Saturday, November 21, 2009


I almost started out with "We've had a big week" but really, when don't we? It's one of the many perks of being in this family. Here's part of this week's whirl.

We spent three hours at the violin shop on Monday and came home with some Very Good Things. Which are altogether worth far more than the funds laid out, for which we are so grateful. There are a series of little miracles in this story, and specially deserved hat-tips go out to my brother for wrangling extra wretched traffic in order to help pull this off, and my dad for guarding a particular item carefully on it's way home on the train.

Q brought home a loaner touch screen from the school district for his own personal use. It will have to go back in June, but for now, as soon as I can install the software, it's his. This seems like maybe not the biggest of deals, but somewhere along the line, so help me, this kid is getting some honest to goodness aug. comm. Those big devices are something that someone else, insurance or some other entity, will have to pay for and Q's having regular time and access with a touch screen is one of the first steps in justifying this sort of thing to one's insurance. Those big guys are so far out of our price range.

Well, so far they are. This guy may have a hand in changing that. If you feel so inclined, I'd like to suggest that we all pray for divine protection as he works on bringing this to market. So many large organizations would be thrilled to either see him fail or to buy up his work so they can stick it in a vault and slam the door on it. No. It's needed out here, in the real world. If you've ever had to deal with frustratingly clumsy technology, you should be able to identify to some degree with what Q faces daily in his own body. If Pranav's work can change parts of that... Wow.

The big kids are getting ready for their piano and violin recitals. They are such fun to listen to and play with. Sometimes I do wonder what on earth I was thinking to have signed them up for violin. Q often cries through practices unless he can have someone right next to him, in another room, preferably with a closed door between. And really, how practical is that? Not very. S, and to a lesser degree K, still need some one-on-one during practices. Meh. We persevere.

The biggest four made their own music bags this week. They all had sewing classes for the last couple of weeks and will again in January. Somehow the usual project of trimming out a tea towel seemed less than useful for them, so on a whim I asked the teacher if what she was holding up could be made into a bag. She said it could and that we could do it in our next session. So we did! The kids picked out their materials and sewed 'em up. G's topstitching is superb -- good enough to be paid work. While some of us have yet to grasp why we might not want to install ceramic buttons all over such a hard working little piece of equipment, others are planning to pack multiple baggies of crayons and pencils along in the outer pockets "in case I get bored." The timing is especially cool since we're averaging 3-4 books per kids per instrument at this point, the bags we have had are giving up under the strain, and I suspect that the book count is about to increase again. (Whispering: G is hoping to soon join the orchestra at church.)

My mom made Pumpkin and Banana breads today with the girls. They're all sitting here in spicy little rows waiting to be added to the Thanksgiving baskets that will be put together at church tomorrow. So on that happy note, I'm off.

I hope you're looking forward to a rest-full weekend enjoying things delicious as you feed both bellies and souls of those you love, something good to read in a warm and comfy chair, and peace piled up in the corners of your rooms, deep enough to share.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picture this

I'm feeding Q his yummy homemade veggie soup pureed with cottage cheese (it tasted better than it sounds -- everything gets tested before it goes to him). He's not happy because he's too cool for food. So S is hanging out nearby and I ask her to come sing "Where is Thumbkin" with me, in rounds, to distract the little monkey. She cheerfully and immediately complies. Q settles and moves right on into happy eating, snarfing down his tasty puree. S finds herself needing variety in the third singing of Thumbkin, so she begins yodeling with a little vibrato. Sweet. We move on to rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." I throw in a little more vibrato. Things are getting silly. At the end of that round, she cuts off the note abruptly, to turn to me and say, a little surprise in her voice, "Wow, Mommy! Did you take vocal chord lessons or something? You're good!"

Bwahaha. We ended up singing a chicken version of something else -- Puccini? I don't know what it was, but Q found the whole thing hilarious and burbled for more, giggling around his food (tough for him, but he managed). S is always good for unexpected twists and lots of laughs.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I don't have much to say, really, but thought I'd check in. I have one pukey kid, who is hopefully done with that now (could actually be), and several who are feeling antsy, hoping it was a fluke and now it's done and we can move on with our big day at church come morning.

I've been thinking lately about kindness and how we experience that. About what gestures represent to us safety vs. fear, encompassing tenderness vs. shrinking inadequacy. And are those making those gestures which are received so negatively even aware that they're putting that out there? I don't have much on this subject, I don't think. It's percolating in my head. But... wherever you are, if you're leading with kindness and gentleness and thinking of those around you while doing so, you aren't likely to rack up many enemies. Sometimes it's really hard to pull this off. Like when someone has been nasty and really deserves a good set-down. But do they? Deserve anything? Well... you only get what you give. Prickly personalities tend to breed hostility, inattention to those around us tends to breed contempt. Those behaviors tend to be self-limiting, in the sense that they keep their hosts from getting as far in life as they might otherwise do. Aside from that kind of indicator, there's no way for us to know what another person is experiencing, what their global objective pain or happiness level is, if you will. And how would one go about meting out consequences or set-downs for the truly crummy? Other than legal consequences, nothing viable comes to mind.

