Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic
Dé, Cách 'na suan dís araon.
Dís is dílse 'faire le spéis
Naíon beag, leanbh ceansa 'gus caomh.
Críost, 'na chodladh go sámh.
Críost, 'na chodladh go sámh.
[ Lyrics found at ]

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic
Dé, Aoirí ar dtús chuala 'n
scéal. Allelúia aingeal ag glaoch.
Cantain suairc i ngar is i gcéin.

Críost an Slánaitheoir Féin.
Críost an Slánaitheoir Féin.

Silent night, night of God's son,
Everyone is asleep, the pair together.
The most faithful pair, watching with hope
A little baby, a mild and gentle child.

Christ, calmly asleep.
Christ, calmly asleep.

Silent night, night of God's son,
Shepherds were first to hear the tale.
The angels crying out Alleluia.
Lovely chanting near and far.

Christ, the saviour himself.
Christ, the saviour himself.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Theology Can Be Tough

The Children's Director at church decided to reward the kids with a pizza party if they learned X # of questions from the Children's Catechism (# depends on age of student). Quarto (age 6) learned 19 of his 20 questions but was stuck on "What is God?" The answer is "God is a spirit and has not a body like man." I was trying to help him the other day:

Me: "What is God?"

Quarto: "God is a.... a..."

Me: "Ssss.."

Quarto: "God is a... sin?"

Primo: (as an aside to me) "Ooooh... he's going straight to hell."

Then we all burst out laughing. (We figure he was thinking he had a 50/50 shot since the two big religious "S" words he knows are "sin" and "spirit.")

We kept working on it (obviously), and yesterday he didn't even wait until class to tell his teacher (the Children's Director) the answer. He ran up to her in the hallway, mouth full of doughnut, and yelled, "GodisaspiritandhasnotabodylikemancanIgotothepizza party!?" LOL!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Poor Guy

As reported in The New York Times:

The director Roman Polanski was released from custody on $4.5 million bail and transferred to house arrest in the upscale ski resort of Gstaad Friday pending a judicial ruling on an American request for his extradition.

Mr. Polanski is wanted in the United States on charges dating to 1978 that he fled the country to avoid sentencing for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977...

Mr. Polanski will be restricted to the house and grounds of his chalet but is free to receive visitors and “whether he wants to show himself or hide in the chalet is up to him,” Mr. Galli said.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Brain Observatory

In 1953, Henry Molaison (soon to go down in history as "H.M." to protect his privacy) underwent brain surgery to eliminate the occurrence of dangerous seizures. Following his surgery, two facts became apparent to his doctors:

1) the surgery was successful at eliminating his seizures

2) Mr. Molaison was now incapable of creating new memories

This second realization was a landmark discovery in brain science, and Mr. Molaison consented to tests and observation for the rest of his life which have allowed scientists to develop understanding, proceedures, and techniques that would improve the lives of countless other human beings. (It had been previously thought that memories were created through universal brain processes, but Mr. Molaison's inability to create new memories after the removal of two narrow, inch-long plugs revealed that memories are indead created in very small, distinct areas of the brain. Over time, however, Mr. Molaison was able to become increasingly proficient at new tasks, revealing that an area of the brain completely distinct from the memory-creation areas is instrumental in the learning process.)

Mr. Molaison died on December 2, 2008. On December 2, 2009, Mr. Molaison's unplanned but generous contributions to science and humanity began anew when neuroscientists began slicing, sampling, and mapping his brain in a project that has been dubbed Project H.M.

Even more fascinating - the scientists are chronicalling the historical, painstaking proceedure live online. You can watch their daily progress online at The Brain Observatory website.

If you would like to read more about the project and Mr. Molaison, you can do so here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I Want An Office

Frodo has an office. Three days a week, he works at home; one day a week, he rests; the other three days he goes to an office. Granted, he shares that office with two other people, and they have to balance office hours and such, but it is a place to go. If a student has a question, he can say, "Meet me at my office." Need to find him easily? He has posted office hours. But more important than having a place where he can go work and must be for his office hours, he has a place to not be when he is sick. If he's sick, he stays home. He does *not* go to his office. He has not only a physical respite, but an aesthetic/environmental respite.

I work at home. I am a mom, a homemaker, a homeschooler, a daycare provider, and a writer. All of these jobs are centered in my home... except when I escape to write at the coffee place, but they make me pay to go there. When I get sick, I stay home.... where I see the unwashed laundry and the dusty mantel and the piles of schoolbooks and the latest outline. I get that I chose these occupations (paying or no), but when I get sick, I realize the biggest benefit to having home and work separate - an office. A place not to go. A place to leave unfinished tasks where they cannot be seen unless I want to see them. A place to call and say, "I'm sorry, but I can't come in today. I need to rest." It doesn't have to be far away. I really don't even have to have someone there to call. I just need a place I don't have to go to.

