Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Shots Forever

I'll admit to being a little more than camera happy.  My poor kids have confided that they feel their every breath is documented for posterity (my DD loves it, my DS tolerates it).  Routinely friends from the community will say, "I almost didn't recognize you without your camera!"  My first Canon DSLR was a splurge thanks to a very generous holiday bonus from my boss 5 years ago. I've been obsessively using it with moderate creativity ever since.  I take pictures (just as a hobby) of my family, friends, events, and for the elementary school yearbook.  I have no off-switch and tend to just like my own pictures better than the ultra posed professional ones. 

Photography is a cherished medium to me.  My mom has taken pictures for years, and as a child I looked through our photo albums for hours.  I love that 20 people can be at the same place and every picture, every angle, every perspective is captured differently.  I love looking through other photographers pictures of the same event.  I love seeing a glimpse of life through their eyes.  It feels like one of the only concrete ways to literally walk in their shoes.  I particularly adore these glimpses when they come from my kids.  I can't wait to look through their pictures from a vacation and see what they find interesting, or funny, what they love, their view of me, my DH, and each other.

My style of photography has always been kind of intimate (I often hold the camera myself and take those pictures where our heads are super close and our faces fill the entire frame - and then wonder how we get lice).  I've been blessed with kids that smile easily.  I've owned a zoom for years but rarely use it and never quite articulated why.  I simply knew that I found it a little cumbersome and when I look back on the pictures, they are never my favorites.  Occasionally I bring it to baseball or soccer games.  I used it a couple of times on vacation to get a close-up of a mountain goat on a cliff or see if that blob of brown in the distance really is a grizzly, but other than that, it never leaves my camera bag.  I have DFs who use their zooms all the time and I love the way that their pictures turn out.  It has just never been me.  

Saturday I went to the most amazing photography class with a DF (said with a tinge of melancholy because another DF that I haven't seen in YEARS was supposed to come as well but couldn't because her child got sick - sometimes putting ourselves last as parents really sucks).  Anyway, it was a class specifically taught on how to best use my beloved SLR while photographing children.

Sweet Shots with Amy Tripple gave me the cliche' Oprah "Ah Ha" Pause, and not just because she is my friend.  In fact, I think it is harder for a friend to ignite life-changing insight than a stranger.  She plainly explained some things in her class that I kind of knew but didn't fully understand and other things that I didn't know at all.  She was clear and witty (and endearingly self-deprecating), but most importantly, after being in her class I've embraced a certain personal style that was nearly there but not quite solidified.   

Amy encouraged the class to obtain a prime/fixed lens.  It went against my instinct to get a lens that doesn't even have the option to zoom.  The SLR and the class are expensive so I was really leery to spend even more money.  I bought the cheapest one that I could find.  I absolutely love it.  I may never put back on another lens again! I feel like the pictures I am capturing are real and genuine and it is how I am interacting with life.  Although I may physically not be in the picture, it is the smile that my kids are specifically giving to me.  I am not capturing the experience from a distance, I'm right in the middle of it. It is as close to the reality of the moment as possible for me-- only with a extra little fuzzy background and some well placed borders. 

Many thanks to you my DF Amy!  
I have a whole new enthusiasm for documenting happy memories again.

View of the World - My DD says this is them looking down on the world together. Not a posed photo, just a moment that was sweet and I never want to forget

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lice - The Check

It is that time of year.  I am making my annual (or really weekly) public service announcement / plea:


When my children (or anyone for that matter) walk in the door of our house, they remove their shoes, hang their coats, and wash their hands.  In addition, I usually do a quick lice check.  I know this seems a little obsessive, and it is, but I hate being sick and I NEVER want a repeat of The Great Lice Infestation of 2009.  One day my DS was frustrated by it and I said (equally as frustrated), "Get used to it because I will be checking your hair every single day that I see you until you walk down the aisle to get married and then I will teach your wife how to do it!"

Frankly, I want a grain alcohol dipping vat but the logistics and legality are tricky.  I will admit to not checking everyday for lice, but I always check after they shower and more often as the weather gets cooler and hats and coats are more prevalent.  Lice is a part of growing up, especially with an affectionate daughter, and honestly not too bad if you catch it quickly.  Lice is horrifically awful if it goes unchecked.

