31 January 2006

Who knew?

Knitting Goddess
You appear to be a Knitting Goddess.
You are constantly giving and are unconcerned with

reward, you simply want others to love

knitting as much as you do. If someone wants

to knit miles of novelty yarns, you are there

for them. If someone wants to learn short row

shaping, you can help. There are no taboos in

knitting, only opportunities to grow.

Everyone should have friend like you around

if they want to learn to knit, and there's a

good chance that your passion has rubbed off

on a few others.

What Kind of Knitter Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks, Olive Oyl!

Jokes my kids just don't get, Part 1

"You want a Hertz Donut?"

"Ummm, yeah."

(smacks arm) "Hurts, don't it?"

"Daddy, that isn't right to say it that way. You shouldn't say 'hurts, don't it'; it should be 'it hurts, doesn't it'."

"Yes, but then the joke wouldn't work ... it was supposed to be funny because 'donut' sounds like 'don't it'."

"But it was wrong."

Overall, I think that the joke works better with grade school boys. And maybe grown men shouldn't try for grade school humor.

30 January 2006

Sins of the mother

I understand raise versus rise. Set versus sit presents no problems. But trying to choose between lay or lie always throws me for a loop.

When my parents were visiting I happened to mention this. Mom said, "I've always had that same problem. Your Dad knows them, but I don't." She went on to prove her point within about 5 minutes by misusing one of them; Dad corrected her.

Aha. You know, I never had a good grammar teacher. As nearly as I can tell, the schools I went to had decided we would figure out grammar on our own, perhaps absorbing it from the atmosphere.

Most grammar I learned in school was puzzled out in junior high Spanish class. I never would've heard of subjunctive tense had it not been for Spanish. I went home and asked Mom about it, and she expained that yes, English has a subjunctive, that's why Tevye sings "if I were a rich man" rather than "if I was a rich man".

Which shows my other source of grammatical knowledge: my mom. If I have any claim to speaking at all correctly it is due to Mom. I have a clear memory of standing at the board in 10th grade English, writing out a sentence, choosing between pronouns ... should I use a direct object pronoun or a predicate pronoun? I chose correctly. "Now, why did you choose that one, Gail?" queried the teacher. "Because that's how my mom would say it." The class laughed. I should've added something to the effect of "and since you're doing a totally inadequate job of teaching us grammar or much of any thing at all, I am forced to rely on my parents or my own quest for knowledge." She was a horrible teacher, by the way -- a bully who got her jollies humiliating kids in her class. I doubt many kids emerged from that school with a love of grammar.

Anyway, all of that is an explanation of why my own daughter is currently struggling with lay and lie. Those shifty little verbs; I still don't have them nailed down. It doesn't help that lie morphs into lay in past tense, although we mustn't confuse it with the lay that gives us laid and have laid. Aaaaargh!

It's also an explanation of why I don't really embrace the idea of NOT specifically teaching grammar to kids, assuming they'll pick it up via the wonderful literature we're reading or the grammar of a foreign language. I've spent years afraid to use 2 simple words in English because I know that I don't know how to use them correctly. I don't want to pass that legacy to my kids.

27 January 2006

Just like being on the SS Enterprise

This is almost exactly what the constellation Orion would look like if you glanced out the window of the Enterprise and saw it from the side. Well, assuming that it was scaled down to one centimeter for every 50 light years. And assuming that the stars looked like they were attached by crochet cotton to a paper plate hanging off of someone's ceiling fan.

26 January 2006

Decisions, decisions

Decision 1: Whether to participate in the Knitting Olympics. Hmmm. What would be a knitting challenge for me, yet still be pragmatic? I've been knitting for over 30 years, so have tried pretty much everything mainstream. I have no desire to knit a tent or shoes or somesuch. Really. And if it's something fussy I won't be able to read and knit at the same time. Yikes! I haven't tried knitting 2 socks at once on circs, though, and I could do them as a Christmas 2006 present (quite pragmatic).