Something like this would be nice:

Btw, this is David McCullough's office. That's Mr. McCollough himself standing in the doorway.He actually works in his office though... it's not really set-up for napping. I covet Mr. McCollough's writing ability in addition to his office. Just thought I'd mention it.

Maybe I need an office as a place to go when I'm sick? About a hundred yards or so out the back door. A bed/ window seat, comfy chair, sunny windows (with blinds), and a reading lamp. That's it. That's all I'd like. It doesn't even need to have electricity as long as I had batteries, a crank, or a little solar panel to run the light. I could bring a book and my MP3 player, snuggle under a blanket and get better.

Is that really too much to ask?

Monday, November 02, 2009


I was looking for a picture of a clock (I'll explain this another time... maybe), and my Google Image search brought be to the blog Per Crucen ad Lucem.

I was immediately struck by the top post on the site: Jaroslav Pelikan on the need for creeds.

We listened to the rebroadcast of this Speaking of Faith program a couple Saturdays ago. After grumbling about yet another rerun on this program (you'd think that after a pledge drive, they'd at least trot out something new so you felt like the money donated was being well-spent and truly needed), we turned up the volume and rediscovered why we added Credo to our wish lists. Jaroslav Pelikan's unwavering belief that Christians (humans, really) need creeds because they bind us not only in belief but to a community of believers that transgresses time is encouraging and contagious. He dispels the argument that those who find creeds divisive and quaint by arguing that creeds are simply an expression of tradition. Everyone has tradition. Those who say they have shunned tradition are, at best, deluded. "The only alternative to tradition is bad tradition," Dr. Pelikan argues.

So to find another who enjoys the tradition of listening to a repeat broadcast about tradition, faith, and creeds is a joyful occasion. Further reading of Mr. Goroncy's blog revealed a kindred spirit when it comes to an intellectual interest in the meeting of church and culture but enough difference to make reading his insights a learning experience rather than a meeting of the mutual admiration society (on first glance, Mr. Goroncy's - Dr? Pastor?- focus seems to be the influence of Reformed Christianity on traditional New Zealand belief systems and visa vera, but I'll have to read more to know for sure). I'll be adding him to my GoogleReader list and thought you too might want a heads up to an interesting, challenging blog to interact with.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Carnival of Homeschooling - Learning About the Autumnal Equinox

When I or my kids get really interested in a subject, we easily find ourselves taking rabbit trails and seeing where they lead. This is how this carnival developed. I was looking for a few pictures and links about the autumnal equinox, taking place today – September 22nd – at 5:18pm EST. I was thinking something along the lines of this:

And a cool informational link.

But Google can be a dangerous thing, and before I knew it (about 6 hours later - including having to break to teach and eat and stuff), I had three pages of links, and my kids had heard pretty much everything they'd ever want to hear about the autumnal equinox and autumn in general. To redeem my "virtual wanderlust," here is an entire school day's worth - from science to recess - of anything and everything you would ever possibly want to know about autumn, the autumnal equinox, and homeschooling.


Scientifically speaking, an equinox is "either of two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect."We common folk just refer to it as the "first day of fall" (or spring) or the two days a year when the lengths of the day and night are roughly equal. Today is the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall in the northern hemisphere. Men have been fascinated by the movements of the sun, moon, and stars for thousands of years. They developed myths to explain the whys of what they observed. Now we know that these changes are caused by the Plane of the Elliptic and the Earth's Precession.

Rachel, over at, has some great hyperbolic pressure experiments designed as Bubble Art.

Don't forget to enter your latest science project in the science fair! Sprittibee discovered that science fairs aren't all that scary... especially if your kids do all the work.

Did you know that hanging out outside and stargazing is good for the soul? The Juggling Paynes know that being out in nature makes you Naturally Nice.

No one is quite sure what is causing the Japanese "jellyfish invasion", but Mia is concerned that people are going to have to resort to peanut butter and jellyfish sandwiches if it keeps up.

Maybe at your house, like at mine, it's been too cloudy to study the moon and stars. Well, Amy at Hope is the Word is here to help with some fiction and non-fiction books to guide you in your study of the clouds.

Take your science studies from macroscopic to microscopic and learn what's behind mitochondrial disease and how to encourage research for treatment and/ or a cure at Special Needs Homeschooling.

Don't forget the field trip! Stephanie and her family took their Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood all the way to Carter Caves for some exploring. (And don't forget to follow the rabbit trail to discover why some of the caves were closed... white nose disease.)

And bring your nature journals with you on your excursions. Lara, the Texas Homesteader, can give you some nature journal tips.

Stephanie, from All About Homeschool, loves the flexibility that homeschooling provides to follow rabbit trails. It's a wonderful way to learn about the world's great inventions, like telescopes and chocolate.

Stephanie and I aren't the only ones thankful for homeschooling flexibility. Check out what Jacque and her family are thankful for learning - and they didn't plan a bit!

One can be too flexible, however, and let life completely derail schooling. The Mrs. Multivitamin offers some practical steps to keep us from submarining our education efforts.


