28 February 2006

Craft round-up, with some homeschooling thrown in

Here we have some of what was accomplished this weekend. I started a poncho for KidV2 out of pink and purple Homespun yarn. I'm not using a pattern, so have already ripped the whole thing up and restarted. Alert knitters will note that yes, I am using hair elastics as stitch markers. KidV2 had originally said she wanted a sparkly poncho, but when we looked at yarn she decided the sparkly yarns were just a wee bit scratchy (we have tactile issues, so we're constantly balancing the need to wear sequined, glittery things with the need to wear super-soft things; it's tough, let me tell you). Homespun has some sheen, but is still soft. So far this has been my most pleasant experience using Homespun, which is a nice surprise. Usually this yarn drives me nuts, but so far I've had no problems.

A friend sent 2 pairs of purple socks for the kids(only one pair shown). She had purchased them and added this crocheted edging. It looks like she used some sort of ribbon as yarn, and had strung on some cool purple beads before she started the crochet. I'm pretty sure she found the directions somewhere online. These instantly supplanted the glow-in-the-dark socks DadV had brought home from his last business trip as Most Favored Socks.

I got my 47 inch circular needle so I can start my moebius. Woohoo. I ended up ordering it from Knit Picks . I figured their postage cost was about equivalent to the fuel cost of driving around trying to find one locally. When we lived in a small town I was very careful to support small local businesses; somehow I'm having trouble with it now that we are in a larger community. Sad but true.

I also ordered that big skein of Color Your Own merino from Knit Picks, since it didn't bump up the shipping cost on my order. I have a vague plan involving socks and a pot of dye. It will obviously have to wait until poncho and moebius are done.

And I got my copy of A First Book of Knitting for Children from The Silver Penny , which had a fantastic price on the book. She shipped it first class, too, so it was practically instant gratification. And the book is every bit as good as Knitsteel had said. The kids were instantly picking out projects to make.

Of course, I must emphasis that this is what happened over the WEEKEND. Monday the weather turned fantastic, so we did a suitable amount of homeschool **, then the kids went out to play while I cleaned the house. It was glorious to open up all the windows.

**What a suitable amount of homeschool means:

One of the squirrel family went out to gather nuts, and learned multiplication in the process. Exciting stuff! Later on we (KidV2 and I) drew a huge clockface circle on the driveway and practiced skip-counting up to 12, drawing the patterns as we went. For the record, you can make hexagon (connect the multiples of 2), a square (connect the multiples of 3), a triangle (multiples of 4) and a couple of lines (multiples of 5 and of 6; she chose 6). Then you can yell, 'That was fun! Can we do it again?", much to Mommy's surprise (I love geeky stuff like this, but I'm startled when my kids do).

We also sang our usual songs (Gaudeamus Igitur, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Naranjas Dulce). KidV1 reviewed Latina Christiana II chapters 1-5, and translated a short passage from Latin to English. We read about the Alamo in Story of the World 3, and also read a Josephina book from the American Girl series (how convenient that Story of the World is able to use those American Girl series as supplements, since my kids love them). We listened to The Easy French CD for lessons we are currently working on, and used the phrase "c'est chou vert et vert chou" more than really necessary (literally, "it's cabbage green and green cabbage", a similar US idiom is "six of one and a half dozen of the other"). KidV1 explored the wonders of indefinite pronouns (fortunately she excels at grammar, because discussing indefinite pronouns when it's gorgeous out and the window is open is hard); she also did some lessons in Singapore 4B, which she bangs out easily after years of RightStart. Somewhere in there we worked on Spelling Power; KidV1 practiced the words by spelling them out on the driveway in sidewalk chalk; she wanted to ride her scooter over the cursive letters, but hadn't written them large enough, so she walked them instead.

That's what a stripped-down day of homeschooling looks like at our house these days.

27 February 2006

Too distracted to post

My sister-in-law passed out in a restaurant yesterday. They've got her hooked up to monitering equipment now; apparently when she passes out her heart stops. So far no one knows why this is happening.

24 February 2006

The Things We Do for Love

Since we are doing squirrel-based math, could I please make a puppet or some sort of little squirrel toy for use during math time? Please? 'Cause it would make the math even more fun.

So I found the roving and the pipe cleaners, not to mention some acorns we had gathered last fall:

The pattern is from Making Fairy-tale Wool Animals by Angelika Wolk-Gerche. When I started out I had visions of making 4 squirrels -- one for each process. I quickly got over that. For one thing, this took most of my brown roving. Maybe I'll mess around with making up a pattern for wee little needle-felted baby squirrels, and this can be the mom. THe babies can be in a lighter brown.

