Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Powering Down

Homeschooling two distinct age groups sometimes causes my mind to miss a track.  Lauren asked me what the difference was between "hibernate" and "sleep".  I began with how the body, say of a bear, would slow down its respiration and metabolic rate, a much deeper sleep.  William and I just read about this the other day.  I had to shake my head clear of these thoughts when Lauren clarified that she was talking about the computer, not animals.

I had never thought about it.  But indeed, if you go to where you shut down your computer from the Start menu, you have the choice of "sleep" or "hibernate".  Sleep shuts down power to all parts of the computer it can without losing what you were doing.  When you want to resume, assuming you remained plugged in or your battery did not run out, you can restart faster.  Hibernate, on the other hand, does save data, but the computer shuts off all power, requiring a complete reboot to start working again on your computer.  It saves more energy.  Huh, learn something every day.  Read more here.

Notes:
I get the weekends off on barn chores, and sometimes, because of that, eggs don't get collected.  I think I might have also, due to over-scheduling, not have done chores on Friday.  This led to quite a collection of eggs, many of them bantam which are now being warmed by a small black hen.  I don't want these chicks!  I need to see if anyone wants them.  A friend did want the hen to hatch some eggs for her, so maybe I can substitute her bigger eggs for some of these not so big ones.

William and I are reading the 1950s book The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth.  I suppose you couldn't find a book better for a little boy familiar with chickens who loves - well, I can't spoil it for you and tell you what comes out of the egg.

Hair is coming off of the horses in curtains as I brush them each night.  In the mornings, the hair is gone, used to soften the nests of birds.  It is supposed to get into the 70s this afternoon and SUN!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Missing Link

My cell phone rang while I was out.  Lauren was at home, doing homework.

"Mom, did you know that the group that sang YMCA, you know, the Village People, were performing in gay fantasy costumes?  Why don't I know this?  What else don't I know?"

I suppose a homeschool education does have holes.  I suppose I should tell her about Woodstock.

And if a homeschooler is reading this, I am not talking about the bird in the comic strip Peanuts.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I need more sleep

Given the way my weekend went, I'm thinking of installing a revolving door in our house.  During one of my stops at home, I noticed part of the newspaper in the stack of mail with "read this" written on the top and a small article circled:  Man, 90, is accused of killing wife, 89.

I look over at dh. Why did he want me to see this? Well, it just goes to show, he says that enough is enough. After 67 years of marriage, the guy finally snapped, the last straw. Okay, so he has a strange sense of humor. Perhaps that's why we get along so well, although perhaps I should watch my step as we get older.

Last week, I began washing all the winter clothing from our mud room area in the basement. I prefer the house to not smell like horse pee
all year. Putting away winter items virtually guaranteed that it would turn colder again, and sure enough, it is cloudy and in the 40s and 50s. Ironically, two months ago, I would have been rejoicing in the "warm" weather by comparison to the freezing temperatures.

Farm stores are filling with seed catalogs and small delicate green plants. I begin daydreaming of plowing up the garden and how I'll spend warm days in the sun, being domestic and bringing baskets full of fresh produce to our table. My family oohs and ahs at my industry. Pop goes the dream bubble. Dh "strongly advises" that I quit any thoughts of a garden this year before it gets out of hand. He knows that many dollars later, we'll have a $32 tomato and lots of weeds, all nicely fenced off of course. He's right.  Thing is, by the time I have time to garden, there won't be as many people around to eat the results.

After such a busy weekend, I am envying bears and thinking of going into hibernation for a month.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Overheard

William was playing video games with his friend, A, in the family room.  It seems that A was taking risks while driving his race car in the alternate reality.  I overheard William cautioning him, "A, don't go over that next hill too fast.  That would be sewer-cide." 

Perhaps there is an open manhole on the other side of the hill?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pocket Protectors

I try not to be insulted when people ask how two engineers, my husband and myself, produced two artists:  Lauren, who is a pianist and Anna, who is an oil painter.  When escorting them to various events, I am often asked what instrument I play or if I paint. Confusion plays over their faces when I answer that I am not an artist, nor is my husband.

