Saturday, June 28, 2008


Have you seen this?

Watch it with a Kleenex on hand. I've actually seen this famous father-and-son team in the Boston Marathon. But this is the Ironman Triathlon!

On a separate but marginally related note, CVS is having their $1 fund drive to support ALS research this month. The hospital in Boston that started the ALS Therapy Alliance is the one where my dad has received care for the past six years. Y'all donate, okay?

On the Stands

I walked into the grocery store (Central Market) this afternoon and guess what I saw on the newsstand?

My article! My article! The July issue of Parentwise:Austin is out and my very first-ever cover story is in it!!!

I felt like jumping up and down in the produce section, right there among the exotic melons. It was almost as exciting as that very first email I got from the Mothering Magazine editor offering to publish my story three years ago.

I'm not going to read the article, of course, because I never read my stories once they're in print. But you know I'm sending a copy home to Mom! LOL! I'm nervous, of course, because although I got really positive feedback from my editor, I just hope kids in the band like the story ...

(This month's issue isn't up on the PWA website yet, so you can't see it ...)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Did I say it was too quiet?

Well, we HAVE had a quiet week, really and truly. Some days, that worked (like yesterday, with the spontaneous fountain magic). Other days, like today, the day just seemed loooong with no plans until our swim date with the Atkinsons at 4:30. I know we need downtime, I know we need a break from any scheduled lessons, I know I need time to do stuff like weed through my tupperware cabinet and fling the topless and bottomless stuff (sorry, that sounds racy, I know). But I seem to get really antsy when we have too much time without items on the agenda -- either outings or things accomplished together at home. I totally admire other families, esp. other homeschoolers, who can just be so at peace with tons of unstructured time at home. And I feel like a total oddball sometimes, but I just can't do that for very long. I mean, I can do it when the kids are involved in some gloriously creative tomfoolery involving the dress-up box or homemade catapults or whatever, or we're snuggled up on the couch reading a good book together and no one's climbing on my neck. But when the boredom hits and they descend into bickering, to the tune of "Mooooooomm! ____ did _____ to me!" or they flop around sighing, or the only book being delved into is Calvin and Hobbes and I'm being badgered for computer time, and I don't quite know what to do with myself because I suddenly find myself with unexpected time where no one needs/wants my presence, but if I start something meaningful (like a blog post or scrapbook page) my presence with be IMMEDIATELY and URGENTLY needed, and goodness sakes, who really wants to make like a hamster on a treadmill and pick up around the house with every spare pocket of time???

I think that last sentence was a phenomenal run-on.

I also think this is a bit of a downer of a post ... but yesterday's was just so picture perfect that in the interest of honesty I feel an obligation to give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- as I see it, anyway. Which is, in so many words, that we have our magical moments and our moments where I'm stymied and my kids, like kids across America on 100-degree days, are bored and have to be admonished testily by their mother to go be productive if they don't like her ideas. Heh.

But I leave you with this proof that even the most unambitious of days can suddenly sprout wings. On Tuesday morning -- how did I NOT blog this before? -- my dear, dear, toddling daughter, who has been warned more than once about this behavior, stuck a dehydrated pea in her nostril to amuse her older siblings. (I was purging the cloth diaper stash in the other room.) Can you guess what happened?

If you guessed that the pea got stuck so far up that she could neither sneeze nor blow it out, and had to be taken to the minor-emergency clinic to have it extracted by a highly amused doctor, you would be right. I texted my fam during the ordeal and my brother Paul, that master of the dry wit (Jim from The Office is modeled after him), texted back, "O Lord, release the pea!"

Which is one of the reasons I love him. :-) After all, it's not every brother who would petition the heavens for supernatural dislodging of vegetable matter from uncomfortable places.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A summons for the Tooth Fairy

Finally, finally, Ian lost the broken baby tooth that had been marring his smile for months now. I had been thinking of getting him in at the dreaded dentist to get it extracted, since the adult one was starting to grow in behind it, but yesterday it finally yielded to the inevitable.