And, for the record, the neighbors were out while I was sticking a little squirrel-toy in the tree for picture-taking. It was a labor-of-love for you all here at the blog, though, so I persevered. However, I didn't persevere that much, since I didn't want to make too big of a spectacle of myself; that's why the picture isn't really clear.

Since we are doing so well with our squirrel-math, I decided I could go ahead and sell RightStart A , since we won't be finishing it. (Actually, that's a lie. I wanted to buy a knitting book from a place that takes Paypal, so I was trying to think of something I could sell, and happened to think of the RightStart book, and rationalized the decision with the squirrel-math thing. It sounds so tawdry to say I sold my kids' school books to pay for knitting stuff, though. And, we really and truly don't need Level A anymore, as KidV2 is ready for Level B.)

23 February 2006

February Homeschool Snapshot

Every morning we sing:

Gaudeamus Igitur (we've been working on this song for nearly 2 months now; even the 6 year old knows most of the Latin);
All Things Bright and Beautiful;
Naranjas Dulce (I found music for it in the Cante Cante Elefante! volume from Naturally You Can Sing ;
and sometimes we sing and dance to Sur le Pont d'Avignon.

We are memorizing:

Pansies by James Whitcomb Riley.

We are almost finished with Story of the World 3 . Hurray!

We are currently listening to Beowulf read by Seamus Heaney on CD.

22 February 2006


Have you noticed that Interweave Knits publishes a sock pattern in every issue? I have a subscription to IK, so plenty of sock patterns are in my home library.

For that matter, most of the knitting books I own have at least one sock pattern. I own a lot of knitting books.

I also have 3 books devoted exclusively to sock knitting.

Every sock I've ever knit has been from pattern I've found for free on the Internet. Go figure.

These are Fancy Silk Sock for Women , from a book by Nancy Bush I was sorely tempted to buy. Now that I've knit a pair of socks from it, though, the urgency has passed.

Knit out of Lorna's Laces. I chose blue because I thought it would go better with jeans. For some reason it didn't occur to me that I don't wear jeans. I wear black yoga pants 95% of the time.

I did the pointier toe -- decreased down to 8 stitches, then gathered up those 8. This was a mistake. I have very flat toes; I should've stopped at 20 stitches and done kitchener stitch. I wanted to see what the pointier toe looked like, though. Considering that I probably won't be wearing them much, I decided not to rip back and rework the toe.

Side note: the cat is relieved that I finally moved from the good sunny carpet spot so he could take a nap. Poor baby, he's been up since at least 5:30 AM, which is when he came to wake me up.

21 February 2006

Tuesday Teatime

I was walking through the grocery store yesterday afternoon and suddenly realized that I had not made A Plan for Tuesday Teatime. I happened to be in the cookie aisle, discovered a national brand on sale, bought some ... so, our menu included hydrogenated cottonseed oil and "natural flavor" (which I always assume is some excitotoxin that will do permanent neurological damage). Yum.

We also had Celestial Seasonings Rasberry Zinger tea, the preferred tea of girls who are striving to maximize the amount of PINK in their lives.

I read more fairy poems. KidV2 specifically asked for "the one about 'we don't go hunting'" (Up the airy mountain/ Down the rushy glen/We daren't go a-hunting/For fear of little men -- William Allingham). It's startling when the kids suddenly prove that they've really been listening to all of this poetry.

I also introduced Pansies, by James Whitcomb Riley. We discussed whether it would be a good choice for learning by memory. I think we're going to go with it.

I finished by reading Susan Jeffers' Brother Eagle, Sister Sky . This was a literature suggestion from Story of the World Book 3, chapter 38 American Tragedies (Trail of Tears, and Nat Turner's revolt). The kids ended up discussing water, and how important it is to keep water clean. I pointed out that the book wasn't exactly in Seattle's own words. I didn't point out that Native peoples have some real issues about the book.


We took the day off of school yesterday. DadV was off of work, and spent the day bringing home parts of a swingset/playground. This involved renting a large van, and all of us working together to unload the boxes into the garage. I will probably be giving a play-by-play of the building of this structure. I will try to keep the profanity mild (hey, I know how these do-it-yourself building projects go).

