Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Osiris and Set Narration

by Isabel, age five

(A summary of the myth of Osiris and Set can be seen here. We read a kid-friendly version.)

"Egyptians believed in lots of Gods, not just one. Miley Cyrus was the in-charge god. Miley Cyrus's brother was Set Up, like Scar in the Lion King. Set Up gave Miley Cyrus a coffin box as a trick, and Miley Cyrus drownded in the Nile. Miley Cyrus's wife, Ice, cried a lot. Then Miley Cyrus came back to life and went back to the prideland. The pharoah was a god, too, and sang very pretty with Joseph."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Say what?

Photograph by Matthew Rolston

So, yeah, yeah, I haven't updated in ages. First Isabel was sick, then I was sick, then Aidan was sick, blah, blah, blah. And I am apparently watching far too much television these days, judging by back-to-back opinions on reality TV stars. But I just can't not say something about this Adam Lambert business.

Isn't Adam Lambert being gay, like, the biggest NON-news story ever?

This was a "secret" like the owner of the deli where I worked as a teenager having an affair with his manager was a secret ("Uh, sorry! I can't see anything, I just need to refill the pickle jar!" [As did she. ba dum bum.]). Like Kathie Lee Gifford having a bizarre fixation on Cody, or how most moms co-sleep with their babies at some point. Like Citizen Kane not actually being a very interesting movie, or how diet Dr. Pepper actually does not taste like regular Dr. Pepper at all. These are things that aren't always talked about, but are generally known.

So, please, allow me to say... Yoo-hoo! Rolling Stone? EVERYBODY ALREADY KNEW ADAM LAMBERT WAS GAY.

I'm now off to work on the breaking news story that I'm certain will launch my reporting career: Andy Rooney Has Nightmare-Inducing Eyebrows.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm a guest blogger!

A friend, Tracy, owner of the wildly successful I Hate My Message Board weblog, has a piece of mine up as a guest post! To read my thoughts on the recent Jon and Kate Plus Eight controversies, follow this link:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stupid Nature (a/k/a Close Encounters of the Wormed Kind)

This week we're learning about early Egypt: The Nile, Nile Delta, Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt, King Narmer, etc. Cue immediate confusion, as the map shows that "Upper Egypt" is, in fact, lower, and "Lower Egypt" is upper - a baffling conundrum to a 5 year old. After much poring over maps and talking about mountains vs. valleys, I decided that the thing to do was to make a model of the Nile. So we halted all further discussions about Egypt in order to construct the Nile in our dining room.

An old metal painting pan made the perfect container - it even had the built-in slope to represent Upper Egypt's mountains. I drilled a few holes in the deepest part, to allow water from our Nile to drain into the Mediterranean - otherwise known as a round cake tin - and set Isabel up with tin foil to line the pan and mold mountains. While she did that and Aidan napped, I jogged out to the farthest corner of the backyard, where we've been tearing out grass to construct a play area. This portion of the yard has dark, rich soil and since my initial, ambitious imaginings of the model included grass seeds, I thought it would be perfect. Working fast, lest Senor Crankypants wake from his nap earlier than expected, I filled a large mixing bowl with dirt and ran back in.

Referencing Isabel's map of the Nile, we got the model oriented in the right direction and dumped in the dirt. With spoons and fingers we smoothed the valley, mounded the mountains and dug out the Nile, its offshoots in the delta, and the sea. The dirt was imperfect, filled with grass clippings. That's the reason I didn't notice them sooner - they blended in with the grass clippings.

"Them" being the worms.

No, let me rephrase. Not just "the worms," but THE MOTHERF***ING WORMS! Scores of them. Thready white nasty little buggers, undulating and burrowing all through our model of the Nile. I think they might have been these, and am hoping like hell they weren't these.

Me: Oh my Gaaaawwwd!