That little speck
above my finger is a nit
I've had "write the lice blog" on my to do list for a couple of weeks and actually wrote a really solid draft but just hadn't found the motivation to make final revisions.  Being "a writer" is often a burden.  Sometimes, I'm pretty sure that life just wants to give me material.  I even remember saying to someone, "I'd love to post the lice blog but what I could really use are some pictures for illustration."  It was like I mocked the blogger gods right to their face.

Shockingly, I know first hand that it is officially time to check for lice because when my DD got home today, we did our little routine and sure as SH__, there in her hair were 2 adult bugs.  She has only a few nits so this is VERY recent and not a bad case at all.  Now some of you are in my DD's class or spent time with us in a bouncy house this weekend, please don't freak out!  We will get through this, we just need to work at it. That said, it is Picture Day and I hope nobody shared combs. Yuck.

1)  Breathe Deep and pour a glass of wine (really not necessary but everything goes better with a glass of wine).

Adult Head Lice:
Size of a Fruit Fly
I'm really zoomed in
2)  Start with the huggy child who has longer hair and loves to share.  Stand under a good light and look through the hair.  Look for very small (smaller than a grain of sand) white specks very near the scalp (within a 1/2").  These specks are fixed to the hair shaft and don't move easily when you pull on them.  If they easily brush away, it is just flakes.  Less often, you will find bugs that look like fruit flies with no wings.  It easiest to look when blow drying their hair after a shower.

3)  Check often and check well.  Pay special attention to above the ears and the nape of the neck. If you don't know what to look for or your eye sight is terrible, shoot me a text or stop by.  I am always able to do a quick check and tutorial.  It is my life-long vow, to be here for anyone who needs a lice check.  Seriously.

4) Please don't wait for the school to check children.  School is not actually the most likely place to "catch lice" and by ethical code, they can only spot check students.  The school's duty is not: safety, education, and pediculosis capitis detection (although most school nurses will gladly check if asked).  It will take parents to break the cycle.  As much as I would love to have a grassroots approach and open a Lice Check Booth at Fall Fest, The PTA President is skeptical. *(SEE RETRACTION BELOW)

If NO Lice or Nits Are Found-  Avoid Getting Them by Simple Tips: 
  • Don't share combs, hats, hair bands, coats, pillows, towels, sports equipment, etc.  
  • Wear hair short, braided, or in a ponytail (some DFs will forever buzz their boys)
  • Use Fairy Tales lice repellant.  The website is also very informative.  I buy it at Ulta.
  • My in House Lice Kit
  • One DF has everyone wear a hoody to the movie theater and rest it on the back of the chair so their head doesn't come in contact with the chair.
Random Pediculosis Capitis Info:
  • Lice actually prefer clean hair
  • Lice don't like hair that has product in it or is blow dried so adults rarely get lice (unless you are like me & don't use product or a blow dryer).
  • Lice usually spread by head to head contact or sharing items that were on a head; it is very unlikely that they will crawl or jump or shimmy or gallop or fly (unfortunately, they don't drown so they can spread in pools)
  • Head Lice do not spread disease
  • Thankfully, head lice only effect the human head, not coarse hair, "other hairy areas", or pets.
  • An adult louse lays about 5-10 eggs / nits a day
  • Nits take 7-10 days to hatch and then another 7-10 days to become reproductive
  • A hatched louse can only survive for 24 hours without being on a head.
Even if no lice or nits are found, be prepared and go buy a nit comb and some Fairy Tales products.  It is a little Y2K of me, but I think the $30 is well spent.

If Even One Louse or One Nit is Found:
Go get a box of Kleenex, a Large Glass of Wine, and Read the Following Post:

*RETRACTION OCT 21, 2011:  Let it be known that I took poetic license with this statement.  In reality, the revered and highly respected PTA President did not say she was skeptical of a Lice Check Booth at Fall Fest (it could be called "Pick the Nit" - and volunteers could dress as the Grim Reaper?! - sorry back on topic).  I apologize for tarnishing her good name with such falsehoods.  BUT, the District Nurse is NOT supportive of the idea.  I actually talked to her today while she was checking my DD's hair (who was totally clean) and the nurse (who is a lovely woman and I adore her) told me, "I appreciate your enthusiasm but the PTA really can't get involved for confidentiality reasons."  -- Probably best if she doesn't know that I wrote a whole blog about it.  Despite the feigned anonymity of this blog, I've never been a real "confidential" type person.