In January I had done a First Grade math block with KidV2. Last fall she kept insisting that she needed some tougher school work, so even though she is Kindergarten age (both by the state law and by the Waldorf standard which says that you should be in the world for 7 Easters before starting 1st grade), we took the plunge. By the end of the 3 weeks she was sobbing that she was growing up too fast. I don't think this was a concious reaction to the math, I did take it as a sign that I was right -- the best process right now is to do a block of First Grade, then take time off for Kindy "work" (fairytales -- telling, re-telling, drawing). We did do a bit of form drawing during our break, some recorder, and some knitting (although now I'm wondering how I'm teaching her to knit without A First Book of Knitting for Children , which Knitsteel mentioned in her blog; I'm so suggestable when it comes to both craft books and curriculum, so when it's craft books for my kids I'm very easy to persuade).

Last week she (KidV2) announced that she is ready for more math work. As an aside, I'd like to do writing with her, but decided that the battle isn't worth fighting given that we're not doing full-throttle First Grade anyway. So, I've spent the past few days gathering supplies for our second math block. I'm using Donna Simmon's First Grade Syllabus , and she suggests using squirrels to illustrate the math concepts. This works great for us, as we are overrun with squirrels. The problem is finding nuts in shells. Argh! Do any shops around here have them? I had bags full before we moved, but didn't feel like moving them; I dumped them all out in the green-alley behind our house for the enjoyment of THAT squirrel population. I think we're going to be reduced to pre-shelled almonds. In any event, I think she'll enjoy this block. If I were a Good Mom I'd be working on little needle-felted squirrels or little finger puppets right now instead of sitting here in my jammies. Hmmm. Getting dressed and getting going on the day rather than sitting here. Hmmm....

20 February 2006

A package from Nancy!

Nancy Parson's lives a fairytale life, don't you think? She sells Handmaiden yarn through her Colorsong Yarns website, and all sorts of cool books through her bookstore .

This weekend brought some Silk Spun to my mailbox:

I'm planning on making a moebius wrap from it. I don't have the proper needle. Heck, I'm not even sure if I can purchase the proper needle around here -- I need a 47" circ, which aren't exactly standard issue. Also, after I handled the yarn it occured to me that it's going to be slick to work with. We shall see if this is an advantage or disadvantage.

The colorway is Dragonfly Dance.

The next package from Nancy will most likely contain books. She's got some great new books in. Two of my biggest weaknesses -- books and yarn -- and that woman sells both. It's a fairytale life she leads, I tell you.

17 February 2006


"Mom, can we get out some flour and do stuff with it?"

"Okay, but I don't want you floffing it around."

"Floffing? What a great word!"

"Yeah, and it's a real shame people never use it, which is mostly because I just made it up."

"Maybe we could start using it a lot. Then people would use it."

I just googled "floffing" and came up with about 90 hits. Google seemed pretty sure I really meant to type "flogging". Indeed, some of the hits seemed like they were typos for flogging.

I also checked at askoxford.com , since I don't have a complete OED lying around (and shame on me, although on the other hand I'm pretty proud that I figured out the laying/lying business in that sentence and didn't have to change the whole thing around to avoid THAT mess). No floffing go on in Oxford, it seems. Or perhaps there is, but they just don't know it.

Around here it's a combination of flying, flopping and fluff. Now you can judge for yourself if you've been floffing today.


Years ago an acquaintance made a really snide comment about the area in which we now live. He said it was originally settled by the rejects and losers who were too stupid or lazy to continue the journey west.

It's always struck me as a harsh comment, yet I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I wonder if there is some inherited quirk around here that renders the locals incapable of dealing with wallpaper in a decent fashion.

I told Pat-the-neighbor that I was going to start stripping the wallpaper in the bedroom so we could paint.

"Oh, you never want to strip wallpaper! You're better off just painting right over it."

"It's vinyl. Textured viniyl. We can't paint over it."

I didn't get into the fact that painted over wallpaper gets tatty and ragged over time, and is nearly impossible to patch. I didn't mention that I'd heard stories of roaches eating all of the wallpaper paste away right from under the paper (a story that lives vividly in my imagination every time I see a wall of wallpaper). I didn't bring up that mold finds the cellulose structure of wallpaper adhesive a wonderful growth medium, and that putting oil-based paint over the wallpaper surface optimizes mold-growth conditions. No. I just left her muttering about how awful and fearsome it is to strip wallpaper.

