26 September 2007

UFO Resurrection for September

This is my most embarrassing Unfinished Object.

You know, it takes quite a lot to embarrass me when it comes to my knitting. This is possibly because I am delusional about my abilities. Or maybe I've just reached a point where I don't care what other people think.

But this is even beyond my skill at rationalization.

It's the Unifinished Object that is also Forgotten:

And when I say "Forgotten" I mean that I have no idea what this is. I know I knit it. I know that it's some pink Rowan Calmer with a circular needle stuck in it. I know that it looks like it had another circular needle stuck in it which has now been pulled out to be used for something that struck me as more important at the time.

And I know that it was stuck in a bag with a couple of sock patterns. It's obviously not a sock.

No clue. Only a vague clue where any more of this yarn might be. I remember purchasing the yarn in 2006 with the intent of making the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I also remember that I while I was swatching it occurred to me that the sweater would look bad on me, especially in that color. So I cast on ... this ... instead. Hmmmm.

So, rippity rip rip, and we've decluttered another Unfinished Object.

Tuesday Teatime

We're continuing our 2007 theme of celebrating major Chinese holidays. This week brings us the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

As usual, my main reference was Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and the Children's Museum of Boston.

Of course, you can't have an Autumn Moon Festival without moon cakes. I made my own based on the recipe in the book, which is quite similar to this recipe:

I didn't have a moon cake mold, obviously. I started out putting various Chinese symbols on them with a knife, but ended up just making random designs. Also, instead of making my own filling I just used coconut-covered date rolls, which can be purchased at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

The moon cakes are to be eaten by the light of the moon, but out weather forecast was for clouds and rain. Our compromise was to have tea time after supper. We used a red tablecloth for good luck, and brought out many of our Chinese knick knacks. We also had grapes on the table (because they're round like the moon), and lit many candles:

Our beverage was choice of decaf tea or blackberry juice (the blackberry juice was in honor of upcoming Michaelmas -- sometimes we mix our holidays, especially when there are so many interesting ones all in the same week).

We read the story of Chang E and Hou Yi, and we read about hiding notes in the moon cakes to overthrow the mongols.

Later that night, after the kids were ready for bed, we realized that the moon had magically appeared from behind the clouds. We all ran outside to see it hanging so bright and round and heavy. We looked for and found the Jade Rabbit in the moon. We looked for Chang E, but didn't see her -- perhaps Hou Yi had already come to visit, and they had retired to the jade palace?

25 September 2007

A Mnemonic

Kid1 was reading a zoology book to Kid2. They were discussing taxonomy. They were discussing figuring out their own mnemonic to remember classification -- kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.

"Okay, we're supposed to come up with a sentence that uses the first letter of each of those words, see? So the first word will start with K."


For pete's sake, it was time for Star Trek! Do you know how long kids can linger over a puzzle like this? It was a crisis, and I felt I simply had to intervene.

"Klingon!..." I exclaimed (since it was time for Star Trek), pointing to the K, "...potty chairs!..." (always a popular phrase to insert) ...

"Klingon potty chairs on freighters glow softly! See, sometimes the lights on the Klingon freighters are low...wait a minute, do Klingons even have freighters, or do they just fly around on Birds of Prey?"

"Yes, they have freighters, " my Trekkie daughter assured me.

"Okay, then, sometimes they keep the lights low, so they have the potties glow in the dark so they can find them." Those Klingon ships always do seem sort of dark to me, you know.


I feel confident that she will remember this mnemonic the rest of her life. Can you picture her chanting that in college?

Best of all, they were able to finish up the project, turn on the TV and watch Star Trek. Which, wouldn't you know it, featured Klingons.

24 September 2007

Iggly Plops!

What is an iggly plop? Well, that's what giants call "little people" -- iggly means little, and plops are people, at least in the language of Groilish. And, according to Julia Donaldson, Groilish is what the giants speak.