It is an interesting question and gets to the heart of why we homeschooled them.  (Okay, there was that incident with Lauren that sealed the deal, but I was already leaning that way anyway.)  We sought a family environment that supported the satisfaction and enjoyment of learning, the motivation to find and pursue interests, and the ability to focus and work hard.  It also enabled the time, the hours required to devote to developing those interests.  We tried to provide the best we could afford in their chosen fields.

Lauren was drawn to music early when a 100 year old piano was given to us and she asked me to teach her to play the song I was playing:  Minute 3.  She learned it, hands together, at age six.  Anna was drawn to violin, but to my regret, we told her no, that we had both a great teacher and a (now new) piano.  I was not going to put resources toward yet another instrument.

After a few years in piano, we found that the intense spotlight on the student and the need to perform did not suit Anna.  Visual art provided the same framework for artistic output without the intensity of working one-on-one with an instructor without personal head time.  Could sibling competition have been part of it?  Maybe.  Now, with two separate yet artistic fields, they are both each other's greatest fans and supporters with no need to compare.

What makes for a family that fosters talent?  Following my nose in reading some websites, I found Daniel Coyle's blog. He authored the book The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.

I was reading in his blog this morning about 'how a single family can produce two unique and diverse talents".  He writes:

These families also help underline the importance of what we might call meta-skills — the larger qualities that form the foundation for all high performance: qualities like self-control, focus, ability to project toward a goal. As a neurologist might point out, these are also neural circuits; they’re also partly a result of the shared family environment. We could theorize that these families are examples of a kind of hothouse effect, where kids with a shared identity have a tendency to develop meta-skills in certain areas.  Then they diverge, as siblings tend to do, into their own narrower areas of expertise.


So that's my answer from now on when I am asked why we homeschooled:  to develop meta-skills.  Perhaps William will be the Ted Nugent of our family, but I hope not.

I share with you today a painting Anna (age 16) completed last night.  It depicts the town of Carrollton, Kentucky on the Ohio River as seen from the Overlook at General Butler State Park.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's a New World - Or Is It?

Anna turned the house upside down yesterday looking for my Beatles CD.  We’ve not found it yet.  The urgency was due to Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which was playing at high speed in her head.  She figured the only way to cancel it out was the Beatles, new music from the old world. 

Several days back, the girls dragged out dh’s record player and vinyl discs into the main living area.  This past year, Lauren discovered that vinyl records have much better sound than CDs, mp3s and tapes.  We now listen, old fashioned, to records, some of them I purchased many years ago at age sixteen. 

My mom had returned to work, and I did the family grocery shopping.  Each week or so, they’d have a new record on a famous composer at the end of the aisle.  I used my own money to buy each one.  I enjoyed them, but did not play them a lot.  I was thinking of my future children when I bought them.  Honestly, and yes even at that young age.  Here we are, many years later.

Lauren plays them, I should clarify.  Anna has discovered dh’s old vinyls – Pink Floyd, The Eagles.  Still searching for my CD, she’ll have to use those for now to drown out the New World.

Notes:
Lauren's essay is the blog post that gets the most direct hits, mostly in Europe, particularly in the UK.  

Handfuls of hair are coming off the fuzzy miniature horses.  It will be warm soon.

I wormed three of the chickens.  As a result, their combs seem very bright red, more so than the other chickens.  

New neighbors moved in next to a friend of mine.  William went to visit and told me several times that day about rolling down the hill in the really big (moving) boxes.   Who needs toys when you have boxes?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Career or Hobby?

Looming college bills has me considering whether I can squeeze blood from this turnip money from this blog.  I'm guessing not, and that Lauren and I will have to consider other ways to earn.  (Dh jokingly suggested we get a webcam.  Desperate times might call for desperate measures, but there are limits.)

AdSense has a balance of $76 (which you cannot claim until it (or you) reaches 100.)  With 1224 posts, and if you calculate that I've averaged 30 minutes per post (although sometimes more, and not including "head time"), I figure I've made about $0.12 per hour.  Of course, making money this way depends on driving up traffic on one's blog and actually having visitors click an ad, which presents another dilemma.