So. I started stripping the textured vinyl wallpaper in the bedroom. The upper vinyl layer peeled off easily. Next, I soaked the under layer in hot water (Dave-the-wallpaper-guy in Ohio says to use the easiest methods first, and not resort to chemicals until you have to). The underlayer came off in sheets. Life was wonderful. I wanted to call Dave-the-wallpaper-guy to revel in my success. Dave-the-wallpaper-guy came to our rescue when we were in wallpaper-removal hell in our old house, stripping miles and miles of poorly installed paper; I knew he would appreciate a good removal job.

As I rounded the corner of the room, I noticed a weird flowery pattern appearing on the wall as I wet it. Huh? I stripped the old paper, and revealed ... another layer of wallpaper underneath. An earlier layer of wallpaper which had been painted over and then papered over.

I am stunned. I am disgusted with all of the previous owners of this house. I am disgusted with this community, which apparently consists of people too lazy and stupid to strip the old paper, let alone continue the journey west as our old acquaintance suggested.

And yet, I now am determined to triumph over this damned paper. I may not rest until every single scrap of paper in the entire house is taken down.

16 February 2006

Fast and Slow

I'm still reading Adler's How to Read a Book . I've been pondering his statement that: "With regard to rates of reading, then, the ideal is not merely to be able to read faster, but to be able to read at different speeds -- and to know when the different speeds are appropriate."

Ah. Isn't that one of life's great questions? When ARE different speeds appropriate, be it knitting, reading, walking, talking, singing....

I remember grade school arithmetic. I remember that the teacher would write an example of some new concept on the board, such as multiplying fractions. I would instantly grasp the concept, and scurry through my work. Then I'd sit and wait for the rest of the class to catch up. I don't think going more slowly would've been a great help. I was going at the appropriate pace for my learning ability. But the one-size-fits-all classroom didn't accomodate that. That's one of the reasons we homeschool -- so we can choose our speed. I'll admit that I sometimes choose the wrong speed. I'll think the kids have quickly learned a concept, and later discover that they really don't get it. Other times they speed ahead of me, leaving me with a cool explanatory lesson plan and no one needing an explanation. But overall, it's so wonderful to set our own speed.

And knitting? Some knitting really isn't worth lingering over, let's be honest. Last summer I wanted to stage my living room when our house was on the market; I wanted a new white throw for the couch. I whipped one up in a weekend. Definitely not worth knitting slowly. Now KidV2 wants a poncho. A pink and sparkly poncho. A pink and sparkly poncho she can wear while out playing and climbing trees. Definitely not a garment in which I shall invest my heart, soul, and oodles of time (I'm sure it will feel like it's taking forever, though, because hot pink, sparkly, washable, cheap yarn pretty much says "icky to knit with" to me, the sort of thing the feels like knitting purgatory). However, I've knit many things that have been satisfyingly slow -- inches of lace slowly emerging from my needles as though by magic. It really boils down to who is my intended audience. Is it someone who will appreciate the time the item took?

I'm not ending with a big over-arching statement to roll all of this post together. No profound summary. That would entail writing slowly. I'm slapping this out as fast as my fingers will type. I'm not sure that's what blogging should be about, this willy-nilly tumble of half-thought thoughts. I know that I tend to read other blogs quickly. Perhaps it would be more satisfying to linger over both the reading and the writing. I'll be thinking about that for the next few days. As quickly as I write and talk and do arithmetic, I tend to think very slowly.

15 February 2006

Why you are glad we didn't move to YOUR town

Because we would put embarassing signs in your yard.

And then we'd post pictures of them on the Internet so the entire world would see them.

Tuesday Teatime

We took a trip to Whole Foods in the morning to get some flaxseed oil and cod liver oil (we're all about essential fatty acids here), so we got some treats while shopping.

First off, Country Choice Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies (organic, wheat free, no hydrogenated oils). Next, we found some red licorice hearts in the bulk food aisle; KidV1 kept asking why they had a big ol' NATURAL label when the first ingredient was corn syrup ("corn syrup is natural"; "yeah, well, it doesn't occur in nature"; we'll talk about an-natural ingredients later, I guess).

Then we hit the dairy aisle and discussed getting some chocolate milk. Let me tell you, we've had some health-food store chocolate milk that really tasted ... like it came from a health food store, you know what I mean? After great deliberation we decided to try Trader's Point Creamery . Oh. My. You've gotta try this stuff. Really. Go to the website here and see if they sell it in your area. It's like the best chocolate ice cream ever, but in liquid form.

Anyway, we made it home with our purchases, dealt with the plumbers' visit (this is the 3rd Tuesday in a row we've had trades people coming over to work on something; they're starting to feel like family and I should invite them to teatime), finally ate lunch around 1:30 and the FINALLY had our Valentine's Tea.