We discovered the language of Groilish, as well as much more about giants, in Donaldson's book The Giants and the Joneses. This was one of our read alouds last week, and definitely our favorite book of the pile. Within a few days we were all speaking Groilish (there's a dictionary in the back of the book). Shoot, I wish we could pick up Latin as easily as we picked up this imaginary language. Maybe Julia Donaldson needs to write fiction in which the characters speak Latin or Greek -- that would be huge help to our homeschooling efforts.

It maybe weeks before we stop calling beans "bimples" (the book refers to many journeys up and down a bimplestonk) and stop referring to the cat as a "spratchkin".

I can already see that this is going to be one of those books we talk about for years to come. Sharing books together as a family is so cool. I should write thank you letters to the authors of our favorites. Well, assuming the authors are still alive. And in Julia Donaldson's case we'd write a letter saying "oidle oy!".

23 September 2007

Another Weekend, Another Feis

The Graham Feis flew by for us.

We checked in on Friday night, and the girls were each given a bag of Teddy Grahams as their "Graham Treat" (cute, eh? Although, if someone hadn't explained it to me, I never would've gotten the pun). We had some time to explore the DoubleTree hotel and figure out where the stages were. Stages 1,2,3, and 4 were all on the indoor tennis courts in the sports center.

MrV spent much of the evening reprising Ceili Band. It appears to be our feis themesong. Not that we remember any more of the song than we did 3 weeks ago (I'm getting him the CD for Christmas, I swear). At this point we've started inserting the line "we're a Ceili Band!" randomly into most of the songs we sing.

Since the kids were dancing on stages 3 and 4, we opted to park at the sports center's entrance the next morning (hurrah for us for knowing that there was a separate door and parking lot back there, as the tennis courts are a looooong hike from the front entrance of the hotel). As a bonus, the sports center also has nice locker rooms, which we used to slip into the don't-wear-in-the-car-lest-you-crush-it school dress. Can I tell you how nice it is to use an actual locker room instead of a tiny bathroom or hallway corner to change in? Absolute luxury.

This is what it looked like on the tennis courts early Saturday morning. That's Kid1 and Kid2 warming up in the front left of the picture.

There was a heavy chemical funk in the air, and it was warm and cozy, but as the morning progressed they kicked up the HVAC -- it cooled off some, and the smell was tolerable. I don't know if it was from the finish they painted on the stages or something else. By the way, the stages really did look nice. They had advertised that dancers wouldn't need to tape their shoes, and I think they were right (nb: you put duct tape on the bottom of your hardshoes to help prevent slipping if you're dancing on a wonky surface).

As I said, the feis flew by for us. No knitting was accomplished -- there was no time! The First Feis and Beginner 1s went through all of their dances right after the team dances. The kids were zipping up to the check in almost as soon as they were finished dancing; at one point the check in for their next dance was while they were on stage. We were finished by about 11AM or so. We hung around a bit to see results (some of the slip jig results disappeared for awhile -- as in "over an hour" -- so we were killing time).

During this time we wandered over to stage 8, which was the Arts and Crafts competition. And, you know what? I could've thrown my socks on that table, and won a prize. Well, except I was wearing the socks that irishgirlieknits knit for me, so really she would've been the one to win, not I (but, she's done the feis-thing before, so that would've been appropriate). Anyway, I need to do some Celtic crafting, no doubt. And figure out how to enter into that part of the feis.

Speaking of wandering around, this feis snaked all over the place. It was amazing! Our area of stages 1-4 was wonderfully compact (not crowded at all, but everything we needed was right there), but the trip over to the Feisworx room was a major hike. I think the more advanced dancers had more of a chore to get from place to place, as they were in various meeting rooms here and there.

The kids' scores were ... interesting. Kid1 did her reel with grace and confidence, the best I've ever seen her do. Her score was way below those of the girls who placed. Kid2 forgot her hornpipe halfway through; she place 3rd out of 6 competitors, just 2 points from the winner, with the sole comment of "timing" (umm, yeah, her timing sort of slipped when she slowed down to remember what the steps were). So, we just shrug and say, "that's a feis for ya", and go on with life, I guess. After all, we're at Beginner 1 level, so it isn't as though the scores greatly affect much of anything. I imagine it starts getting more cutthroat at Beginner 2, and the pressure builds as you work up through the levels, since where you place affects what level you're considered to have attained.