And look at the tin he made for the Tooth Fairy ("I KNOW it's you, Mom") with some of Melanie's stamps:

Unfortunately, he lost the tooth before placing it into the tin, so had to write an note of explanation, with a plea for mercy, to the T.F., instead. The Fairy seemed impressed, because (s)he left a dollar anyway, with an extra penny to boot!

This morning Eliza had Kindermusik for two hours, and I honestly didn't know exactly what I'd do with the other two in the meantime. I had a couple ideas -- feed the ducks behind the Arboretum? go to the free showing of Charlotte's Web at the nearby theater? -- but it turned out to one of those rare and magical mornings that simply unfolded itself just right. At Ian's request, to which I usually say no, we got a snack at Chick-Fil-A (I love the fact that they have REAL lemonade there), and then spent 45 minutes at the Arboretum, playing in the outdoor, shaded fountain and making boats out of sticks and leaves that we could send shooting down the stream to each other. If I'd tried to plan a perfect morning, or herded the kids out the door to go play in the fountain, it wouldn't have worked, but this is what happened ON OUR WAY to the proposed outing that didn't actually happen (the duck-feeding).

More simple gifts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Siskel and Ebert Get Cozy

Here they are from behind, watching their favorite movie in the whole world, The Adventures of Robinhood.

Monday, June 23, 2008

From the Caroline Files

"At the CareBear Day Spa"
(with apologies to William Carlos Williams)

so much depends

upon a seat on the floor

in a shaft of morning sunlight

with a two year old

bent over her work

polishing your fingernails

one by one

with shiny concealer

and confiding in you that

she loves Jesus

but does not want

to smell Him.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Revisiting a classic

Remember those wonderful Betsy-Tacy books (and later, Tib)? We've started reading the first one, Betsy-Tacy, about two five-year-old friends at the turn of the century, with Eliza and she's in looooove. Tim said that tonight as he turned the page and she caught a glimpse of Betsy and Tacy spreading out their paper dolls in the parlor, Lizey just sighed and said, in the dreamy voice of one who has seen the literary Promised Land, "Daddy, it's all just so ... beautiful."

Ian, on the other hand, isn't as easy to please in the fiction department, but we came up with a recent winner: Edward Eager's Knight's Castle. He's on his second reading through, and it looks as though dear Mr. Eager has more treasures in store for us. Let the salivating begin.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wedding Weekend -- Part Four

So, you know, believe it or not after all this frivolity, there was actually a *wedding* to attend last weekend.

Guess what we woke up to Sunday morning? Rain! Yes, gray skies, chilly temps, and rain. And the wedding was taking place on the Wellesley College campus, noted for its beautiful natural vistas and photographic backdrops. Not so much rain in our plan.

But we forged ahead with our painstaking preparations, and had you been there, you MIGHT have thought that someone in the house was actually the bride. You might say we (meaning my two sisters and SIL and I) were having delusions of bride-hood. Once the kids were all scrubbed and tubbed, and Caroline futilely put down for a nap that never happened, all the hairdryers, curling irons, flatirons, bobby pins, makeup brushes, etc., came out. I think we groomed for a good two hours -- possibly a record for me. And at the end of it all, I think I should have stuck with the look I achieved in the first twenty minutes. Less is more, you know? I ended up going to the wedding with hair that, after being curled, sprayed, straightened, brushed, pulled back, let down, blah blah, felt, and somewhat looked, like a bed of straw on my head. Yay me.

My sisters, on the other hand, both looked gorgeous, and it goes without saying that so did the bride. The rain did dry up in time for pre-wedding photos, although the skies remained overcast and we all shivered away in our filmy summer finery.