Not out loud, though. I managed to keep a calm demeanor. But make no mistake - in my head, I was jumping around and screaming like a maniac as those horrid little things wriggled around on my dining table. Oh, Lord, on my table. Very, very calmly, I scooped them out, one at a time, and re-deposited them in my mixing bowl (which is now slated for destruction, as I will never ever evereverever eat anything that comes out of it again). One by one, until there was a nice, thick pile of those squirmy sonsabitches. I flushed them down the toilet, with much malice in my heart.

We filled our pitcher (the one we made in our recycling/gardening tool project a couple weeks ago) with water and rained down on the mountains. It worked! The water flowed through the mountains, into the Nile, through the delta and into the sea. It flooded and drained, just as it was supposed to. And as it drained, dozens more worms popped up out of the dirt and made a mad dash for higher ground. Popped their slimy white heads out of my Nile Delta and looked at me, I swear to God, they looked at me with evil in their microscopic eyes, or whatever equivalent to eyes worms have.

Unfortunately for me, Isabel was very taken with her Nile model and wanted to keep playing with it for a while. So I isolated the damned thing the best I could, with tin foil and a tray, and let her flood it a bit longer while I got to the urgent business of cleaning all the spilled dirt off of my table, chairs and floor. Because you know what was in my mind... bitty worms and worm eggs laying around, just waiting to be eaten by some unwitting child or house pet. Or, maybe, just maybe, lurking and waiting for the right moment to burrow into the bottom of my foot and lay eggs in my brain or some such fodder for a blockbuster horror film. Just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it couldn't - someone has to be the first. It would be just my luck to be the first human invaded by some body-snatching alien worm creature from the Nile.

So I cleaned. And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I knew it was overboard even while I was doing it, but considering that what I really wanted to do was (1) blow the house up or (2) power-wash the entire dining room with undiluted bleach, I figured I was doing okay by settling for some obsessive-compulsive scrubbing with vinegar solution. I also enforced rigorous hand-washing by all Nile-flooding participants, but did it without screeching about intestinal parasites so, again, bring on the congratulatory self-back-pats. I invited Isabel to help with the cleaning but she was suddenly and tragically struck blind, as evidenced by her dark-tinted princess glasses. Remarkably coincidental, how she is always unexpectedly overcome by such afflictions just when I need her help with tidying up.

I managed to hold on until Nick got home. Isabel flooded the Nile for him and he was appropriately impressed. And then I smiled, pulled him to the side, and hissed, "There are worms in the model and you must get it out. of. my. house. NOW."

Which he did. Husbands are awesome.

Isabel had a blast, and she did eventually understand why Upper Egypt is Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt is Lower Egypt. So it was worth it in the end.

Naturally, there are pictures.

Isabel's map of the Nile.

Putting dirt in the model. Sweet, innocent times, before we'd looked closely at the soil.

Aidan's contribution. I'm not joking, either - this is the very best contribution he could have given us. I love it when he sleeps through the big projects!

Worm pie. Er... I mean, the Nile. It's partially flooded here.

Aidan woke up.

Isabel. She was blind here. As you can tell by the glasses. Her sight was miraculously restored when all the cleaning was done.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Know, Google Ads, Since Thou Art So Weird...

That I shall now commence to mock thee.

In the sidebar of my search results for "homeschool news":

Online Homeschooling
Fast & Easy. All info about online Homeschooling.

It just so happens that I used to have a contract with the other half of the company that operates EssayEdge. So I know firsthand that EssayEdge is an essay writing service. Not a tutoring service, an essay writing service. They're not lying - it truly is fast and easy homeschooling when you hire someone else to do your schoolwork for you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A less-than-stellar Mommy moment

8:00 am
Eating homemade waffles
Isabel: I wish we could have oatmeal for breakfast.
Me: We had oatmeal yesterday. Waffles today. They're good!
Isabel: Yeah. But I wish we could have oatmeal instead.
Me: I know you do. We'll have oatmeal tomorrow.