Which was pretty anti-climatic at this point. We used a heart-shaped beeswax candle I had made during our great Candlemas candle-dipping adventure (I had use a cookie cutter as a mold). I read The Owl and the Pussycat , then some other random poems. We drank our chocolate milk (KidV2 didn't like it), ate our cookies (KidV2 didn't like them), and the kids ate all the licorice hearts. They then went outside to rollerblade in the driveway while I kept pouring myself cups of chocolate milk. Mmmmmm.

14 February 2006


We predict plenty of homemade Valentine's today.

Showers of glitter, becoming heavy at times. Accumulation may reach all the way up the stairs.

Later, expect plenty of melting chocolate, forming truffles and chocolate-covered pecans.

In view of this forecast, school has been cancelled.

(An aside: My new criteria for a vacuum cleaner is "removes glitter from carpet". This is not something Consumer Reports includes in their ratings. Shame on them.)

13 February 2006

Anyone else see a trend?

You are plastic.
Futuristic, milky, and silky, you are willing to go

where no crafter has gone before. You can do

just about anything, with strength agility,

and pretty colors to boot! While you are

good at slipping and sliding out of sticky

situations, remember to stay where and when

you are needed. Don't overdo it on star

gazing when there's earthbound knitting to be


What kind of knitting needles are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, there are 2 trends here. The first is that whenever Olive Oyl does one of these little quizzes I just gotta try it too. The other is that I seem to consistently end up as something fairly unpopular. Only 6% of the people taking this quiz came up as plastic.

Monday Memories

Monday Memories: Did I ever tell you about My College Roommate

My freshman year I was assigned to a suite in the dorm. Several girls who knew each other had signed up together to live in the suite; I was thrown in randomly.

The most striking member of the group was Leigh Ann. She was a Navy brat, which something I had never even heard of before that moment. She was part Hungarian. She had lived in Taiwan (I had travelled overseas, knew people all over the world, but the idea of a US kid living in Taiwan stuck me as incredibly exotic). She was witty and articulate. We had virtually nothing in common.

Yet, within weeks we were finishing each others' sentences.

We ended up rooming together for 4 years. The others went their separate ways, but we stuck together through thick and thin.

One of my fondest memories is from junior year. I had a long, tedious landscaping design project due. It involved hours of drafting, drawing, lettering. Mind-numbing work. Leigh Ann was in a lit class, and had been assigned House of Mirth . She read most of the book aloud to me while I drew. Amazing. At the time I had only an inkling of the fortitude it took to read long, long passages aloud, sitting for hours, reading, reading, reading while the listener seems to be going about their business. Now that I am a mother of 2 voracious listeners I realize how much work it is (and I thank God for audio books from the library). Eventually Leigh Ann announced, "Listen, I've got to finish reading this for class. You'll have to read the rest yourself." But it was impossible to read it to myself; I needed her voice to bring the characters to life. To this day I can remember precisely how she pronounced "Lily". I've never finished reading the book.

Dear Leigh Ann, your birthday was just a few days ago, and I still haven't gotten around to sending a card. But I've been thinking about you and wishing you many happy returns of the day.

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12 February 2006

He just said those words I've been longing to hear...

"V'you got anything you wanna get from Amazon so we can get the free shipping price?"

Be still my heart. I must go sort through 117 items on my wishlist for a book to add to Schelling's Strategy of Conflict already in our shopping cart.

10 February 2006

Form Follows Function

Really, this seems to me to be an excellent example of form follows function. We need a way to watch the cat across the street. We open the blinds, we place a chair before the window, et voila!

The blankets are useable on the bed at night, or on the chair during the day.

The concept of form follows function was pounded into our heads in landscaping classes. It appealed to my Bauhaus tendencies. Reading interior decorating books lately, I've discovered that it is apparently considered optional by many popular contemporary decorators. This explains why I just don't "get" a lot of contemporary interior decor.

It also seems to be optional in current knitwear design.

So far today we have whipped through singing, Latin, French, spelling, grammar (nominative and objective case pronouns, during which we had to resort to the ol' "well, since you can't figure it out in English, how would you figure it out in Latin?"). KidV1 has been reading aloud to KidV2 (Amber Brown books) and has lured her into a game of Scrabble Jr. I have lifted weights. Later we will go to homeschool swim and drop by the library. It's one of the Golden Days of Homeschooling, the kind I think all the cool moms have on a regular basis, and it's happening in my house right now !