(I'm not exactly sure WHY I thought it would be a good idea to pose next to someone that photogenic, but anyway, a sweet moment of lunacy captured on camera)

(Ian with graciously goofy Aunt Louisa)

(Groom with proud parents)

Then the wedding. What can I say? The bride and groom were both glowing with happiness. My two year old remained silent and still in the front row for approximately thirty two seconds. Tim had to carry her, squawking, out of the room just as the vows were launched. (Peter: "Phoebe, I love you." Caroline: "BWAHHH! No! I don't WANT to be quiet!" which being interpreted is, I missed my nap on the worst day possible to do so.)

It's interesting how among the four of us siblings who have married, every wedding has been quite different, all reflective of our own style and where we are in our lives. Every time, there are aspects that I like about the wedding and others that I'm not as comfortable with, but it's such a good opportunity to internalize the mantra: "It's THEIR wedding, and what matters is that THEY'RE happy!" And in this case, not only was the happy couple, well, happy, but also they had someone (Phoebe's sister Renee) who'd attended to all sorts of little lovely details that must have involved hours of lost sleep. She's quite amazing.

There was an open mike during the reception, and many warm and heartfelt thoughts were expressed to the bride and groom, celebrating their best qualities and blessing their marriage. Um, I spoke. Um ... I think I have a strategy for next time. WRITE IT DOWN BEFOREHAND! Quite simply, I stink at public speaking. I go around in circles as if waiting for a trapdoor to just open up beneath my feet and whisk me away at the appropriate moment, and I throw in too many random anecdotes. I did because I really do love my brother, but how I wish I could give the Beta version, the well-thought-out and articulate and pithy final draft, instead of the bumbling rough draft.

But anyway. You know what was really fun? And doesn't need a re-do because it was great the first time? We had NOTHING on us for decorating the car, but among a few of us intrepid and determinedly mischief-seeking souls, we managed to rustle up some soda cans, pour out the contents, steal some ribbons from a decoration, raid the bathroom for toilet paper, and basically make their getaway car all but un-enterable. Phoebe literally had to weave her way through the Charmin web to get into the car. They took off into the night with rattling cans scads of white TP and trailing behind them like the train on a runaway bride. Perfect.

P.S. Inquiring minds wanted to know the answer to the Question of Questions: What do you do when you stink up the bathroom on your honeymoon? Well, the consensus was to pack either a book of matches or a scented candle. And of course, to resign yourself to the fact that this is just part of married life -- you can't fool 'em forever. :-)

We interrupt our regularly schedule programming ...

... to bring you a couple samples of stamp projects I've done recently. A friend named Melanie Muenchinger, whom I met through Vanessa, is this super-talented artist who designs stamps for an online company named Gina K. Designs. I'd had my eye on her sets for a while and finally took the plunge earlier this month, since I had a few specific projects in mind.
Here's something I made for Eliza's birthday -- and I TOTALLY copied it from another stamping friend, Donna. It's a tin to hold her hairclips in when she travels:

And then, a birthday card I made for my brother, who turned 25 on his honeymoon. At first I left the hippo plain but Tim thought I needed to kick it up a notch, so I covered that ample backside with some bright red boxers, decorated with glittery hearts (after all, he was getting married, LOL!). And I gave it a heart tattoo on the hiney as well. I'm not sure I've ever made something that actually made me snicker out loud, but this one did! (And if you know my brother, although he can be quite goofy, he's also a pretty conservative guy ... so I went out on a limb with this one!)

(And yes, those are brads that look like screws. Manly bling.)
(Speaking of bling, Caroline asked me the other day if she had her ears pierced, so that she could wear some "yellow flower bling-bling!" I guess she got a real education at that wedding!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wedding Weekend -- Part Three

Saturday dawned clear and bright for us, feeling just as a June morning in Boston should. (Not so the wedding day, but that's another story.) Another redeye flight deposited my fearless 83-year-old grandmother and two uncles (my dad's brothers, one of whom had never before been to the East Coast!).

What is with my family and red-eye flights? Bunch of air warriors, to be sure. Without small children. Grandma and Uncle Dan retired to their hotel after breakfasting with us, but Uncle John, the youngest of my dad's family and absolutely the funniest, joined us for his Boston tourist fix.

