30 August 2007

Just dropping by to say "hey"...

Note: this entry has been IMPROVED! It now has links to info about feising, for those who might wonder what I'm prattling on about. Irish dance competitions are sort of like a cult; it's hard to explain to an outsider. Or maybe it's just hard to explain to me, since I'm still not entirely sure why we feis. Anyway, if you have a burning desire to learn more, now you have some links.

I've had ideas for "real" blog posts, but no time to type them out.

At the moment we're getting ready for another feis.

Errand running is completed, I think. We now have a new camp stool ($4.98 in the Walmart hunting department; it has a camo look to it) so Kid1 can sit down without fear of crushing the stiffening in her dress. We have new glue sticks to glue socks onto legs, since Kid2 can never get her old glue stick open (I think it got glued shut in the excitement of July's feis). We have non-messy snacks. We have a printout of our stage assignments with our dances highlighted, thanks to the aid of a more experienced mom who assured me the assignments really and truly were on Feisworx (I was looking on the wrong page -- oops). We have boatloads of bobbypins for our dancer who will wear a wig. We have a new jar of setting gel for our dancer who will have to suffer through having her hair set on spikes once again, although she really, really, really wants a wig bad (the other wig was given to us, else we wouldn't even have it).

(Tips for attending feiseanna here, although you can't take flash pictures either, so I'm not sure what's up with saying you can. Oh, wait,this is better. Shoot, I wish I could find one with pictures, so you could see the mayhem of hundreds of curly-haired girls running amok. Frankly, this list is my favorite, buty it maybe has too many inside jokes.)

Kid1 is polishing her ghillies. Kid2 is on notice that she needs to practice her dances with the wig on, so she doesn't freak out about wearing it. I need to mow the lawn and vacuum, just because life goes on whether we're at a feis or not.

I can't believe there are families who go to feiseanna pretty much every weekend. Yeesh. Once a month is more than enough for me. How did I get sucked into this lifestyle?

26 August 2007

Cool Enough to Try On Sahara

Yes, the temperatures have finally dropped to the point we can open the windows and listen to the neighbor call for her cats incessantly. (She seems to enjoy letting them out at night, then getting all wound up that they aren't waiting by the door to be let in next morning. Phase 2 of this scenario will be when she comes over later this morning and announces she's sure one of the has been eaten by a coyote. She must enjoy this, right? because she does it, oh, maybe once a week at least.)

And I quickly donned Sahara for a photo:

The photo was snapped quickly, too, as I was working between sneezes and nose-blowing (see those tissues in easy reach?) and coughing fits.

I think the t-shirt I have under it is rumpled, thus some of the lumps down the back. I think I have no interest in wearing a sleeveless, close-fitting top at this time of year. I think I have enough yarn to make some sleeves. I think the bottom looks sort of wonky in this picture, possibly because it IS sort of wonky. I think that having knit it top-down doesn't make a huge difference in my decision to maybe redo the bottom, since I am not averse to cutting the bottom off of a sweater knit bottom-up and redoing it (been there, done that). I think the entire "top-down means you can try it on as you go" was sort of useless given the neckline of this thing, since it was hard to judge fit until the neckline was finished.

Mostly I think I shouldn't critique sweaters while my neurons are clogged with snot. I am maybe not in my brightest, most positive mood today.

Knit in Classic Silk by Classic Elite Yarns. No idea how many balls it took since I have no idea how many I had to begin with.

24 August 2007


Another insight into our family life: if I sign us up for homeschool classes at the Science Center, someone in our family will develop a fever that day. Every. Single. Time.

This is made more memorable by the Science Center policy of paying in advance (probably to cut down on the no-shows). They need payment for every person who will be in a classroom, not just the students. In other words, if you were to have a child that is going to freak out being in a class with a bunch of strangers without a parent or older sibling around so you decide to go ahead and sit in the back of the classroom not really participating, just sort of existing (even though this means you miss out on the free Segway rides homeschool parents are offered while waiting for their child) you have to pay for that. Which means if your family doesn't show up, you've lost even more money.

We like to rotate who gets sick, instead of having the same person get sick each time. This time it was Kid1. If it is possible for an illness to have an accompanying fever, she will develop one. As a matter of fact, if whatever is going around usually has an accompanying fever, she will develop a higher one that most people. It's just the way her body works.

After living with her for years, it now seems like an interesting phenomenon. It wasn't always something I would've called "interesting", though. When she was an infant she gave us our first Scary Moment in Parenting when she had a febrile seizure. After that I found myself reading a lot about fever in children, particularly in books like The Holistic Pediatrician by Kathi J. Kemper, MD (I remember sitting beside the bed reading the passage on fever over and over during the night one night while Kid1 tossed and turned beside me), Take Charge of Your Child's Health by George Wootan, and Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm (who I've often wished would come take care of me when I'm sick).