10:00 am
Doing schoolwork
Isabel: I wish I had my own computer.
Me: What would you do with your own computer?
Isabel: I could look up my own schoolwork by myself and it would be better.
Me: Okay. Well, how about if we look some things up on the computer in a little bit?
Isabel: But that's not my own computer. I wish I had my own computer.
Me: I understand you do. But we all share a computer for now.

12:00 pm
Eating lunch at the beach
Isabel: I wish we had McDonald's for lunch.
Me: Sorry, babe, I made you a turkey taco. You like them.
Isabel: Uh-huh. I still wish I had McDonald's.
Me: Sorry, Belle. No McDonald's today.
Isabel: *big sigh*

3:00 pm
Heading home from the beach
Isabel: I wish we had a van.
Me: Me, too.
Isabel: Then I could sit up high and see everything.
Me: Me, too.
Isabel: I really wish we had a van.
Me: *big sigh* Me, too.

Going upstairs to work
Isabel: I wish you didn't have to work.
Me: But I like to work.
Isabel: I wish you were a mommy who didn't work, though.
Me: Well, I do.

8:00 pm
Isabel: I wish I could stay up late. I wish I had a house with NO bedtime.
Me: Yes, Isabel, I hear you. I understand that you wish for many things and that our lives are lacking in every conceivable way. I apologize for falling short of your expectations on a regular basis and for delivering a socioeconomic experience that is less than you would hope. I promise to try harder to create a lifestyle more to your liking. How does that sound?
Isabel: .................
Me: *raises eyebrows*
Isabel: Never mind.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What we're doing this week, and some cave paintings

This week's material rundown:

Review numbers 1-100 with number chart
Review shapes
Horizons review worksheets: 6-10, 1-10, 10-19, 20-29
Horizons fill-in-the-number worksheets: 16-69, 30-100
Miquon Orange Book worksheets (with Cuisenaire rods): addition to 4, 5, 8 and 9

Spelling Workout A, Lessons 3 and 4: Beginning letters and sounds

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Lessons 3 and 4: Common nouns, introduction to proper nouns, ongoing review/memorization of poem "The Caterpillar"

The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading: Consonant blends and digraphs
Readers of choice

Family History project *tie-in to History (interviewing family members and copying answers)
Create a plant diary *tie-in to Science (journaling garden progress)
Copywork: "The Caterpillar" *tie-in to Grammar

Oral Reading
McGuffey's Eclectic Reader 1, Lessons 1 and 2

History and Geography
The Story of the World, Chapter 1: The First Nomads, and, The First Nomads Become Farmers
Fertile Crescent map
Coloring page: Farmer with Shaduf
Activities: Cave painting, build a hut, *maybe* make a game bag

Flower dissection
Create an indoor garden and greenhouse
Seeds in a bag
Journal opening of dandelions in plant diary

Music Appreciation

Art Appreciation
The Children's Book of Art

Irish dancing (x2)
Homeschool group (x2)
General playing with kids in the neighborhood in the evenings

I'm in a quandary regarding our reading work. We've been making our way through Charlotte's Web but, frankly, Isabel hates it. It's just not holding her attention. So as much as I hate to do it, I think we're going to stop. She's not getting anything out of it and I don't want to turn her off of reading. I picked up a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit a while ago, and we might try that instead. We'll see.

We read through the first part of this week's history lesson today and learned about the earliest nomads. Isabel was fascinated and disgusted to learn that they ate lizards and snakes. I must try to find a book that talks more about what early peoples ate.

After all our other schoolwork was done for the day, and everyone had been lunched and played with, I fashioned a cave out of brown paper beneath our dining table. I stripped Aidan down, put out some paints, and the kids made cave paintings. This was a fun project!

Painting in the "cave."

Isabel hard at work.

Aidan a mess, as usual!

The finished product. The bottom right is Aidan's contribution. The rest is Isabel's... she has a pretty elaborate story of what's going on, too. It's people (nomads) dancing underneath the sun and then moving somewhere new to follow the animals.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

So, my kid was eating dog food, and...

I was all like, "Oh crap, this backfired. Now what?"

