Friday, June 29, 2012

More "If I Was a Nocturnal Creature"

Bluebird:  "If I was a nocturnal creature, I'd bake bread all night."

Junebug:  "If I was a nocturnal creature, I'd sleep in the morning."

Bluebird:  "Of course you'd sleep in the morning!  That's what being nocturnal is all about!  What would you do during the night?"

Junebug:  "Stay awake."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Four Year Plan

I use a four year plan/rotation in our homeschool because I like how it fits so neatly into a twelve year homeschool career.  I originally found the idea in The Well-Trained Mind, and I've seen various versions of the idea in many other publications (2,3 & 6 year rotations).

Here's what our four year schedule looks like:


The 2012-2013 School Year will be a "Year 3" school year for us, so we'll be studying The Book of Mormon, Colonial history, Chemistry, Sculpture and listening to composers' works spanning from the Baroque through Classical eras.  I'll post links to helpful sites for these areas of concentration in the following weeks.  For organizational purposes, I like to attach circle stickers in the "Year's Color" (shown in the above graph) to the spines of books that are generally used during that school year.

I like having a definitive outline to go by when planning up my years, but I also don't let it rule my plans (anymore).  If a one-time or sporadic event is going to take place in an "off" year, we'll totally accomodate it because homeschooling is all about accomodation and flexibility.  (I have to remind myself of that because I lean towards "Type A" thinking and strict adherence to plans.)

As luck would have it, our Year 3 (which covers the American Revolutionary War and the creation of the Constitution and American Democracy) coincides with the American Presidential Elections.  I'm really looking forward to this autumn as we learn about why this process exists in our country.  (If I could have a perfect world, our study of Ancient History would coincide with the Summer Olympics; but it does coincide with the Winter Olympics, which is definitely the best alternative!)

A "#" Year Plan is an attempt to teach history from beginning to end.  I don't know about you, but it annoyed me to no end that history was not taught that way in the public schools that I attended.  In high school I spent my freshman year studying the Middle East, my sophomore year studying the two World Wars, my junior year studying American History, and then I wasn't required to take any more history courses, but I signed up for European History, of which all I remember is "The Agricultural Revolution."  I spent no time learning of Greek or Roman history, and I remember learning a wee bit about Thailand in the seventh grade.  No logical progression whatsoever.  Who can develop a love of history with such a disjointed approach?  (Well...I did...but it appears that I am in the minority.)

When you follow a consecutive plan of historical study, almost all the other subjects line up with the era that you are studying.  Our science lines up with what scientists were generally doing during the historical era we're studying.  Art matches up somewhat and Music Appreciation follows history as well.

I love how our religious studies match up, showing the ongoing course of revelation through the ages.  Old Testament during the Ancient years, New Testament (technically "ancient") matching up with the explosion of Christianity, The Book of Mormon matching up with its publication during the late Colonial period, and The Doctrine & Covenants going along with modern-day revelation (I'll probably throw in a number of key General Conference addresses, and the various proclamations to round it out).

Do you use some sort of rotation in your schooling?  What do you like about your method?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Jell-O Spiral

Scene:  6:10am, standing in front of bathroom mirror

Me:  [thinking] "Mmm, I want Jell-O.  Like, any kind of Jell-O, except for regular Jell-O or that crappy sugar-free Jell-O.  I want fancy Jell-O."

[applies moisturizer and leave-in conditioner]

Me:  [thinking] "You know, if I skip drying my hair and putting on make-up, I can start boiling water sooner and then the Jell-O will set sooner because I made it sooner."

Scene:  6:15am, kitchen

Me:  [thinking] "Alright, water boiling!"

Scene:  6:16am, kitchen

Me:  [thinking] "I should probably make some breakfast.  Because it'd be pretty lame for me to come in here and boil a bunch of water so I can make Jell-O, but not have anything to feed my kids when they wake up.  'Oh, sorry family...I just got up to make Jell-O.'  Yeah, that'd be pretty bad."