Equinoxes aren't just an excuse to study science. There's a lot of history to be uncovered, as well. For example, on this day, September 22nd, in:

1692 - the last 8 victims of the Salem Witchcraft Trials were hung

1776 - patriot Nathan Hale uttered his famous last words, just before being hung as a spy by the British: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

1862 - Abraham Lincoln issues the first executive order of the Emancipation Proclamation

1964 - Fiddler on the Roof opens on Broadway

1973 - Henry Kissinger is sworn in at Nixon's Secretary of State

You could also head on over to the Daily Planet and learn about the Navajo Code Talkers of WWII.

Are there still Navajo in the US? Where? Check out the interactive US History Map over at The Choosy Homeschooler.

Want to springboard from the interactive history map and learn more about the pioneers? Heather's got you covered (for free) over at The Mac Rak.

What states were formed from the land bought in the Louisianna Purchase? Find out with these online state history lessons offered up by the Dixon family.

Did you celebrate Constitution Day on September 16th? It's not too late. You'll find some great resources over at Praiseworthy Things.

Grab your passport and head to Mexico with Jennifer and her brood at For Such A Time As This using My Father's World.


"So, what exactly determines the precession of the equinoxes?"you ask. Have you really been wondering that since science class? Fortunately for you, just a few simple math problems will answer that question.

Too easy? Maybe you should be getting ready for the AP exam. Susan, at Online Colleges, has some resources so you can prepare (not that you need it).

The AP exams can help you get into college, but they can't help you pay for them. Barbara Frank explains how teaching delayed gratifaction when children are young is a must for helping them learn the value of saving and spending wisely as they grow into financial independence.

With these multi-page math problems and studying for AP exams, your middle and secondary student's school days are getting longer. School can't be done by lunchtime anymore. You, like Katherine at No Fighting, No Biting!, may need an attitude adjustment to survive.


Whew! Time for a break. We've been working hard! Let's have some fun and games, shall we? But before we begin, let's try a few of Party Games For Girls' icebreakers so we can get to know each other better.

Alright, time for some games. Apparently Britain is the place to be if you want to play equinox games. First, let's play the Earth, Sun, and Moon Game. How did you do? Are you ready to tackle the BBC Sun and Moon Game? Yes? Then let's go!

No fights broke out on the playground, I hope. Oops. Looks like something was going on over at The Learning Curve. Good thing the teacher unable to prevent the fight schooled this homeschooling family in the benefits of traditional school socialization. The Homeschooling Physicist makes some observations on the desire of American culture to have independent children (like those just observed on the play ground) vs. the desire of Chinese parents to have dependent children who become independent adults. Where do homeschoolers fit in with these opposing mindsets?

Sometimes the playground battles are internal... like when girls start to compare themselves to other girls. Do I have too many pimples? Am I too fat? Too thin? Becca provides some Inspiration for Mothers on helping our girls develop a positive (realistic) body image.

It was a bit of a rough day on the playground, but Chirstin is ready to calm us all down with some stick puzzles for preschoolers.


Back to our studies with a little English. First, some etymology:

The word "equinox" comes from the Latin æquinoctium or æquus (equal) + nox (night). The origins of the words "autumn" and "fall," at least the way we use them, aren't as clear-cut. We get the word "fall" (the season) not from the Old English fyll (which means "to fall from a great height") but from the Old Norse fall, which also means "to fall from a great height," but apparently in Old English speakers decided to adopt the differently spelled and pronounced fall to mean "the

falling of leaves" and maintained fyll to maintain its original meaning. Eventually, we adopted fall to cover both meanings. The term "autumn" is easier to nail down in terms of first usage, but is less clear in terms of original meaning. It is first seen in English usage as autompne by Chaucer in his translation of Boethius' De Consolanione Philosophiae. Although the original work is written in Latin, Chaucer appears to have borrowed the term from a French translation. He understood the term to mean "the last days of summer." (I found this information to be particularly fascinating and tried reading Chaucer's translation myself. Why don't you give it a try?)

My teaching tip of the week: look up the origin of words you use everyday and encourage your children to do the same. Want some more great teaching tips? Have one you'd like to share? Go to I Want To Teach Forever and check out or contribute to the 52 Teachers, 52 Lessons Project.

When you are done delving into the past work of others, spend some time creating your own. Nikki shares her family's Joy in the Journey of writing and producing their own play.

Now that you've written your own play, would you like to learn some more about writing? Maybe even write an entire novel in a month?! Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool has the info you need to participate in NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Program this year. November is coming up fast. Hope to see you over at NaNoWriMo.


The obvious transience of Autumn has long inspired poets. Robert Louis Stevenson' Autumn Fires has been included in A Child's Garden of Verses and would make a wonderful memorization project. Or discuss the symbolism of the autumnal images in Mary Howitt's Cornfields.

Most homeschoolers have large personal libraries and make frequent trips to the local library. Now, The Suburban Wife adds to our library addiction with a free trial to an online library.