I'm not entirely certain when the puppy game became such a ubiquitous part of our household. I know it started with our homeschool group; for a while, the kids would spend hours engrossed in a game they called "Baby Dog," in which they pretended to be... wait for it, there's a twist... baby dogs. (I lied about the twist. Guess there's no real way to dress up kids pretending to be dogs.)

At some point, Aidan started pretending to be a puppy. And, come on, we all know that a wee little guy crawling about, licking things and barking, is pretty darned cute. So Aidan would be on the floor, yipping at everyone's heels, and said everyone would lean over and say things like, "Oh, look! Isn't that adorable? He's pretending to be a puppy! C'mere puppy, I'll pet you!"

Cue older sibling envy.

Something else we all know is that an almost-six year old crawling around, licking things and barking, is not so much of the cute. But almost-six year old girls (especially those in the process of weaning off of their anticonvulsant medication) are also emotionally volatile and vulnerable creatures. We want to be careful about their feeeeelinnnnngs and self-esteem and ego or some such new-agey twaddle. So Nick and I have been going with the puppy thing, calling her over, petting her and otherwise acting like buffoons and hoping it would just be a quick phase, like wearing flip-flops or the day she liked broccoli.

Several weeks later, we're still dealing with the puppy (whose name, by the way, is Lilly). After Nick got stuck bringing Lilly the puppy with him to the store this afternoon, I decided to enthusiastically embrace Isabel's puppyhood. I like dogs, after all. We have a dog already, what's one more?

While Lilly the puppy romped at my feet, I retrieved dishes, filled one with water, and placed them both on the floor. Now, I'll be honest and say that I wasn't going to go totally method with this thing. My plan was to put chicken nuggets in the food dish. But Lilly - who, it should be noted, can talk (a la PBS's Martha Speaks) - insisted upon dog food. I started to protest and then thought, why? This will surely burn her out!

I poured the food.

She took a bite.

And another bite.

And another.

"How's your food, Lilly?" I asked.

"Ruff! Yum-my! Arf arf arf!" Chew, chew, chew. Another bite. Chew, chew, chew. "Yip! Mm-mm-good! Ruff!"

So there I was. On Mother's Day. Standing in the kitchen while my five year old crouched at my feet and ate a bowl of dog food off the floor. Yay me.

Chicken nuggets didn't change her mind. Being shut in the kitchen while Nick, Aidan and I ate at the table didn't change her mind. The prospect of sleeping on the floor didn't change her mind.

Aidan toddled over to the gate at one point, and Lilly growled rather convincingly at him. She barked and rolled. And I watched all of this, mentally writing the acceptance speech for my Worst Mother Of The Year award and wondering if blogging about it would result in CPS banging down my door. (I really freaking hope not.)

Dessert. Dessert is what did the child in. A big bag of candy mints, not suitable for doggie consumption. "Oh, I'm not a puppy anymore," she said matter-of-factly, like we were the ones who had strange ideas.

I'm so glad we had those mints in the house. I really didn't want to have to take her outside to go pee.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Seriously, CNN? SERIOUSLY?

Courtesy of CNN, 7 low-cost gifts to keep Mom healthy on Mother's Day.

Give your mom something she really needs -- the gift of good health.

Aw. That's kinda sweet. Second sentence and I'm interested.

I'll admit, though, my eyebrow is slightly raised at "low-cost." In my experience, "low-cost" gift lists are either (1) dollar store crap awkwardly arranged into something we're all supposed to pretend is creative and thoughtful, or (2) come from the Oprah school of affordable, which means that you'd better hope you get tickets for her Favorite Things show or else you'll never, ever, ever be able to afford that cool thing, you middle-class sucker.

Anyway. Moving on.

No, you don't have to buy her a treadmill.

Okay, that answers that. We're on the dollar-store list. Good news in terms of my shopping. Bad news in terms of my receiving. And yes, I'm all about my receiving, thankyouverymuch.

