Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Burnout (and a lot of randomness)

The kids and I are on the verge of winter burnout this week.  We've been running around all over the place, and I haven't had a chance to relax since... um... sometime a week or two ago.  Plus I had a weird virus attack me over the weekend and was only recovering on Sunday (which is when I made Oz's FABULOUS birthday dinner of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans), so the weekend kind of didn't exist for me.  Even if it had, I still wouldn't have really been able to sit down and enjoy it.  We had too much going on.

So today I'm going to make a random list about of a lot of things I've posted about lately and some things I haven't.

1.  The kids are currently building a giant castle out of Dots.  We were 'supposed' to use gumdrops, but that's a lot of sugar-coated mess.  Dots are cleaner.  And since I haven't cleaned my house in close to a month (no time, no energy), I'll take clean where I can.

2.  M2 finally used birthday money he got in October, combined it with some Christmas money, and bought himself a giant box of Horrible Science books.  If you've never ordered from Horrible Ray, let me assure you: the site may not be the prettiest, but he's trustworthy.

3.  The story is trudging along.  I have 15 pages written so far.  It's not spectacular, but it's something.

4.  The seeds I planted a week ago were apparently laced with speed.  Several have already sprouted, and I'm going to have to thin/transplant them soon.  Some haven't come up yet, but that's okay.  I wasn't expecting such an accelerated timetable from any of them.

5.  M1 had another swim meet earlier this week.  He won his breaststroke heat (he won breaststroke in his meet two weeks ago as well) and came second in his freestyle and butterfly heats.  He should garner some ribbons for that, and his confidence is building.  I'm so stinking proud of him.

6.  I have now read The Phantom Tollbooth, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and am in the middle of The Book Thief.  Next up is finishing Anna Karenina.

7.  Oz had a birthday this week.  He is now 34.  When he turned 30, it didn't bug him.  This birthday is bugging him.  I'm somewhat amused.  Also, both of my parents and Oz's dad turn 60 this year.  Any ideas for gifts you can purchase in bulk for folks turning 60?  (Kidding, kidding... mostly....)

8.  Just for grins, I took the free Mensa home test today.  I 'passed.'  Apparently I qualify to take the real test for membership.  Because a club for people who like to feel smarter than everyone else is SO something I could get into.  Not.  I like to think I'm not an elitist.

9.  I need ideas for Valentine's Day.  I have a problem with it being two weeks away already.  And it's two days after Mardi Gras.  Mmmmmmmmmm kingcakeandcrawfishandnomnomnom....

10.  In addition to the plethora of baby guppies in our fish tank (we're up to 5; three adolescents and 2 babies), we now also have a baby molly.  Calculated neglect - the best way to raise gardens and fish.  I wonder if it works on children...

11.  It rained all day Tuesday.  This makes me happy.  I'm really appreciating rain now that we don't see it that often.  I'd still like snow.

12.  There's an engineering fair coming up in March.  I'm going to drag my kids.  Anyone else want to go?

I told you this was going to be a random post.  Have a lovely day!

Monday, January 28, 2013

On Being 10

Being 10 isn't exactly fun all the time.  I remember being 10.  I remember that some days there weren't enough books to read, there weren't enough things to do (though picking on my sister was an unfortunate pastime that helped me while away more than a few hours), there weren't enough places to go, and my parents seemed to be irritated at me for no reason - and sometimes I at them for exactly the same lack of pretense.

The other day M1 and I were in the car, and he said to me, quite plainly, "Mom, I wish I could get a job."

"Aww," I said, pleased that he realizes he's not going to get a free ride through his entire teen years. "Why?"

"Because I'm bored," he answered, in that tone of voice that only young teens and preteens can muster. "That's why I want to play video games so much.  It's something to do."

I can see his point.  I really can.  The problem is, what do you do with a 10-year-old?  There are no volunteer opportunities for kids his age independent of the entire family.  A paying job for a 10-year-old is scooping poop or walking dogs, something that isn't a need in our neighborhood.  Paper routes?  Fugettaboutit. 

I suggested to him that perhaps he could spend his time working on a robot or learning programming languages, and he sighed and agreed, but in his next breath he told me he doesn't want to build "beginner" robots any more.  He wants to build the real deal, something that can be used in a practical application.  I cringed inwardly, because again, he's right.  He's worked with a couple of Mindstorm sets and has the programming down; they aren't as much of a challenge as he expected, and he wants more.  We visited the local Fab Lab, and he's inspired, but he was a bit overwhelmed, and obviously a parent will have to accompany him any time he wants to go down there and create anything.  He hasn't put together a cohesive design in his mind yet.