Best to err on the side of perpetual kindness and gentleness and grace, then, I think. Sometimes that means just sitting quietly and not offering judgement. Sometimes it means extending a hand. And if the hand is slapped? Not your problem. Your obligation is simply to keep showing up, smiling when you can, with your hands open, learning while you do so.

Huh. Turns out I do have some things to say. Actually, well, I'm going to be done for now. Q's out and I need to be too, in case the evening presents any more sickies. (Pray over this, will you? Thanks.)

It has been a full and lovely week here. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the good stuff I have: mostly great kids, quite decent health, sweet and articulate people surrounding me. Sometimes it feels a little like I'm being pressed upon by angels. You know who you are. (Yes you do, don't argue.) May your weekend provide you Sabbath rest and reconnection with family, friends and Creator. May you sleep better than a baby and wake with spirit expansively renewed. You are loved. Magnificent, miraculous, you are loved.


Q updates to come

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The day

Madame M-mv, saying it well.

The post-it from K's Spelling book, alternately in block print and cursive:
K_______ Love
K_______ Love
K_______ Love
S______ Love
E____ Love
Q_______ Love

G had been a pill while she was writing, or maybe she hadn't gotten to him yet. But his name is often found in these lists too -- sometimes it's a kindness on the part of one or the other. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this job?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Kids today

Interesting info.

Robert Epstein: Psychologist and visiting scholar at the University of California San Diego. He is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today and author of several books, including The Case Against Adolescence.

During the interview he says:

"In more than a hundred cultures around the world, there is no teen turmoil... Any culture that severs the connection between young people and older people creates this problem. In other words, if you isolate young people from adults and you trap them, as we have done, in this peculiar world of their own where they learn everything they know from each other and, of course, in our culture everything they know comes from divisions of the media and fashion industries. If you do that, you isolate them from adults and then if you treat them as if they are still children, which really makes some of them very angry and depressed, you create adolescence."
"They actually have almost no meaningful contact with adults here. In fact, according to research, teens in the United States spend about 70 hours a week, that's most of their waking hours, in contact with their peers. You compare that [cut off by interviewer]... They spend on average a half hour a week with their dads on average, 15 minutes of which is spent watching television. Now compare that to cultures where the child/adult continuum as it's called is still intact, in those cultures many of which are developing nations, teens spend on average 5 hours a week with their peers versus 70 here. Who are they spending their time with, they're spending most of their time with usually same-sex adults learning to become adults. That's really what the teen years were through most of human history even in the west, it was a time you learned to become an adult."

Listen here. Hat tip to Shoshannah for the info.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Look! A helpful translation guide for dads of homeschooling families. I'm thinking Mr. Homescholar might consider a brilliant new career in wife-to-husband pocket translation on a variety of topics. Maybe Mrs. Homescholar would consider writing a reverse version? (Please?)

Susan Wise Bauer is blogging -- homeschool commentary from a veteran. She's compelling and articulate, as always providing much to chew on.

About our current homeschooling adventures? Time change weeks stink. Otherwise, the kids are learning, the schedules are colorful as always, and S is currently obsessed with reading the calendar. She has posted her own piece of lined paper next to the giant generic deskblotter model I have on the wall. She stands next to me when I'm writing new things in, writing and scribbling in her own various colors, keeping us all on track. Sometimes she complains when my writing is "too small to read" -- which totally cracks me up. When the big kids get confused about what's happening on which day, she quotes today's date, tomorrow's date, and the activities listed for both.

Our redesigned lesson plan/checklist notebook has worked pretty well (many thanks to all those who contributed glimpses of their personal versions), minus the aforementioned time-change week of doom. Another change this year is the switch from random Post-it page markers and notes to the fabulous Ree's method of using green ("start here") and red ("stop here") Post-it tabs in the kids' various workbooks and reading selections. By now I should either have stock in 3M or have some sort of endorsement deal with them. I believe I own almost every repositionable adhesive thingy they make and I proselytize mercilessly on their behalf. My own books are a walking advertisement: they have enough page markers stuck throughout that they seem to have sprouted a very colorful post-post-it-modern paper/plastic wig. 3M people? You reading? Your new product should be a care package for busy homeschool moms (or students or professionals). I'm happy to test the concept for you. Do you need my address?

I have high hopes that we'll be back on track by tomorrow, waking and sleeping and working at a slightly more rapid pace. Meanwhile, Q's out, I'm had, the African Dwarf frogs are squarking, and it's time to sleep.

Hope your rest is sweetly shared and long enough.

Monday, November 02, 2009


It was one of those days you sometimes get lateish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the airthat sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.

-- P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Old School Chum