1. Give the gift of (your) time and support at the doctor's office.

"Offer to be your mom's health buddy."... "Promise to be there for any and all doctor's visits whether a mammogram or routine appointment."

Um. Okay? That's a little weird. I don't really feel the need to hold my Mom's hand while she has her blood pressure checked and gets a pap but hey, maybe I'll ask her if that's what she wants.

2. Give the gift of healthy eating.

Rather than an expensive, artery-clogging brunch, you can spring for a visit with the nutritionist and follow it with a healthy meal.

If my husband is reading this - I want the damned brunch. Just to be clear.

Also for the record, giving me the gift of a nutritionist kinda makes for a sucky Mother's Day. That's the sort of thing that needs to be finessed... I wouldn't turn it away if it was proposed in one of the not-uncommon discussions we have about exercise and eating and weight. Tie a string to your finger and when your Mom (or wife) says, "Oh, I'm really trying to lose weight..." then go ahead and say, "You know, I heard of this nutritionist, blah, blah, let me send you!"

But for Mother's Day? No. What do you even write in that card? "Happy Mother's Day, fatass!" Egads.

3. Give the gift of organization.

Instead of making a photo album of family snapshots (although that's nice too), make your mom a folder containing all of her medical records.

Uhhh... huh. Is Mom mentally retarded? Does she have advanced dementia? Please, please don't come to my house and put my medical papers in a folder for me. Please.

4. Give the gift of a good night's sleep.

"Buy your mom satin sheets, a new mattress, a mattress cover, or a luxurious pillow to encourage better sleep," Savard said. "We know that restorative sleep is critical to our immune system and heart health." For new mothers, offer to watch the baby while she takes a nap. This will also allow you to spend quality time with the kids, so "it's a win-win."

This is a good one! I like this one! *yawn* (Except for the satin sheets. Like trying to sleep on a slip-and-slide, satin sheets. A good, high thread count cotton works for me.)

5. Give the gift of healthful goodies.

Instead of a gourmet gift basket filled with cheese and crackers or sweets, make your own healthy gift basket for your mom, suggests Savard. Not sure what to put in it? Start with a multivitamin, calcium supplements, and vitamin D supplements. "If you know your mom is trying to get more fiber, put some fiber supplements in the basket too," she says. "A pedometer, some arm weights, and maybe a tape measure can also be part of this gift," Savard says. A tape measure can help mom measure her waist size.


I do not hesitate when I say this: If you give me a belly-fat measuring device of any kind as a Mother's Day gift, I will lose my shit. Lose it. First I will cry. Then I'll excuse myself to cry harder. Then I will remove the children to a safe location. And then YOU - and everything else within a twenty foot radius, most likely - will promptly be destroyed as I, and all my belly fat, have a Mommy meltdown of epic proportions.

Do not give me fiber for Mother's Day. Do not give me weights for Mother's Day. And for the love of all that is holy and any small measure of respect you can drum up for the fact that I gestated your children for TEN months (wherever that "nine month" bullshit came from, I will never know) and then actually made (with my belly fat-riddled body) food - FOOD! I produced FOOD! - that continued to nourish them for years thereafter, do NOT, under any circumstances, give me a tape measure with which to measure my girth.

This is the worst gift suggestion EVER. EVER! I'm rolling my eyes and wagging my finger at you, CNN. You report the news! Don't you read the stuff you print? You're treading in penis-lopping-off territory here.

6. Give the gift that keeps on giving.

Accessory and gift companies such as Presents for Purpose allow you to pay it forward this Mother's Day by picking gifts in which 10 percent of the proceeds benefit a charity of your choice.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. I've no complaints about this one, but I'll be damned if I'm giving any props to this stupid list now.

7. Give the gift of chocolate -- if you must.

Oh, you must. Trust me. You must.

And I mean you, CNN. You owe every freaking mother in the world chocolate now. Lots of chocolate. And flowers. And brunch, too.