If you finish reading the carnival today and find yourself longing for more information about homeschooling, check out these suggestions by Debbie at Debbie's Digest. Or read about a veteran homeschooler, Carolyn of Guilt-Free Homeschooling, over at The Frugal Homeschooling Mom.

Do you have a child at home who would love to read books about autumn or anything and everything else but just can't quite overcome the transition from non-reader to reader? Aimee encourages you to hang-in-there. She knows what you are going through; she's been there before and wants you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Stephanie Meyer's Twilight has been a hit for many looking for a fun, casual read. Being a typical homeschooler, however, the self-proclaimed Weird, Unsocialized Homeschooler knows there is a unit study in there somewhere.

When you finish reading Twilight, Carol at Online College has a list of the 100 Best Book Review Blogs to get you started in your search for your next great read.

Did you know that the Precession of the Equinox will move through all twelve signs of the Zodiac... of course, it will take 26,000 years. It won't take us nearly that long to read some of the myths associated with the constellations of the zodiac. And if you find that interesting, here are the myths behind all 88 constellations.

Want to have your child write a summary of one of the myths but her handwriting isn't up to snuff? Just have her draw a picture... or let her write a summary anyway. You may be cringing at her handwriting today, but tomorrow that summary with the backwards "e" and the word "constantations" could become one of your most prized possessions. It's true; Susan told me.


Hungry yet? Now that autumn is here, the bounty of the harvest will be evident everywhere. Today's lunch (last night's leftovers) includes pork chops with Honey-Fried Pears, Pumpkin Soup (that was cooked in it's shell), and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Fried Apples and Onions. Mmmmm.

Wonder what will be for lunch tomorrow? Maybe have breakfast for lunch! Who wouldn't like pancakes for lunch? I wonder how many different ways there are to make pancakes? Jolanthe of Homeschool Creations points out

that not everyone makes pancakes the same way, and homeschooling is a lot like making pancakes.

Today, you have my permission to play with your food. Can you balance an egg on end? Many people think that the presence of the equinox makes this trick easy as cracking a few eggs. Click on the picture to learn the science behind this phenomenon... if there is any.

Art & Music

Not all learning comes directly. Here at the carnival, I have hung three well-known paintings which share a common autumnal theme. (Alright, I confess, one does not have an obvious autumnal theme, but it is my favorite painting and always makes me think of looking for constellations for a school project in late fall when I was a kid... it was really cold; definitely not a "shirts-off" affair.) You can either just enjoy their aesthetic and search the mind of the artists through personal observation of each piece, or click on the images to learn more about the artists and even find some discussion questions and learn a little art history.

Ready to make a creation of your own? Head on over to Ms. Julie's Place for some art lessons featuring Greek vases.

Music is easily added to the background while doing other work. This fall, play Autumn from Vivaldi' Four Seasons. Jazz is also wonderful background music. It is also fun to contrast different jazz artists' interpretations of the same piece. Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis have a beautiful rendition of Autumn Leaves. It seeps into the soul. Compare their version to this one featuring Wynton Marsalis and Sarah Vaughn:

I can never get enough Sarah Vaughn. If you want to hear some more (with more singing and

less scatting... although she is the queen of scat), take a listen to her singing September Song (also featuring Wynton Marsalis).


Okay, I am revealing my age a bit here, but let's end our day with a filmstrip. I have to admit that when I think of fall and movies, this image comes immediately to mind:

That's not exactly an educational or child-appropriate movie, however. Maybe we can find a good movie to watch over at the Online Degree Hub where Alvina has listed the Top 100 Film Study Blogs.

Here are some other films to get you in a fall mood: Arsenic and Old Lace (not rated), Autumne (French - not rated), Autumn in New York (PG-13), and The Four Seasons (PG).


There's the bell. (It's probably the UPS guy at the door with another shipment of books.) It's time to go, but before you scatter, here are some papers to take home. First, your portfolio. This was much easier to compile than last time thanks to The Thinking Mother's new method of keeping homeschool records.(Wanna know her secret? She let's the kids do it. She's my new hero.)

You'll also need this list of additional resources on studying the autumnal equinox from Lisa at Houston Homeschooling. And here is an evaluation of the ACE curriculum from HomeGrownMommy.

Wendy at Athena Academy knows that sometimes homeschoolers need some encouragement. So here is a thank you and hats off to homeschool parents from Shawnee.

Do you have a favorite homeschool blog? Maybe it was included in today's carnival. If so, go over to Alasandra's Homeschool Blog and nominate it for this year's Homeschool Blog Awards!

Do you like writing about homeschooling and want to be a part of a grassroots effort to educate others on the benefits of homeschooling and protect homeschooling freedom? Consider contributing to the new American Association Homeschool Citizen's Journal. Susan at Corn and Oil has all of the information you'll need.