Decision 2: What to do with the Amazon.com gift certificate. The pile of books on my nightstand has been moved to the floor; soon it will double as a new nightstand. This would seem to be an arguement against gettin more new books. But, really, I got those books before I realized I wanted to read Norms and Nobility or Knitorama .

Then there are decisions about contractors (who should install the new window? the new floor? the new door?), materials (which floor? which door?), rugs, paint, window coverings ... I really hate to shop. Well, except for food and books, which are necessities.

25 January 2006

Tuesday Teatime

Caesar aderate forte
Pompey adsum jam
Caeser sic in omnibus
Pompey sic intram

Menu: I cut the crusts off of slices of Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal bread, spread them with butter, layered some with slice cucumber and some with sliced ham. The tea was Twining's English Breakfast decaf, with sugar and lemon slices available.

Poetry: A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard.

I started out by telling a bit about William Blake -- where and when he lived. Then I started reading the book, beginning at the intro and showing the pictures as I read. During the second poem there was a thump and a cry -- VKid2's tea cup had just somersaulted across the table, drenching the tablecloth with hot tea. I leapt up and started taking all of the plates off. VKid1 blew out the candles, splattering hot wax all over the tablecloth. We got everything mopped up fairly quickly, and I announced it was time to go to the library. Sometimes when you spend the afternoon setting up a cool homeschool experience, and it falls to pieces within 5 minutes, the best option is to just Leave The House.

VKid2 explained that she was trying to put a slice of lemon on the rim of her tea cup. Aha. I pointed out that we typically do that to glasses of iced tea, not cups of hot tea. Also, I had sliced the lemon lengthwise for maximum squeezeability; when we put them on glass rims we slice crosswise. We thought about the structure of lemons, and why the various uses for lemon slices demand different cuts. I didn't exactly say Form Follows Function, but that was the point of the discussion.

We'll try Blake again next week.

The weird thing about the entire incident is that we left the ham sandwiches on the side table when we went to the library ... and when we returned they were still there. No cats had tried to bat them down to the floor. As soon as I picked up the plate of sandwiches, though, I had a cat trying to climb my leg to get at them.

24 January 2006

Finished shawl

Melody Shawl Knit Kit from Morehouse Merino in color Waterlilies.

I enjoy the gauzy quality. I like being able to twist it up into a scarf, or release it into a shawl.

I haven't taken it to visit its namesake painting yet, but I did wear it to church Sunday. Combined with silk long underwear, I kept snug during Sunday School (our class has been upgraded to a room in the main building with nice cushy seats, but there seems to be little heat in the room -- maybe they expect us to jump around more). And during the service I was (mostly) quite comfortable in it.

Towards the end of the service someone near me applied perfume. Ack! I stuck the shawl over my face and started fanning furiously with my bulletin. I gotta tell you, this shawl doesn't work well as an air filtration system. Sure, I appreciated the clean, wooly smell of the yarn, but VDad was mouthing, "Your eyes are swelling up," so it wasn't shielding me totally from the miasma of synthetic fragrance. Bleh.

23 January 2006

This is stuck in my head right now

Lines Upon a Tranquil Brow

Have you ever while pondering the ways of the morn,
Thought to save just a bit, just a drop in the horn;
To pour in the ev'ning or late afternoon
Or during the night when we're shining the moon?
Have you ever cried out while counting the snow
Or watching the tomtit warble hello....
Break out the cigars, this life is for squirrels
We're off to the drugstore to whistle at girls?

Others spent their youth memorizing Shakespeare. I spent mine memorizing Pogo. What a warped childhood.

20 January 2006

A Mystery

As I was putting away the laundry I found a single black sock. A black sock that doesn't belong to anyone in this family was in our laundry.

How did it get into our laundry?

This may be a great topic for Friday Freewrite .