Anything but LICE!

Okay, so now you've checked, found some nits or lice, finished crying, poured a much larger glass of wine (or started a pot of coffee), and want to know what to do because denial and sobbing don't seem to be helping:
What you Need to get Started
  1. It really isn't that bad.  Try to stay calm.  It is a lot of work and monotonous but you will survive.  Pull on big girl panties, put everyone in Good Will clothes, find a couple of old towels, and get to work.  Call, text, or message me if you need support.
  2. First off, get rid of the lice.  It is a good practice to keep lice products in the house just in case but honestly, olive oil lice treatment works as well as anything.  I'm not big on pesticides and the oil slows and suffocates the lice and more importantly makes the nits easily slip right off the hair with the nit comb.  There are plenty of sites online that talk about various methods; one doesn't need to go au-natuale but it works for us.*
  3. Put a old towel around shoulders.  Saturate the hair in olive oil (or other lice remover/killer).  Comb the olive oil through with a wide comb to make sure it is really in there and to get out the knots. 
  4. Put a plastic bag or shower cap over the head and move to the next family member.  Personally, if we find one nit / louse, I just put the olive oil on all of us (not the same if you use pesticides; use pesticides sparingly).  Since olive oil is so harmless and actually helps your hair, it isn't bad to do every now and again even just to be safe. The oil needs to stay on for a couple of hours.
  5. While heads are wrapped and marinating: remove all sheets, blankets, mattress pads, coats, etc.  Everything needs to be washed in hot water and put in the dryer on hot.  
  6. Pack all stuffed animals and pillows that can't be washed into garbage bags.  They need to stay in there for 2 weeks, the incubation period of nits/eggs. This step is not to suffocate the nits/lice as much as to keep attractants and crap to a minimum.
  7. Vacuum everything really well: couches, beds, floors, pillows, cushions, chairs, the car, backpacks, etc. The goal being to vacuum up any unhatched nits or a random unattached louse.
  8. By this point, you will be tired but ready to nit comb the first person.  Start with the individual with the shortest hair.  It will go quicker and there will be fewer nits; it will also give the others more time to soak. 
  9. Find a well lit spot, not over carpet.  It should be someplace very easy to clean later.  Get a chair that is at a comfortable height to avoid bending too far.  If you can put a TV in front of them, even better.
  10. Take a small metal nit comb and go through every little bit of hair in very small groups. Go multiple directions.  Pay special attention to above the ears and the nape of the neck. Wipe the nit comb on a paper towel (I personally prefer a paper towel to a bowl of water) to get off the nits after each swipe (Figure 2.b - they will look like little black specks).
  11. Continue through the whole head a couple of times until the nit comb is repeatedly coming out clean.  If it is a bad case, this will take awhile.
  12. Wash the hair REALLY well with dish soap to cut the oil and then wash with shampoo.  I blow dry the hair afterwards.
  13. Repeat steps 6-11 on each person.  Save the worst for last.  You will be really good at it by that point and it will go faster.
  14. Soak all combs in rubbing alcohol for at least an hour when you are done.
  15. Put clean sheets on the beds.  Some people keep their pillows in a garbage bag with a case over it.  When we had the Infestation of 2009, we did that.  If there are only 2 bugs, that is over-kill.
  16. Neurotically check for lice multiple times a day.  If even one nit is found, redo the olive oil treatment, rewash, and vacuum everything (honestly, I redo the olive oil every couple of days on anyone who had a nit the previous time, just to be safe).
Figure 2b - Little Black Specks are Nits
A Couple of Other Things:

No need to be too stressed or over-whelmed.  I've seen remarkable women reduced to tears over lice.  It is a lot of work but not awful.  We've had the roto-virus and that is way worse and spreads like wild-fire.  This is simply a really thorough house cleaning  (and to be honest, I kinda like the stuff all packed up).  If there isn't time to get to a certain room, just don't let anyone into that room until it is done.  The first time, the playroom was off limits for a couple of days until I could get to it.  I know several families who literally just locked the playroom for 2 weeks and everyone stayed in a couple of rooms until the risk was over.  Focus on the rooms that must get done.  Take your time.  This isn't a race to exhaustion.