Last night I dreamt that I was 12 hours from attaining a BS. In the dream I was going to go back to school part time for 2 semesters to finish up my degree. I was going to take an architectural drafting course each semester, and I really, really, really wanted to take Latin. The text was going to be Henle, and I was eager to go purchase it so I could begin memorizing declensions before the semester began.

Almost a nightmare, eh?

For the record, I already have a BS. I took courses in landscape architecture, and sometimes fantasize about doing more of that type of drafting and design. But I never, never, never wanted to take Latin.

09 February 2006

Gratuitous knitting content in honor of the Knitting Olympics

I'm not participating, but this is what I'll be knitting during the time frame.

I decided not to participate for several reasons.

First, I've been knitting longer than some of the knitters involved have been breathing. Yep, I was knitting back when you were a twinkle in your parents' eyes. "Is that because you started knitting at an early age, or are you just plain OLD?" Yes to both. One does not become a Knitting Goddess overnight, you know. So, the point is, I've already knit to insane deadlines. I've already knit all manner of things: lace, cables, intarsia, felted (on purpose and by accident). I've designed. I've probably forgotten more of my knitting projects than I remember at this point. The K.O. just seemed like more of the same.

Next, it would be incredibly self-indulgent. I'd looooove to hide away with my knitting while the kids unschool themselves for a while. Heck, we could even try un-parenting! And meals? Well, there's a Panera's just a couple of miles away, and there are sidewalks and only one really busy intersection -- if they start early they could make it there by lunchtime. See how I'm falling down this rabbit hole of temptation?

Finally, if everyone's knitting like crazy, who is going to have time to cheer on the teams? My favorite group is Team Wales "The Jamaican Bobsledders of the Knitting World". But my favorite button is Sara's in Classical Greek (alas, I haven't figured out how to get it on here; it is soooo cool).

Unrelated note: I'm not sure what that is sprouting next to the sock. I think it looks like a hyacinth, don't you? That's the thrill of moving in the fall -- you have no idea what will sprout up in the spring. That red mulch has got to go, though.

Pausing for a moment to sort out this stack of books

Please bear with me as I try to figure out what's where.

Current active reading:

Tom Brown's Field Guide: City and Suburban Survival next to the bed.

Food as Medicine by Dharma Singh Khalsa in kitchen on counter; I stand eating brownies while I read it.

Stuff I was actively reading, but it's starting to get buried in other books and knitting:

How to Read a Book by Adler; shouldn't I finish this before reading some of the others? Nah, most of the stuff I'm reading is relatively fluffy. I'll need to finish this before tackling something weightier, though.

The Way of the Scout by Tom Brown. Checked out the library to occupy myself until the field guide came from Amazon. I may return this and try it again later.

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Ehrman. Mostly read on Sundays when I need to recover from various comments and situations at church.

Creativity in Education by Rene Querido. I'm reading this for an online book discussion which covers one chapter per week. The book discussion is held by Donna Simmons on her yahoo group.

Then there are piles of books I was reading back before we moved. Books I never finished, squirreled away here and there, sort of like the unfinished objects a knitter has tucked into various nooks and crannies. Books I purchased meaning to read, but haven't had time to start. And books I'm actively using (like The Writer's Jungle or Long Lean and Strong or the pile of kundalini yoga books).

I need to find a nice neat way to keep track of all of this. Really.

08 February 2006

Tuesday Teatime

Menu: We had freshly made brownies to eat. Beverages were a choice of Celestial Seasoning Raspberry Zinger or milk (current household selections are rice milk, cow's milk, coconut milk) served in a china teacup.

Our poetry book of choice was Fairyland in Art and Poetry by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I read the first few poems, and then KidV1 announced that that was enough -- too much poetry at once was hard to digest. Also, I think the brownies were sending us all into glycemic chock. Plus they wanted to get back to listening to the Matilda book-on-CD they had just checked out of the library.

The Fairyland book does contain our current memory verse, and we all recited it together:

"Where the bee sucks, there suck I.
In a cowslip's bell I lie.
There I couch, when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily....
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough."

KidV2 had been practicing the poem earlier in the day. It's a tough one for her, containing odd word patterns (also containing correct use of the word "lie" so she will have that blazed into her memory; whereas my own childhood was corrupted by Bob Dylan singing "Lay Lady Lay", which plummeted me into a lifetime of incorrect use of lay and lie). She had to summon up enormous energy to remember each phrase...such energy that the words BURST out of her, and she was reciting at FULL VOLUME.

07 February 2006

Today is not going as expected...