19 January 2006

Wednesday's Tuesday Teatime

Theme: Mexico

I made Mexican wedding cakes and Mexican hot chocolate (our version consists of regular hot chocolate mix with a sprinkle of cinnamon, served in a cup with a cinnamon stick).

I read poetry of Alberto Blanco -- some of his verses from Insects Are Perfect Too (Tambien los insectos son perfectos). I read first in Spanish, then in English, so we could hear how the rhythm and rhyme worked in each language. The translations were by Judith Infante, and were pretty literal -- she did not try to revamp to make rhymes in English. These were from the book The Tree is Older Than You Are .

After that I switched to Adelita by Tomie de Paola.

My own private poetry moment came much later when I was taking the trash out. Oddly, the sky is clear and starry whenever I take the trash out. This was a wonderful gift this week, when I'm feeling so very alone. "There's a star in the wind/and the wind winds high/blowing aloft/thru fog thru night/Thru cold, thru cold/and the bitter alone.../There high in the wind/rides a star, my own/And the star is a word/of white, of white/and the star in the wind/Is a word" Amazing how the young mind will seize and memorize any poetry available -- I picked that up years and years ago, maybe in fifth grade. Certainly no one asked me to memorize it. Perhaps a prize will be offered for those who identify the author.

Right now morning gilds the sky, so I must go.

18 January 2006

Tuesday Teatime postponed for trip to Science Center

At the Science Center website, click on For Educators, click on Homeschool Days, discover "January 17; Forces of Nature; Volcanic eruptions, trembling fault lines, devastating tornadoes..." TORNADOES! Woohoo, they're gonna talk about TORNADOES! We gotta go!

The excitement at our house is high. We rush through lunch so we can leave extra early, allowing plenty of Getting Lost time. Words of encouragement issue from the backseat, "Mommy, you found the playgrounds yesterday. I think you'll be able to find the Science Center today." Indeed, I manage to drive straight to it, although part of the time I really have no idea where I am. We find a free parking space, and the backseat bursts into song: "There is parking, there is parking, dormez vous, dormz vous." (I'm not saying that the song makes any sense whatsoever, I'm just saying it was a song.)

In we go for some serious wandering-around-trying-to-figure-out-where-the-heck-this-event-is, although the kids are more interested in wandering around looking at the exhibits. I discover that if I had scrolled down past every single description of every single Homeschool Day for 2006 I would've eventually discovered that 1) I was supposed to call for reservations, and 2) this was going to cost $7.50 per person. Let us pause to consider how convenient it would have been to put that at the TOP of the web page. Anyway, for once in my life (and I must emphasize the ONCE) I am not only carrying cash on my person, but enough cash to cover tickets for all 3 of us.

There was a bit of a snafu when we got downstairs and discovered that the kids were segregated by age. VKid2 was offended that she couldn't be with VKid1. Also, I always find it awkward when asked about what grade my kids are in, because I don't think in those terms. Should I whip out our latest Iowa Test of Basic Skills and discuss it with the guy who's taking tickets? Or should I just guess based on age range, keeping in mind that I'm not sure what the correct age ranges are in this state. I chose the latter.

So, VKid1 headed into the 4th - 6th grade group. I accompanied VKid2 into the Kindergarten - First grade group. Yes, VKid2, the kid who has on several occasions informed me that she really should be going to public school because she wants to be around all of those other kids. Yeah. So, we get into this group of 20plus kids who do not realize that she's the center of the universe ... and discover that some of the kids are (and I hope you realize the horrifying implications of this statement) boys. Boys of kindergarten/first grade age who are acting like a bunch of ... boys. It was an eye-opening experience.

Setting aside the annoyance of not being able to handpick one's classmates, some of the stuff we did was cool. We had a demo of a river flooding, which reminded me a lot of passages in Minn of the Mississippi , which we recently read. They had some neat stuff that could be used to simulate earthquakes. On the other hand, NO TORNADOES. Yoohoo, that's why we came. WE WANT TORNADOES.