So I understand his frustration.  I really do.  I'm frustrated, too.  I wish I had some brilliant idea to keep him busy and engaged but that doesn't involve something he'll consider 'meaningless.'   In the meantime, I suppose I just keep trying.  Though if anyone out there has a thought, I'm happy to entertain it!

Friday, January 25, 2013


When I was a little girl, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you either a secretary (wow, I had high ambitions... the feminism movement never really arrived at my house) or an author.  Sometimes I might have said teacher, but that was only when I had a teacher who actually liked me (Third Grade Teacher Whom I Still Loathe, I'm looking at you.)

Anyway, all through my childhood, I loved to write.  I wrote short stories all the time.  When I got to middle school, I was quite sure I was going to write for National Geographic as an adult, and I even wrote to one of their contributing authors for help on how to do what he was doing, and I actually got a response!  It was gracious and kind and full of information that I took to heart.  When I got to high school, I took a 'class' that found internships for students at various companies around town, and I managed to get myself on board at the local newspaper.  From there, I was hired as the lifestyles reporter/editor (editor meaning I laid out pages and worked on special sections, not that I actually edited work from underlings... I WAS the underling.)

But... life has a funny way of changing your plans for you.  Shortly before I got pregnant with M1, I quit the newspaper job.  I was offered another one, but it involved a lot of traveling in the area as well as being primarily evening-based, and I wasn't particularly interested in never seeing my husband.  A couple months after I discovered I was pregnant, I had to drop a journalism class because A) I was too sick to function and B) the teacher was highly regarded but fairly ignorant and didn't seem to comprehend how a newspaper really worked. (For example, an obituary contains all information that is submitted as long as it meets the guidelines, and you certainly don't edit out names!)

Since then, I haven't progressed one iota toward my goal of being a writer.  Sure, I write this blog, and I even did NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, but as for having work published independently?  Hasn't happened.

Lately, though, I've discovered my typing fingers still work, and my brain is still churning out ideas.  A woman from a forum that I visit has recently begun a new inclusive homeschooling blog, and I've been accepted as a regular contributor (go leave a comment or two!).  So that's positive.  Then a couple days ago, my brain generated a couple of characters for a book, and they haven't shut up since.  So I'm performing my own little NaNoWriMo in the wrong month.  The kids asked me this morning what I'm writing this story for, and I had to tell them that I'm just writing it to get it out of my head. 

It feels good to write.  It feels good to let the words flow out the ends of my fingers to be shared.  It feels good to have a writing groove and deadlines, even if they are just personal ones.  It reminds me just how much I enjoy writing for others as well as myself.

And that, my friends, is a thing worth (re)discovering.

Have a great weekend, wherever you are!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Four Years

For some reason, it occurred to me today that I've had this blog for a long, long time. 

I checked.

It's been 4 years and 2 days since I wrote my first blog post here.  Since that time, I've been through so much, both in homeschooling and in general.  Many of you have been reading this since the beginning.  Some found this blog more recently.

Regardless of how long you've been reading, I am grateful for all of you.  Your perspectives have been beneficial to me many times over the years, and I cherish every single comment and every single pageview. 

Thank you for reading.  If you feel inclined, leave a comment about why you read this blog and what your favorite moments are/have been.  I'm always curious what drives people here.

Have a lovely week!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Because It's Warm Today

It's in the 60s outside this weekend.  I sat outside in short sleeves, reading a book and listening to music, and didn't freeze.  The kids played outside for hours.  And when I walked around the house, I felt a tug.  And I knew... it was time to plant.

Obviously the weather isn't going to stay warm.  But I knew when we moved in that I wanted to have a healing/herb garden this spring.  I still haven't worked out how I'm going to have a vegetable garden since our back yard is so steeply sloped (I suspect I'll have to do some terracing and don't want to try to figure that one out/spend the cash to do it yet), but I can do herbs.  I planned out the garden spaces, ordered the seeds, and really hadn't planned to plant quite yet.  Still, yesterday I realized that if it takes a couple months for the plants to germinate and get big enough for transplanting, it's probably time.  Technically they say that April 1-15 is our planting time for outdoor plants, but I have a feeling that March will be better.  I go with my instincts when it comes to gardening, and in this drought and with the hot, hot summers we've had the last two years, I think earlier is better if I want any sort of yield.

So I planted the seeds, and now I wait.

The container on the left holds my aloe plants.  My poor, poor aloe plants have been through the wringer.  Originally I had a dozen little plants in that container, but the cat has dumped them out of various window ledges a couple of times.  I'm amazed that I still have two, and I'm hopeful that they will continue to grow.  If not, I guess I start over.

It may be January, and we could have snow again before all is said and done, but spring isn't too far away.  It'll be here before I know it!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Trouble with Success

As moms, we're never the first to give ourselves credit.  If our kids misbehave, it's our fault and our job to correct and guide them in a better direction; if they behave properly, they're just naturally angelic and we didn't have anything to do with it.