Because we had organized a little outing for whosoever among the out-of-town guests wanted to attend -- i.e. a jaunt to the Public Garden in downtown Boston and a ride on the Swan Boats (ever read Make Way for Ducklings?) I have to say, the outing was fun and we met a bunch of new friends from Houston (Phoebe's people), but it never ceases to amaze me how much inertia must be overcome in order to get large groups of people, i.e. anything beyond my immediate family, to do ANYTHING. My family is infamous for taking, oh, an hour, to move from one room to the next all together. Add about ten more people to that, and what you have is, about half an hour of standing around near the ticket counter for the Swan Boats, followed by a 20 minute ride, followed by another 30-40 minutes of skulking by the ticket counter. Note to self: Next time, buy megaphone. Or just relinquish any expectations of "making stuff happen."

That evening my family hosted a barbecue at the house for all the relatives and OOT guests. I think we ended up having about 50 people, and we must have found grace in the eyes of the Lord, because the projected thunderstorms did not arrive, and thus a nervous breakdown on the part of my dear mother was averted. :-) My sisters and SIL and I were the Big Helpers, and we had food galore, balloons, garden torches, classical music filtering out the window from Tim's laptop and some rustled-up speakers (my last-minute decree: we must have music!!!), but here's our little secret: This entire party was brought to you by Costco. I kid you not, I think we bought every last morsel of food and drink there. Hurray for premade fruit salad and veggie trays! Hurray for store-bought cheesecake and Ghirardelli brownie mix! Hurray for enormous bags of potatoes for salad and Y2K quantities of pasta salad! Oh, and hurray for the fact that one can rent extra refrigerators for a weekend. :-)

After all the excitement, the only thing to do in our glazed state of exhaustion was to engage in a rowdy game of PIT with our late-straggling guests.

Then from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., my siblings, their spice (one mouse, two mice, one spouse ...) and self topped off the night with a discussion of how to take care of our parents for next several months. Sorry, no photos.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wedding Weekend -- Part Two

Friday was more of a hang-around-the-house kind of day, at least for some of us. In the morning, Dad and Tim did take the three young 'uns for the usual and customary walk to the animal shelter to see Rosie the Pig and her friends. Here's the object of Caroline's affection. Isn't it truly a face only a two year old could love?

And here are some faces I really do love:

I spent the morning burrowing through boxes and albums to cull some photos of Peter for a collage we were making for the reception. But when Dad got back, we left our various activities (the kids discovered Monopoly!) to cajole him into singing "The Watermelon Song," his old campfire favorite, on GarageBand. There's really no delicate way to put this, but the reality is, singing is not easy for him at all anymore due to the amount of oxygen it requires -- and with ALS, the muscles that control breathing begin to degenerate. Knowing this made it seem more important to me not to put this off anymore, especially because none of us know the song quite like he does!

In the afternoon we did make our way over to Wilson Mountain, a place in my parents' town (Dedham) that can only generously be construed as a mountain. I'd call it more of a natural woodsy area of somewhat raised elevation. Of course, Ian resisted going, and of course, within five minutes of arriving he was having a blast climbing on the rock piles with his sisters. Also, Dad was able to accompany us, since the trail is wide and not too steep or rocky! In a field of wildflowers, we ran into a woman walking her adorable miniature dachschund (sp.?). Not only did she graciously allow the girls to walk the dog all the way back to the parking lot, but she also hit it off with Dad and discovered that her grandchildren had been his patients (this kind of encounter happens a lot when you're a pediatrician for 25 years in a pretty small town).

After dinner, even though it was getting late and we knew we'd pay for it with a later, crankier bedtime, we deemed it necessary to pile into two vans and head to Bubbling Brook, our favorite family ice cream spot for the last twentysomething years, in search of a certain something. We did indeed pay later, but that lemon sorbet was good!