Having absorbed the message in those books, I view occasional high temps as a natural part of life. We rarely use antipyretics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty shocked when I hear someone casually comment, "I realized my child had a fever, so I gave him/her some Tylenol". It seems to me a knee-jerk response to a natural immune function. The important things for the child are rest and plenty of liquids.

Overall, fevers aren't scary around here anymore, just exasperating when they always pop up for certain events. By the way, it's my turn next to get sick when we plan a trip to the Science Center. Just saying.

More about childhood fevers here and here. And, yoohoo, yes, I know there are exceptions when high temps do need to be brought down. That's why God gave us brains, so we can discern those times.

(This post written in part so I'm less inclined to write caustic comments when I read on blogs or discussion boards that parents are pumping their kids full of antipyretics. I've now said my piece on fevers, so I can more easily keep my mouth shut when others blurt out things I consider, ummm, less well-informed on this subject. I'm trying to think of a label for this sort of post, because there are some other things I read and hear regularly that bug the snot out of me, and I really and truly do wish to be tactful and polite, but, criminy, what the heck are people thinking when they do some of this stuff. I know we're all trying to do the best for our kids with the information we've got, but I think sometimes people don't have the best info. Suggestions? )

23 August 2007

Ruminating on the odd places life takes us ...

I was just out putting a sprinkler in our backyard when I heard the phone ring. MrV had found this news report, and thought the 4th photo down on the left side looked like our old neighborhood (the one we were living in 2 years ago today).

I'm not so sure -- I talked to a former neighbor just yesterday morning, and she said the water was up over the side street, but hadn't actually come over the section of street we lived on. Of course, that was 6 inches ago, I think, so who knows.

There have been days I've regretted moving away from small town America. Life in big town America seems so much more complex, y'know? But right now my dry little city neighborhood feels pretty cozy.

22 August 2007

RightStart Geometry

The continuing saga of our adventures using RightStart Geometry and RightStart B. I have an 11yo and a 7yo who have average math ability.The 11yo has done Miquon, Singapore, RightStart Transitions, Level D and Level E; RightStart has saved her from a life a math phobia.

I try to update our adventures on Tuesdays, although sometimes it doesn’t get done until Wednesday. And sometimes we really haven’t done that much math, so I skip it entirely.

RightStart Geometry:

(I think we have skipped some lessons here in my chronicle of our time with RightStart. I suspect Kid1 did them last June and I never got around to commenting on them.)

Lesson131 Basic Trigonometry

Day one:

I am not prepared to be “back to school”, but Kid1 has decided to bustle around doing school this morning. Her resolve to get into the school groove starts to crumble as she reads through the RightStart explanation of trigonometry. I read through it -- it’s thorough and succinct. I help her through the first problem, finding sine, cosine and tangent of a 45 degree right triangle, showing my work on the chalkboard (I love doing math on a chalkboard -- whiteboards just don’t cut it for the tactile satisfaction). Her eyes are glazed, she keeps asking why, as in why the heck would anyone DO this? I suggest we drop it for today and try a different approach tomorrow.

Day two:

I have googled various websites on the uses of trigonometry, trying to choose ones that will interest her. She is unimpressed. Next we get out Zaccaro’s Challenge Math and read through the chapter on trigonometry in it. I point out the exciting concept that triangles can be different sizes yet have the same ratio of opposite side/adjacent side. She rolls her eyes at this -- it is such old news. But she starts to realize that this isn’t some weird new branch of math someone dreamed up just to torment innocent young students -- this is a logical outgrowth of things she already knows.

We look at a few of the word problems in Challenge Math but decide against doing them. I like the way RightStart approaches trig better, mostly because it’s the way I learned trig many years ago.

Day three:

Ready to tackle the RightStart worksheet again. We work through the sine, cosine and tangent of a 30-60 triangle together, using the chalkboard. Then she starts filling the The Chart -- it’s a chart of sine, cosine and tangent of 5 degrees, 10 degrees, 15 degrees, etc. on up to 85 degrees. She is to measure triangles on the second worksheet, then use her measurements for her calculations. No indication is given whether it would be better to measure in metric or inches, but she decides metric would be more accurate.

