Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

This year, I'm going to modify it to ask the questions I want to ask. Because I can.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?

Played role playing games. Taught third grade. Spent an entire road trip in the driver's seat.

2. How did your goals for the year come out? 
Meh. I read some older books, though not as many as I would have liked. Memorable ones: Histories of Herodotus (not all of it yet, but it's quite the read); Count of Monte Cristo (doing with a book club, slowly, so haven't finished); The Practice of the Presence of God. I made enough money practicing law to pay for a massive cement loading-dock-and-wheelchair-ramp. Which wasn't what I wanted to do for landscaping or with the money, but it worked and I'm glad of that. I didn't give up on my book research, though I didn't progress very far. I didn't ferment anything. We did do some science lessons. The basement, after a brief respite in the summer, has returned to utter chaos. However, the living room is much better and we have bookshelves!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth or get pregnant?
DOB's sister had her first, a little boy. My brother and sister-in-law had their second, a little boy. They have the same name, just to confuse the cousin issue.

4. Travel?
Some fun local trips: the mountains; the ocean; the mountains and the ocean. That's pretty much our options. But we haven't gotten tired of them yet.

Also, a real, honest, overnighter-at-a-bed-and-breakfast without the kids.

5. Did you move anywhere?
No. Hallelujah.

6. What was the best month?
April and May might have been good. Or I might just have forgotten what went wrong.

7. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
A feeling of being on top of things. Ha.

8. What date(s) from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 1. When a very small pain in the sole of my foot became the catalyst for massive upheaval.

9. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping going and feeling relatively optimistic.

10. What was your biggest failure?
Occasionally losing it.

11. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I sprained my metatarsal arch. Which ought to have been minor, except it never got better. And then DOB tried to help me out, and his feet (which were already doing badly) got worse. And worse. And worse. And now he's in a wheelchair, which was bound to happen sooner or later anyway, but this is sooner.

12. What was the best thing you bought?
Bookshelves! Bookshelves! Did I mention we have bookshelves?

13. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The ducklings, who are somehow managing to grow into reasonably sane, well-educated and often even helpful people despite their parents' continual state of crisis.

14. Where did most of your money go?
A wheelchair ramp. Which is really snazzy, and actually improves the look of the house over the falling apart and far too narrow sidewalk that was there. It would have been nice to put more of it on the old credit cards, but at least we had it to pay for.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. richer or poorer?

i. A little sadder. More discouraged, anyway. I could use a little less of Massive Overwhelming New Problems arriving regularly. On the other hand, I have much to be thankful for.

ii. About the same. Which could be a lot worse, considering.

16. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Walking. Wow do I miss walking when I don't get it.

17. What do you wish you'd done less of? 
Dealt with people throwing up. Sat around.

18. How will you be spending New Year's Eve/Day?
Waiting to decide, once we find out whether the upset tummies in evidence this morning were harbingers of doom to come or merely a reaction to low blood sugar headaches.

19. What was an unexpected surprise?
This was not a year in which surprises were anything good.

20. Did you fall in love in 2011?
With role-playing games! Would you like to hear about my wisecracking hobbit thief alter ego? Or perhaps my homely but sturdy medieval middle eastern cook trying to rebuild the merchant fortune her father lost? Or my space-age charming, manipulative, mind-reading ex-geologist?

21. What was the best event you've been to this year?
Seeing Fiddler on the Roof outside was awesome. Also, getting to see the Duchess perform in her first musical was pretty thrilling.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
We finally discovered Monk. It's been therapeutic for both of us: DOB who finally is willing to be open about his OCD and me who finally understands what that pained expression on his face means. Also it's really funny and most of the mysteries are well plotted. And little of the gore and other ookiness that is too often in modern shows. (We tried Castle for awhile and just found it distasteful. We also watched Luther which DOB loved but I found extremely depressing.)

We also finally started watching Dr. Who. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people who use our library, so we don't get to watch it for very long at a stretch.

23. What authors did you discover this year?
I am really terrible about keeping lists. If you saw my shopping lists, you would not wonder that I don't keep a book list. 