We also saw the PC/OC girls dance their 8-hand, during which one of the musicians messed up. THAT was interesting. I heard a mom ask, "does the judge realize the musician messed up, not the dancers?" I think the judge is supposed to be in charge of the musician, right? so theoretically the judge should know. (If you don't hang out in the Irish Dance community, PC/OC is the elite level Beginner 1s dream about.)

(Let me insert here that I think the job of the feis musicians seems unbearably dreary to me, and they must be very special people to take on the task. The musicians sit there hour after hour after hour playing the music over and over and over. One mistake in 8 hours isn't a bad average. I was just interested to see what happens and how everyone reacts when someone makes a mistake like that. Overall, I think all feis musicians deserve medals just for showing up.)

And we saw a foot injury when 2 of the girls ran into each other; one of them had to be carried off the stage. I think she was crying from the sheer tension of the contest as much as from the pain.

One of the most interesting sights was the discovery of private baton lessons at the Doubletree! The kids took baton lessons back in Ohio. This Irish Dance mania has somewhat replaced that activity. But it's still a bit of information to tuck away, should we decide to go back in that direction.

Best of all, we were home in plenty of time to tidy up the house and have a birthday party that night!

21 September 2007

If I Had a Completed Sock for Every Sock I've Knit...

Sheesh, if I actually completed all the socks I knit, I'd have socks for everyone in my family, plus pairs to spare.

Instead, I spend most of my time knitting, ripping, reknitting.

Boilermaker sock, take 1, the fussy, mosaic concept.

Boilermaker sock, take 2, the long, skinny version.

And, now, Boilermaker sock, take 3, the chunkier, possibly-could-fit version:

It's been a good week for sock knitting. We had a homeschool class at the zoo, and a homeschool class at the science center (and, yes, we actually made it this time), a Girl Scout meeting, a dance performance, and a piano lesson (by the way, it's been a crappy week for getting actual homeschool-at-home lessons done, as you can imagine). I turned the heel during piano lessons, and now do not have to worry about turning the heel during tomorrow's feis (bonus: the wonky stage assignments for Kid2's hornpipe appear to have been changed, too). All I have to cope with are the gusset decreases. Woohoo! Too bad I've totally lost interest in Irish Dance, and have moved on to a new obsession....

It happened rather abruptly, this loss of interest. Kid1's Girl Scout troop is planning a weekend camping trip for the fall. Kid1 has never been on a trip like this, so we were looking over the packing suggestions together -- it's sort of like gathering a trousseau, for pete's sake, with multiple pairs of underwear, multiple pairs of pants, 2 pairs of pajamas with pants ("hmm, you know, we could sew those"), hat for daytime, stocking cap for sleeping ("fleece or wool would be good for that, since it should be soft and snug"; "Do you think you could knit one in Junior Girl Scout green? With maybe a little pink trim? Wouldn't that be cool!"), multiple pairs of socks ("that's so if you get them wet you can change them; if they were made of wool it'd be really nice, wouldn't it, since wool stays warm even when wet ... wow, would you want me to handknit socks for this?"; "No, I'd rather have the hat"; too bad, I want to make the socks anyway), etc. And, well, before you know it, we're pulling out sewing patterns and knitting patterns, and looking over yarn and fleece and flannel options.

Here's the problem we're having with the packing list: she's outgrown practically all of her clothing. She can use a lot of my clothing on this trip since 1) she is now as tall as I am, and weighs almost as much as I do, and 2) all of my clothing looks like it's spent a few weeks grubbing around a campsite already, so it's not like she's going to ruin it. But we do need to get some items for her (after all, she has no cool weather clothing that fits whatsoever), and why not drive ourselves crazy trying to make it all ourselves? I mean, that's the way we do things around here, after all. And the camping trip gives us a deadline, so we aren't still trying to get around to this, oh, say, next March.