Later that evening, after the youngest and eldest folk had retired for the night, we threw a spontaneous bachelor party for Peter, who again had missed the day's fun and games due to obligations with (gasp!) his wife-to-be's family. It was time for Part Two of Mission: Unwind the Groom.

Paul and Betty ran out to the store and bought a bottle of champagne and some plastic glasses. As soon as Peter was released from his serious, calm-down-the-bride phone call, we broke out the bubbly, cranked up "If You Wanna Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life," and set up Cranium. Unfortunately, we never got around to playing Cranium, though, because by the time we were done giving Peter heartfelt marriage advice on such topics as "What To Do When You Stink Up The Bathroom on Your Honeymoon," it was after midnight. Um, maybe closer to 1:00 a.m. I have to say, though, that time may have been my favorite moment of the weekend, among a healthy collection of serious contenders for that honor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wedding Weekend -- Part One

There's simply no way to describe every detail of the family reunion that masqueraded as my brother Peter's wedding weekend -- but for posterity's sake, and because I've been pretty disconnected from the computer, and therefore from blogging, for several days, I'm going to give the highlights, a day at a time. It was quite a weekend!

The kids and I, after a seemingly interminable flight during which the JetBlue inflight entertainment system was broken, landed in Boston Wed. evening and proceeded to my parents' home in Dedham, where we received a warm welcome and a yummy dinner from my parents and my sister Kristen and her husband Allen. During breakfast the next morning, my brother Paul and his wife Betty arrived, fresh from the redeye flight from L.A. See?

Troopers that they are, they then joined the rest of us (minus our parents) for a sailing trip hosted by longtime family friend Bret Carr, who is, no bones about it, QUITE a character. He'd make a great pirate captain, except that underneath it all, his heart is too soft.

(That's Bret in the blue shirt, and my BIL Allen manning the helm. Paleface skinny character enshrouded in sunglasses and full sunhat would be yours truly.)

I have to say, it's hard to spend hours out on a boat like that, powered only by the wind and with nowhere else to go, and not notice yourself relax. Afterward we grilled hamburgers at the home of Maryanne Champagne, another longtime friend of my parents who lives there on the coast and accompanied us on the boat. Ian was delighted to collect shells and discover a real horseshoe crab on her beach.

Then it was time to head home for the Birthday Banquet. The poor bridegroom had been unable to join the maritime festivities, due to various groomly responsibilities (haircut, marriage license, the like). Fortunately, he has a birthday coming right up this week, and my sister Louisa's birthday was that very day, and Eliza's was three days before, so we were compelled to indulge in a bash of sorts. And isn't this the coolest thing? Even if I did suggest it to them? During present time, Eliza got to open one of the best gifts ever. My parents and siblings had each bought her a new book and then made recordings of themselves (using GarageBand, woohoo for the MAC!) reading it aloud. My parents even did one together, with my Mom reading and my Dad doing pageturn signals with his wheelchair button, LOL! I'm so excited about having all their voices recorded, reading the stories just for HER, my greatest audiobook fan. She seemed to dig it, too. We got more than just the solemn gaze. :-)

After present/cake time, it was time to forge ahead with Mission: Unwind the Groom. Warning: my family is a bit offbeat this way. We have this tradition, you see. It tends to frighten the new in-laws, but Tim's been part of the family so long that he just joins the fray. This particular episode began with Tim and Paul scooping up Peter and depositing his lanky frame on the couch, where we all proceeded to tickle him. Mass chaos ensued. We call it "Making Matters Worse," and it involves everyone hollering and laughing at the same time. Hey, I warned you we were weird.

My Nerd Score

I'm back, and I'm about to bore the socks off you all with the nitty gritty details of our most recent trip to Boston, but first! Something I simply must share! Jenny was kind enough to point me to this lovely quiz, and I'm eager to hear scores in the comments section.