Plumbers came first thing in the morning. I thought they'd probably ring the bell just as we were doing something interesting, so we did nothing in particular.

They were here to fix 3 faucets. All 3 had problems with the cartridge (I now know about cartridges and Moen faucets and all sorts of cool plumbing stuff). The home warranty company was willing to have the plumbers fix 2 of the 3. I spent much of the morning on the phone with the company discussing the general silliness of this stance, given that all 3 have the same problem.

So, the morning passed with very little homeschool occurring. It seemed the only way to redeem the day was to go to the library (this is my fix for most ills in life). When we arrived a couple was loading their Newfoundland dog into their car. They graciously got the dog back out so we could see it -- the man explained the differences between their dog and Seaman of Lewis and Clark fame. Amazing.

We then dropped off about 40 library books, and picked out about 20 more. We stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home to pick up something fun for Tuesday Teatime, but a fight errupted in the back seat regarding who was knocking over whose books. We don't need more cup holders in our vehicle, we need book holders. Then the box of modelling beeswax fell all over the floor (why do we have an open box of modelling beeswax in here? Didn't I ask that we NOT bring it, since I didn't want to clean it up when it dumped all over?).

Trader Joe's was suddenly crossed off our list of things-to-do, we got back in the car amid tears, came home, cleaned up the wax, brought in all the books (at that point I was wearing a pair of sunglasses off of a Barbie which barely fit over my nostrils), popped in CD 1 of the Matilda book-on-CD, I mixed up some brownies from scratch.

Things we haven't done: any of the songs we usually sing, grammar, French, spelling, fairy tale time, form drawing, weather tree, science. I also haven't lifted weights, cleaned the bathrooms, or done any of the vacuuming. If we get to Tuesday Teatime I will report on it later.

I'm surprisingly calm about this. It must be a function of homeschooling for several years. I have finally, after 5 years, gotten over the idea that I can micromanage our days. All I can do is set a general direction.

06 February 2006

Monday Memories

Monday Memories: Did I ever tell you about Our Brush With Fame


Back when VKid1 was 4 and VKid2 was just a few months old we attended church at 8AM on Sundays, followed by Sunday School. I was usually in a haze of sleep-deprivation, having been up much of the night with the baby. Because of this, I really don't recall much of what happened in that church.

I do recall, though, one Sunday morning when we were trying to corrall the kids into coats. The high school youth had apparently had something going on that involved helium balloons, because one of the guys -- Ben Roethlisberger -- was standing there in the entrance with a balloon in his hand. He saw VKid1 standing there, and said, "Would you like this balloon?" She was delighted, of course. I was delighted, too, because I think anyone who does something nice for my kids is a wonderful human being.

Other than that, Ben Roethlisberger was barely a blip on my personal radar screen. His parents were nice, his sister was sweet, but he was some high school senior who played football, a sport I really have no interest in whatsoever.

These days I pay attention (some) to the football games in which he plays. Mostly because I like his parents, and because he did something nice for one of my kids.

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03 February 2006

Candlemas: another lumpy experience

Yes, the kids thought it would be fun to make candles for Candlemas, and, yes, they wanted to dip them. Ummm, I know nothing about dipping candles. Nothing. But, who am I to let that stand in my way? I mean, really, someday I need to write a Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling in which the truly idiotic parts will be drawn directly from experience.

Having read many websites about candlemaking, we got some beeswax and cotton wick from Hobby Lobby. I found a soup can that seemed serviceable. I filled a pot with water, put some canning lid rings in it (to hold the can up from the bottom of the pan), put the soup can in, and started filling the can with chunks of beeswax (pried off the bar with a Craftsman screwdriver, which have a lifelong replacement guarantee, although I'm not sure that extends to issues like "covered with blobs of wax"). I was very cautious, not wanting to overheat the wax. Very cautious. So cautious the wax didn't melt. I'm standing there with all sorts of safety equipment (pan lids and heavy towels to smother any flames, cold water to douse any burned skin), and I'm only heating the wax to "pliable" stage, as though we're going to do some beeswax modelling.

After about an hour and a half of this, I finally got over my fear of igniting the entire kitchen and Turned Up The Heat. Okay, the wax finally started getting melty. I tied wick onto dowels, ready to dip. I pictured kids joyfully dipping candles there on the stovetop, and it hit me -- they were going to drip wax all over the stove top. I hate this stove top (which is a smooth top), but I wasn't planning on replacing it just yet. Soooo, I called to the kids to bring over the little table. I figured if I left the can in the pot of hot water the heat of the water would keep the wax liquid (just about every set of directions I had read mentioned using some sort of hot plate; guess what, they're right, but I don't own one and it didn't seem to be the best moment to run out and buy one).