Please don't be embarrassed or feel like you need to keep it a secret because of the crazy stigma associated with lice.  Lots of people get lice and you will need the moral support of friends and family.  Diligently fix the problem so that it doesn't spread, don't be ashamed for having it.  Keeping lice a secret is actually what is helping it continue to spread.  I'm not sure why it seems so different from strep throat or the flu.  Clean people get lice just like healthy people get viruses. 

After the house is clean and the nits are at bay, some dreaded phone calls / emails need to be made (I go the email route as I'm too tired to make phone calls).  It is never fun to tell people that they may also have lice because their child was with your child.  Let school** or church know, chances are if one child has lice others have it as well and until everyone resolves it, the problem will just keep coming home.  It is a courtesy from one parent to another.

Clear The Oracle.  Cancel playdates, carpools, and don't feel the need to rush back to school and work. Eradicating lice takes a lot of energy and is a big deal.  It will take time to resolve.   A couple of days off will be good for everyone.  My DS speaks of Lice 2009 as the "glory days".  We all stayed home for 3 days and watched TV and played video games but everyone felt great.  It doesn't NEED to take 3 days; it is possible to have a clean head in one night and return to life as normal the next day, but that seems really ambitious, even on a light case.

I hope that the louse was caught quickly and the clean-up is fast and easy, but if not, Stay Strong my DF.  Imagine the virtual mom stripes earned from this battle!  It is the Everest of Parenthood.  It isn't glamorous.  It is exhausting and over-whelming but at the same time heroic.  If you need a Sherpa to hold the nit comb, bring an emergency bottle of wine, or check your head (even the mere mention of lice makes me super itchy) -- I'm here for you.

*To clarify:  I'll be honest, Medical Professionals often seem to recommend pesticides and frown on the natural alternatives.  The olive oil doesn't necessarily kill the lice or nits (it is supposed to eventually suffocate them), it just makes it really easy to pull them out of the hair (way easier than anything else I've tried and I've tried a ton of stuff).  In 2009, I first killed the lice with a natural lice killer (followed the instructions on the bottle) and did the nit comb, THEN I used the olive oil.  This time, with only a few, I just did the olive oil a couple of times.   The olive oil is so easy that I can actually nit comb my own hair (this time nobody but our DD had any), and it is fast .  If it is a bad case, I recommend first a natural lice killer (or pesticide), then the same night, olive oil to get out whatever was missed the first time.  Don't count on the lice killer to work, you NEED to hand pull out all of the nits.  If the lice killer isn't totally effective, that is how you breed the super bug.  The egg or bug survived the chemicals and is now stronger than ever and you need to start all over.  It is better to take your time at the beginning than repeat this over and over.

**Common practice is that the school will send home a letter to everyone in your child's class, alerting other parents to be on guard for lice and giving general information (our school is small so even sent out a school wide email).  The nurse will also check your child before they can return to class.  The nurse will recheck again in 2 weeks.  I usually redo the olive oil treatment at least once a week for 3 weeks even if she appears clear, just to be safe.  Especially because it can reoccur.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I have so much more nonsense to drivel!
I have some abysmal news my cyber-world friends.  After only a couple of months, my real paying job needs me.  I'll be going into the office more often.  It will not be back to 30 hours a week but it will be considerably more than the 3 that I've grown accustom to (before judging me too harshly for using a preposition to end a sentence, please read this article).  

I should be happy (and I am) but I've loved my brief life in the spotlight as a world- renown blogger; I don't mean to brag but, people in Russia, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece, Singapore, Netherlands, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Philippines, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, India, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Latvia, and the land down under / Australia have visited my blog site at least once.  It will be hard to return to my relative anonymity after all this fame and recognition; While walking to school after publishing, at least one person nods in my general direction.  They may not say anything, but I know that they read my blog and are giving me mad props.

But alas, do not cry in your non-fat yogurt banana smoothie, I will still write; I feel that I've just scratched the surface of my literary prowess.  Unfortunately, the laundry will need to take priority to my art.  

(<3 and a special thanks to my Small but Loyal Posse who have encouraged me since the very beginning <3)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Feverishly Squirreling

This amazing weather is frankly exhausting. I'm plum tuckered out.  I keep trying to squirrel the most into these last truly perfect days. I can smell winter around the corner and if predictions are right (I'm not holding my breath), this winter will be even colder and snowier than last winter.  It will be nasty and dark and we will all be hermit-ed in our insulated homes.  That said, I'm nearly hoping the weather will be dismal soon!  I can't keep up this level of productivity much longer.