I am nerdier than 39% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Her Highness Turns Five

Here are some pictures from Eliza's birthday party yesterday. Out of respect for her personality and wishes (and my stress level, which was also affected by preparations for travel and by serving on/transporting kids to and from Bible Camp), we kept it small (cousins, best friend Rhynn, Aunt Jenni, invited neighbor who didn't make it, adult friend Melissa) and informal. The kids decorated T-shirts, swam in our generous neighbor's pool, and chowed down on cupcakes, which I left in the oven a bit too long. ;-) Even without a Martha Stewart Mommy, Eliza seemed to really have a good time, which is the main point, right?

She's funny, though. Ian, when receiving a gift, tears off the paper exuberantly, as if participating in the Giftwrap Derby, and then usually makes lots of noise about the contents. "MARS MISSION LEGOS! AWESOME!!!" Eliza unwraps slowly and deliberately, gazes silently at the gift, then puts it down, sometimes remembering to say "thank you," and sometimes stopping to tinker with the thing a bit. I usually feel compelled to gush on her behalf. ;-)

Oh, and the first two pictures of Caroline are just a special bonus you get for visiting this blog today. They encapsulate her personality so magnificently. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Late Sunday Night

Propping eyes open after laboring over birthday present and card for a certain daughter turning 5 tomorrow ...

This is one of those weeks, starting maybe last night, when it seems like there's just TOO much to do (esp. since some of us leave Wednesday for Boston for Peter and Phoebe's wedding). The only way to manage it seems to be to write every single thing down and just do the next thing.

But I wanted to record something both awful and precious that happened this morning. When I went to pick up Ian from his Sunday School class, the teacher asked to speak with me. Cue the pit in the stomach. I knew this had to happen sooner or later; in fact it shocks me that we've gone this long without a Discussion. Ian is a gem in so many ways, but classroom manners are not his forté.

She and I and Ian all sat down together and she explained both the incident that occurred today and the recent trend of a disrespectful attitude toward the teachers and even some of the classmates. To say that I felt terrible is an understatement. We work hard on helping the kids understand the importance of treating other people with respect. He does well with us for the most part, but we do have issues with outside the family sometimes.

But you know what made the whole thing sweet? Deborah, the teacher, explained so kindly to Ian that the reason they come to serve with his class week after week is that they really care about him and the other boys. She said she knows he's very smart and has lots of ideas to share, and yet lately he hasn't seemed like himself in class, so they're concerned that he's unhappy and that his behavior is coming out of something that's bothering him inside. She shared a memory of a similar incident with her own son, from many years ago (this is why I so appreciate the older believers in Christ, who have come on this journey already).

I saw him go from sullen and resentful at being blamed for something he "didn't do," to connecting with her and going on his way with a lighter heart (while I cried; how embarrassing is THAT?!?!). After he left, she told me that she hoped I wouldn't feel the need to "ground" him or take this any further, but that she felt like through our conversation the Lord was able to touch his heart. She also acknowledged that it's the end of year, he's older than most of the kids in the class, and he's probably bored (not that that excuses rude behavior, but it helps explain his acting out, since Ian doesn't do boredom well).

This incident could have gone so differently -- I know from experience as a child. I had to wonder if I could have had the same conversation and attitude had it been a child in my PreK class. I felt so humbled and thankful for her faithfulness to call him out for unacceptable behavior, but also the love and gentleness that believed the best about a child who's still a work in progress (aren't we all?!). I have so much to learn!

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Secret Life

Remember that Super Pal Universe article I'm writing?

I have to say, when I go to do my research for this things, I feel like Clark Kent stepping into the phone booth.

Mother arrives at the scene driving minivan, leaving her three children in the capable hands of their father, either at home or at the office. She's a homeschooler, so she may or may not be wearing calico and have fresh-baked bread in the oven -- you decide. ;-)
She enters the cable channel headquarters and ta-DA! She's whisked into a filming room where she's shown to a cushy red leather couch, smack in the front of the monitor, and a director's calling "Quiet on the Set!" and "Action!" and some teenagers with electric guitars are saying, "And we're Super Pal Universe!" twelve times in a row, and their nationally-famous mentor is squeezing onto the couch next to her and whispering a mile a minute about what's going on and making her feel like her best pal, and absolutely no one points at her and say, "Hey, what are YOU doing here?" as they quite rightly could.

