Friday, October 16, 2015

Things That Keep Happening

I went to the conference and it was not only highly informative and a chance to meet lots of people from the blogverse, there were cookies freely available at all hours of the day and night. It doesn't get more restful than that. And I met up with some new people who were interested in joining us for park day!

Also, light-saber dueling over Shakespeare adaptations:

Then, of course, Real Life returned. At work we have a trial coming up at the end of the month, which is a pretty big deal in our mostly transactional and negotiations practice, and we have to hunt up things like how do you impeach a witness, anyway? And what is with all these deadlines?

After a few days, though, Real Life got even more fun when Duchess came down with a stomach flu. She got over it in a day, but I was just waiting for round 2. I sent everybody to bed with towels beside their beds and metal bowls. Nothing happened.

Another day, nothing happened.

I was afraid we would miss our newly-revived park day, but everybody was still quite well, so we went ahead.

Then His Majesty went into the hospital with what initially looked like some loathsome disease but turned out to be an allergic reaction to his blood pressure medication. But he was pretty sick for a few days.

And in the middle of that, Deux finally came down with the stomach bug.

Then he got better. And I waited for the twins. And waited.

Finally, on the next Park Day, Dot started in. But she started early in the morning and I didn't want to cancel and she seemed to be perking up so I committed the unpardonable sin and we went to the park anyway.

She threw up as soon as we got there.

And no one else showed up anyway, probably because it was Columbus Day and some, not-self-employed people have this strange concept called Days Off.

And I kept her on a towel in the middle of a field of grass while the other kids played, so I don't think she really spread any germs. And the sunshine was nice.

Then she got better. And then, finally, finally, Dash got sick. And DOB got sick (maybe. Grownups seemed to have different symptoms.)

And then . . . I got it. I think. Again, different grownup symptoms.

Anyway, today I am recuperating while trying to face reality and it's not a pretty combination. I'm really only writing this blog post because it gives me an excuse not to get up and face lunch.

My apologies to anyone we unwittingly exposed over the last two weeks. I really tried to do better. But what kind of 24 hour bug doesn't infect everyone at once? That's just not playing fair.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Only Two More Days!

And I get to go here: Charlotte Mason Northwest Educator's Conference. I'm totally excited. I will bring my ugly knitting. But I haven't figured out what I did with my copy of The Living Page.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wheat Thickens

I don't have as many stories of household disasters as I did in my younger years. Those of you who have only known me in the past ten years or so may think I am a sane, well-rounded manager. Those of you whose memory stretches back to my teens and early twenties know at what cost this knowledge was gained.

Among my siblings, any time I manage to put baking *powder* in the biscuits is still an occasion for celebration.

Still, some challenges never entirely go away. Last week I was doing the grocery shopping and was trying to obtain wheat kernels. They were in bulk bins, the upper bins where you lower the lever and your desired substance goes shooting out, hopefully into a plastic bag you are holding underneath it.

The trouble is, wheat kernels are quite heavy and plastic bags are not strong and the lower level of bins has a lot of poky bits. The inevitable result of this was a small hole in the bottom of the bag. However, by the time that happened, the top of the bag was very, very full. If I tipped the bag so kernels wouldn't fall out of the bottom hole, they all just came spilling out the top. I realized this was not a problem I could address on my own, so I asked fellow shoppers to hand me a second bag.

Someone was kind enough to do so, but this didn't really address the problem because I still couldn't get what was in Bag A into Bag B without letting things fall out of one end or the other. I finally just kind of dumped the whole thing into Bag B, which had developed a hole of its own by this time, so then I needed to summon Bag C, which finally proved enough to keep what was left of my kernels contained.

I think some people were hovering around wanting to offer more constructive help, only they couldn't quite figure out how to step into this mass of flailing arms and bags and cascading kernels without making things worse. Or maybe they were just standing around laughing. I was a little too busy to tell.

When the bag was finally fastened with no kernels emerging from other holes, I beat a hasty retreat from the bulk section, leaving the floor covered with kernels in my wake. I hope nobody fell on them. Those things are slippery.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Summer Reading List

One advantage of being rather tired and down this summer is that I read quite a lot. I've probably forgotten many of them. But here are some I remember.

The Wave-Watcher's Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Quite a fun read about the aspects and nature of waves. Science for people who like to read novels.