"I think I'll make oatmeal.  Geez, I wish I could just have Jell-O instead.  I should decide on what flavor of Jell-O to make...whoa, we have a lot of Jell-O up here in the baking cupboard, sitting next to the spices.  That reminds me, I should add some extra stuff to the oatmeal to make it better...like cinnamon and cardamom and nutmeg and butter and brown sugar ...and raisins."

[Adds various ingredients to oatmeal]

Me:  [thinking]  "Alright, Jell-O...hmmm, what flavor should I make?  I'm feeling kind of lazy, so I think I'll just make some Creamsicle Jell-O with that leftover Cool Whip from the last batch of Creamsicle Jell-O that I made last week because the kids were not the biggest fans of that fruit salad tossed with Cool Whip yesterday.  Yes, let's use up the Cool Whip.  Now, what flavor?  Let's do peach because there are two boxes of it and I don't really like it but I'm sure it will be tons better with Cool Whip.  Why does Bluebird have to choose peach all the time?  It reminds me of those sips of wine cooler that my parents used to give me at parties.  Yech."

[mind continues along path of "Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Became a Mormon"]

[I make up a pan of Creamsicle Jell-O and put it in the fridge to set]

Me:  [thinking]  "That Jell-O is going to take hours to set!  I want something sweet right now!  I could bake something!  Yes!  Let's take a look through the baking cupboard and see what's in there and I'll make something using up whatever I have the most of."

[Spends an hour unearthing many forgotten foodstuffs from baking cupboard, including a six-year-old jar of Marshmallow Fluff and a bag of turbinado sugar that I knew I had purchased, but then could never find.]

"Chocolate chip cookies it is!  With coconut flakes!"

[thinking] "Hmm, I've got a lot of chocolate chips going on here.  I think it would be wise to make a double batch and try to use up the older chocolate chips."

[Mixes up a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and begins the drawn-out process of "cookie sheet rotation baking" for eight dozen cookies]

Me:  [thinking]  "Hmm, now we'll have Jell-O and a ton of cookies.  Seems sort of ridiculous to have all those dessert-ish foods and no dinner to eat with it.  I'm already in the kitchen, why not fire up the ol' Crock Pot?  Yes, I think I'll do that too."

[Assembles food items in Crock Pot and sets it a-cookin']

Me:  [thinking]  "I can't believe that recipe uses up an entire bottle of ketchup!  I really should have bottles of ketchup in my food storage.  We go through a lot of it, especially if a 'food storage Crock Pot recipe' uses an entire bottle in one go!  Hmm, speaking of which, our food storage is looking mighty low these days."

[Spends another hour rummaging through the pantry and cupboards, trying to "get a feel" for where our food storage weaknesses lie, which then gives launch to a whole new train-of-thought that brainstorms a massive amount of ideas of more ways we could be more self-sufficient, like drying herbs and starting a barter system for music lessons in our neighborhood and whether or not we could survive by candlelight.]

[Junebug vomits oatmeal all over her bedroom and the dining room.  I spend half an hour cleaning it up while listening to her continue to retch into the toilet.]

Me:  [thinking]  "Ew, no more oatmeal for a while."

Me:  [thinking] "Hmm, I think the Jell-O might be set by now.  Oooh, it is!"

[Inhales large helping of Creamsicle Jell-O]

Me:  [thinking]  "Mmmm."

So, if you're ever observing a Mormon Homemaker and wondering why she rarely does her hair and rarely wears make-up and always seems to have the Crock Pot going, is generally in possession of a couple dozen freshly-baked cookies and possesses an enviable storage of food (with a disproportionate amount of rolled oats for the size of her family), know that it was the Jell-O that made her do it.

It's powerful stuff--prepare it with caution.

School Planning!

I've altered my original plans to take a break from school until August because WE'RE BORED.  We like school; we like reading, writing and art-ing.  While we can do this on our own during our summer break free time, it just seems more fun when we're doing it as part of school.  Perhaps it's just overwhelming to have an empty day with no overarching plan about how to spend it?  Direction is good.