So, we would rate the experience as some good (Mommy can find the Science Center, the Science Center has some cool stuff in it, VKid2 is clearer now on what public school would be like) and some bad (no tornadoes, sort of expensive, VKid2 was not consulted about who would be allowed in her class). I doubt we will go to every Homeschool Day, but we will probably go to some. And we'll definitely return to the Science Center.

As I write, a new day is dawning. We hope to get around to Tuesday Teatime today. We also hope to remember to do French, since in all the excitement yesterday we forgot we are now Homeschoolers Who Are Studying French. Hope springs eternal, doesn't it.

17 January 2006

First Finished Object

VKid2 (age 6) FINALLY learned to knit this weekend. She's been begging for weeks, but I just couldn't face sitting there for an hour reciting, "In through the front door, run around back, peek through the window, off jumps Jack... no, honey, Jack has to jump off before you go in through the front door again ... okay, now the next stitch ... no, in through the front door before you run around back ... okay, good ... oops, no, run around BACK, not to the front ... alright, remember now, Jack has to jump off, " followed by several hours of, "Mommy, I have the wrong number of stitches in the row I just did. Can you figure it out?" "It'll have to wait a minute, dear, as I'm elbow deep in making dinner/cleaning the bathroom/folding laundry."

I purchased some Clover bamboo needles in size 9 for her and painted the end knobs hot pink so they are instantly identifiable as HER needles (when we find Ken dolls harpooned with them we'll know where they came from). Then we visited Mommy's Yarn Odds and Ends. I was looking for the leftovers from some variegated Morehouse Merino worsted, which is the softest yarn I've ever used. Couldn't find it, so VKid2 selected some Lion Brand Kool Wool. This seemed like a good choice -- nice thick yarn, very soft. Alas, it splits like the dickens. Don't try it with your new young knitters; wait until they can consistently put the needle through the loop instead of through the yarn itself. She managed to knit a square, though. We didn't bother to block, but just sewed it up right away into a duck (it was going to be a chicken, but we happened to visit the park and saw all the ducks in the pond). She stuffed it with some wool (our secret weapon for shaping it into a duckish shape -- wool will allow you to shape, whereas polyfill has a mind of its own. Plus, we couldn't find the polyfill.) I sewed on a little bill and 2 pony bead eyes. Ah, bliss. She fell asleep clutching it. She wants to take it to the upcoming Teddy Bear Tea as her favorite stuffed animal.

I'm pretty sure she'll awake this moring ready to cast on a new project. She thought it was all great fun. When she reached the end of the first row she was perplexed about what to do. I said, "Watch this now, it's pretty tricky," and gently took the needles and switched them in her hands so the left needle was now the right and vice versa. "Okay, you're set." She laughed and laughed when she realized what I had done, and that her needles were poised to begin again. And binding off? She kept exclaiming, "this is like a game! This is so fun!" as the stitches leap-frogged off the needle.

And thus a new knitter is born.

16 January 2006

It isn't junk food...

It's a language lesson! Where else are you going to learn important phrases like "adicionado con 13 vitaminas y minerales"? And, "Zucaritas" is such a fun word to say, anyway. Just say it a few times... zucaritas, zucaritas... you'll find yourself wanting to use it in conversation, it's so much fun.

Sorry I covered the picture of el tigre Tono, not to mention part of the "Zucaritas" name. Kellogg's won't be hiring me anytime soon for publicity shots.

I can't help but think that the Latin Classical Ed crowd would do well to reflect on this. Maybe we need a junky cereal with a Latin name as well as box info in Latin.

Another recent VDad contribution to the educational climate in our home: I was reading out of Story of the World 3, asking the kids "what did Napoleon do while on Elba?" VDad burst out with, "He ate macaroni...Elba macaroni!!" VKid2 started laughing so hard I thought she was going to choke. Days later she still mentions the Elba macaroni Napoleon ate.