You are all free to go out and play in the leaves and celebrate this change of seasons. See you next week over at Heart of the Matter Online for next week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Carnival of Homeschooling

ETA: Sorry about the sudden jump in font sizes. It looks fine in editing view. Not sure what's going on. Just think of it as a vacation for your reading glasses. Or maybe read the carnival while you cook supper (two rooms away).

Where's the Carnival of Homeschooling?

Yes, I'm hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling here today. But you're going to have to wait to read it. It will post at the time of the Autumnal Equinox (4:18pm CST).

Happy Fall! See you this afternoon!

Monday, August 10, 2009

If I Only Had A Brain Hat

This is Terzo's brain hat.

This is also Terzo's brain hat.

This is the effect of Terzo's actual brain.

Any questions?

The Brain Hat can be found in Easy Make & Learn Projects: The Human Body by Donald Silver & Patricia Wynne.

Note: No children were harmed in the creation of this blog post.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Needs Vs. Wants

I need to find an exercise program that works for me. I had convinced myself that all of the running around I do with 4 kids (6 kids if you include the borrowed ones) burned enough calories so that I didn't need to exercise, but I just can't keep up that charade any longer. I get achy too easily, and I tire too easily. I am obviously out of shape.

So, over the last few years, I have tried-out some various "programs" and schedules. I am not really the internally-motivated type. If it's not down on paper, I won't do it (I will also freak-out that it won't fit into my schedule). So I was looking for something pre-packaged that I could follow then adapt as I got to know it better.

Attempt #1: Back when I only had 2 kids, then 3, Body Electric would air during the kids' nap time. It was perfect. Low impact. Scheduled. 30-minutes and done. Then we moved and our new PBS affiliate didn't carry it, but I had recorded some of the workouts so I thought I'd be good. Wrong. When Quiet Time came around, I'd think, "Oh, I can pop in that tape" [remember tapes?!] "any old time. I'll clean [nap, make supper] now and exercise later." I needed that set time everyday... a set time ordained by someone else. We've moved again since, but now we don't get TV, so any broadcast program is out of the question.

Attempt #2: Exercise class through adult ed at the local high school. I was the youngest, least fit person in the class. I finished-out the classes I paid for then stopped.

Attempt #3: In an attempt to encourage me in my exercise endeavors, Frodo purchased some exercise equipment for me: a yoga mat, a balance ball, a block, and a bag to store and carry it all in. I've use the mat... twice? The ball has been taken out of the box; it wouldn't fit in the bag in its box, so the box had to go. I tried using the block once for some modified push-up exercise and almost gave myself a bloody nose when I slipped off the stupid thing. I use the bag all the time. It stores all the equipment very nicely and fits beautifully in its appointed place, conveniently located to be grabbed on the run or when I need to move it to clean my closet or locate a rogue shoe.

Attempt #4: To go along with my relatively new, yet already dusty, exercise gear, I bought the book Pilates: Body In Motion. It is a DK book with great photos, easy to follow descriptions of each exercise, and recommended exercise plans. I only used it twice. Have you ever tried to "Roll Like a Ball" while holding a paperback exercise book? Not pretty.

Attempt #5: I figured the quick fix to the book problem was to get a DVD. I ordered Louise Solomon's Yoga & Pilates Total Body Toner. Two problems: 1) I had to enforce my own schedule. Ha! 2) I couldn't do the workouts on the floor and see the TV. The one in the living room may have worked if our living room didn't have any furniture in it, and the one in our bedroom was so high up (being on top of a highboy dresser) that I got a workout but then needed to see a chiropracter about the crick in my neck.

Attempt #6: I have actually tried them twice. Once paired up with a physically distant friend. I liked the accountability (she could see if I had logged in my food and exercise info for the day and whether or not I was acheiving my goals), but it only works if you enter in your info every day - what you ate and the exercise you did. The exercise was actually pretty easy to enter, but the food was a chore. I often had to enter meals by ingredient since we rarely eat out, eat little prepackaged food, and often make recipe substitutions (whole wheat flour for white, etc) or just don't use a recipe at all. The second time (which I am currently in the process of abandoning - and overlapping with "Attempt #8... oh joy), was solo. All the frustrations of the first go-round with no accountability. Disaster waiting to happen.

Attempt #7: Since I couldn't find someone/ something to impose an exercise schedule on me, I decided an in-house exercise partner might work. Frodo is a faster walker than I am, and we generally have very different schedules, so that pairing wasn't going to work. I decided to go for exercise accountability and one-on-one mom-kid time and asked Primo to do Couch to 5K with me. Who'd of thought that a program with "5K" in the title would involve running? I don't run... unless I am being chased by a bear. They didn't provide one.