Although I'm hardly the center of attention -- in fact, am quite happily NOT the center of attention -- this is all so out of my element I can't help feeling a little bit like Cinderella at the ball. I tell the kids I'm working, but it sort of feels like playing.

It's been fun. Here's hoping I can make some of that come across to the readers ...

Weekly Wrap-Up (grain of salt required)

Well, haven't we been quite the relaaaaaxed homeschoolers this week. A friend of mine asked me this week, "So are you kind of winding down for the summer?" And I had to tell her that yes, I guess we were, but really, since we're not that wound up to begin with, I don't see a need to change our lifestyle dramatically for the summer. We're out of the whole school paradigm anyway, so we're free to do what we want, when we want. That said, we'll travel to see family a bit, we'll do swim lessons, etc., and the neighbors are out of school, we've talked with a couple friends about doing some sort of unit study together in preparation for the Olympics (when we'll get in our TV time for the year!) so my main goal for the summer is just to read aloud to the kids at least once a day (not including our morning Bible reading), every day. (Ian has asked, because he's aware of Oscar's schedule, "Mom, do we take a break from school in the summer, too?" and my answer is, "Well, we don't attend school, so we can't take a break, and besides, learning never stops; we learn every day!" Big bright smile. He just loves me for it. I know.)

Ok, so this week? It looked sort of like this. See, we start out looking halfway respectable:

Literature/History -- We finished A Llama in the Family and started Misty of Chincoteague. We read "The Ungrateful Guest" and "Alexander and Bucephalus" from Fifty Famous Stories Retold.

Math -- Ian and I worked on a couple sheets of word problems from our trusty There were some on-the-spot calculations in our discussions of, say, the number of days until each one's birthday (answer: Eliza-3. Ian - 53). Probably other life math as well that I'm just not recalling.

Now it gets kinda crazy ...
Writing -- Let's see, Ian and Oscar did a ton of writing in their spy notebooks today. They got a huge bonus in the form of a firetruck and ambulance pulling up down the street -- the firefighters even gave them stickers. More writing (it counts; I corrected his grammar and spelling and he revised) occurred during the whole Zindernufe episode.

Music/Art -- Does having a dance party to The Wiggles as a way to combat the late afternoon crankies until Daddy gets home count? Yes, I think I was hot and sweaty enough by the end that it should count. :-) Oh, you don't like that? Shaking our sillies out ain't highbrow enough? Well, my friend owns a Kindermusik business and Eliza started a 5-week class on Thursday. And we listened to some classical in the car and played Name That Instrument.

Science -- Physics! Yes, we did hands-on, or would that be body-on, physics, in the form of helping to set up and then skidding down a Slip N Slide at the home of our friends the Atkinsons, when Ian spent the night on Wednesday. (When I say "we" did this, I mean that the kids' role was to set up and skid; my role was to sit on the front steps drinking tea with Greta and try not to cringe as our kids barreled into her unperturbed crawling baby.) Oh, here we go. Here's some serious stuff. A friend of our family, Karen Nyberg (whom I interviewed once for an article about that hasn't sold), is on the current space shuttle mission, so the kids and I spent some time poking around the NASA website, watching the videos of the launch and spacewalks, playing some cool educational games, reading the journal, etc.

So, that was pretty much the week. We had several playdates, probably more than usual -- as well as the fire station trip -- which not only made our "schooling" even more relaxed, but helped my unsocialized homeschooled children make some contact with other unsocialized homeschooled kids. :-)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

O Rockwell, Where Art Thou?