As to whether the Boilermaker socks ever get finished, well, who knows. If I'd knit straight through without ripping I'd already have a pair. As it is, I have half a sock, and a head full of ideas for other things I want to knit (or sew) instead of these.

18 September 2007

Help! I'm being sucked into an Irish Dance vortex!

The other day, after dance class, I looked out in my backyard to see these strange creatures hanging out under the playset:

Within 24 hours they had metamorphed into something more like this:

That's 3-hand they're doing, by the way. It's mostly taught in ceili class, although apparently my kids have picked up enough in regular classes to do it well enough for the crowd at the parish fair.

About once per month their teacher comments, "They really should be in ceili class."

And I counter, "You're probably right, but ceili meets on blah-ti-blah night, and that's when swim class meets."

Yesterday morning I got an email from her. "Good news! Ceili for under-8s is now on blee-ti-blee night!" Kid2 is in under-8. So, both kids could now do ceili since the under-12 ceili meets late enough on blah-ti-blah night we could make it.

So, when we arrived at dance class last night I started quizzing other parents -- how much of a commitment is ceili? The moms cried out "It's HUGE!" and the dads tended to just sort of snort that snort that means "you really don't want to know". I don't know how other schools do ceili, but ours sends the teams to Oireachtas (which a year ago I couldn't even pronounce, let alone consider having my kids compete in) (I'm pretty sure I'm still pronouncing it wrong). Competing in Oireachtas is a huge time commitment, as well as monetary -- there's the hotel stay, of course, plus a brand new wig just for the occasion, and a new pair of ghillies. And the competition pressure, I'm sure, is enormous.

But, you know, it would be sort of fun to see the solo competitions at Oireachtas. Just sayin'.

So. Sigh. I'm sure the kids would enjoy the class itself, and getting close to the other families on the team would be cool, and I'm sure it would help the kids' technique. But. The extra-curricular activites are such a delicate balancing act, and this could easily send the whole thing toppling.

In the meantime, I announced that I had reached a significant turning point in my career as an Irish Dance mom -- I want to buy my child a wig because I'm sick of putting hair up in spikes. We have a feis this Saturday, so I will be spiking 2 heads of hair again on Friday (this works out to 5 days out of 8 that I'm messing around with dance classes, performances, hair, or dance competition here in mid-September).

Saturday's feis is obviously planned specifically to drive me crazy. First, they scheduled it in September, a hugely busy month for me. They also scheduled it at a point when my knitting will involve turning a sock heel, which, as I've said before, I can't do well at a feis. I'm almost positive the feis committee discussed these things when setting up this feis. It's beyond coincidence.

Plus they've posted the stage assignments, and, well, they're weird. All over the place they announce that they have 7 stages. And then I read the stage assignments and discover that Kid2 is dancing hornpipe on stage 8. Well. Now. That's interesting. Is she going into the Twilight Zone for this competition? (Seriously, if you read through everything you discover that stage 8 is for arts and crafts, baking, and music. I'm hoping there's some sort of dance-able area to it, and we can figure out when the heck we're supposed to go to that room to dance. I'm pretty sure other kids from our school are in the same boat, and their moms probably aren't going to be fretting about sock heels at the time, so we can maybe just follow them around.)

By the way, yes, it's possible to buy an Irish Dance outfit from American Girl (although we don't much like this year's model). And it's possible to buy one from an online vendor such as this one. Joan Hinds has a pattern in her book Sew the International Wardrobe for 18-inch Dolls, which is probably what I'd go with, since I could make it look a bit like our school's dresses. Of course, we'd still need ghillies and some sort of headband or tiara.

What's funny about all this is that we're not even very Irish.

17 September 2007

To Every Thing There Is a Season

It's time to admit to myself that I'm not going to get around to sewing up all of the summer clothing I had planned. I've put away the fabric piles, and started thinking about fall sewing.

The kids and I all need new capris and pants, having outgrown last year's wardrobe (I seem to be having a horizontal growth spurt).

But the first item on the seasonal checklist is Birthday Sewing. And this year that means making items for American Girls dolls.