Beyonders series by Brandon Mull. The ducklings are all avid Brandon Mull fans. I had only read the Fablehaven series previously, but having tried one series they wanted more. And then they insisted I should read it, and since I'm making them read Little Women and Treasure Island it seemed only fair. As middle-grade series fantasy goes I'm pretty happy with them. There's plenty of action, a good bit of trying to do the right thing in the face of extreme difficulty, and the grownups aren't all stupid or evil. A little gruesome for the more sensitive, but apparently none of the ducklings fall into that category. (BTW, after several years of nudging on my part, they have finally gotten hooked on Redwall.) Romance tends to stall at the butterflies in the stomach stage until the epilogue, when everyone is safely grown up.

 I tried to read an Agatha Christie that wasn't a murder mystery, and that just didn't work at all. I can't even remember the name.

What Language Is by John McWhorter. I like to read McWhorter and pretend I am a linguist, without the bother of having to actually master another language.

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. And then I like to read Sacks and pretend I am a neurologist, without the bother of having to actually go to medical school. The way he brings out the soul of individuals even with damaged brains and minds is unmatched. Sad to hear of his death right as I finished this.

Stork Raving Mad by Donna Andrews. This is definitely my guilty pleasure author. However, drafting a murder mystery solved by a woman eight and a half months pregnant with twins and have it come off as believable is a feat worthy of some note. (It helped that the murder happened in her home office so she doesn't have to go far and she overhears much of the important evidence because she is napping or eating in odd locations.)

The City of Ember and sequels by Jeanne Duprau. And this would be middle-grade post-apocalyptic fiction, but I enjoyed it very much and so has Duchess. (Neither of us could get into the one prequel in the series, The Prophet of Yonwood. We prefer apocalypses in the distant past.) We also watched the movie version of the first book over the summer, which was notable for being a movie that Deux had never seen before but still liked.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. The next-to-last of the Discworld books. Some sad and narrow-minded newspaper writer recently blasted people for celebrating Terry Pratchett, as he was clearly nothing more than a hack churning out pot-boilers. He admitted he hadn't actually read any of the books, though, but he tried to snobbishly compare it to Mansfield Park, which he had only recently read for the first time. Well, I've read Mansfield Park several times, and it is a lovely work of its kind, and Pratchett's works are excellent works of their own kind; not the finessed style of an Austen, but generous work of a writer who gets better and better through long and copious practice. It will take a hundred years to be sure, but I think he easily stands with writers like Wodehouse and Dickens. Just because a book is funny doesn't mean it isn't profound. As Moist von Lipwig would point out, if you can get people laughing, they'll buy your goods. (One sign of his genius: he has so many books and so many different characters and they are all profoundly different and yet still human. Moist von Lipwig is most certainly not Sam Vimes who is not Archchancellor Ridcully who is not Susan who is not Granny Weatherwax. Even the minor characters sparkle with aliveness. And he can do something that in my reading is very rare among even celebrated male writers--he can write believable and interesting women, of every degree of age and desirability.)

I'm trying to get into Don Quixote, but apparently the version I started on was so abridged as to have left out most of the fun; I have borrowed from the library the translation Silvia recommends. It does read well, but it's frightfully thick and I may not get far before the library runs out of patience.

Also working on The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World, by Edward Dolnick. So far quite absorbing.

And to the kids I am reading one of my all-time favorites, Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, which has everything: ships and storms and love and loss and lots of math.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Here With You

We have started school again, with all the attendant fun and drama. Sometimes we have those frameable moments when everyone is eagerly sketching leaves in their nature notebooks to the music of Brahms, and sometimes it's just plain hard work and you can  do one more line, and sometimes the majority of the participants are wailing in despair (usually because everybody else is making so much noise).

One thing I have learned in five years of this is that it is all the good stuff. Ambleside Schools International has an inspiring series of videos, one phrase from which echoes in my mind through every day: "It is good to be me here with you."

It may be that our lesson today is not so much about odd versus even numbers and more about putting your mind back to your work despite the fact that your brother has the audacity to breathe audibly, but I am here to help you learn both.

It may be that you only get three words on the page after fifteen minutes of tears, but those three words represent a battle bravely fought and won against fear, perfectionism, and a brain that takes things in much faster than it can get them out.

It may be that we are still practicing three-letter words when I thought we would be reading novels, but we are weaving day by day the links between sight and sound and movement and one day that weaving will be strong enough to hold the torrent of ideas you will need it for.

The written lesson plan matters, but the unwritten lesson plan matters more. And that is the plan that says: Here, today, we will do the best we can with what we have; we will give it everything we have in us; we will grow in what we need today.

It is good.