However, this is all a load of honky.  We need to own the fact that our kids do well because we worked our tail ends off.  Success in anything isn't easy to come by.

Last week I posted that M2 had declined a cookie offered to her by one of the founder's of the swim school where she takes lessons and where M1 is on the team.  Because she was so gracious, he remembered her, and when he saw her sitting beside the pool waiting for her lesson to start, he recognized her and stopped to say hi.  Then he noticed that she was in a class teaching the level right before the kids are allowed to try out for the swim team.  He came and let me know what he'd been talking to her about (the cookie, mostly, and asking if she liked swimming) and then asked if she had thought about trying out for the swim team.  Well, yes, she has, because her brother is on it and it would be mighty convenient for ME if both kids were on the team.  I told him that.  We chatted for a few minutes more, and he left, presumably because he had other things to do.  A few minutes later, though, he motioned me out to the pool deck.  He offered to have the swim coach (who teaches a lesson simultaneously to M2's) evaluate her to see what she would need to improve to be on the swim team and also offered to let her swim with the team during their practices.  I was floored.  Of course, I said I would talk to M2 to see what she wanted to do.

M2 was initially enthusiastic about the idea, but her energy quickly faded.  She's a perfectionist, just like her mother (poor thing) and doesn't want to hop in the pool with her brother and all the swim team kids until she can keep up and knows all the strokes, and she's not 100% sure she wants to be on the swim team, anyway.  At the same time, though, she told me she didn't want to upset the pool owner.  Ain't she sweet??  I told her not to worry, that I would much rather have her follow her own dreams and goals and that I would take care of any problems.  Her job was just to continue to love swimming as much as she does now.  I'm so glad that she felt she was able to openly talk to me about her feelings and concerns and know that I would take care of it for her.  That alone makes me tear up. 

Then we went to M2's violin lesson.  She's been taking lessons for nearly 4 years and has steadily made progress.  It's been almost four years since we started, and in the beginning neither of us had much of a clue about violins.  My sister is the violinist in the family.  Since then, we've come a long way.  M2 has begun reading music, knows various bowing techniques, and really does well during her lessons.  She needs a bigger violin again (this will be her fourth one in less than four years - we started with a 1/10 size, then 1/8, now 1/4, and we'll trade up to a 1/2 size), and her teacher was talking to her about some of the things she'll learn in the next few Suzuki books, including some of the higher registers on the violin.  She demonstrated, and within 10 seconds, M2 had stuck her fingers firmly in her ears.  The screeching was just too much!  Her teacher, thankfully, laughed and suggested that in a few years, M2 might want to switch to viola instead of violin.  Really??  More instruments and ideas??  I haven't really even broached that idea with M2 yet, since her teacher doesn't want her to even consider switching before middle school, but still...

Success is dangerous.  When you do well at anything, from parenting to swimming to playing an instrument, people notice.  They expect more.  If you're tall and look older than your stated age of 7 (or seem poised and ready for anything at the age of 30), folks figure you can take whatever they dish up.  And everyone has a different idea of what you should be doing.

I can only hope that my daughter, my son and I can figure out our own paths and not be led along by the ideas and dreams of others.  Knowing your own mind is a measure of success, too.

Friday, January 11, 2013

100 Books

I checked "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath out from the library this week.  I've never read it before.  I feel like somehow I missed something by not reading it.  And that made me think of all the other books I've heard of and know passing references to but haven't actually read myself.

It's an embarrassingly long list.

So I sat down yesterday and decided to make myself a Top 100 To-Read list of books I should have read by now but haven't.  Do I think I'll get all these books read this year?  Hardly.  Are there tons of books not on this list that are classics that I have already read?  You betcha.  Was it a difficult list to compile?  Heavens, yes.  It's amazing how hard it is to find a good list of classics on the Internet.  If you do a search for "top 100 books," oh, yes, you'll get a million links, but most of the lists are for women only, men only, the 20th century only, and I didn't want to limit myself! 

There are a few on this list that I actually have read before but plan to read again.  When reading something as an assignment in the 8th, 9th, 10th grades, one doesn't have context.  There is no meaning.  How was I supposed to understand Les Miserables when I had no knowledge of French history?  I've noted those books where they're listed.

Obviously I don't expect you to do this.  Your reading repertoire is yours.  You may abhor the idea of reading classics altogether, or you may have read many of these but never touched Shakespeare, Jack London, Jules Verne, or Edgar Allen Poe (just a few of the authors who do not appear on this list because I've devoured their books with the ferocity of a rabid badger).  I'm not a huge fan of philosophy, so there's no Kierkegaard, Rousseau, or Freud (though I do list Plato, Machiavelli, Thoreau and Sun Tzu).  Regardless of your thoughts on the list itself, what would you put on yours?  Leave me a comment and let me know!