Attempt #8: The kids have been taking swimming lessons at the university since last fall. Only students, faculty, and recreation center members (and swim school kids) can use the pool, so this summer we signed up for a student family membership to the center. It was great! When Primo was in her lesson, I swam around with the younger three. When the younger three were in lessons, Primo and I swam laps and played speed games in the pool. Frodo would even join us when he was done with his afternoon tutoring sessions. I was guaranteed an hour in the pool twice a week. It was very easy to plan another family swim time at the pool or lake a third day during the week. I was golden. Until swimming lessons stopped. We went 2-3 tmes a week for almost another month, went on vacation (where were went swimming in the hotel pools almost daily), then came home and... nothing. I think we've been to the pool two times since early July.

As I was discussing my exercise woes with Frodo the other day and sharing with him my plan to get up earlier and try to get to the pool or walking park (did I mention there is a walking park 2 miles down the road from us?) early a few days a week, I came to a realization:

I need an exercise program, but I don't want an exercise program.

I want an exercise montage. Like in Rocky.

I want to don my "I mean business" exercise clothes, lace up my Nikes, and two minutes later be sweaty, fit, and celebrating at the top of the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I don't want to have to find real time, be sore, create more laundry, or add more showers to my week. I want great background music and a fit body in two minutes. I'm not even averse to sweat.

Is that too much to ask?

And while I'm at it, I would also like commercial breaks where a stage crew comes in and cleans my house. And have conflicts that result in witty one-liners (made mostly by me) and are resolved by a compassionate yet clever heart-to-heart less than 30 minutes (minus commercial breaks) after the introduction of the conflict.

How do you get out of the habit of no disciplined exercised to some form of disciplined exercise? Anyone? I'm all out of ideas.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fly on the Wall

At the lunch table this afternoon:

Quarto: Dad? Can I eat the rest of my jellybeans tomorrow?

Frodo: No, you'd get a tummy ache.

Terzo: And be in a sugar comma.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fly on the Wall

Uttered by Quarto (age 5) while hanging out with mom while the older three were at Vacation Bible School:

"Mom, when's it? Um.... when's it time to.... when's it time to collect the children?"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sending Up A Signal Flare

I am still alive. The internet at our house has given up the ghost, so I am only able to get online once or twice a week at the library or coffee shop. On these trips I have to race through checking and responding to email, renewing library books (well, recently it has been more along the line of managing fines), and downloading and uploading chapter edits. This doesn't leave time for fun stuff like blogging, playing on Facebook, or reading through homeschool message boards. My publisher also invited me to join Twitter, but I don't think that is going to happen for a bit. It has also made ordering books for next school year a bit difficult.

Being nestled in the woods can be wonderful for the spirit, but it is the death knell to reliable satellite internet service. "All you need is a clear view of the southern sky" the smiling spokeswoman in the satellite ads assures. Guess what we don't have? As soon as the trees leaf, our internet goes POOF! We also live in a weird little hole without access to cable, DSL, or a strong cell signal. Our landlord, who lives on the same property but closer to town, is apparently the end of the line for DSL and cable... or so we thought. Frodo called Comcast the other day in his quarterly attempt to hint that they need to extend the access to our house. Usually, the response is a friendly but curt, "I'm sorry but we don't service your address." This last call was a bit more optomistic... "We can't do just internet, but we can do a phone internet bundle for you. We just have to send a tech down to check things out." Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I am getting a lot done in my yard, writing up lesson plans for next year, and writing up illustration lists. And maybe in another week or two, I can get back online at home, in my jammies, in the late night hours when the rest of my family is sleeping (well, everyone but Secondo, she's my fellow night owl) and blog to my heart's content. Maybe...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting Past The Gag Reflex

The internet went out at our house again, so this afternoon I packed-up my stuff and set out for the coffee house... reliable internet and chai, who could ask for more?

As I drove up the driveway, however, I spotted Secondo standing at the end of the driveway with a pair of binoculars peering into the ditch on the side of the road.

"Whatcha lookin' at?" I inquired.

"The dead possum," she casually replied. "Do you think its back end was taken off by the car that hit it or do you think a vulture was eating it?"

Frodo had mentioned that there was a dead opossum in the road last night when he came home, and Zen Baby and The Man's mom mentioned that it was on the side of the road this morning. I had been wondering how long it would take for Secondo to make her way out there and investigate.

I couldn't quite see the opossum from where I stopped. I could smell it, however, so I backed the car up a bit, put on the emergency brake, and got out of the car.

"Well, Dad said it was in the road last night, so I am guessing that a vulture or something got a hold of it and dragged it into the ditch where it could eat without fear of being hit by a car and becoming some other creature's supper," I speculated.

"Look at all the flies on it! What else eats dead animals... carrion?"

This launched us into a 10-minute discussion on the decomposition process and the determination of time of death using insect life-stages. (I knew that Master's Degree would come in handy!) I told her that since Frodo saw the opossum on his way home but not on his way out and since we know that opossums are nocturnal, we could pretty confidently state that the opossum expired the night before.

"How long will it take to decompose?"

"Well, that depends on a few things... what creatures come along to feast on it, chemical breakdown now that the carcass was opened to the elements, the weather, and some other things."