I require a shocking amount of downtime.  When I pack our family too tightly with obligatory functions, even if they are fun, we're pretty much bound for a meltdown of epic proportions.  My normally very happy DD uncontrollably cries.  My DS becomes competitive and argumentative and eventually joins my DH collapsed in a stupor of video games. I'm honestly the worst and give myself anxiety and migraines and high blood pressure and strep throat.  My body literally revolts and demands that I stop.  Thankfully, I'm not yet to mid-life and already realized the pattern so I back off; I would rather choose my own downtime than have it forced on me while I lay in a delusional heap of pharmaceuticals. Regardless of how badly I want to do it all, I can't.  I say yes to a lot because I truly want to rather than because I am incapable of saying no - in fact, if I really don't want to do something, I pretty much never agree to it.  If I say yes to things I don't really want to do, I will need to say no to things that I really want to do.  The logic is dizzying but simply true.

We've paid the price upfront for years.  We fixed up houses, upgraded, and moved 3 times before our oldest finished Kindergarten; all while my DH got multiple masters and I worked part-time and got strep throat every December.  That stage is a total blur and although I couldn't be happier with where we are now because of those choices, I feel a wave of angst rush over me when I mentally relive those days.  A stage totally impossible without the help of our family and friends.  A stage that I will never be willingly sucked into again.

I strive for a truly manageable life at every turn.  Nearly to a fault.  I try really hard to make sure that The Oracle (what my DH calls our calendar, as in, "If it is written in The Oracle, it is most definitely in my future and will surely come to pass."), does not resemble an evil prophetic curse but an eagerly anticipated and color-coded foretelling.  I attempt to organize our time and our activities so that we may exhaustedly struggle through a couple of weeks, but at the end, there is a beautiful empty space to be filled with unscheduled relaxation, whatever that may mean at the time.

So, as I'm feverishly cleaning up the yard, planting bulbs, running errands, painting GG's bedroom "a real pretty birds egg blue", and as we're enthusiastically scurrying to meals with family & friends, zoo trips, NFL games, soccer, walks, parties, lantern hikes, pumpkin patches, the arboretum, photography classes, cards by the fire, and lattes... I'm embracing every moment but secretly, I'm kind of looking forward to a couple of weeks from now, when it is just too cold and awful to leave the house.  When I can open those books patiently waiting by the fireplace, scrapbook a year worth of fun; when I knit a scarf while clearing off our DVR and eventually reorganize the playroom (ugh).  When The Oracle is not so demanding and we have empty spaces in our future, open to anything... whatever that may be.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Education @ Its Best

I am part of an elite group.  I'm in my not so mid-30's and loved being home-schooled as a child.  That in itself is not so rare but, now I've chosen to send my own children to public school.  I have many friends who home-school their children; I have a couple of friends from my youth who were taught at home but, there are not many who made my same decision.  This leads to questions by all; I'm asked by public and home schoolers alike, "So, you are raising your kids in the same town where you grew up (I know, a little pathetic but the best choice for us), you seem to have turned out okay; Why are you not home-schooling your own kids?"  I respond with slightly different statements and various depth depending on with whom I am talking but, here is the reality:

Home-schooling in the 80's
I was taught at home from 3rd-8th grade.  My little family was a bit of modern day vagabonds and rarely stayed in one house terribly long.  We didn't move far, but we moved often.  I was unbearably shy at school; I was small and one of the youngest in the class.  I couldn't go to the bathroom during the day because that involved raising my hand.  By 3rd grade, I still couldn't read.  We were set for a new school (ours closed) and my mom pulled me (and my younger sister) out.  My parents felt like I was a bright kid but that I wasn't able to learn in the public education environment. 

My mom and dad were right.  Under my mom's nearly undivided tutelage, soon I became an avid reader and devoured library books.  I journaled and genuinely learned to love academia.  My mom is a very disciplined woman (a huge under-statement); she made sure that we were getting our scholastic education, physical activity, music, art, and socialization (mostly church).  We moved a couple more times while I was home-schooled.  I was always led to believe that it was my choice to be taught at home or go to public school.  I even went to middle school classes with a friend one day to see if I thought it would be a better fit for me.  I quickly decided no.  I would have died a slow and painful death in middle school.