That being said, I really did need this break and I really needed to believe that it was going to last until August!

We'll be resuming with school on July 9th.  I've hammered out a literature list for the year and I have a loose idea of what activities we'll be doing in regards to our history studies.

This next year is going to be about having fun.  ("We're going to have ALL the fun!")  More activities, more field trips, more art projects and crazy time-consuming things that make great memories.  As such, my days are spent dreaming and planning and hesitating to commit to really big ideas.

2012-2013:  The FUN School Year!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Apparently, Knitting is Disrespectful to Athletes

I'm breaking a rule right now, and I am blogging while angry.

I just caught wind of a letter that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) sent to my favoritest website/social network, Ravelry, today:

Dear Mr. Forbes,

In March 14, 2011, my colleague, Carol Gross, corresponded with your attorney, Craig Selmach [sic], in regard to a pin listed as the “2010 Ravelympic Badge of Glory.” At that time, she explained that the use of RAVELYMPIC infringed upon the USOC’s intellectual property rights, and you kindly removed the pin from the website. I was hoping to close our file on this matter, but upon further review of your website, I found more infringing content.

By way of review, the USOC is a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress to coordinate, promote and govern all international amateur athletic activities in the United States. The USOC therefore is responsible for training, entering and underwriting U.S. Teams in the Olympic Games. Unlike the National Olympic Committees of many other countries, the USOC does not rely on federal funding to support all of its efforts. Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilities without the need for federal funding, Congress granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word OLYMPIC a and any simulation or combination thereof in the United States, as well as the OLYMPIC SYMBOL. See the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. §220501 et seq. (the “Act”). (A copy of the relevant portion of the Act is enclosed for your convenience.) The Act prohibits the unauthorized use of the Olympic Symbol or the mark OLYMPIC and derivations thereof for any commercial purpose or for any competition, such as the one organized through your website. See 36 U.S.C. §220506(c). The USOC primarily relies on legitimate sponsorship fees and licensing revenues to support U.S. Olympic athletes and finance this country’s participation in the Olympic Games. Other companies, like Nike and Ralph Lauren, have paid substantial sums for the right to use Olympic-related marks, and through their sponsorships support the U.S. Olympic Team. Therefore, it is important that we restrict the use of Olympic marks and protect the rights of companies who financially support Team USA.

In addition to the protections of the Act discussed above, the USOC also owns numerous trademark registration that include the mark OLYMPIC. These marks therefore are protected under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq. Thus, Ravelry.com’s unauthorized use of the mark OLYMPIC or derivations thereof, such as RAVELYMPICS, may constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of our famous trademarks.

The USOC would like to settle this matter on an amicable basis. However, we must request the following actions be taken.

1. Changing the name of the event, the “Ravelympics.”; The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.
The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect. We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012). The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms “Ravelry” (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement. Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act. Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games.

1. Removal of Olympic Symbols in patterns, projects, etc. As stated before, the USOC receives no funding from the government to support this country’s Olympic athletes. The USOC relies upon official licensing and sponsorship fees to raise the funds necessary to fulfill its mission. Therefore, the USOC reserves use of Olympic terminology and trademarks to our official sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on Ravelry.com’s website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized. The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.

For your convenience, we have listed some of the patterns featuring Olympic trademarks. However, this list should be viewed as illustrative rather than exhaustive. The USOC requests that all patterns involving Olympic trademarks be removed from the website. We further request that you rename various patterns that may not feature Olympic trademarks in the design but improperly use Olympic in the pattern name.
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/olympics-rings-af...\
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/vancouver-2010-ol...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/2010-olympics-inu...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/olympic-swimmer-d...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/2008-olympic-ring...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/olympic-rings-nec...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bode-miller-hat-2...
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/usa-olympic-hat
http://www.ravelry.com/projects/belgianwaffleknit/usa-oly...