I am on alert, since I’ve noticed that this business of measuring can turn into disaster -- sometimes the reproduction of the worksheets is a scootchy bit off, leading to different interpretations of length. Since she’s going to be using millimeters to calculate, she could rapidly end up with an answer that’s fairly different from what it should be (especially since she’s to use the table she’s making for the next lesson). We hit on a strategy -- first of all, I look at the answer sheet and discover that every hypotenus is 10 centimeters. Aha -- I figured there would be some constant somewhere, since that’s the way elementary math books tend to work. Plus “10” is easy to divide by, so it makes oodles of sense that every hypotenus would be ten.

I keep the answer sheet out. She measures the sides of each triangle, then tells me what she gets for the measurement. I tell her what the answer sheet says. We quickly ponder the difference (can she see why they called it what they did?), then she uses the “official measure” for her calculations. I draw traingles on the chalkboard for her and label the angles and sides with A,B,C,a,b,c. She soon sees the patterns that are forming with her answers (which is why it’s so cool to do this exercise, and why I wanted to do it instead of just doing the Chalenge Math -- you can discover the relationships between sine, cosine and tangents of the various angles as you calculate them).

The lesson took 3 days and plenty of parental involvement, but in the end she is confident that trigonometry is something she can deal with.

Lesson 132 Solving Trig Problems

Kid1 zips through this lesson, using the chart of trig ratios from lesson 131. She feels good about this.

The discussion of Problem 1 comments that “your answer may not quite agree with the solution. Trig ratios cannot be calculated very accurately by measuring as you did.” Umm, I feel like we’ve been caught cheating on yesterday’s chart!

Lesson 133 Comparing Calculators

MrV’s scientific calculator uses Reverse Polish Notation, so I decide to spring for the calculator specified in the book instead of making do with his. I bought our Casio fx300MS from Amazon since our local Target didn’t have it and I was able to get free shipping (driving around town looking for one was going to use up as much gas as the price differential).

It looks rather like a Star Trek data pad, which makes it a very satisfying addition to our household. The kids quickly figured out how to use it. Kid1 didn’t make it all the way through the worksheet, though, as she started feeling woozy, heralding a fever. She'll get back to this lesson after she recovers.

17 August 2007

UFO Resurrection for August

Frankly, the 105F temperature has sucked away my will to live, let alone my interest in knitting. And my UnFinished Object pile struck me as particularly icky this month; it appeared to me the best thing for it was to pitch the entire pile in the trash bin. Then again, everything has been striking me as particularly icky this month and in need of pitching in the trash -- see above comment about temperature.

But we have reached a moment of crisis -- we are to go to a High School Musical 2 party tonight, and I need some knitting to take along. And I have nothing "current" (as opposed to "icky unfinished object") on the needles.** And heaven forbid I face an evening of watching a movie with nothing to do but sit and watch the movie. That just seems so ... warped.

(Aside: Actually, we had never seen the original High School Musical until last night, when we watched it on the Disney Channel in preparation for tonight's event. We are so out of touch with current popular culture. Sigh.)

(Aside to the above aside: We are so out of touch with current culture that when the kids are playing dolls I overhear the dolls being made to say things like: "I'm calling my boyfriend on my cell phone. My boyfriend is Rafael Nadal. We're secretly engaged." And while I'm impressed that they came up with a male figure who isn't part of Star Trek or Star Wars, I can't help but think that choosing Rafael Nadal over someone a little more mainstream like, say, Zac Efron is a bit odd.

Then again, these are kids who have a mom who's currently panicking about what knitting to take to a movie, so maybe I shouldn't be too surprised. Our family is always on a different page than everybody else. Sometimes we're not even in the same book)

So I dragged out the box of sock yarn to spend some time in quiet contemplation. And I discovered this:

I was making a Caeser's Check mosaic sock out of Lorna's Laces Bee Stripe with Lorna's Laces black for my dad, Purdue fan extraordinaire (Purdue's colors are gold and black, in case any readers are heathen enough to not know the school colors of all the Big 10 schools). The pattern is from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. I really like mosaic knitting, and I think that's a nifty looking sock-start there BUT the black yarn with the black-and-gold yarn was Too Much Black to Knit This Pattern -- I needed high beam lights to keep track of where I was in the mosaic pattern. So I had ripped out the needles and shoved it in the bag.

(I'm glad I ripped out the needles, else I might be tempted to start knitting it again ... and in about 2 more inches I'd be hating myself.)

Ooooooh, if I rip this up, I could start a pair of socks from the Bee Stripe with black ribbing, toe and heel ... just in time for football season, too. I could make them for me. Or my dad. Or MrV. Or, heck, my mom would probably like a pair of handknit socks.

So, still some details to hammer out, like what pattern, and for whom. And still the perilous journey to the bottomless pit of needles to find appropriate tools. But I think I'll be set to watch Zac Efron tonight; and since Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Cincinnati, Zac is where it's at for now.