Should I expose my blog?  Should I drive up traffic?  There is an article on Blogher.com called Strip Blogging:  How Naked Do You Get?  Now, before you think I've taken dh up on his suggestion of a webcam, this article discusses just how much of one's life should be revealed in a blog.  Obviously, I share only some parts of my life by blog.  We are not doing a reality TV show here (though that's also occurred to me).  I'm concerned - is there a danger?

I have thought of sending choice blogs to a local paper, asking only for a link to my blog as payment.  They get a free article, my traffic goes up.  Yet, the convicted felon around the corner bothers me (and he's one the one that got caught.  How many haven't?)  And if any of you reading this are creeps, I have a brown belt in tae kwon do.  And so does my husband.  Really.

I am looking at other writing opportunities, such as Suite101, and the reviews are mixed.  Some people make money, some don't.  It isn't exactly the type of writing I want to do.  It is, however, safer.  Or is it?  One side benefit to writing there is that it will drive traffic to your blog.

In the olden days, Erma Bombeck made a living writing about her family with her tongue in cheek.  Yet, few people really knew where she lived or had photos of her children.  On the other hand, the Internet allows there to be many (mostly undiscovered) Bombecks out there.  Perhaps it is time to break out of this small window.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

LOL the Prequel

I had trouble getting this video to upload in my last post, so here it is in a separate post. Read the post after this for an explanation:

video

More LOL

Being classical music geeks, one of our favorite movies is Amadeus, but you can't really get the full effect unless you watch it with Lauren. In this movie, Mozart has an infectious laugh, and each time he does, Lauren laughs back.

You can find clips of the movie on YouTube. This evening, as we were watching a few, I challenged her to watch one without laughing. In this clip, Mozart comes in while Salieri is showing the Emperor his new composition. Mozart, thinking it a bit simple, spices it up. At the end, he laughs and so does Lauren, losing her bet! (I had hoped to show you a video of Lauren losing the bet, but it won't upload. I will try again later.)

Here is the clip from YouTube. Watch to the end to see if you can keep from laughing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Innocence Lost

My Facebook image shows me topless. I've edited it to not show "anything", but then, given that it was taken when I was four, there was nothing to show. Dh thinks it is suggestive and I should change it. It was an innocent photo, taken in an innocent age.

It illustrates for me the change in the times. Looking at old headlines, many of the ones written in the early 1900s could have been taken straight from a newspaper yesterday. But mass media, technology, and the Internet has forever changed parenting. This is not the same world in which my parents raised me.

Think I overreact? Perhaps you are not familiar with ChatRoulette? While I'm aware of the dangers of the Internet, the ease with which a child can innocently come across images no child should see, an article on Blogher opened my eyes to to more than I knew existed. Evidently, anyone can go on this website when bored, (and children today often are since they are not needed to chop wood and gather eggs) and meet a stranger. Radical Parenting has written what parents should know about how children can see naked strangers in the comfort of your own home. Great.

And this week the news that less than one mile from my house lives a man who likes little boys and was convicted of sexual child abuse.

Has the world changed that much or are we just more aware of it through media?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Once Was Lost....

...but now, my cell phone is found! I looked everywhere, remembered the last I saw it, and could only think that it fell out of my car at baseball practice - at a public park. I had scoured Eugene, looked in all the cracks, under the seat, even in the glove box where I would not have put it. No luck. This was serious, as maybe someone was at this moment using up all my minutes to call some foreign land. I imagine my bill ballooning to thousands of dollars. Aside from that, I felt naked without my phone.

I suspend my account, but not my search, and I check Eugene over and over, fruitlessly. Finally, yesterday, I looked once again under the driver's seat. No phone. A small canvas CD case was under the seat that used to belong to dh when he drove this van. Noticing it was unzipped, I looked inside - and there was my phone! Somehow, it had fallen under the seat, flipped backward, and slipped inside this pocket of the case.

I relayed my joy to dh (at work) by email. He amused me with this story about his dad, who was a dairy farmer:

I remember when my Dad was working on one of the big grain trucks when he was in his mid-forties. He used to keep his wallet in the top pocket of his bib-overalls and while bent over the hood the wallet fell out and lodged in the engine compartment. Of course he didn’t realize it at the time and only noticed his wallet was gone at the end of the day.