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We would appreciate a written reply to this letter by no later than June 19, 2012. If you would like to discuss this matter directly, please feel free to contact me at the number above, or you may reach my colleague, Carol Gross.

Kindest Regards,
Brett Hirsch
Law Clerk
Office of the General Counsel
United States Olympic Committee
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909

OK, OK, I get the legalities behind it all:  The USOC has the legal right to be the sole owners and users of Olympic symbols and etc.

What really gets me is how they actually say that "The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony" and then, two sentences later, states that "We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."

Wait...did they just really...?

They said that the Olympics go beyond sports and that they promote culture, respect and harmony...

...and then they said that knitting (while watching the Olympics and cheering for Team USA!) belittles the true nature of the Olympic Games and that it is disrespectful to drum up enthusiasm and anticipation over watching "our country's finest athletes" compete for honor, glory, and a medal.

I mean, the blasphemy of it all!  How darest thou seek to esteem thyself worthy to increase thine own talents whilst watching the Gods of Athleticism vie for glory!

Hey, USOC, the Ravelympics started up as a way to increase celebration over the Olympic Games.  Thousands of knitters who wouldn't really give a hoot about the Olympics are now die-hard fans of the Games because of this friendly "competitive" event.

I get that you have to protect your trademark, I do; but how about throwing around some of that pompous respect (that you seem to be in such excess of) towards your fellow human beings?  Because, right now, you're nothing short of hypocrites.  I would go as far to suggest that perhaps your organization isn't worthy enough to bear the name "Olympic" due to your obvious lack of understanding of the terms "culture," "respect," "peace," and "harmony."

Oh yeah, and the misunderstanding of the phrase "beyond sport."  Athleticism isn't the only criteria in determining whether or not someone is deemed deserving of recognition or appreciation for their chosen life's work.

Bad form, USOC, bad form.

(On a side note, thank you, O High and Mighty USOC, for further convincing me
that Team Canada is the Olympic team most deserving of my support.
I'm sure my knitting, crocheting, embroidering & sewing offspring will agree with me when they are informed of your opinion that fiber artistry is nothing more than menial peasant work for the uncoordinated masses.)


Full Body Milkshake Consumption


No accompanying story, just a cute picture.  :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Funeral

A friend of mine buried her son today.

When I first heard of his unexpected demise last week, I left Bluebird in charge of her two younger sisters while I took Monkeyboy with me as I drove as fast as I could to get to her house.  She wasn't home, naturally, so I simply left my card at her door so she would know that I had been there and that I loved her and would do anything she needed me to do to help her get through this horrible moment in her life.  It's rather egotistical of me to think that I could do anything at all to make that sort of hurt lessen, but I've heard story after story of how much it meant to a grieving person just to have someone sit with them during a difficult time.  I can't spout passages of scripture and I can't erase heartache, but I can sit and I can hug and I can cry with another person.

I was asked to bring a Jell-O dish to the funeral.  (I now feel almost completely initiated to Mormon culture.)  I made my favorite Rainbow Seven Layered Jell-O, which brought smiles to a few faces.

It is so hard to watch a grieving family enter the chapel behind the casket of their loved one.  The raw hurt so evident upon their faces, the stream of tears, and that acknowledgment that this is really happening.  I cry the hardest at that moment--that moment of realization that is starkly etched upon their faces.  Yes, the horrible is happening.

And yet, I love funerals and consider them very beautiful.  Families gather together and stand because their arms and shoulders are holding each other up in a group effort.  Testimonies are fervently and humbly born.  Truth is thick in the air:  We will be resurrected as Jesus Christ was resurrected, and we will see each other again when our bodies and spirits are reunited.  We will hug each other again in the presence of God.  Death is but a step in our progression, and therefore a good thing that needn't be feared.  Most importantly, the Atonement is a wonderful and marvelous gift.