Top 100 Books to Read

1.  Anything by J.R.R. Tolkien - this is the only author listed as an author... I have to admit I've never read a single one of his works.  I should probably remedy that.
2.  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
3.  (REREAD) To Kill a Mockingbird
4.  1984
5.  Bhagavad Gita
6.  Catch-22
7.  Wuthering Heights
8.  Rebecca
9.  Catcher in the Rye
10.  War & Peace
11.  Gone with the Wind
12.  Tess of the D'Urbervilles
13.  Middlemarch
14.  The Grapes of Wrath
15.  David Copperfield
16.  Watership Down
17.  (REREAD) The Great Gatsby
18.  (REREAD) Animal Farm
19.  Anna Karenina - I'm actually about 2/3 of the way through this one but need to pull out the Kindle and just finish it off once and for all
20.  Crime & Punishment
21.  Memoirs of a Geisha
22.  Lord of the Flies
23.  Brave New World - I have a vague feeling I've read this and 1984 before, but I can't be sure, so I'm adding them to the list
24.  On the Road
25.  Vanity Fair
26.  Madame Bovary
27.  (REREAD) Les Miserables
28.  All the King's Men
29.  Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
30.  Atonement
31.  The Qur'an
32.  I, Claudius
33.  Invisible Man
34.  Midnight's Children
35.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
36.  Rabbit, Run
37.  Slaughterhouse Five
38.  The Joy Luck Club
39.  East of Eden
40.  The Communist Manifesto
41.  The English Patient
42.  Portrait of a Lady
43.  Don Quixote
44.  War of the Worlds
45.  Gulliver's Travels
46.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
47.  Dr. Zhivago
48.  All Quiet on the Western Front
49.  Fahrenheit 451
50.  Epic of Gilgamesh
51.  Faust
52.  The Sound and the Fury
53.  John Milton's 'Paradise' books
54.  The Phantom Tollbooth
55.  The Art of War
56.  Candide
57.  Doctor Faustus
58.  The Importance of Being Earnest
59.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame - like the others, I have a vague feeling I've read it, but I don't recall for sure
60.  Kim
61.  The Man in the Iron Mask - given my Dumas obsession, this is surprising, but I haven't read this one
62.  Lady Chatterley's Lover
63.  Moll Flanders
64.  Pilgrim's Progress
65.  Plato's "Republic"
66.  Tom Jones
67.  Walden
68.  A Streetcar Named Desire
69.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond
70.  The Color Purple
71.  Cat's Cradle
72.  In Cold Blood
73.  The Jungle
74.  Beloved
75.  Schindler's List
76.  Atlas Shrugged
77.  Brideshead Revisited
78.  For Whom the Bell Tolls
79.  Machiavelli's "The Prince"
80.  Into the Wild
81.  The Maltese Falcon
82.  Robin Hood
83.  William Tell
84.  Mutiny on the Bounty
85.  Rob Roy
86.  The Time Traveller's Wife
87.  The Book Thief
88.  The Call of Cthulhu
89.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
90.  Night
91.  Don Juan
92.  Nostradamus' "Prophecies"
93.  The Once and Future King
94.  Die Nibelungenlied
95.  The Origin of Species
96.  A Wrinkle in Time
97.  Death of a Salesman
98.  Cold Sassy Tree
99.  All Creatures Great and Small
100.  Our Town


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Great Days

They don't happen too often, but sometimes there are days when I just look at my kids and think, "Huh.  It really does go by too fast.  It really is true that if you blink, you miss it."

After all, I swear it was only a year or so ago that my son was a busy toddler who dismantled my house multiple times per day and my daughter was an infant who refused to do anything without Mama.  Love them then; love them now.

I dropped my son off for a Teen Night at the library tonight.  Yes, you read that right - I dropped. him. off.  I walked him in the door, made sure he was going to be in the room I thought he was going to be in, turned back around, and left.  Of course, the librarians know who M1 is, and I did tell him that if he wanted to come home early (which I doubted, but ya never know), all he had to do was let them know at the front desk that he needed to call his mom, but yes... I left.

Still, those are the moments when you think that giving a child a cell phone isn't such a stupid idea after all.

M2 had a good day, too.  She was cheerful and chipper, and when we were at swim, one of the school's founders came in and said hi and offered to get her a cookie.  M2 being M2, she declined in the most gracious way possible, saying, "No, thank you, but thanks for the offer."  That impressed him so much that he came back in just to say how wonderful it was that she has such manners.