ETA: Why yes, it is the fifth day of school and I am winding up eating brownies straight from the pan. They're good, too.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I haven't done as much work as I hoped to do this summer.

Nor blogging, obviously.

Really, I haven't done much of anything.

I've been tired. Some of it physical, some of it mental, some of it emotional.

Despite our trepidation, DOB's health has been quite good this summer; better than it has been in years. His scooter finally came and he can get around solo. He's found a good set of water exercises that help him keep his whole body fit in a way that's hard to do when you're forced to sit all day. He's had hardly any of the episodes that were so debilitating the last few years and that we feared would mean I would have to take over the business this summer. Instead, he's been working lots and loving it.

So perhaps it's just that I need to rest now that I finally can. I kind of hope it ends at some point, though, because honestly it's a bit boring and I'm sure the business would do all the more better if we were both working hard at it. But I still can't work up much interest in doing stuff. Doing nothing sounds like more fun.

I also finally went to a TMJ specialist after twenty years of pain and got the rather surprising diagnosis that my jaw pain actually stems from narrow airways, essentially a form of sleep apnea: to keep my airways open, I've learned from childhood to press my tongue forward against my teeth, creating pressure on the jaw. Supposedly with a properly fitted appliance to keep everything in position while I sleep it should take care of the pain and probably get better rest as well. It might even explain my bouts with chronic fatigue when I don't have the other systemic problems that tend to accompany chronic illness. Well, we shall see once insurance comes through.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Message to the Past

Sometimes I like to go back and reread old years of blog posts and remember what things were like back then. Then again, some things don't bear remembering. Sometimes I wish I could send messages back through to my past self. Sometimes I almost feel as if I can. So, this is for me then.


When the twins were on the way and our church was very kindly helping out with meals and sometimes people would stay and help catch up on dishes or something while I lay on the couch and didn't speak or move because if I did I would throw up. One lady, a tall and imposing and efficient woman without much experience with small children, took advantage of the opportunity to look around at our house knee-deep in toys and point out that I was neglecting the necessary task of teaching my children to pick up after themselves, and they would certainly need this for life, and it really was quite horrible that I was failing them in this regard.

I didn't say anything at the time, mostly because I would have thrown up if I had, such as pointing out that it is very hard to direct small children in picking up when you can neither move nor speak. I just tried to be grateful that she had washed the dishes and brought supper and not to worry too much about it.

And, though I tried not to let it worry me, sometimes it did, because even when I could move and speak, I never was one of those people who could make sure there was A Place For Everything and Everything In Its Place. Sometimes we got things cleaned up (usually in time to show the house and move) but more often we didn't. When we did get things cleaned up, it was often by dumping everything higgledy-piggledy in a box and shoving it out of sight somewhere.

But I figured if I couldn't keep on top of things enough to teach them good habits of cleanliness, I could at least not make them hate cleaning, so on the days when we did clean, I tried to make it fun as long as I could, and then I let them go, even though I feared this was a terrible mistake. (And I didn't always manage that. Sometimes I freaked out about the mess, too. Sometimes, everybody cried.)

I read once that children who had plenty of time for free play were actually better at picking up and taking care of things, owing to their more highly-developed executive function. It seemed too much to hope for, and I certainly didn't see any evidence of it yet, but it did give a glimmer of hope.

And then, slowly, I started to notice that things were changing. The children's cleaning-up capacity started to outstrip their mess-making capacity. The older two, especially, could actually participate in cleaning for quite a long time and even enjoy it. Sometimes, if they wanted to beg me for a special favor, they would even clean an area up on their own initiative.

Two days ago, they decided they wanted to move some furniture and beds around between the bedrooms and play room. (Essentially the whole upstairs of the house belongs to them, and it runs pretty wild most of the time.) I didn't want to deal with it. We hadn't done much housework in two weeks and everything was a mess. But DOB agreed to their pleadings that if they really got the whole area--all three rooms--cleaned and organized, they could do it.

They started right into that evening. They worked a lot of the next day (but they still did their weekly chores of laundry, mopping, scrubbing chairs and cleaning the bathroom and they also went swimming with his Majesty). And they did it. No grownup help, supervision, or even ideas. They cleaned out areas I had been afraid to touch. If I had tackled it, I would have scheduled at least three days, meals and laundry would have been late, and I would have been horribly crabby the whole time.

Now, I haven't been up yet but things are probably going to be messy again. But they *can* clean. More than that, they can tackle a big project on their own.

So, dear past me, lying on the couch: You're doing fine. They'll get it. Give them time, and let them play.