So far Kirsten has a new dress:

I wasn't so sure about elasticized sleeves for Kirsten, but I looked over the birthday dress from American Girl and realized that they implied drawstrings for the short sleeves.

After I finished this dress I found some tiny pink checked gingham and some tiny white ric rac. I've been considering making the birthday dress, but, really, does Kirsten want a knock off?

To make the above dress I used Joan Hind's Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-Inch Dolls. I sort of used the cover dress. Except the skirt of the cover dress was too full, and the collar was all wrong, and I wanted to line the bodice, and I thought the skirt opening could be done better than shown in the book, and skirt side seams looked more attractive. And probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. But, the book was inspirational, and gave me a jumping-off point. And it took less than a day to zip together, from tracing out the pattern to sewing on the daisy trim around the hem and neck (which really stinks to sew on, by the way, either by hand or machine).

This dress was for one child who likes to celebrate her Swedish heritagevia Kirsten. Her sister found some fake daisies and made someting like Kirsten's birthday headdress.

As a matter of fact, her sister's birthday is coming up soon, too. Expectations are running high: "Mommy, I think you could make Kit's birthday dress or school jumper -- they look pretty easy." Umm, no, they look pretty freakin' impossible to me. But I think I can manage some sort of jumper.

September is birthday season here. No doubt about it.

14 September 2007

Eight Random Things

Kristen at A Day in the Life tagged me to write 8 random things about myself.

1. This is great because my natural tendency is to ramble on and on without making much sense. Proof of this:

You're Ulysses!

by James Joyce

Most people are convinced that you don't make any sense, but compared
to what else you could say, what you're saying now makes tons of sense. What people do
understand about you is your vulgarity, which has convinced people that you are at once
brilliant and repugnant. Meanwhile you are content to wander around aimlessly, taking in
the sights and sounds of the city. What you see is vast, almost limitless, and brings you
additional fame. When no one is looking, you dream of being a Greek folk hero.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

So, blurting out 8 random things is right up my alley. Although they're more likely to be vulgar than brilliant. And as for repugnant, well, decide for yourself. I certainly don't have a clue what you find repugnant. Although I suspect if I told you about the time I ... oh never mind, I'm almost positive you'd find that anecdote distasteful.

Hat tip to Tammy for the quiz.

2. I would've done this meme yesterday morning, but I always mop the kitchen floor on Thursday mornings after MrV leaves for work and before the kids get up. I play NPR on the radio, and have some quiet time to myself scrubbing away. Afterwards, if the kids are still asleep, I do a yoga tape; generally I choose a tape by Rodney Yee or Baron Baptiste, but sometime Shiva Rea.

3. Morning is my favorite time of day. The world seems ripe with possibilities in the morning.

4. York Peppermint Patties are my current favorite form of chocolate. I keep them in the refrigerator.

5. At one time I was vegetarian, and yes, even vegan for a brief stint. Now I'm not.

6. When I walk around the neighborhood I think about all the secrets the houses seem to hold -- all the joys and sorrows that I can't even begin to guess at. Lately I've been thinking the same thing about blogs I pass through reading -- what joys and sorrows are hidden in the heart of the writer? And who am I to judge the tiny glimpse I do see, given how much is hidden from view?

7. I tend to think most people are about the same level of smart as am I. And I tend to be startled when I discover that I'm often wrong about that. Then again, I like to present myself to the world as shallow and dippy, because then people don't have annoying expectations of me. I wonder if some of the people I think are shallow and dippy are doing the exact same thing.

(Okay, I need to add something here -- plenty of people startle me by being so much smarter than me that it sort of makes me dizzy to think about. It's like realizing that you're blind to something others can see -- other people have such comprehension and intelligence about things I just do. not. get. So, the point is that I tend assume that everyone is exactly like me, and I'm always surprised when I discover they aren't. You'd think I'd catch on. But I don't.)

8. I really, really hate to shop. Having to make a decision to purchase one thing and not-purchase another just paralyzes me. It's sort of the same feeling as trying to decide who to tag with a meme versus who to not-tag. So, I tend to avoid shopping and tagging.