"If I take a picture of it every day, I could record how long it takes to decompose and how it decomposed, couldn't I?"

She then ran inside to get my camera. I promised I would buy a new battery for the kid camera while I was out tonight. (And maybe new binoculars since toy military binoculars really aren't that helpful for serious scientific study... they magnified nothing and were amazingly blurry.) We then discussed the importance of taking pictures of reference before taking close-up shots (with the zoom, of course... that thing stank!). I encouraged her to take note of whether the body is moved and what state it is in each day. 

When I left, she was still taking pictures (one handed, so she could hold her nose) and had a HUGE grin on her face. 

She's probably not ready to peruse my copy of Spitz & Fisher's Medicolegal Investigation of Death but maybe I can pull out the old textbooks and throw together a few forensic pathology lessons for her... or at least brush-up so I can answer her questions. That kid keeps me on my toes!

Hmmm. maybe I need to work on a Forensic Pathology for Kids. (I don't think the world is ready for that... I'm not!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ummm, okie dokie.

A couple weeks ago (I am finally catching up with posting... you'll see the phrase "a few weeks ago" a lot the next couple of weeks), the kids and I came out of the library to find this:

(Re-creation. Not original pamphlet placement. I don't carry my camera everywhere. Probably should, though... especially if stuff like this keeps happening.)

The collection included a personal note and the following pamphlets:

Preventing Youth Tobacco Use (Tip Sheet #4)

Home Smoke Alarms
(two copies)

Rise to the Challenge (a recruitment brochure for the Army)

The envelope on top was addressed "Neighbor" and had "who is my neighbor?" in the lower left corner. Inside, the note (handwritten in a very pretty notecard) read:


Praise the Lord,

I have been in Bible Study + Evangelism Training since (Dec.) 1979/80!

Please pray for me that I can become a Prison Work Minister/ Evangelism.

Joshua 24:25-28

Please pray for me + I will pray for you as well.

In Christ,
[name omitted]

I do not know this person. We believe it was the lady parked next to us who gave us a very warm hello when we pulled in. She was inside the library when we got to our car and discovered the "gift" she had left for us on our windshield. She didn't leave anything on anyone else's windshield that we could see.

Very, very strange.

Life sure is interesting, huh?!

Stimulus Pork... Yummmmm!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Schnitzel Von Krumm

A few years ago, friends from New Zealand introduced us to a wonderful little pup, Schnitzel Von Krumm and his very low tum. Terzo was the intended audience for these books, but never took to them as much as I did, so they spent most of their time on the bookshelf biding their time until someone would come along and appreciate them. Fast forward about 5 years, and they have found a fan... two actually.

Quarto and The Man (the three year old who becomes part of the family during the weekdays) LOVE Schnitzel Von Krumm... and yes, you must say his entire given name whenever reffering to him. It's just the way it is. Every day, we have a story time just before the kids go to quiet time, and every day for the last couple of weeks, Schnitzel Von Krumm has been enthusiastically brought as the day's selection.

Schnitzel Von Krumm is a dachshund with a very low tum who is quiet and lovable and doesn't ask much but to be surrounded by life's comforts - his family and his favorite beat-up, smelly, threadbare but comfy dog bed. His name and droopy little ears will immediately win your heart. If you are a little more difficult to woo, Lynley Dodd's playful artwork and engaging rhymes will have you hooked before you finish the first story.

Today, Quarto brought as his reading selection Schnitzel Von Krumm Forget-Me-Not.

However, the recent favorite of both Quarto and The Man has been Schnitzel Von Krumm's Basketwork.

I love reading this one aloud to the boys. A typical reading finds me reading along in the story,

He liked all the tatters,

he liked every tear,

the broken down edges,

the holes and the hair.

The smell was so friendly

and as for the fit-

if he needed to squeeze,

did he mind?

All this time the boys' anticipation has been growing. They've been squiggling and squirming and repressing giggles. They are so happy as I finish the line and then they burst out with,

"Not a bit!"

This joyous refrain is repeated numerous times throughout the reading, and each time the boys greet it with the same anticipation and glee.

There are many childrens books that I enjoy, but after the 20th reading in half-as-many days, I want to rip out my vocal chords after most of them. Not so with Schnitzel Von Krumm. I could read them over and over again... and I do. With a very happy and not-at-all hesitant audience.

Generally, you can tell which books in our library are well-loved because they are wrinkled and torn and dog-eared and probably have many, many patches of packing tape. The Schnitzel Von Krumm books do not have that "well-loved" look however... they have a "cherished" look. You can tell they aren't new - barely. They have been read over and over, but they are treasured. They are put away with care not to wrinkle them. They are closed when not being read or looked through and set in a safe place so as not to be accidentally trodden on. They are not used as magic carpets for action figures or barricades for army men. To the boys, they are Schnitzel Von Krumm, and they are treated like any well-loved canine best friend should be.