They don't happen often, but sometimes there are days when I think that maybe, just maybe, I'm doing something right with these kids.  It's a good place.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fire Drill

Ever wonder what sorts of regulation hoops schools have to jump through just to be able to education your kids for a single day?

I do, sometimes.  I know they have tons and tons of paperwork to fill out, everything from the nutritional to the educational.  And I know that they have to do drills - tornado drills, lockdown drills (those bug me the most, I think, because I didn't have to do them for most of my educational career), and yes, of course, fire drills.

But how many of us have done fire drills with our kids?

I've done a few over the years, but only at our old house.  We haven't done any at the new house, though I have purchased extendable ladders that the kids can use from their bedrooms on the second floor.  What good do they do, though, if the kids don't know how to use them, if we haven't practiced?  Anybody would be freaked out climbing down a rickety-feeling ladder in the best of situations, let alone when there's a fire raging in your home.

Tonight as Oz and I were sitting in the living room watching TV, the sound of sirens - LOTS of sirens - came cutting through the noise.  At first I thought it was just the TV, since I wasn't really paying attention, but then Oz asked me, "What do you think it is?"

"Huh?"  I asked, looking at the TV for reference.

"The TV is muted," he informed me.  "Those are REAL."

He stepped onto the back porch, then came back inside.  "You have to see," he said.

I came to look.  From our back porch, we could see a red glow in the sky.  It wasn't far away, either... in fact, it seemed to be coming from two houses away - not the house behind us, but the house across the street from it.  And it was getting bigger.  We could hear the fire snapping and crackling even though it was raining.  We saw a police car block the street and multiple fire trucks come past to hook up to hydrants nearby.  We couldn't see flames, but the glow was ominous, and the fire got bigger before it got smaller; at one point, we could see sparks and large clouds of smoke.

I feel awful for the family that lives there.  I don't know who they are, but does it matter?  Thankfully, when I read the news story, I discovered that they did all make it out safely, but it reminded me that I need to do fire drills with the kids.  Just because they knew what to do before doesn't mean they know what to do now, and sometimes, just sometimes, the schools have it right.  An ounce of prevention is indeed a pound of cure.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Poetry Unit

Spring semester (ish): The time when we start anew and work on entirely new topics.

During the fall, we worked primarily on handwriting skills.  M1 finished the Handwriting Without Tears series and is now doing some of his work in cursive, because his handwriting is infinitely neater and easier to read that way.  M2 developed her print skills; though her writing is tiny, it's in neat, straight lines and isn't all over the place.  I, for one, am thankful for all these improvements.

However, rather than continue with the next HWT book, we're stopping and switching gears between now and May.  Over the next few months, we're going to talk about poetry, literature, research, how to express an opinion in writing, etc.

We're starting with poetry.

A couple years ago, I purchased a series of five books from Scholastic called "Poetry for Young People."  It contained books with selected works from Carl Sandburg, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Robert Frost.  The kids have used the books a few times, but we've never really done a poetry study, per se; we've just read poems and enjoyed them for their worth.

And I'm okay with that.  Both of them love poetry way more than I ever did as a child, and I don't want to squash that.  Occasionally, though, they want to write poetry.  Sometimes they do well and sometimes they don't, and when they don't it's painfully clear that the idea of poetry is a little vague in their minds.

So we're going to sit down and talk about it all.  Today we started with the simple questions: What is poetry?  What is verse?  What is prose?  The kids were a little freaked out when I stood in front of them and wrote stuff on the whiteboard because they've never experienced any sort of lecture format before, but they really enjoyed the talk.  They came up with a bunch of poetic keywords - song, rhythm, tell a story, verse, rhyme, etc.  Then M1 looked up the definition of prose and we talked about the difference. 

Over the next two weeks, here is my plan to help them stretch their poetic minds:

Tuesday - Discuss rhymes and write couplets and clap out poetry rhythms.  I'm going to use "I Dream a World" by Langston Hughes and "My River Runs to Thee" by Emily Dickinson to illustrate the point. 

Wednesday - Talk about poem titles.  Discuss how Emily Dickinson didn't use them and the effect it has on a reader.  I'm going to use some of her riddle poems to show how not using a title makes you think a little harder about what the poem is about.  I may let the kids write a riddle poem (M1 is dying to write a riddle limerick) just for fun.

Thursday - Haiku.  We'll discuss the history of haiku, the incorporation of nature elements and some of the ways to write them, then write a few together.  This will reinforce the idea of syllables in poetry.

Friday (no writing on Friday around here)

Monday - Introduce alliteration and repeated lines in poetry (using "Hey!" and "Hey! Hey!" by Langston Hughes and some Poe works) and how these things work inside poems.

Tuesday - Talk about rhythm (introduce the idea of meter/feet for M1) and how it can make a poem easier to read.  I may or may not break out some Shakespearean sonnets.