They found his wallet some 15 years later while they were rebuilding the engine..

Has something like this happened to you?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When I grow up....

....I want to be like Sister Rose Ann Fleming. At age 77:

"She rises at 4 a.m. for an hour of prayer and meditation. Then she usually spends an hour or more at the computer, often researching law cases that she takes on for Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor. (A law degree is one of several she holds, including Master’s degrees in English, business administration and theology, and a doctorate in education administration.) She exercises on an elliptical trainer, lifts weights and swims. Daily Mass is at 8. By 8:30, she is usually in her office, overseeing two other full-time advisers and two volunteers who help her track Xavier’s 271 athletes in 17 sports."

Better get working on those degrees though, I only have one. And of course, I'm all over the work out routine.

Monday, March 15, 2010

LOL

People who say their children don't fight are lying. Despite the obvious perfect family (cough) reputation we project, my sixteen year old girl sometimes gets into it with my eight year old son. He, of course, bristles under yet another person telling him what to do.

Like tonight, he was harassing Anna's cat, Louise. Not hurting, mind you, just following her around, and finally up the stairs. Anna asked him to leave her cat alone. He claimed to be doing nothing wrong. Back and forth. Mother is then unwillingly drawn in to determine the winner of this verbal spat.

William is asked to leave the cat alone, and to come down the steps. In my fairy tale, he says, "Yes, ma'am. Right away, ma'am. Can I take the trash out for you?" In reality, he says, "I'm not doing anything!" Get off the steps! "But I'm not doing anything." By now he's at the bottom of the steps. Come off the steps, no need to be there.

"But I have to go up the steps. [Pregnant pause.] I need to brush my teeth!"

At this point, all older house occupants bust out into a spontaneous LOL, totally embarrassing the son, who runs upstairs, presumably to brush his teeth. In reality, he for some reason finds his tooth brush to be a torture device invented by moms, even as his teeth turn green and grow fuzzy sweaters.

At any rate, it was a plausible reason to go up the steps with a cat, but perhaps not quite so believable.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Sky with a View

I was over visiting Cloudia and her observations of the hawk in Hawaii. It put to mind the buzzards that I saw two days ago while riding my horse. They were spiraling above me, five of them, looking for the next meal. As Etta and I paused in our trotting around the arena, I noticed something. Each buzzard was at a different altitude, circling, circling slowly, looking. One was so very high, I wasn't sure if it was another buzzard or a smaller bird. But no, it was a buzzard. They flew, each one at a different level, to maximize the type of vision possible from varying heights. Perhaps the way-up-there buzzard could see far, far away, noticing something larger that needed inspection. The buzzard closest could see the smallest movement right below him, close up.

Would that humans would appreciate that we can all be at different places, see differently, yet appreciate that it collectively makes us as a community more successful at whatever we are seeking.

Notes:
What a long day yesterday! Supporting each child in their individual pursuits. All different, yet making us stronger together.

We had the most awesome (which my priest says means both "fearful" and "wonderful" at the same time) thunderstorm yesterday. It down poured hail! It passed us by rather suddenly, leaving behind bizarre piles of ice balls under the eaves of buildings.

Trying to "spring forward" but finding that my spring is sprung a bit.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Guilty by No Association

Fencing classes for William take place at our local community center. I was able to arrange for a coach to come to us homeschoolers from a nearby big city. Jason* works in the office there, scheduling the space in the building. In checking with him to add on another class time, he said he’d be happy to have our group.

“You watch your kids, and they are well behaved. Not all groups do that.” He went on to say that he had several home school groups that frequented the facility and that he found we were a much more diverse group than he’d previously thought. In what way, dare I ask?

Well, he had one group that always brought in their kids for PE in long pants, despite his preference that they wear shorts. “But I have that figured out,” he said. “Have you ever seen that show about the Duggars, that homeschool family with nineteen children?”

Well, no, I don’t watch that show, sorry. (Though I will admit I know who they are.)

“It’s all about modesty, I’m thinking. They don’t want their children to have their legs exposed.”