A funeral begins with sorrow and tears; yet, by the end, fills me with gratitude and hope.  How thankful I am that death is not the end of life, but just temporary separation from our loved ones.  How deeply grateful I am that we will all get to be together again in the next life.  I don't know how anyone gets through death without that important knowledge.  How blessed we are to know of this doctrine.  How blessed we are to know of the eternal nature of families.  How important it is to love.

My dear friend, I love you.  I mourn with you.  But I also rejoice with you in the knowledge that you will hold your son in your arms again.  I hope to be present for that reunion and to shout my hallelujahs as you embrace.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your love; and thank you for providing a way back.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

There is Kindness Everywhere

Penguin and Junebug haven't been able to go to their much-anticipated art class this week because we've been dealing with Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease and we don't want to spread it to all the other little children in their class.  I went in yesterday to explain why the girls wouldn't be in class, and their teacher gave me the supplies to make up the "puffy paint" they were going to be using in class that day.  I thought that was rather nice of her.

I noticed on the "syllabus" that today they were missing "spray dyeing" t-shirts, which is one of Penguin's favorite activities in the class (this is her third year taking the same class because she loves it so much).  I was sad for the girls, but reminded myself of the need to be responsible when it came to communicable disease and whatnot.  Unfortunate circumstances arise for everyone.

Fast forward to this afternoon:  The doorbell rang a few minutes ago and there stood their art teacher on our front step, holding a box with two white t-shirts and two spray bottles of shirt paint.

She didn't want them to miss out on the fun.

I need to remember this moment the next time I think of something nice I can do for someone but then start brushing the thought aside because I'm too busy or I'm afraid to just show up on someone's doorstep.  It's a heart-filling experience to be a recipient of kindness.  What a wonderful woman for doing that for my girls.

(And yes, we are heading out to the backyard right now to start spray-dyeing!)

How to Write a Paragraph

Bluebird used her birthday money to sign up for the "Young Writer's Workshop" with the Youth Arts Festival this year.  After the first class she was all smiles and chatter about how they used a projector to show their writing on the board, and how they wrote a paragraph about a pencil, and, and, and...

I had to fill up the gas tank before dropping her off for her second day, so we left the house early.  On the way to the gas station I suddenly realized that I should ask about whether she had any "homework" or the like, which resulted in a "deer in the headlights" expression from Bluebird.  "Great," I thought, "we now have forty five minutes to get this done in the car!"

The assignment:  Write a paragraph about the senses.

Bluebird hunkered down in her seat with her notebook and pencil, dismissing all my offers to help with a lofty "No thanks, I like to write by myself."  Oh.  Well, alright, I will support you in your efforts to be an independent learner.  Write away.

Three minutes later she announced that was finished.

"Alright Bluebird, let me hear what you've got!  Will you read your paragraph to me?"

She sat up straight and began:  "Once I went to a restaurant and I ate a omelette."

Silencing the urge to point out that she needed an "an" in front of omelette, I waited for the rest.  It quickly became apparent that the sentence was her paragraph.

"Uh, Bluebird, your teacher asked you to write a paragraph, right?"

"Right.  That's my paragraph."

"Honey, a paragraph needs about five sentences."

"But when I wrote my paragraph about a pencil yesterday in class, I just wrote a sentence."

"Well, then it wasn't a paragraph."

Bluebird's eyes widened and she went on to explain that her teacher didn't know that, and that her sentence was a very good paragraph.  I responded with the suggestion that we just keep writing about that omelette and how good it tasted.  She scrunched up her face and told me that it made her sick to her stomach to even think about it because it had been served with hashbrowns that were disgusting.

I pounced.  "That's great writing right there!  Write that down!  Write down why the hashbrowns were disgusting and explain how they made your tasty omelette a bad experience!"

By this time Bluebird was holding her stomach and looking a little green in the face.  She looked up at me with big, pleading eyes and said, "I just can't write about it because thinking about it makes me feel sick.  This writing class isn't any fun anymore."

Poor girl.  I just looked at her and, stifling the urge to burst into laughter over her pathetic predicament, asked her why the writing class wasn't fun anymore, to which she replied with, "Because I wanted to write a story!  Not a paragraph!"

