyway as she enjoys it.
  • Computer Programming – K. also enjoys Scratch and has been creating all summer!
  • Music – She takes flute from my friend Amy and loves it!

This is the picture he wanted to accompany his section. I live to serve, little buddy.

Mr. B. – Kindergarten

I don’t do anything super structured for Kindy, I just go with their interests, but B. has been quite interested in ‘schooling’ with the big kids for the last couple of years, so I’m adding a few more things for him this year. This is all stuff he likes to do, and it is no big whoop if he does not do it, and instead opts to build Lego all day long.

Other fun stuff

Swim Camp 2014

swim camp

We’re home! We survived! I’m tired and sunburned and weary, but I’m not swearing up and down that we’ll never return, so that’s a good sign. We tried a new venue this year and it was so much better, I can hardly compare. The pool was comfortable and clean, the locker rooms an indescribable improvement over the other place, and the staff was friendly and helpful. Plus, we had water slides, a splash park, a sauna, massage, brand new mineral soaking pools, and their restaurant upstairs has decently good food — with great milk shakes and ice cream cones.

swim lessons

Tracy did a ton of work to move us to a new place — I think it’s easier on her and her family to use the old location, but the majority vote won out, and we’re all so grateful to her for making this happen.

Located further south, and not up near the perpetually frozen Teton mountain range, the weather was gorgeous and warm — such a change for us! We actually blew through several canisters and tubes of sunscreen; I think many a pasty white Idahoan went home crispy red. After 8 month winters we’re all, SUNSHINE? HOORAY! And then:


Let’s just say that I am using Burt’s Bees After Sun Soother liberally on my ruby-red thighs. (Thiiigguuughhhss) That lotion is a miracle in a tube, for serious.

hole in our teepee

My sister came and brought her kids. We tried out a teepee… which… we don’t recommend, though other families seemed to like it. We had kids falling off of the narrow cots all night and found them pretty uncomfortable, but it was kind of a fun thing to try. We had a couple of rotten nights until we all got used to the place, and figured how to prop the kids’ pads up with rolled clothes to keep the kiddos contained.

Our teepee wouldn’t close at the top (it was missing some vital pole) so our tent heater didn’t work well, and we were pretty cold at night, but at least it didn’t rain.

swim campswim camp

I bought the Watershot waterproof housing for my iPhone 4 (they have them for the newer iPhones, too, I’m just a cheapskate & have an old one to go with a pay-as-you-go plan), and though I was terrified to use it, it ended up being really fun! Test it with a tissue first, and follow all the instructions to get the app working right, and it’s a blast. It’s really hard to see the photo window in a sunny pool, so half the time I didn’t know where I was aiming, but the photos turned out clear the movies were so fun! I can’t wait to do more with it.

Fun with the underwater camera

Fun with the underwater camera


I have almost no photos of our older boys; they’d finish lessons and head off into the hills with their friends playing war games and hunting for snakes. They played hard and crashed every night. I think there were multiple games of poker going on as well. My friend Jennifer taught them all her best Texas Hold’Em techniques and J. was so glad he’d brought his chips (they play with their grandpa fairly often, you know for gum or candy).

Floating the river

Manda and I decided to do some more adventuring Friday after lessons were over and our camp was all packed up. We scouted around the area until we found float tubes to purchase and a family-friendly river to float. The tube J. and I were using lasted five seconds before bursting a huge hole and deflating. I’m sure it’s not because of all the snacks I ate at swim camp.

Burst tube

Mandy wanted to pile us into the other tubes, but I could picture my butt popping another tube further down the river and then we’d all have to hike out. So J & I drove the car back down to the pick-up spot and busted out snacks and camp chairs and relaxed in the sun. J. looks bummed in the below pic, but he was just really tired after a week of swimming. Neither of us minded the busted tube (well, other than the wasted expense). We really had a lovely afternoon. Our pool floaters made great impromptu shade thingies (I can’t find them to link to, they are round mesh seats with an inflatable ring, and I liked them a lot for lazing about the pool).

river rafting

river rafting

Now we are home and I had the best sleep of my life last night in my own memory foam bed even though the backs of my legs look like this:


Sunshine! YAY!