Do you THINK it might have something to do with the fact that (at the time this conversation took place) it is 2 freezing degrees outside and they don’t want to have to change all their kids' clothes for class and back again, when they can just wear sweat pants and be done with it? Goodness gracious, he’s learning about homeschoolers by watching Nineteen and Counting or whatever its called? Spare me.

In passing, I might note that most of the homeschooler moms in my area wear makeup and dress fashionably. Not a beehive hairdo in the group.

*Jason, though misguided, is a nice guy, and so I didn’t use his real name.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art Appreciation Day

One day, when Anna was much younger, maybe nine years old, she showed her art to someone. Complimenting her, the adult (whose name is long forgotten) asked if she was going to be an artist when she grew up.

“I am already an artist,” she replied.

And you know? She was right. But often, we ask children what they are going to be when they grow up, neglecting to recognize the value of what they already are.

William reminded me of this when asking how I liked his most recent drawing. Would I frame it? He went on to imply that my framing of his artwork did not quite equal the oohs and ahs and subsequent expensive framing of Anna’s artwork. Would I make sure to frame his drawing? And I will not only frame it, I will share it with you.

Notes:
Lauren was academically admitted to her college of choice. Waiting on the Conservatory admission and scholarship/financial aid information. Waiting. Waiting.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over (or perhaps it's upside down?)

It’s baseball season again. New coach, new kids, new parents to meet. Standing at the fence, “Which one is yours?” I’m asked.

“The one that is having a hard time adjusting to wearing a cup,” I answer.

“Oh, yes, I see him,“ the other mom says with instantaneous understanding. He’s easily identifiable, uncomfortable as he is. (And some day, he’ll so love that I wrote about this.)

Over the years, I’ve read articles about “your daughter’s first bra” and other milestones. Yet, this by far has been much more of an, uh, adjustment. This is the child who will wear only Wal-mart white socks with the green line, which must be carefully straightened over the toes. No buttons on his shirts. And gasp! The horror of turtlenecks! Tags must be cut out, and gloves are rejected because dirt or fuzz has settled in the end of the fingers. No elastic around the ankles. The fabric must not be itchy. And so on.

Sensory issues combined with the thought that everyone will KNOW he is wearing it, and it looks funny and how can he run and he “can’t believe I’m having to live with this”. Oh, the agony of being a boy. To have a mom that just doesn’t understand, who has NEVER had such an uncomfortable circumstance.

Like carrying an baby nine months. Yeah.

Update:
So I wrote this during baseball practice. Being a MOM, I'm not expected, indeed I think I'm not invited to participate in practices though I daresay, having grown up in Cincinnati during the days of the pinnacle of the Cincinnati Reds, I know a bit about baseball and still have a mean arm. Anyway, William gets back in the car, takes out his cup.

"Mom, does it go this way, or that way?" he asks, turning it clockwise.

"That way," I say. With the small end down.

"OH! So that's why it hurt!" he complains. "You put it in the wrong way!"

Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. I only remember arguing with him that it wasn't optional. Perhaps I assumed that his discomfort was just his sensory issues. Perhaps, I didn't check. As in all cases, it is always the mom's fault. At least, next time, it will feel much more comfortable, which in retrospect, may have been a good strategy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WILSON!!!! I'm sorry, Wilson!

The kitchen was thoroughly cleaned, and yet, passing by it, I would catch a whiff of something "off". It was not unlike the experience of opening the refrigerator door and knowing that someone had forgotten some broccoli in the dark, back corner.

We have an open floor plan, so I looked under the loveseat nearby. Nothing. I scrubbed the sink again and put baking soda in the drain. Not it. And then, I looked over at the canister that contained Wilson, our sourdough starter. I have been so very busy, I had it on my list to feed and tend to Wilson, but just couldn't get to him. And, by rights, Wilson should have been in the refrigerator.

Maybe it is Wilson, I think to myself. I opened the lid and inhaled deeply. Anna said my face resembled that of a baby that has been given a vaccine shot, in those five seconds when they are so shocked and hurt and mad with their mouths hanging open but no sound emits as they screw up enough energy to burst eardrums. Ahgggg! I have NEVER smelled ANYTHING, anything, and believe me, I have smelled some bad, bad things, that smelled as bad as Wilson. It was B-A-D.