Thanks, Kristen, for giving me the opportunity to aimlessly babble. I love, love, love this type of meme, and would do it weekly. Except I don't like reading random bullet-point stuff like this on a regular basis (I was just reading a Thomas Sowell Random Thoughts column this morning and thinking how much I dislike that writing style since the author never develops any of the ideas) , so then I'd hate reading my own blog. And, you know, that just seems so very wrong, to write a blog you wouldn't want to read yourself. Not that I read my blog. Who has time? I need to read all of your blogs! Including your 8 Random Things, because in small doses it's lots of fun!

12 September 2007

Tuesday Teatime

This week's teatime shows just how easy having a weekly teatime can be.

While grocery shopping I picked up a package of creme filled wafer cookies. I think those wafer cookies are sort of vile, but the kids thought they were a great treat, and I had great hopes that I wouldn't eat the entire package myself (cookies are a great weakness of mine). I also picked up a bottle of lemonade.

And while at the library I picked up a copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne. It's a wonderful little book, and we should probably own a copy, but we don't. The library had several copies.

And, then, when we were ready to have teatime yesterday afternoon we decided it was a beautiful day and we should be outside. An outdoor teatime had an added advantage as it meant we didn't have to clean off the dining room table.

I took a blanket out to the playset, and spread it out on the platform up at the top of the slide. I also carried the book, the napkins, and the package of cookies. The kids followed with the lemonade and non-breakable cups.

As they settled in I read the introduction to the book. Then I read various poems at random.

After about 20 minutes of reading and chatting, we decided we had had enough. We picked up various items, slid down the slide, and carried them into the house. I then mowed the lawn while the kids attended to some other activities they had wanted to accomplish.

Tuesday teatime can be so very easy. Or it can be quite elaborate. And it's lots of fun to mix it up and vary the type you have, along with varying the poetry. You could even have one today!

10 September 2007

Sshhh, I'm Trying to Read

I rarely, if ever, read the popular trendy books that everyone is reading. So it's sort of surprising to me that I placed a library hold on Rob Gifford's China Road as soon as I heard about it. It's a great book; Gifford's writing is engaging, and he breaks down his complex subject into digestible bits. Unfortunately, I know that others are in line behind me at the library, and I won't be able to renew it. Right now I seem to be reading it just to get it read by the due date, rather than reading it for the joy of reading.

Also, for all of his talk about forces that shape China, he doesn't talk much about dirt. Oh, sure, he mentions loess midway through, but he doesn't really ponder the significance of the matter. It's a good thing I have David Montgomery's Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations.

Ah, Dirt. Montgomery's book is so good that I feel guilty reading it. Who knew dirt could be so fascinating? Actually, I enjoyed soil science back in college (the fact that I tended to fall asleep during lecture was strictly because the class was right after lunch and the room was warm, you know). I mean, I wasn't hardcore about it -- I drew the line at attending soil judging contests, which I considered a little over the top insofar as dirt-appreciation goes (although, really, I think I'd kick butt at one). Actually, you don't have to be a dirt-o-phile (dirthead?) to enjoy this book. A history buff would find it fascinating, as it gives a new look at the rise and fall of civilizations.

And, of course, when not reading up on China and/or dirt, I'm pulling out a copy of Eric Franklin's Conditioning for Dance along with some theraband knockoffs from Target. This is a book you don't so much read as experience. I work on the exercises myself, then share them with the kids as ways to dance with more ease. My interest in the subject was piqued by the amazing dance kinesiology posts at Taoknitter. I get such a thrill everytime my bloglines page shows that she's posted something new -- she's as exciting as, well, as dirt! I love to soak up the information I'm finding on how the body moves, and how to support children as they learn to move in ways dictated by dance or sports.