12 January 2006

Mid-month snapshot -- January

Memory work for January:

We're singing Gaudeamus Igitur (Latina Christiana II). I'm struggling with the first verse; for some reason I can't play the piano and simultaneously sing "Iuvenes dum sumus". I'm fine on the second verse, but I dread that first verse. I was looking at the Memoria Press website today, wondering if I should get Lingua Angelica so we could have some better choices in songs. But, alas, Gaudeamus Igitur was on that CD, too, so I don't know that we'd really be upping ourselves overall.

Our hymn-of-the-month is Holy, Holy, Holy. This was one of the first hymns I learned, back in the good ol' days when it was #1 in the hymnal (the way God intended it to be).

We are also singing Santos, Santos, Santos. It would be impressive if the kids had requested this because, "gee, Mommy, that sounds sort of like Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus -- how cool! Can we sing it?" Really, though, it was mostly a matter of noticing it was in Spanish and was directly opposite Holy, Holy, Holy in the hymnal (which would've been impossible if Holy, Holy, Holy were still #1-the-way-God-intended).

VKid1 is learning all four verses of The Star-Spangled Banner. We recite it, we sing it (somewhat cluelessly about how the syllables of verses 2-4 fit into the music), I make fill-in-the-blank papers for it, it serves as copywork.

We've made it to the 19th century in Story of the World, and spent last night blasting The 1812 Overture through the speakers while re-enacting the march on Moscow. As VDad left for Mexico, I shouted, "Tell Guillermo we're finally to the Cry of Dolores in history." Vdad dutifully fulfilled this obligation, but Guillermo seemed to think it was weird that we would study that in January instead of September. He's right. Sigh. I did much better last year when we did the festivals like Martinmas on the correct dates, even though we weren't to that chapter in history -- then, we we got to the appropriate chapter in SOTW I simply said, "remember how we celebrated that?". Yet another example of the disorganization in which I'm now wallowing.

11 January 2006

Tuesday Teatime

The menu: Trader Joe's graham crackers and hot cocoa. The kids decided to eat the gingerbread house they'd made for Christmas, too. I'm not sure how edible it was...the royal frosting was about the consistency of tile grout. They managed to liberate several of the hard candies used to decorate it, though.

Our poetry selection: Twelfth Night, part of the Shakespeare Can Be Fun series. Vkid1 had read this before, which I hadn't realized. By page two she had recognized the characters and plot. VKid2 was sort of lost trying to keep track of the characters. She did enjoy the name of Sir Toby Belch, though.

06 January 2006

Dia de los Reyes!

I'd love to say we're doing something really cool for Three Kings Day. But, we're not.

(UPDATE: I suddenly realized it's finally time to sing De Tierra Lejana Venimos -- From a Distant Home. It's a Puerto Rican carol that's one of my favorites, and is number 243 in your handy-dandy U. Methodist Hymnal. So we joined in with our PR friends around the world in singing, although we used the English version. As much as I love the song, I wonder why the popular songs about the Wise Men tend to be in minor keys.)

We will make sure the Wise Men finally make it to the manger scene, although I noticed that the living room set have been hanging out next to the manger for the past week (in contrast, last year they wandered all over the house before even entering the living room). Maybe we'll discuss the baptism, and the blessing of the holy water, and that my brother has been known to celebrate Christmas on this day (although I'm not sure just how Othodox he is anymore).

Then I will take down the decorations.

Not very inspiring, but that's the sort of holiday it's been here. I'm eager to get back to normal life so I can figure out how normal life looks in this new house and new city.

Last night I started panicking that our homeschooling has been really weenie lately. This morning I recalled that this was a PLANNED weenieness, as I knew we wouldn't have time for much. I console myself that we kept up with Latin and math; although I'm not a fan of that style of education (mostly because I find Latin deathly dull), at least I know I can get a pat on the back from the Latin-and-math crowd.