**Sahara is totally knit and blocked. No pic, though, since if I put it on touches my skin, and in this weather I need loose clothing or else I start frantically clawing the offending garment.

14 August 2007

Sensitive to the Subtle Signs That the Kids Are Ready to Start School

I got out of the shower yesterday morning and heard voices downstairs. Voices that were not my children or Jim Weiss (we have a lot of Jim Weiss audio books, so hearing his voice around the house is pretty normal). As I reached the stairs I realized it was ... Rosetta Stone.

Yes, Kid1 had popped Rosetta Stone Spanish into the computer and was contemplating whether the hands and eyes were opened or closed. When I got downstairs she finished up and asked if I could read her a list of spelling words. After fumbling through Spelling Power to figure out where we had left off when we abruptly lost interest last spring, I read a list. She did well with it, then moved on to Mavis Beacon typing.

I returned to my grousing that I'd never had a proper summer vacation -- days spent lazing at the pool or watching Doris Day movies without a care in the world -- and generally fumbling around the kitchen in a Monday morning haze. And she popped back into the room to ask if I remembered where she'd left off in the Latin book.

"Didn't you have some work or something you were sticking in a notebook somewhere? Couldn't you look at it and sort of figure out where you are?" (Couldn't you not expect me to have a clue?)

"Oh, yes, it's the blue notebook. Could you hand it to me, please? The blue one is for Latin, not the purple. Hand me the blue one, please."

Yeesh, I'm trying to remember what I usually do on Monday morning to keep the household running, and she's expecting me to remember what the Latin notebook looks like? Give me a break.

After Latin the perky let's-get-going-on-school came to a halt when she got out RightStart Geometry. After reminding me several times that she was going to need a scientific calculator soon ("It's only 2 more lessons, so I'll need it later this week. I think I saw some at Office Depot. Do you think you could go there in the next couple of days?") she plunged into the next lesson. Trigonometry.

And came to a screeching halt.

"Mommy, I think I need some help"


"Why do I have to know this?"

Oh, joy of sine, cosine, and tangent. I had a wonderful teacher for trig. He was inspiring. The best math teacher I ever had. He lead us into trigonometry as though we were explorers working together to chart a new country. I could draw those waves in my sleep, we studied it so thoroughly. How do I convey this to my child?

We set the book aside. I told her we'd try a different approach on a different day. I'm not ready for this yet -- the entire morning caught me by surprise, and an impromptu discussion of Why Trig Is Cool was beyond me.

Like it or not, we seem to be back to school in our homeschool.

13 August 2007

Black Is Not My Color and Helmet Liners Are Not My Style

Ready to send off to 5 Element Knitter:

where it will be sent to someone who values functionality over looks.

Knit in Cascade 220 Superwash, with quite a little pile of yarn left over from the skein. I went down a needle size, assuming that my guage would be massively larger than that called for in the patterm (I'm a loose knitter). The liner still fits my large head quite nicely, so I think the size came out okay.

(I just re-read that last sentence, and it sounds as though I have several heads I tried it on. "Oh, look, it fits on my LARGE head, but on my smaller one it's a bit loose!" No, I'm not related to Zaphod Beeblebrox. I'm just too tired and hazy to figure out better syntax.)

07 August 2007

Knitting Needles Revealed

Or, "Why I Stay Out of Needle Organization Discussions" (given that I have maybe a few more knitting needles than many knitters)

The double points are fairly easy to deal with. Some are missing from the shot, of course. I can think of at least 4 sets stuck in projects around and about the house. And I KNOW I have several sets of size 3 double points, so who knows where the rest of those are.

The circulars are a little tougher. There are at least 5-6 circs not pictured, currently at work on projects. This number (5-6 missing) assumes I remember what projects I have currently "on the needles", which is, of course, poppycock. I often open a canvas bag and discover some knitted thing taking shape (sometimes I have no idea what it was I was working on; like, there's this pink thing in the closet that I'm really puzzled by. What was it supposed to be?).

The Addis and Crystal Palace are definitely mine; the large ziplocs with marker definitely Grandma's. Who knows who bought the rest.

I store all of the needles in a large plastic tub. The double points and circulars form the upper layer. After digging through those packages, things get sort of odd. We have the bag of a dozen stitch holders (Grandma aparently believed you could never have too many stitch holders), the bag of miscellaneous cable needles and needle-sizers, and then the black moire taffeta needle holder:

Oh, hey, there are some more double points in there! How about that! The needle holder belonged to someone else, who either died or lost interest in knitting (is there a difference?). The needle case was then given to Grandma, who gave it to me. It's very nice, and can hold about as many needles size 1-6 as most knitters would ever need, except for the lack of space for circulars.