Wednesday - Discuss narrative poems (Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg) and free verse.

Thursday - Compare/contrast poems about fall ("October Paint" by Carl Sandburg, "October" by Robert Frost, and "The morns are meeker than they were" by Emily Dickinson) to show there are many ways to paint a picture with poems.

Obviously we're not digging too deep here.  I only hope to enhance their understanding of poetry, not cause it to be drudgery.  Fingers crossed that it goes well!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The 2013-2014 School Year; Or, Why I'm a Dork

It's January now.  That means it's socially acceptable to start planning for the 2013-2014 school year, right?

I know some people school year-round, but we don't.  We'll get done with this school year in early May, take two months off, and go back in early to mid-July.  I had considered taking a longer vacation and having more of a traditional school year next year, but M2 nixed that idea pretty quickly by requesting the same schedule because "I like it," and M1 backed her up.

All righty then.

M1 will be in fifth grade next year, M2 in third.  Technically they're ahead in a few subjects, but it's easier for me to keep track of things if I use their age-based grade levels, so that's what I tell them.

I am really, really looking forward to next year, primarily because of the fifth-grade component.  This will be M1's second run through some of the material, but he'll get to delve more deeply, and I love that.  I love that we have a microscope and slides.  I love that he's old enough to research and write papers.  I love that he'll get to ask the big questions like, "WHY did that happen?"

Mostly I love this with regard to history.  I love that instead of just learning that the Greeks were renowned philosophers, he'll get to learn about the philosophers themselves.  Instead of learning that the Visigoths sacked Rome, he'll get to learn that Alaric was a disgruntled former Roman army commander who came back with a vengeance.  Yes, there's more work involved, because there's a lot more writing required, but the payoffs should be amazing.  I think I'm more excited than the boy.

Part of the reason I'm excited about history is because for the first time, I'm making the curriculum.  I've done a few things here and there, mostly with writing, but for the most part, I wing all that.  For example, for the next two weeks we're doing a poetry unit, and I still have no idea exactly what we're doing (I'll be panicking tomorrow).  I've never sat down and planned out an entire year's worth of assignments, from the reading selections to the writing assignments to everything else.  So far, it's been fun.  I've decided what topics to cover and in what order; next I have to find what to read and how it's going to be covered for each child at his/her age level.  M1 needs to write independent outlines; M2 needs to fill in summary prompts.  I'm hopeful that I can find some good videos, either at the library or through various web sites/streaming sites, to supplement as well.

And since M2 hasn't learned ANY of this stuff yet, I'm excited to teach it all to her, too.  There's just so many fun things to teach about the ancient civilizations, and I love that I get to impart all this knowledge to her.

I know I'm still a bit premature in planning for the next school year.  I realize that probably makes me a giant dork.  But if I can make the kids half as excited about history as I am... well, I can handle being a dork for that.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Du Liebst Mich!

Imagine my surprise when another blogger commented on my blog... and left me a little something:

Thanks, Treena!  I love finding out I have followers who enjoy my blog enough to share.

Of course, there are 'rules' that go along with this award, and I'll be passing it along to a few other bloggers myself (that's one of the rules, of course, to pass it on).  The rules state you're supposed to list 11 little-known facts about yourself, answer 11 questions that the awarding blogger asks, and leave a list of 11 questions for the bloggers you send the award to.  Oh, and the blogs who receive the award are supposed to be new OR have 200 or fewer followers... not too much of a problem for me, as I rarely gravitate to popular blogs.

I shall now fulfill these requirements to the best of my ability!

Eleven Little-Known/Random Facts About Me:
1.  I'm a lefty.  Lefties rule.  That is all :)
2.  I was born with a hole in my head.  No, seriously, it's true!  I have a small bald lump there now.
3.  I hate the smell of patchouli.
4.  I've only ever been to one rock concert in my whole life.  This spring, I will remedy that.
5.  I spent an entire year of my life being called, "Sarah, Plain and Tall."  I hated it and still can't look at that book without having flashbacks.  It is an excellent book, though.
6.  I played soccer for a few years as a child.  I was on the Yellow Team.  I still have my medals somewhere.
7.  I also took tap, ballet, and gymnastics for those same few years.  I can still do a roundoff, but I pay for it the next day.  Doing a pas de chat is much safer.
8.  I have never been able to do a pull-up/chin-up/whatever you call the damned things.
9.  My first car was a 1989 Ford Probe GT.  Red.  With sunroof and tinted windows and a 'turbo-charged' engine and a manual transmission.  And an oil leak.
10.  I chew Juicy Fruit gum... but only when I'm on an airplane.
11.  I hate mini-blinds.