Aha.  "Bluebird, stories are just a bunch of paragraphs put together!"

"No they're not, a story is a story."

"No, think about it.  When we're reading a story, is it just one big page of words jammed together or are the words broken up into chunks of sentences?"

The look on her face told me that she was starting to believe me.  I continued, "So, in order to write a story, you've got to start with a paragraph!  Then you write another paragraph, and then another, until you've got an entire story."

"But I don't want to start my story with a paragraph about the senses!"

"Well, then, don't make this paragraph the start of your story.  Have it be the paragraph that starts a different chapter in your story."

"Do you know what my story is about?!"

(Once again, I stifled the urge to laugh.)  "No, I don't...why don't you tell me?"

"It's a story about four girls in a magical world."  (She raised her eyebrows at me and nodded her head in that "It's gonna be good" sort of way.)

Seeing now that we were down to twenty minutes before her class started, I decided to shut up and let her talk, hoping against odds that we'd be able to get something down on paper resembling a paragraph.  The girl wanted to write a story, so if she started talking about the story perhaps I could get an idea of what direction to steer her in order to accomplish our goal of one, measly, stupid paragraph incorporating one stupid sense.

So I took the bait.  "Ooooh, four girls in a magical world!  That sounds like a really interesting story!"

She grinned, "Yep, and it starts out really mysterious.  I'm sleeping in my bunk bed and I wake up because I hear handbells."

Eureka.

"Bluebird!  That's perfect!  You heard handbells?"

She looked at me with that, "Um, I just said that" expression on her face--and then her eyes got big and she shot up in her seat and squealed, "I HEARD HANDBELLS!  THAT'S ONE OF THE SENSES!"

"Yes it is!  You're so awesome, write it down!"

Sentence #1:  One night while I was sleeping in my house, I woke up and heard handbells.

I helped her spell her words, and then pressed her for more.  "Alright, you heard handbells; what did they sound like?"

"I think I need to come up with a title for my book first."

Knowing that it would take her forever to decide on a title, I responded with, "No, you don't.  You need to write down a paragraph.  Let's focus on what's in front of us."

"But Mom, I just can't write a story without a title."

"Honey, most writers don't give titles to their books until they're all done anyway.  You never know what you're going to end up writing about or where the story is going to take you and you don't want to be limited by a title.  How about you name the chapter when you're done?"

"Right.  OK, I'll name the chapter when I'm done."

"Ohhhh kaaaay.  Now, tell me what the handbells sounded like."

Once again, Bluebird gave me the ol' "My mom is an idiot" expression before saying "They sounded like handbells."

"I know they sounded like handbells, but part of writing is describing stuff so that the reader can imagine things exactly the way that you are imagining them.  To do that, you need to describe in detail what it sounded like."

"They sounded like handbells."

[insert silent scream here]  "I know they sounded like handbells...the point is, what kind of handbells?  High pitched?  Low pitched?  Ringing?  Short staccato sounds?"

"Well, both, but I couldn't really tell because the sound was so quiet."

"Alright, write that down!"

Sentence #2:  I could not tell if they were high or low because the sound was too quiet.

I asked what happened next and she said, "A belt appeared in mid-air with a sword hanging from it."

"Whoa, that's pretty interesting, you should write that down as well."

Sentence #3:  Suddenly, a belt with a sword on it was floating in the air next to my bed.

We had five minutes before the class started, so I decided that she needed to wrap things up.  "Alright Bluebird, you've got this belt floating in mid-air, but you started the paragraph talking about bells..."

"Handbells."

"...Handbells.  It would make your paragraph strong to explain how that noise was happening."

"Well, there was a flute hanging from the belt with the sword attached to it and it could make all sorts of magical sounds like bells and harps and twinkling..."

"OK, OK, so the flute is making the handbell noise.  Write that down."

She starts erasing the last sentence.

"Bluebird!  What are you doing?  No!"