(PS - And, uh... yeah. I'm not really going to offer to go with my mom to her GYN appointments. Thanks but no thanks.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My children are monsters.

It's a double-edged sword, this homeschooling. On the up side, I get to be with my kids pretty much all the time. On the down side, I have to be with my kids pretty much all the time. And as I mentioned above, my children are monsters.

Not the "Can you believe that bratty kid?" sort of monsters that invariably block the aisles at Wal-Mart. No, my children have actual super powers. If they used them for the forces of good, I'd say they're super heroes. As it is, they use their powers for nefarious, anti-Mommy purposes and I am left to rant peevishly about it on my weblog.

Never are their abilities more potent than on a rainy, stuck-in-the-house day on which I had already yelled three times before 10 am. In desperation, wanting to put an end to the madness, I thought, "Food!" Snacks, of course! They'll be contained at the table, their mouths will be busy, all will be quiet and calm! I even had an excellent snack just for myself in the kitchen, perfect for regrouping.

I sounded the call. "Who wants a snack?"

"Me, me, me! I do, I do!" Ooh, good going, Mama. This was a great idea! In that euphoric moment, I extended an irresistible offer: "What do you want?"

Their eyes lit up, Two mouths formed little o's of happiness. Pick our own? Really? No carrots? No apples? Whatever we want?

Yep. Whatever you want.

The kitchen was a flurry of activity. Child A wanted leftover pizza. "And... chocolate?" It was a hesitant question.

"Chocolate? Sure! Pizza and chocolate it is!"

They squealed. They jumped. They skipped to the table. Child B wanted yogurt. And chocolate. "Yogurt and chocolate coming up!" I trilled.

Food was served, chocolate distributed. There was much joyous wiggling and hooray-for-mom impromptu singing.

It was working! No running, no screaming, no thumping. Blessed calm and quiet. Smiling to myself, I fixed the ultimate snack to soothe my foodie heart - a couple wedges of perfect, crusty-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside French bread, a delicate fan of cheddar cheese slices, a lacy pile of curling, just-spicy-enough turkey pepperoni. My mouth watered as I carried the arrangement to the table.

I sat. And that is when it happened. The change.

In the tradition of all metamorph greats - Dr. Jekyll, Bruce Banner, Teen Wolf - it was an on-the-spot change. No tedious running off to phone booths here; my kids are no amateurs. Also following tradition, even though I should have seen it coming, I was caught entirely off guard.

Within seconds of my plate touching down on the wood tabletop, my previously happy, healthy children disappeared. In their place sat two of the most down-and-out, pathetic, groveling, Dickensian street urchins one could imagine. Their round, robust little bodies gave way to emaciated, stoop-shouldered forms. Out of nowhere, dark circles appeared beneath their eyes, now looming darkly from pale, drawn faces. Youthful exuberance was gone, replaced by deep longing. Pizza and yogurt and chocolate lay, forgotten, rejected, scattered in front of these sad beasts of wanting, like stripped-down bones on display for disinterested vultures.

"Can I have some?"
"Have some?"

When the change happens, the fixation is so complete that the two often echo one another in identical desire.

I looked at my plate. The bread, the cheese, the pepperoni. How naive I'd been. My choices held little appeal: Deny them my food and endure the requisite whining, staring, and tantruming, or sacrifice my much-anticipated snack in the name of winning 10 more minutes of quietude.

I chose quiet. As they devoured my food, the monsters gradually gave way to my familiar children.

And in my hard-earned 10 minutes of silence, I, undetected, crammed a few bite-sized Milky Way candy bars in my mouth while stepping out for the mail.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

I'm a mess. Aidan loves watermelon. I love that Aidan loves watermelon. I do not love that he wants me to hold him while he eats watermelon. I think this shirt is ruined.

Lots of pics... It was a good day. I was worried that Isabel would object to the increased schoolwork load but so far she's thriving on it. I think she might have been bored before.

To start, one of my favorite things about homeschooling: No rushing around in the mornings!