Treena's Questions for Her Chosen Ones:

1.  What was the best thing that happened in your life in 2012?  Ahhh, so easy.  Moving.  I has space now.
2.  Favourite food?  That is honestly a difficult question for me.  I think the answer is 'yes,' but if that doesn't suffice, then my top three are probably beef stroganoff, chocolate, and coffee, though not necessarily in that order.
3.  What is your favourite hobby?  Reading.  And cooking/baking, if I'm in the right mood.
4.  What is one place you'd love to travel someday?  I am hopeful that sometime in the next few years, we'll finally make it to Australia and Oz can show me and the kids all the places he grew up.  I hate that we haven't ever gone, but I'm glad the kids will be old enough to remember it by the time we do go.
5.  Would you rather write things by hand or type them out?  I'll admit, I've long since fallen prey to the lure of the word processor.  I type far faster than I write, and it's just easier.
6.  What is one skill you have completely mastered?  Oh, lawsie, none of them.  Oh, wait.  Staying up till midnight.  I can do that one without thinking!  Seriously, I consider myself more of a jill-of-all-trades, master of none sort of person.  I'd like to change that, but it hasn't happened yet.
7.  One skill you'd love to learn?  I'm currently tackling German again, and I plan to plant an herb garden this spring so I can make some herbal remedies next time the cold season rolls around.
8.  Summer or winter?  Summer.  I completely abhor being cold.  People tell me, "But you can always add layers and you can't always remove them!"  How quaint.  Please find me a way to warm up my toes, fingers, and nose year-round without looking like a complete and utter stooge, and you win.  Until then, pththththththth. ;)
9.  One thing you really want to accomplish in 2013?  See #7.
10.  What was your favourite toy as a child?  Ahhhhhhh, another easy one.  My bicycle.  I disappeared for hours on that thing.  If only my mother had known I was gone...
11.  What is your most-cherished item in your home?  Why?  Hm.  That's another tough one.  I have many items that I cherish - photo albums, anything my children touch, my electric mattress pad, etc., but I think...

I think these are my most cherished item.  These hang in my laundry room just inside my garage door.  They belonged to my grandmother.  Some friends of hers did some traveling to India back in the day, and they brought back this set of elephant bells.  My grandmother always had them hanging on her back door, and when she moved into the retirement home a few months ago, I claimed them for my own.  Every time they jingle, I am reminded of her and my uncle and all the times we spent as a family at her house.

Now, 11 questions of my own for my victims... er... subsequent Liebster awardees...

1.  What is your middle name?
2.  Why do you blog?
3.  Do you have a hero, and if so, who?
4.  What dream are you currently pursuing?
5.  What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
6.  Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
7.  What's your biggest pet peeve?
8.  Would you ever consider plastic surgery for non-medical reasons?
9.  If you're an animal person, who is/was your favorite pet?
10.  What's your dream car?
11.  What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

I hereby award the Liebster to:

GnomeAttic - my sister's brand-spankin'-new blog

Between the Worlds - a beautiful blog by a wonderful Pagan lady

Beth's Quandaries - a blog by a personal friend about her life, kids, and pets

I Capture the Rowhouse - a homeschooling blog by a mom of two handsome young men

Wind and Rust Farm - another blog by a personal friend about urban farming and raising a boy

I'm aware that's far fewer than the 11 I'm supposed to assign, but I'll make you a deal.  I also choose any other six people who dare to put this award on their blog.  Just leave a comment that you're taking the award, and I'll come visit your blog... and probably follow it, too!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I got up yesterday morning painfully aware that our Christmas break is coming to an end.  Oz went back to work, and I realized that while I've really enjoyed our time off, the natives are getting restless and it's time to get back into our routine.  (I'd honestly enjoy getting back into the routine more if it was more staggered, and we didn't have everything starting back at the same time, but c'est la vie!)

While the kids were running through their morning routines, I asked them if they had anything they really wanted to do before the break was over expecting to hear that they wanted to go to the zoo or have a tea party or camp in the back yard/game room.  And M1 did say that he wished it was warmer so that he could enjoy more time outside.  M2's answer, though, surprised me.

"I want to make a mural!" she announced.

Well, all righty then.

I've had a roll of banner paper forever.  M1 and I used it to make an ongoing timeline for history, but there was plenty of paper left over, and it's been sitting in the school room closet unused for a while.  M2 had noticed it and decided it needed a bigger purpose in life.  She hauled it down, and we unrolled it and cut off a length of paper that she wanted.

"What sort of mural are you going to make?" I asked.

"I think...," she paused before going on.  "I think I'm going to make a rangoli."

I nodded, but M1 was confused.  "What's rangoli?"

M2 was quite exasperated.  "YOU know, rangoli.  Like from the book that I get at the library a lot."