The above are all library books, being read with the tyranny of the due date in mind. The books I actually own tend to get shoved to the bottom of the stack. For example, I had originally gotten Enzymes for Autism and Other Neurologiacl Conditions through Interlibrary Loan; I hurried right through the book since it had large NO RENEWALS stamped all over it. And then I bought me own copy. I'm re-reading it now, after which I will loan it out to others that have expressed interest in the subject. Except, you know, there's no due date on it, so I don't have a deadline for finishing it. Which is a shame, because it's a life-changing book that I really should finish up and loan out.

Oh, and should I mention Ani's Raw Food Kitchen?. It's a really creative un-cook-book. I mean, once you get over how many trees were destroyed to fill the pages with photos of Ani, and once you get over the incredibly rambling writing style, and once you get over your hang up that a 100 percent raw vegan diet is deeply flawed, well then, you can enjoy the book. Raw cooks have some pretty creative food prep ideas, and Ani has some of the best of the lot.

I'm not counting in this list the various books our Sunday School has been studying, given that I never finished the last one (Ortberg's If You Want to Walk on Water) and haven't started the next one (Hybel's Too Busy Not to Pray). And, frankly, as I was starting to type that sentence my computer crashed, leaving me to ponder that maybe I'd get more reading done if I actually opened the books instead of sitting here writing about them. Must. Go. Read.

05 September 2007

Homeschooling When You're Too Tired to Think

Yesterday we were tired and dull. Well, often we are dull, and tired happens, too, but we were exceptionally tired and dull after a busy weekend.

But we still need to learn stuff, by golly! Or, at least be able to write something educational down in our log book.


Up in the morning, breakfast and a read aloud. Then head out to The Butterfly House. The Butterfly House has free admission for county residents on the morning of the first Tuesday of the month. They don't advertise this anywhere that I know of, and, frankly, I'm not sure of the exact hours it happens. But we take advantage of it whenever possible.

We looked over the various insects and arachnids on display in the entrance. My disaster-obsessed child has now turned her attention to brown recluse spiders, so we spent some time at that display; too bad the spider was being so, you know, reclusive.

Then on in to the actual butterfly house. It was a sunny day, and the butterflies were very active. We, on the other hand, were not active at all. I think the bromeliads were livelier than our group. As I saw the other moms busily engaging their children and doing stuff to make it educational, I felt that we were sort of zen in our calm acceptance of the butterflies flitting around us. Sometimes they landed on us. We were one with the scenery. We were ... tired.

On the way out, we stopped at the gift shop to pick up some chocolate covered ants. Scientific investigation at its finest! Comments from the back seat: "They just taste like chocolate, but the antennae prickle on your tongue," and "You can sort of feel the exoskeleton in your throat." We made it home without anyone barfing, including me (I chose not to indulge in this treat).

Lunch, and another read aloud. Then, yes, it's time for RETURN OF TUESDAY TEATIME.

Last spring we drifted away from Tuesday Teatimes, mostly because of Tuesday afternoon piano lessons. We have now moved piano lessons to another day. Why didn't we move Teatime to another day last spring? Well, for one thing, we liked the alliteration of Tuesday Teatime. Plus, we were busy pretty much every other afternoon, sigh.

The kids set up the teatime. This involved selecting a tablecloth and napkins, getting out plates and glasses, and decorating the table with a candle and fake insects:

Kid2 is decorating her cupcakes with frosting-in-a-tube, making ladybugs.

We had some mini cupcakes from Trader Joes, and some pink lemonade. Kid2 and I read out of Joyful Noise, Paul Fleischman's wonderful book of insect-themed poetry written to be read aloud by 2 people. She thought reading the poems aloud together was great fun; we'll probably continue to read these poems for the rest of the week.

Afterwards someone apparently thought it would be amusing to put doublestick tape on the insects and post them at various places throughout the house; last night I found a large roach crawling up the wall of the hallway (fairly startling, as the roach is the most lifelike of the batch) and this morning there was a gigantic unidentifiable something next to the light switch in the basement. Ahem. All you moms out there with all boys take note: having girls doesn't mean you get off scott-free from this sort of thing, although there's probably less of it going on in our house than in yours.

That night as we brushed teeth we found a few little black spots ... ants, perhaps, had stuck to the teeth all day? Who knows. All-in-all, it was an interesting day.