Aidan came into our bed at some point last night (Nick got him so I don't actually know when) and Isabel woke up at about 6:30 and padded into our room, where she also climbed into bed and went back to sleep.

They woke at the same time and the day began! French toast for breakfast, then baths, followed by half an hour or so of play. Isabel actually asked to begin schoolwork.

We started with Math. It makes Aidan feel very important to sit next to his sister and "do school" so I give him extra worksheets to color on. Isabel's first grade math curriculum begins with reviewing the basics, so she's completing worksheets for the numbers one through twenty. She took a break from her own sheet to try to teach Aidan numbers one through five:

Aidan also decided he'd like to use the abacus. He counts as he slides the beads from one side to the other. Today, each bead was "tenty-fee."

We got through our spelling, phonics, grammar and handwriting throughout the rest of the morning and early afternoon (with lots of breaks for play) before finally moving on to the highlight of the day - starting our unit on the plant kingdom!

For the last week or so, we've been gathering recycled materials for our plants. On Sunday we went to the nursery and selected tomato and green pepper seedlings. Ultimately, we'll have a variety of indoor and outdoor plants to care for. We're trying to grow the tomatoes and green peppers in those Topsy Turvey planters that promise you can have year-round vegetables grown inside your own house. We have high hopes - we drop a bucket load of cash on tomatoes and green peppers and growing our own would be fabulous!

Before we got the plants, though, we used our recycled materials to create gardening tools. We cut take-out coffee cups and an old bread crumb tub down to size, and Isabel colored them with markers on the outside. We'll use these for the leftover green pepper seedlings (we have six plants and will only put three in the Topsy Turvey) and other plants that we'll grow from seeds.

We used an old gallon milk jug to create a storage bin for gardening supplies. Empty soda bottles were cut into shovels, and the bottoms set aside to be used as still more planters for seeds (these are neat, as you can see through them - I have to figure out a way toplant the seeds so that we can watch the root systems grow). A half-gallon orange juice jug, with the aid of a hole-puncher, became a watering can. It was a really fun project and Isabel is so proud of her gardening supplies.

Empty gardening tote:

And filled with supplies:

Shovels (these are hard to see - the bottle top is the handle):

Watering can (we later had to revise the shape and give it a more triangular opening at the top... after some trial and error, now it waters beautifully!):

Seedling pots:

I somehow managed not to get a picture of Isabel doing any planting (which is weird, because she did a lot of it!), but the three of us got the tomatoes in the Topsy Turvey planter. The green peppers will have to wait until we pick up more soil (those planters use a lot of dirt!).

Aidan brandishing a homemade shovel:

And putting soil in the planter (yes, that's dirt on his face):

Monday, May 4, 2009

First Grade

We started our first grade curriculum today. It went well.

This week we're covering:

Mathematics: Horizons Math review sheets 1 - 12; 1 - 100 review with number chart

Spelling: Spelling Workout A, Lessons 1 and 2
Grammar: First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Lessons 1 and 2
Reading: Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, consonant blends; ongoing Charlotte's Web reading and narration
Writing: Handwriting Without Tears (we're nearly done with this book); copywork from Charlotte's Web and First Language Lessons
Oral Reading: Lesson 1, McGuffey Reader

History: The Story of the World, Introduction: What is History?; Family tree project

Science: Green Thumbs, Introduction to Plants; recycling project to make gardening tote, watering can and seedling pots; planting projects to include tomatoes, green peppers and raspberry bush

Activities this week:

Science Museum Group - Dinosaurs!
Irish dancing
Homeschool co-op

Plus a birthday party this weekend and general play with neighborhood friends as weather permits. We were supposed to go on a nature walk with our homeschool group today but had to back out due to yicky coughs (swine swine swine swine... well, not really, but I figured now's probably a good time to be conservative about going out with coughs and runny noses).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No, Gus, No!