"But I have to write that the flute is hanging from the belt with the sword."

"You can do that in the next sentence!  Keep the sword sentence the same!"

"But the flute is on the belt with the sword and I have to explain that."

"It's OK, it's the same paragraph, you can do it in the next sentence."

Raising one eyebrow, she thought about it for a moment before re-writing the erased words from the sword sentence.  We were now down to three minutes.

"Alright Bluebird, what are you going to write about the flute?"

"I'm going to write that it's a magical flute that can mimic any magical sound it has ever heard, like bells and sparkles and unicorns and..."

"OK, you can do that in another paragraph.  Just use this one sentence to let the reader know that it's the flute that's making the buh...handbell sound."

"But then they won't know that the flute can make other sounds!"

"Trust me babe, you can talk about it more later in your book.  It will be like an extra surprise."

"Right!  That should make it interesting!"

Sentence #4:  Dangling from the belt was a flute making the handbell sound.

"Good job Bluebird!  You've got a paragraph!"

"I thought paragraphs were supposed to have five sentences."

"Generally speaking, yes.  But we're crunched for time, so this will have to do."

"Mom!  Look!  I SAW a belt floating in the air!  I have TWO senses in my paragraph!"

"Oh my goodness, yeah you do!  You've done such a great job!  OK, hop on out and get on to your class."

"OK.  Bye!"

Sometimes I feel like I need a reward for helping this child accomplish anything.

Her teacher's opinion:  "Good job."  For the amount of effort that went into it, I feel like his reaction was ridiculously anti-climatic.  We should vociferously celebrate every paragraph a child writes!

Now, excuse me while I lock myself in my room and giggle crazily.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three Finished Shawls

I decided to wear my Rock Island Shawl to church this last Sunday, and when the girls saw me wearing it they clamored to wear their shawls as well.

When we returned home from church and I watched them prance through the front yard in all their finery, I realized that I never posted "Finished Project" posts here on the blog about their shawls, so I ran inside to grab the camera and what follows is the result of our impromptu modelling session:

Junebug's Shawl
PatternSezession II, by Rodger Murry
Yarn:  Odds & Ends from the stash
Hook:  5.0 mm (H)
Modifications:  I added a crochet shell border, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

Oi.  There are a lot of colors in this shawl.  Junebug wanted a purple shawl like her purple blankie, which is a granny square afghan, so when I saw this pattern I knew we had a winner.  I let her pick whatever yarns she felt like choosing to go in it, and when I'd get to a point when I wanted to change colors, I'd have her decide which color was next.  Her favorite color is yellow, which is why it's edged in such a happy shade.


Penguin's Shawl
(Also known as the "Slice o' Halloween" Shawl)
PatternCitron, by Hillary Smith Callis
Yarn:  Noro Sekku, colorway 1 (discontinued)
Needles:  3.75 mm (US 5)
Modifications:  None

This shawl originally started out as a shawl for me, but I bumped the needle size down and ended up with a pretty small garment.  Penguin had admired it from the beginning, so I randomly gifted it to her after she walked by for the hundredth time with it on her shoulders.

This is a great beginner pattern, not hard at all.  Penguin tells me that it reminds her of candy corn and Halloween.




Bluebird's Shawl
(Also known as "Fantastically Rainbow-y Shawl for Bluebird")

PatternFan Pattern Shawl
Yarn:  Knit Picks' Chroma Fingering, "Lollipop" colorway
Hook:  3.5 mm (E)
Modifications:  None.

This shawl is so Bluebird.  It's bright and colorful, just like her personality.  She picked out the pattern after I offered to make her a shawl, and she chose the yarn out of my stash.  (The yarn was originally intended for making her some mittens, but the yarn didn't want to be mittens.)

The pattern is pretty easy, just a simple repeat over and over again.  I like to just look at it when it's hanging from the hook next to Bluebird's bed.  She's inordinately fond of this shawl, which makes me smile.