By high school, I was much more confident and my very competent Mom was feeling like she could no longer give me the kind of education that I deserved.  We all decided that going to public high school was best for me.  I won't lie.  The first 2 years were a really hard adjustment period.  The days were long.  The home-work was insufferable.  I couldn't believe that kids learned by listening to hour long lectures.  Tests were frustrating because I really didn't know how to study.  The halls and the lockers were over-whelming.  The lunch room was insanity.  By junior year, I had down a system; I spent a lot of time in the library where it was quiet and orderly.  I figured out how to study.  I didn't have a ton of friends but a couple of close friends and a couple of very surface friends and dated only a bit.  My senior year, I met the boy who would eventually become my beloved DH (he spent hours in the library because that is where I was... but that love story is for another day).

I went off to college and flourished.  I took classes that challenged me.  I found professors who inspired me to think.  For the first time ever, I felt like I really fit in.  I had a very dear friend as well as large groups of good friends.  I took part in debates and raised my hand and took risks.  I studied hard and earned partial academic scholarships.  I wrote the column for the student run newspaper and was a literary editor for the yearbook.  I absolutely loved college; the adjustment period was long over.

The decision for my own children was challenging.  I believe that often times children get a much more well-rounded education at home, I certainly did.  There is way more support now and it is more socially acceptable than it was in the 80's.  There are more appropriate field trips.  How better to study the constitution than with a trip to DC? or mammals than with a quick ride to the zoo?  That said, it takes a special kind of parent and a certain kind of child as well.  It is hard to get a balanced interpersonal education at home; often kids don't have the opportunity to try and fail in a safe environment, without a parent there to bail them out.  Obviously the lists of pros and cons of each were enormous but nearly equally balanced for me.  In the end, my DH and I decided to follow a similar path to mine.  We want to believe in public education and we want our kids to be a part of it, that said, if they were drowning, we would rescue them.

Our Dear Son begs to be taught at home.  He loves the order and consistency of home.  He hated his adorably sweet and nurturing preschool (we skipped 3 year-old because he wasn't even close to emotionally ready).  In half-day Kindergarten, he was so out of sorts that I kept him home at least one day a week.  By 1st grade it was 2 or 3 times a month, and now (5th grade), it is just a few Mental Health days a year.  My very bright DS feels that it is a waste of time to learn something over and over again that he already knows.  He feels like he could get his work done in less than half the time if he didn't need to wait for the slowest person in the class.  He is right!  That said, my goal is to raise my children to be functioning adults with purpose and integrity.  In his case, he needs to experience how to relate in a world that isn't always organized and tailor-made for him.  He is not shy.  He is not floundering.  He is more than a bit unmotivated, but that is not reason enough to teach him at home, in fact, that is probably a reason to keep him in public school.

Our Dear Daughter frankly needs the socialization.  She would wither at home rather than bloom like she is now.  Academically she is not as quick as our DS but she works hard, tries her best, doesn't need much special help, and socially miles ahead.  She makes friends everywhere she goes.  She loves her teachers, the staff, her peers, and school in general.  While I was pushing our screaming 4 year old DS into preschool, our 2 year old DD was grasping the door-frame so she wouldn't have to leave (those were not the greatest of days).  I can't imagine how stifling it would be for her to spend her days locked like a princess in a tower here.

I know we are doing the right thing for our family, but many times, I wish that I was home-schooling them, especially when they've had rough days.  I know that I have the required discipline, organization, creativity, and usually patience (particularly when I'm not divided with my job).  I love spending time with my kids and cry inside on Mondays when I need to send them back to school.  I read my home-school friends' blogs and a pang of regret runs through me.  That said, we have dear friends and extraordinary teachers that my kids would not have experienced without this decision.  My children have learned lessons that I am totally incapable of teaching; and I make sure that my time with them teaches them what our public schools are totally unequipped to teach... about our values, unconditional love, balance, respect, integrity, moderation, etc. 

In the end, a challenging decision with no right or wrong, not easier or harder, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.  In my personal situation, I would not be the happy, independent, confident adult that I am today without my own Dear Mother's dedication to teaching me at home...  and with that... I give an enormous Thank You... to Her (and my Dad)... and to all the dear home-schooling parents.  Most likely, someday (probably not today), your kids will thank you from the very bottom of their heart.