Once upon a time, these brackets held horizontal blinds. Currently, the blinds are in a million pieces and the brackets are lonely:

What you can barely see in this pic is that these windows used to be entirely covered in plastic:

Big dog meets flimsy shoe shelves. Winner: dog.

Poor Barbie didn't stand a chance:

Neither did the Disney Princesses. No prince saved this day:

Aidan's favorite Care Bear. There are great battles fought here over this Care Bear:

The offender, looking snazzy in his new coat:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why I'm a hypocrite

I'm fickle and have arbitrary standards. Evidence:

Things you will not see in our house:

* Bratz dolls
* Play weapons
* Video games of any variety
* SpongeBob Squarepants anything
* Pants with writing on the butt, mini-skirts, anything with "bling"
* Childrens' programming on any channel other than PBS
* Movies that depict graphic violence, or anything more intense than a first kiss

Things you will see in our house:

* The Les Miserables sountrack, to which Isabel knows all the words (including "Master of the House")
* A recording of Pink's "Dear Mr. President," to which Isabel knows most of the words
* Soundtracks for Rent and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, both of which I try not to play around the kids but sometimes I can't help myself
* Several books of art, including full nudes
* Political propaganda on the bumper of the car, in the front yard, on the cork board
* A copy of The Princess Bride, which we watch in full - death, violence, kissing included
* Jonas Brothers CDs. They're so stinking cute and wholesome and what-not.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A late-winter walk.

Cold. It is still cold. But the sun shone today and we've been sorely lacking in sunshine. So out we went, with the kids and our new dog Angus.

This is why we can never find our shoes. Aidan and the cat door. It's also the reason Nick and I are damned lucky to be alive, as there's no light at the top of the basement stairs.

It was brisk but lovely outside. It won't last long - more snow is slated for Wednesday.

Isabel and Gus, checking out the street before crossing. Well, Belle was checking the street. Gus was checking out the neighbor's dog.

I love this photo. Great light and shadows.

Isabel. When did she get so grown up?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

An open letter to TLC

Re: Commercial for the newest episode of "Jon & Kate Plus 8"

Dear TLC:


"Dads" is the plural form of "dad." As in, "Dads don't watch TLC!" See? If you're counting on your fingie-wingies, it's more than one little piggy.

"Dads" is plural and plural only. If you want a shorthand way to say "Dad is," what you're looking for is not plural, but what's known as a contraction: "Dad's." As in, "Dad's in charge."

NOT, "Dads in charge." Unless there's suddenly more than one Dad on "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Which I'm assuming there's not, because all of America has seen what a pain in the ass Kate would be to live with, thanks to your show.

You're The Learning Channel. The Learning Channel.

For fuck's sake.

Friday, February 6, 2009

First grade curriculum. And stuff.

I'm antsy. Three posts in one day. I finished one work project tonight (take my word for it, flash drives are just about the most boring thing ever to write about... although, to be fair, not quite as boring as keyboards) and am not ready to continue with my next project until tomorrow (even though this is one of the ones that makes business writing drudgery worth it - scripting an internal commercial). Too jittery to sleep, too cold out to go for a walk.


I bought our first grade books today. Signed up for the three-month trial of Amazon Prime and got free two-day shipping. Now, I'll be honest, I don't even know what Amazon Prime is. Sounds like a Transformer native to South American tree canopies. I do know that I can opt out before they charge me $79, and I know that signing up got me free two-day shipping. I remember, back in college, leaving the campus bookstore with my bag bursting at the seams, filled with straws. Why straws? Because they were FREE. Tell me it's free and I'll sign up. Thank you very much.

So, by Tuesday we should have received, and paid NO (happy dance here) shipping for:

That Usborne World History Encyclopedia makes me a bit nervous. Isabel's a sensitive kid and I suspect she's going to think that picture is scary. And the trouble with scary covers is that, unlike scary pictures inside the book, it can't just be paperclipped to another page. I may have to break out a paper grocery bag and fashion an old-school cover for that one. (I have a nostalgic urge to write "NKOTB 4eva!" on it.)