There are three books in the Schnitzel Von Krumm series, but our little dachshund friend did not make his debut in these books. He is actually one of three canine friends of the apparently popular series of books starring Hairy Maclary From Donaldson's Dairy (the books are very popular in Dodd's native New Zealand as well as in Australia and Great Britain, but in America, their fan base, although just as dedicated, is still very small). The Hairy Maclary series, also by Lynley Dodd, follows the antics of a hairy, rather shaggy little black dog who looks mysteriously like our own, aging Gideon. I have a feeling we will be adding the Hairy Maclary books to our library in the very near future. I know I can't wait to read them, and I will enjoy many more afternoon story times on the sofa with Quarto and The Man... I am sure I will enjoy reading these again and again as I have the Schnitzel Von Krumm books - no matter who else in enjoying them with me.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Tea Party

This past Friday, February 27th, "tea parties" were held across the country. Inspired by the now famous report by Rick Santelli on CNBC and the Boston Tea Party carried out by America's first patriots, the tea parties were a protest against the stimulus bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. Reports, found mostly on blogs and twitters with occasional support from the mainstream media, indicate that the parties drew anywhere from 100-500 participants per city and included organized speakers and marches... not bad considering that these were all organized in three days with most participants joining in as the protests were going on. Participants in Atlanta even braved severe weather and a close-call with a tornado!

I perused some pictures of some of the protests this morning (I didn't attend any since I was bringin' home the bacon and tryin' to stay off the dole that day). I always like to see the signs people bring to these events. I am never clever enough to come up with these. I have to admit to a bit of "slogan envy." (Although I was rather proud of the Libertarian t-shirts we made for a street fair we participated in a few years back.) My kids love to make signs for events like this. Maybe I need to organize more protests so that we can hit art and civics in one shot. *grin* It might help to spark my creative juices, too. Practice makes perfect and all that.

Some of my favorite slogans from the tea party signs were:

"Give Me Liberty or Give Me Debt?"

"Chains We Can Believe In"

"Why would YOU want to pay for MY health care?"

And a picture of a little girl (I'm guessing she was about 4) holding a sign that read: "I read as much of the stimulus bill as my Congresswoman" (seriously, it was 1100 pages and it was not available in its entirety until after the vote, so don't believe any Congressman who told you they read it before they voted... they didn't, they couldn't)

You can view pictures here and here.

I only hope that the energy and push to action that inspired these protests continues. We need to live the lives of free men and not just be content with the appearance of freedom. It begins with protest. Hopefully it will end with government action.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Living Green

One of my "invisible friends" on a homeschool message board that I frequent has purposed, along with her family, to attempt to halve their belongings and outgo (which includes money, trash, and mileage) this year. While researching and pondering green and sustainable living, she asked herself if large, Christian, homeschooling families might actually be living more sustainable lifestyles with smaller carbon footprints than smaller, liberal, consciously "green" families.

I've never heard anyone else talk about this phenomenon and it may be that I'm perfectly placed to see something that other journalists/newswriters/bloggers aren't: but if you want to learn about living sustainably in terms of larger families consuming fewer resources you should look no further than the Christian homeschooling movement.

That's right - the Christian homeschooling movement.

Liberal "greenies" like to pretend that they have it dialed out when it comes to living lightly on the earth, but often that's a sham. Sure they shell out big bucks for products that are organic or herbal or not tested on animals, but the truth is that they still consume way more than their fair share of the world's resources. The environment will not be saved by a Silicon Valley suburbanite living in a 5,000 sf house who chooses Aubrey organics shampoo over Pert.
Continue reading here. And while you are at her site, check out Jennifer's other writings (she has a wonderfully engaging and informative writing style) and sustainable living links.

What do you think? Do Jennifer's observations have some merit? What about population boom? Are you doing anything to conserve resources? What? If not, why not?

Some ways our family is living "greener":

- buy very little by way of packaged foods

- buy locally (food, books, clothes, etc)

- buy organic (truly organic, not mass-market organic which, as you know if you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma, is really not much different, if at all, from "non-organic" options)

- grow as much of our own food as possible (since we rent, we can't put in the fruit trees and very large garden that we'd like, but we can provide quite a bit ourselves)

- buy second-hand whenever possible; including clothing, furniture, gardening supplies, homeschool books, etc (we generally don't buy second-hand appliances and technologies since they usually use more power to run but we often wait and buy the not-quite-the-newest models)

- recycle & reuse

- use energy efficient bulbs and turn lights off when not in use (we try not to turn lights on during the day, and if we do, we stick to task lighting if available)

- add layers and turn down the heat or remove layers, open windows, and turn up the temp on the a/c

- own two cars so the commuter (i.e. more frequent driver) can use the more efficient vehicle and we use the bigger, less-efficient vehicle for large group trips

- make it a game to fit all of our trash into one can or less per week

- save-up junk mail to use as fire-starters

- cook at home (healthier and saves on eating out and medical bills)

- compost

- and coming soon: a new clothesline - I miss our old one