Romina's Rangoli by Malathi Michelle Iyengar
It's true.  M2 has checked out that book a few times now, and she really likes the story.  I can't say I'm surprised, since it's about a little girl who struggles with her art, but I'm glad she's been inspired.  We talked a little bit about what rangoli was, and M2 disappeared up to her room to work.  I snuck up behind her a few minutes later to check in...

She was a busy little bee.  She stopped and started the process several times throughout the morning before coming to get me right before lunch.

"Want to take a picture of it?" she wanted to know.

Of course I did!

Her rangoli now adorns part of her wall.  I'm not entirely sure what it's meant to be and haven't asked, but she's proud of it.  And if my girl can actually finish an art project and not hate it, that's good enough for me.

O, Christmas Tree

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Oz and mentioned that as the kids get older, they really need him more, not less.  M2 needs him to be a strong male figure and to set an example of what she should expect to find in a good relationship and also to be a sounding board for the inevitable time when Mom's thoughts and opinions no longer count for anything.  M1 needs him to set an example, too, and also to teach him things that I can't.

Like soldering.  With M1's engineering bent, soldering is one of those things that he's going to want to know how to do sooner or later.  He got to do a little bit of it when we visited Kansas City in October and loved it, but once does not proficiency make.

Oz, being a good husband, visited a store and came home with a small project for M1 to put together.  M2 got curious and followed the boys out to the garage, and I grabbed the camera to tag along.

Oz was very patient as the kids tried to work out which pieces were what and how they all fit together.

Those symbols are very tiny, after all.

M1, however, was primarily the one doing the soldering.  M2 got bored and left long before the project was finished, but M1 stuck to it and saw the whole thing through to the end.

It's almost out of season now, but this tiny Christmas tree is still sitting on the bar in our kitchen.  Sometimes someone will walk by and shove the tree's contacts down onto the 9-volt battery, and the lights twinkle brightly.  Mostly, though, it shines as an example of what can be done with a little patience, dedication, and a great dad.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lil' Mama

We have long called our daughter Lil' Mama.  She channels so many of my words, actions, and ways of thinking that it's sometimes a bit disturbing.  However, she's never, ever liked dolls.  She had a couple when she was younger - when she was 2 or 3 - and never played with them, so we eventually passed them on.  I thought Littlest Pet Shop and other miniatures might be more up her alley, but she didn't care for those either.  The only figurines that she's ever been interested in have been fairies, and to that end she has quite a few.  Last year my mom got her an entire set of fairy houses and fairies to go with them.  Those she has played with fairly regularly.  Then my dad uncovered my old dollhouse in his attic, and we brought that home, and it sees occasional use... though these days it's more of a holder for her weather station than anything else.

Last week, though, something clicked inside my girl's head.

She decided that her stuffed cat Jojo (she's decided he's male, by the way) was her baby.  She dressed him up using handkerchiefs and barrettes and went to work making a comfortable place for her baby.

Jojo had every amenity you could imagine.

The constant care was rather overwhelming. However, during this process, M2 was constantly getting upset because Jojo's clothes were not staying on.  I told her that barrettes weren't really designed to hold clothes and suggested that she try using some of the clothespins we have in our art/school closet, but she didn't like that idea because it wasn't pretty.  She started begging for a doll so that she could borrow its clothes for her kitty.

And that gave me an idea...

Meet Madeline.  OK, originally - back in 1980-something when I first 'adopted' her - her name was Suzanne Yvette, but honestly I never cared for the name and when M2 wanted to rename her, I didn't really care.  It's not like I've got the original certificate, anyway.  So M2 decided that this is Madeline, and she's 2 and very smart.  The last two days have been centered around Madeline's care.  She is starting to potty-train, so M2 made her a toilet out of boxes from the garage.  She needed a sippy cup, so I dragged the one old sippy cup lid we had out of the back of our cabinet, put it on a cup, and gave that to the giggly girl.  Madeline even attended our New Year's Eve celebration last night, and this morning M2 proudly marched downstairs with the blue nightgown hung neatly on a hanger so she could give Madeline a (presumably pretend) bath.

Lil' Mama is hard at work, too.  When she's not caring for Madeline, she's being an entrepreneur.  She has an umbrella business set up in her room, complete with phone, keyboard, and radio, and she has printed off newsletters, sent funding requests to the government (and gotten a reply that they'll give her funding for her business because they think it'll make money and so they'll get more taxes - gotta give her credit for knowing THAT one), sent e-mails to her partner, recorded 'videos' to promote her company, and otherwise decided to set up several stores - one for men and one for ladies.  Oh, and yes, her company does provide daycare.

I love her imagination.  I love her initiative.  I only ever got as far as being a secretary or a teacher when I was little, so she's gone way beyond me.  I love her spirit!