But, of course, most of my single point needles don't fit in it:

This is the bottom layer of the plastic tub. And, yes, there are some missing from the shot due to their obligations with knitting projects in my closet or on the nightstand or ... somewhere. The ones in the rubber band are the latest installment from Grandma.

(Note the rogue wooden crochet hooks that missed the crochet hook photo shoot a few days ago. They are decades old; I'm not sure if they were Grandma's or Great-Grandma's.)

I am so beyond the concept of storing needles artfully in a vase

I was going to get a better shot of this, and I was thinking about lining them up end to end and seeing how far they'd stretch, but then I realized that my neighbor was in her yard, watching me kneeling in the ivy taking pictures of 50 pairs of knitting needles whilst still clad in my jammies. Suddenly my creative flow screetched to a halt. But you can click on for a close up, if you'd like. And, yes, I did take a quick count of the needles themselves, and there are 100 needles there.

06 August 2007

Recent Knitting

My UFO Resurrection sweater for July made great progress during the past month:

The sleeveless version of Sahara, knit in Classic Elite's Classic Silk. I found the rest of the yarn I was using, I seem to be knitting it in the same size I had planned. All I have left to do is pick up the stitches for the neck, then block. The problem is that "pick up the stitches for the neck" business, as this requires getting out a longer circular needle than the one I used to pick up and knit around the armholes. And going and getting the correct needle out? Well, let's just say the needle-control situation here is totally lacking. It's overwhelming. It's a mess.

(By the way, I also have fabric for a coordinating skirt, so now I have an entire Unfinished Outfit piled up here!)

So instead of dealing with finding the correct needle, I cast on something else, something using easy-to-locate needles:

A helmet liner. Except now I'm to the point that I need to switch to double points. Which means getting out needles. Which I really, really do not want to have to deal with.

I'd rather go mow the lawn in the 100F heat, then go swimming.

05 August 2007

Aaahhh! At Last I Have a Chance to Put My Feet Up

Yes, the houseguest is on his way home, and I have a few moments to relax before starting to prepare for the next batch later this week. Houseguest A was certainly a lively guest. Within about 24 hours of arrival he had re-injured his eardrum (it had ruptured last week, a fact which he forgot about until after he dove deeply into the swimming pool and felt it "go") and lost a contact (a prescription of 5.5, which in contact-speak basically means "I cannot see without these").

How nice that in the midst of the mayhem I got this ultra-cool package from Irishgirlieknits:

featuring not only the lovely, soft socks (which, by the way, smell like my sock-knitting-friend's house, which is just a hoot), a bar of Ocean Mist soap from River Soap Co., a package of Soak to try, a cute little memo book to carry in my knitting bag which I can theoretically use to keep track of what I'm doing, Emperor Norton Sourdough Snacks, Notorious Sock Knitters bumper sticker, card with beach/knitting photo that she took herself (as we are now living in a landlocked state, beach pictures seem so exotic), and a mini-skein on a ring.

Close-up of socks in their former life before being torn away from their beach-going former life here. Okay, I don't know if these socks ever hit the beach, but the poor things are arriving in the nation's armpit in the midst of a heat-alert, with temperatures around 100F and a heat index even higher, and a relative humidity of instant-sweat-percent. It's the sort of weather that leaves you exhausted whenever you engage in activities like, oh, you know, blinking. It must be a comedown from their former life.

BUT, I will love, love, love them with all of my heart. I can't wait until it's cool enough to wear socks again.

04 August 2007

In Which I Discover I Have the Coolest Sockapalooza Pal Ever

I am up to my eyeballs in life right now. As a matter of fact, those eyeballs are starting to leak tears at random intervals due to sheer stress.

And I totally forgot to expect a sock package anytime soon.

And it came today and it is so cool beyond words. But no pics, because I have no time to mess with iPhoto and Blogger (they often don't like to play nicely together). You'll just have to trust me that the socks are perfect. Quote from Kid1: "I want socks exactly like that for Christmas." Hmmm, her feet are about the same size as mine, so I'm going to have to keep on eye on her to make sure these don't disappear from my sock drawer.

Pictures of the coolness will appear in a few days when (please oh please let it finally happen) I get a break.

But for now, just know that I am loving these new socks and soap and memo pad (which Kid2 is trying to claim) and chips and note about Irish dance! (the kids don't do the team dances, you're right).

Gotta go deal with ... stuff. But with a little bounce back in my step now!