For the record, the wax DID drip all over. All over the pot of water, which was a good Farberware pot. I have an icky old pot to use for messy things, but didn't think to use it. If you're ever in this position (surely no one else is this mindless, though) you can scrape off most of the wax with your fingernail you can use canola oil to clean off the residue. And I'm so proud to say that I resisted the temptation to dump all the (waxy) water down the sink where it would clog the pipes; I dumped it outside on some gravel.

The kids had a great time dipping. We counted 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 to get a dipping rhythm going. They would dip their candles in the hot wax, then in the cold water, then back to the hot wax. When the level in the can got too low to dip, I poured the remainder in a couple of cookie cutters I had coated with vaseline.

I think the kids are expecting this to be an annual event. I wonder how many years it will take until I get the hang of it.

We ate dinner by candlelight last night. The candles are lumpy, but we thought they were beautiful.

02 February 2006

Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxslips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

Thanks to Reya for the idea of posting.

01 February 2006

Now playing inside my head

Sur le Pont d'Avignon,
On y danse, on y danse,
Sur le Pont d'Avignon,
On y danse, tout en rond.

Except the only line I can remember is "sur le Pont d'Avignon", so I mentally fill in "hum de hmm hmm, hum de hmm hmm" for the rest.

It's in Raffi's voice. I'm not sure if I've ever heard Raffi sing this song, but I have his voice in my head nonetheless.

This has been going on all day.

Tuesday Teatime

Yesterday got off to an inauspicious start. We had a gas leak in the main line coming into the house. Mr. Heating-Cooling Repairman came and sprayed soap on the main valve, where it (the soap) bubbled up like a giant spit bubble, indicating a leak. He set about replacing it, which took 2.5 hours. We didn't vacate the house since the leak was so small and intermittant; as a matter of fact, it was only noticeable if you climbed on a chair and removed the basement ceiling tile near the valve while the furnace was running (as to why we happened to be on chairs with our heads in the ceiling and discovered this fact, well, that's another story). I did spend a good deal of the morning explaining to VKid2 that we weren't going to freeze to death just because the gas was turned off for a couple of hours, and also explaining how a hot water heater works.

Anyway, after Mr. Repairman left with our $75 (the deductible on our home warranty) and the cat came down from the basement ceiling (which is where he hides whenever Scary Contractors come into the house; too bad this particular Scary Contractor was messing with the basement ceiling) we zipped to Hobby Lobby to purchase some items for future projects.

Arriving home, I set out to make cinnamon scones for Tuesday Teatime. I had tried making scones once many, many years ago. It was not a successful venture; I think Mom quietly dumped the entire batch out in the woods behind our house where small woodland creatures used them to build a miniature Stonehenge (and, yes, Mom cracked some joke about the Stone of Scone). Anyway, I was sure this time would be different because I read on the Internet that farmer's wives would whip up a batch of scones as a quick, hearty meal after a hard day's work. Hah! I gathered the ingredients (not easy, since I couldn't find the baking powder; fortunately, VKid1 remembered using it at Christmas and was quite sure we hadn't used it all up, so I perservered with clearing out the cupboard and eventually found it). I began mixing. Then I realized the instructions contained the dreaded phrase "cut in butter". Oh no! I have no butter-cutting-in tools in my kitchen! What would intrepid British farm wives do? I used a couple of dinner knives. The results were ... lumpy. I shaped it into an 8 inch (lumpy) round loaf, as per instructions, and divided into 8 (lumpy) wedges.

Then I set about making faux clotted cream. Let's just say this didn't work, and leave it at that. The kids will have to travel to England someday to have a proper tea with fresh scones, clotted cream, and strawberries.

The scones did taste pretty good, and the texture was lumpy, yet light. We had Twinings English Breakfast decaf served with sugar and milk -- no lemons this week! I couldn't find the creamer, so had to make do with a measuring cup.

We once again read A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard. This time we made it through the entire book, although the cat jumped up on the table right after I read The King of Cats Orders an Early Breakfast -- very appropriate, but very startling. We managed to shoo him off before he knocked over the candle.

In the evening VDad asked VKid2 what she had done that day. She told him we had an English tea with p-scons. It sounded like a cross between "pecan" and "scone" (which I pronounce to rhyme with John). P-scons. I like that.