Guilt set in. I have been so busy, I let Wilson die. How could I? Fortunately, unlike the Tom Hanks character of Castaway, I did split Wilson and put some in the refrigerator. All is not lost.

Notes:

I am going to have to get a bigger calendar. I can't everything into the 2" squares on the current one.

Today, it is cloudy, but no rain (that's tomorrow). Lauren said the sky is pouting.

Anna is painting the Ohio River. She has finished a beautiful painting I would love to share, but it isn't completely dry or cured. Any attempts to photograph it shows this, and you can't quite see the beauty of the real thing. So, you'll have to wait. Her "Sky Over July" was accepted into a local art show/contest, though they didn't know that she is only sixteen.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Sunshine, On My Shoulders, Makes Me Happy!

Have we turned the corner? Kentucky is so unpredictable. One day, it can be freezing. The next, warm enough to motivate us to go on a hike through the woods.

How it is possible to go on a trail that is in a loop, a circle, and go uphill the entire hike, I have not yet figured out, but we did it yesterday. Entirely uphill. Doesn't life feel like that sometimes? As the boys scampered ahead, I began to feel my age. But I made it. The sunshine was luxurious.

Sweet William worried over me. "Are you alright, Mom?" But of course I was, just a little slower than an eight year old!

Note to William from the weekend: If you don't want to take a shower, don't stand behind the manure spreader while daddy is spreading manure.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Radical

Years ago, being a homeschooler was radical. Oh, it wasn't illegal like it might have been only a decade or two before. I didn't have to go underground. But it was uncommon. I was considered bizarre, if not weird, by many. There would be those that would corner a homeschooler at a gathering, running across the room to pick my brain. But dh and I have actually experienced a sudden global cooling in the room when divulging our educational choices. In those years, you might hear, "You do what?" or "Is that legal?" I kind of enjoyed my radical persona.

As the years went by, homeschooling became a "movement", if you will, more and more people opting to teach at home. The responses began to change: "Oh, my grandma's neighbor's sister-inlaw's cousin homeschools six kids!" Still followed by, "I could never do that." Now, everyone knows someone who homeschools. No longer am I radical. (Though I believe they still think I'm a bid odd.)

This past week. I saw that we've evolved a bit in the questions I've been asked over the years. I have often been asked about the "S" word: socialization. Although usually, the asker hasn't enough sophistication to distinguish between socializing and socialization, the "S" word is often brandished as a reason to question homeschooling. Because that's the purpose of schools, after all. Isn't it? Or perhaps education might be a goal? I digress. It was a given, my inquisitor said, that there are ample opportunities for socialization of homeschoolers, but in discussing this with a friend of hers, they wondered how these homeschoolers will manage when they are thrown into a college setting.

Now, here I must tell you I was in a bit of a tiff already. Standing in line to get my auto tags renewed and with only fifteen minutes to spare, I didn't feel obligated to explain myself or engage in a philosophical debate with someone that clearly already had an opinion. I just wanted my dang tags. Yet, I had made the mistake of bringing along William, which brought the inevitable, "why aren't you in school?" and the discovery that we were those kind of people.

I tried, really I did, to control myself. I am usually very calm in response to these questions. But this was a new one. My neck feathers raised up a bit. "Well," I responded. "My daughters have already gone to college classes while still in high school. They did quite well." I should have stopped here, I know. I didn't, God forgive me. "And yes, they do have a problem socializing with many public school kids. Many they find too focused on peers, less mature."

Ah, a window was open, my turn. I would be saved from telling her about Lauren's community college class where the students didn't show up for study classes, texted or listened to iPods in class, didn't respect the teacher or participate in group projects. At the first study class, Lauren sat there with several older adult students, no kids her age. Perhaps I'm not radical anymore, but I am different. My kids are different because of it. I'm glad of that.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Life of Louise


Somedays, it's hard enough to get time on my own computer,
but is is going to be impossible now that Louise has started blogging.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Because We Had To?