03 September 2007

Note to Self: Turning a Heel and Attending a Feis Simultaneously Doesn't Work

Because I loose my place in both the heel and the feis.

We stayed at the Hyatt in downtown Kansas City. On the one hand, they goofed up our reservation regarding the roll-away bed and how many people would be staying in the room (hotels always goof up the roll-away, so we had brought our own aerobed). On the other hand, they had ESCALATORS! Right there near the check-in desk! So, like, when Mom is checking in, you can run over and ride up and down them several times!

The feis was at the Westin, which is connected to the Hyatt via a walkway. On Friday night we checked into the feis, rode the Westin escalators a few times, and visited the Irish Festival. We watched The Fuchsia Band, who we enjoyed (we spent most of the weekend singing their song Ceili Band ... except the only words we could remember were "we're a Ceili Band", so it was a bit monotonous). Overall, though, the event served to remind us that we really don't like street fairs that much. Oh well. The Hyatt gave out complimentary tickets to the Festival, so it wasn't as though we had spent out money on it. And the Festival did have a knitting contest -- the kids thought I should enter it. I didn't feel like messing with it, though. Maybe another year.

The feis itself was on Saturday, and was fun. I liked the layout -- it was easy to find everything (except the restrooms). The feis didn't charge for spectators, which was nice since many of us had invited Kansas City relatives to come see our kids compete. We were on stage E and stage F, along with all the other First Feis, Beginner 1, Beginner 2 and Novice. The room for stage E was a bit small, considering the number of spectators. I felt like I barely had room to knit

I was working on transforming August's UFO Resurrection sock into something I might actually finish knitting and perhaps even wear. I'm making up the pattern as I go along. So far this hasn't been the easiest project to carry along -- I seem to have lost one of the needles down the side of Mrs. Piano Teacher's chair last week, and making up a heel whilst simultaneously keeping track of where we are in the feis schedule really did. not. work. Of course, it didn't help that the Slip Jig competition went on forever, partially because one of the dancers threw up at the check-in station (I never did hear whether it was just nerves or what, let alone the answer to the primal question of did it get on her dress?).

Stage F was in a larger room, and blessedly cool. It was also right next to the hotel concessions. Grandma and Grandpa spent most of their time there.

Other thoughts on the feis: My older daughter was mortified that they were to sit in chairs in the waiting area, as she felt it crushed her dress. I liked that they clearly announced when the lunch break would be. I liked how caring the adjudicators were, pausing to publicly congratulate all the First Feis contestants for getting up and dancing (apparently one little boy on stage F was so distraught before dancing that the adjudicator went over to him and spent a few moments soothing him), and generally make sure the Beginners had a chance to have fun and do their best. They still managed to briskly wrap up the competitions we were involved in (in spite of the vomiting incident) by lunch time.

We collected our awards (some of which the sock is wearing in the above picture -- no, the sock didn't win a 2nd and 3rd, but that's part of our collection). I was impressed that the kids placed so well, considering that they had been up late riding escalators rather than practicing and/or getting a good night's sleep.

We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying downtown Kansas City with some relatives, then swimming in the hotel pool, riding escalators, and watching the Irish Fest fireworks.

Sunday we checked out of the hotel, went to church with relatives, then over to my sister-in-law's house. We headed home later in the afternoon; I spent the ride undoing most of the knitting I'd done at the feis, then re-knitting it.

We were exhausted Monday morning, but had tickets for the Cardinal's game. Well, MrV and I had tickets. The kids went to a relative's house (which has a pool) here in St. Louis. I gotta tell you, these were Amazingly Good Seats, and if I had a camera phone I would've been calling Weaver to show her, since I know she would've been impressed. Mostly, though, I wanted to take a nap, and the game went downhill fast. Gees. You'd think the Cardinals had been up all night riding escalators or something.

So we have now Travelled to a Feis. And we had fun doing it. This puts us in the realm of hardcore Irish Dance families. Or maybe it's just that we like to ride escalators.