05 January 2006

Starting something new from stash is so exciting!

You know, when you mention "stash" you conjure up all sorts of different pictures, depending on your audience.... Some people stash yarn, some stash fabric, shoes, recipes, shows to watch on tivo, music downloads, myriads of other things that don't even cross the mind of joe-average mom-types living in the suburbs.

I stash curriculum.

Last spring I decided we would do some science over the summer. I purchased the My World Science on weather, astronomy, and oceans & coral reefs, intending to study weather (VKid2 was obsessed about tornadoes, which is a long story...anyway, I thought maybe studying them would calm her down).

Anyway, that idea fizzled before it even started. Kid1 was involved in so many summertime activities that doing any sort of curriculum was just too much. So I shelved it.

The other day Kid1 had the brilliant notion that since we were near the solstice with its long, long nights, and since it was pretty mild out, we should study astronomy. Voila! Pull out the My World Science, plus all the myriad astronomy-type books (including Usborne, One Small Square, H.A. Rey, How The Universe Works...hey, I don't limit my stash to just textbooks). On the downside, now that we're cityfolk we have to deal with quite a bit of light pollution. On the upside, we have access to a planetarium, which we visited last Saturday.

Last night we went out to look at the stars. In a way the light pollution made it easier. Since only the brightest stars shown through, it was quite easy to pick them out. Kid2 was the first to spot Orion's belt, and then excitedly yelled, "there's the girls!" pointing up at the Pleiades. Kid1, our junior astronomer, never did spot the Pleiades. You know what's really funny? Kid2 learned about the Pleiades at the sky show at the Planetarium Saturday. Yep, that sky show she begged to skip. Do you know how many hours of whining we endured Saturday because she Did Not Want To Go To The Boring Ol' Planetarium? And now she's running around our yard in jammies, boots, winter coat and hat, absolutely absorbed in the stuff.

04 January 2006

Tuesday Teatime

This week's Tuesday Teatime was sort of a bust. Actually, most of Tuesday was sort of a bust, but we shall focus on the Teatime aspect, mostly so I don't collapse into whining whilst reliving the day.

A package of Trader Joe's cinnamon grahams was to serve as our tea time snack. This is our most recent Trader Joe's discovery (how did we survive all of those years without a TJ about 5 minutes away?). Unfortunately, it was knocked off the counter by a flying poncho. The poncho wearer's eyes filled with tears, and she fled the room.

I decided to go for Plan B: making CribChick's excellent Saltine Toffee . Well, I assumed it was excellent since it contained several of VKid2's favorite foods: saltines, butter, and sugar. But, the butter we had (the last stick) was a tiny bit bitter...yes, the butter it was bitter, and I hadn't bought some better butter to make the bitter butter better (on the bright side, that was one of our favorite tongue twisters last year when we went through a tongue twister phase).

I served plain ol' decaf English Breakfast tea to offset the sweetness and chocolateness of the Saltine Toffee (the grahams were going to have hot cocoa).

I started out tea time by reading John P. Smeeton's Jack Frost in the Garden , followed by Shakespeare's Winter poem from Love's Labours Lost (I think...which reminds me, I have no idea where my Riverside Shakespeare is, so add that to the "lost" list).

VKid1 asked VKid2 if she had any poems to share. Nope. Neither did VKid1. So, I then tried to engage them in discussion of what new things they wanted to accomplish during this season of homeschooling. I got this idea from Julie Bogart's excellent post on getting a Second Wind in one's homeschooling at this point. I like to have little fantasies about being like Julie Bogart when it comes to homeschooling, know what I mean? But, the kids were amazingly uninterested in the topic.

Since THAT conversation quickly fizzled out, in the interests of having a tea time that lasted longer than 5 minutes, I finished reading aloud Lewis and Clark and Me .

Highlight of Teatime? Blowing out the candles at the end.