Four-year old Lauren (who is now eighteen) skipped beside me as I wondered if child protective services would be called. During a tour of the local public school, they showed us what they thought would be a selling point: a "castle" in the library. Someone had constructed a castle-like structure so that children could climb up, find a hidey-hole, and sit to quietly read.

No children were there during our tour, but Lauren happily climbed up the short ladder as I listened to the public school employees giving the tour. Gasp! I saw a flash of fanny! Lauren was wearing no underwear under her short dress. Oh, no! How did that happen? Bad mother of the year award! Did they notice? I shifted toddler Anna to another hip and decided it was time to make a hasty exit.

Lauren skipped out to the car again, clearly happy in this environment. She would thrive, no doubt, in a school environment, eager to please, smart. Yet, I thought of her independent spirit, that she could already read, and that it was a sunny day, a good day to go to the zoo and to feel the cool air on one's bottom (LOL).

We made our decision to homeschool not long after that day. I could almost truthfully answer the oft asked, "Why..?" with "Because we had to. You see, one day, Lauren....."


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lester The Third

There is just something primal about having a rooster go after you. It kicks in some caveman instincts and I find myself in a rage. I clean his crappy cage, I feed him, I give his hens choice garbage from the kitchen. Yet he comes after me.

I'm thinking he is in the February dumps, too, and being overly caged from the snow, he is aggressive. Who isn't? Still, I find myself flailing and kicking at him. I'd kill him in that moment. Then, I calm down as he plans his next leap at me. When he does, I grab his feet and he now is hanging upside down. "Whose your daddy now?" I ask him, holding him aloft so he can look at my mean expression. He reconsiders his position in my flock. For this moment. He never learns and will likely attack again. Time to find someone that wants chicken-n-dumplins a la Lester.

Notes:
I see my Google ad today is for free recipes. How appropriate. Do they include Chicken a la Lester?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Chicken Butt

Dh paused over the rice, held up the large serving spoon, and said, "You haven't used this spoon to scoop out a chicken butt or anything have you? It's clean, right?"

Lucky for him, I was laughing too much to be insulted, but I inquired as to why he would think that I'd use our only good large serving spoon on a chicken (and just how one "scoops out" a chicken butt).

"Well, you have cleaned chicken butts before, and we do have salad tongs in the bathroom, so it's not inconceivable that this spoon has been used for something other than food." (I've now ensured that I will never be invited to a potluck again nor will anyone ever accept invitations to eat at our house.) And no, I've never used it to scoop out chicken butts. Not yet, anyway.

Monday, March 01, 2010

On Music and Listening

Today, I have a guest blogger: my daughter, Lauren.

On Music and Listening

I came up with an interesting theory the other day, and I am curious to hear your thoughts.

My mother and I were driving home from another college audition, and she began to read Aaron Copland’s “What to Listen for in Music” out loud to me. As I was listening, I thought about how listening closely to someone reading is like listening to someone playing a piece of music, or even listening closely to your own playing.

People have often told me that I “have a good ear” or “listen well” in musical situations. I’ve always wondered what caused me to have such a good ear, and whether it is something innate or something I have been trained to be good at over time. As most of you know, I was brought up in my musical education using the Suzuki method, and there was never a moment in our home when music was not being heard or played. My mother, as a good Suzuki parent, always ensured that I listened to good music. But she also did something else; she read to me.

When my sister and I were little, my mother read to us all the time. We would pile on the couch and listen intently as we looked at the pictures in the books. Perhaps that focus, that intent listening might have helped my brain become better at listening, not only when listening to someone read a book out loud, but also when listening to music. Wouldn’t it be logical that you would be using the same part of your brain in both situations?

When listening to someone read out loud, you are essentially multi-tasking. You must listen to the words you hear at the present, comprehend them, remember what happened just before that, and anticipate what is happening next. If your mind wanders off, you lose the story line and you forget where you were going. Of course, you still hear the words, but they pass through one ear and out the other without a second thought. I think music may be virtually the same phenomenon.

It is in my opinion that good ear can certainly be acquired. In my case, I think it is simply something I’ve always done. (Listened, that is.) That part of my brain has always been exercised and stretched from the time I was born, which has allowed me to listen so well.

What do you think?

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