So there they are, three cute shawls for three cute girls!  (Penguin insists that I still owe her a shawl "made especially for her" because "her" shawl was actually meant for me in the beginning.  We'll see how that pans out.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Sickness: Hand, Foot & Mouth

The notorious Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease is making its way through the neighborhood.  Two weeks ago they cancelled all nursery classes at church to avoid the spread; but this last weekend they had nursery, which was odd to me.  Regardless, it wasn't Monkeyboy who brought the plague home--it was PENGUIN!  (Apparently all Primary classes should be cancelled during an outbreak?)

It's not a big deal to me, as I've dealt with this before when Bluebird caught it at 18 months of age, long before she had siblings to share her germs with.  It made me anxious when she dealt with it then (mostly because Michael caught it as well--that's a funny story that I'll share with you later this week), but this time around I know what to expect and it's not bad at all.

So my lil' Penguin lays in bed, flushed and feverish (102oF range), and I made a special trip to the grocery store to stock up on milkshake-making supplies to cool her soon-to-be blistered throat.  I also expect Junebug and Monkeyboy to catch it at some point as well.  We'll survive.

Unfortunately, this week marks the beginning of the Youth Arts Festival, which means that Penguin & Junebug will have to miss this week's classes.  Ugh.  (I'm letting Bluebird attend because she's already had it.)  I just love it when I spend money on something and then my kids can't even go!

So if you see me sitting on my doorstep, staring off into space, just assume that I'm taking a moment from sweaty fingers wrapping themselves in my hair and marathon milkshake blending.  It might be best to avoid eye contact...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Hike Club: Stewart Falls


Hey, look at that, it's a picture of my kids and I'm in it!  I did photography duty on the last hike, and a friend did pictures on this hike.  Which was good, because that's 30 pounds of Monkeyboy awesomeness strapped to my back...for 3.5 miles.  Having a heavy camera bouncing off my chest makes it more difficult.  (Duh.)

My four-doors-down neighbor and I at the beginning of the trail.
She helped Junebug persevere to the end with amusing conversation
(and impromptu compositions) about Junebug's favorite
stuffed animal, Ducky.  I heart my neighbor.
The Stewart Falls Trail is located a little way past Sundance, right at the entrance to the Alpine Loop.  It's a well-maintained trail and the foliage is just awesome right now.  We saw tons of Forget-Me-Nots and Cow Vetch, and happened upon some Wild Roses and also a lone Scarlet Bugler by the waterfall.

Speaking of the waterfall, there is a picture of our entire group in front of it, but I hesitate to post it because I don't have express permission to do so.  Perhaps I'll get around to making sure it's OK to do, but until then you will have to remain pictureless.

I could probably write more about the beauties of nature and the enjoyment that comes from sharing it with friends, but instead I'm going to order a pizza and stretch my aching legs.  I'm going to keep this up, just watch; by the end of this summer we'll be hiking machines!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer Hike Club: The Grotto


A friend has been organizing weekly hikes all summer long for the past few years, but because I was always busy with doing school during the summer, we haven't gone on any of them.  Until today.  Because we're taking a summer break.

Life is good.

Our family has been to The Grotto before and we were all excited to return because it's an easy little trek and there's a waterfall at the end!  Nothing gets kids excited about hiking like a waterfall.

We saw (what I'm deciding is) Yellow Lupine and some sort of violet blooming along the path and everything is so lush right now.  I love spring/summer.



We have next week's hike planned already:  a four mile round-trip beast that offers forest, meadow, rockface and a waterfall.  We'll take it slow.  (My kids will die from exhaustion.  I am questioning the wisdom in accepting this challenge.  But if we go slow, and have drinks and snacks at the halfway point I'm thinking we can do it.)



I love my friends.  I love nature.  I love going with my friends and kids on nature hikes.  Win-win-win.


Photographic evidence that Monkeyboy and I were there.  The problem with being a shutterbug is that you're never in the pictures, hence the token "Monkeyboy on my back" shot with each hike.