We had a great trip to downtown fire station today with our homeschool field trip group -- the trucks, the siren, the ten firemen sliding down the pole, the fire safety video, the works. Except that Caroline was traumatized (as in, covering ears and cowering in my lap) when the firefighter put on his gear, including face mask (I'm thinking, oh, this is baaaaad news if this child is ever in a fire and a firefighter comes in to get her!), a good time was had by all. And it was even a decent temperature, with a breeze, around 9:30 this morning. That was before it got up to 99 this afternoon. Sigh. Summer is so inevitably and unforgivingly here.

Highlight of the car ride home:
Caroline: "When Eliza and me marry, we will have a big red dog named CLIFFORD!"
Eliza: "When I grow up, I'm going to have a pet poodle named ... Elizabeth Perry. Which will be short for Pretty Princess."

Note to self: Work on concepts like: legal definition of marriage. And what it means for something to be "short for" something else.

But this, aha, THIS is the HIGHLIGHT of the day. When Tim arrived home from school, he came in with the most bemused expression to tell me that he'd just seen "the darnedest thing ever." Here's a pic:

They were posting this, painstakingly typed by Ian:

The backpacks contained hammers and nails. When they ran out of telephone poles, they came bursting in with with plans to BUILD THEIR OWN POLES, and convinced that Oscar's dad would let them use the saw.

Over to you, neighbor.

Monday, June 2, 2008

She fills; she pours

This is Caroline's current favorite activity. Note that she's also in her favorite outfit -- swimsuit top and her sister's sundress, which has been worn more by her than by Lizey. (Caroline's comment to me on said dress: "Lizey said this was MY dress. [Reflective pause.] But Lizey is welcome to share it with me." Such a noble spirit.
Above, she fills her teapot in the bathroom sink.
Then, she carries it carefully down the hall to her room, where she pours the water into the matching teacups, a stray cup, and, truth to tell, a bit for the carpet.

So glad she can have this Montessori-esque experience without my paying $10,000 a year for it. :-)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Super Pal Universe

Talk about getting out of your comfort zone! Normally, as you know, my life is pretty well circumscribed by the needs, demands, interests, talents, etc. of three young children. Except that I do have this little secret side that likes to write and occasionally gets paid by someone who actually wants to trade their money for my words. Amazing, isn't it?

Well, as you may know, I have this ongoing gig for Parent:Wise Austin magazine, where every month I write a day-tripping column. For next month, my editor has asked me, on somewhat short notice, to write the cover story (yikes!), featuring singer/songwriter/artist extraordinaire Sara Hickman (if you're like me and have little ones, you may think she's just the talented creator of CD's like "Newborn" and "Toddler," but oh, she's so much more, it turns out, in addition to being a cool person to talk on the phone with) and a teen band she's helped create and is now mentoring. It's called Super Pal Universe, and they're not just a band; they're starting a TV show which hopefully will be picked up by PBS (I'm going to attend the pilot filming this weekend). And the cool thing is, even though rock n' roll isn't really my thing, I have to admire the way they're using their music to get a message across. No "Baby I Can't Live Without You" drivel here. They're writing songs about being yourself, about conservation, about other meaningful issues, and using their webisodes and TV show to highlight community projects and kids who are making a difference.

I got to attend their rehearsal today, and I was so impressed! Sara, their mentor, wasn't even there, but after several months of being together, these five young teens are mostly self-directed. They stayed focused on making music, and no one was telling them, "Okay, hey, c'mon guys, let's FOCUS." And, during their snack break, they all sat down with me for a nice chat. They must have done the interview thing before, because despite the fact that they're 13 and 14 and have agents (!), they were both down-to-earth and incredibly articulate and cognizant of the huge opportunity they've been given. They were selected after five rounds of auditions from all over the Live Music Capital of the World, but they all said they didn't expect to be chosen, and were truly surprised when they were. And their friends don't really get it, don't understand their brand of activism, but their attitude is, "they will."

A neat afternoon, and for sure, not something I do every day!