However, if I read enough books by the same author, I might remember him or her.

Nonfiction: Oliver Sacks. He writes beautifully about science, loves it passionately, and knows its limits. I thoroughly enjoyed The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and just finished reading Uncle Tungsten: Memoirs of a Chemical Boyhood. I did not finish some of his more clinical books, but I might give some more a try.

I am always reading a bit of the Charlotte Mason education series, to try to keep myself in the right frame of mind.

I didn't finish, but I got almost to the end of Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun. I should get it from the library again. It's just too thick to finish even in a twelve-week maximum checkout.

Fiction: OK, I read more series fiction than perhaps was good for me. They are handy when everyone has the stomach flu, though. Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series got us through the stomach flu early in the year, and I have much enjoyed discovering David Weber's War God and Safehold series. (Even though he does info dump. Boy, does he info dump.)

Also, after being extremely horrified by reading The Three Musketeers at the age of ten, I think I am ready to handle Dumas now.

Also, I finally finished Anna Karenina! (I think that was this year. It got lost when we moved and I rediscovered it.)

Also, I read The Hobbit out loud to everyone, which was wonderful.

24. Random Memories from 2012?
Going to Port Townsend with just DOB.  Wandering in the woods. Children learning to write. Standing in the ocean. Date nights in DOB's short-lived but beautiful orange Camaro. Learning the names of birds and mushrooms. Children squealing, "We have Shakespeare this week? Hooray!" Relearning how to knit.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snarky Things I Don't Say on Homeschool Forums

OP: I'm wondering what to do for my fourth grader since we can't afford a reading curriculum. Could she just . . . read books?

Response: Of course! Your library is full of many great books for free, like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Stuart Little, Junie B. Jones . . .

SQOC: OK, sorry, while I agree wholeheartedly on your basic theory, I'm going to have to cite you for a Class B Felonious Confusion of Great Literature With Tripe.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Album Timeline

1986: Come On, Ring Those Bells. Yes, on a record. Yes, I really am that old. There is nothing like the Christmas album you put on when you were an 8 year old, no matter how many more aesthetically appealing and less scratched albums come along later.

1992: Handel's Messiah. Still my favorite way to start the Christmas season. I used to turn it on the day after Thanksgiving and scrub the house from top to bottom and get out all the Christmas ornaments. This year I turned it on and crawled in bed with a book.

1997: Grunt. Technically, this isn't a Christmas album. OK, so it isn't by the wildest stretch of the imagination a Christmas album. Still, I always play it at Christmas, so for me, it's a Christmas album. This definitely falls into the category of "if you are the sort of person that likes that sort of thing, then it's exactly the sort of thing you will like." So if pigs singing Gregorian chant in pig latin sounds like your sort of thing . . .

1999: A Swinging Big Band Christmas. My grandmother gave this to me to expand my musical appreciation.  I'm still grateful for the expansion.

2001: Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time. Back when we used to do the Great Epic Cookie Bake every year, we used to always listen to a Christmas variety record that dated back to the childhood of my mother and weird aunt. However, it was getting very old and scratchy, so my weird aunt went on a quest to recreate it. Nobody had issued the same album intact as a CD, so she had to hunt up a variety of CDs. Some of them were easy to find, like Dean Martin. Others . . . not so much. This album contributed that Scandihoovian classic, "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" and forever changed the landscape of our future holidays with "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" and "Christmas at Ground Zero." It also contributed a few numbers that deserved to be buried in oblivion, which is why I have an abridged copy on my computer.

2002: Christmas Cocktails. This is part of that same quest, being the only album anywhere that had the essential "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Mambo." (The only form in which "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" is tolerable.) A certain song called "I Want You for Christmas" had a bit of private significance to me that year.

2003: White Christmas. We don't have an "Our First Christmas" ornament. That would be too sappy. But this album takes its place.

2009: Holiday Spirits. Yes, it was the "Twelve Days of Christmas" song. But I'm a sucker for men's chorales anyway. This was the last contribution by my weird aunt to my Christmas music memories.

So . . . what's on your Christmas album timeline?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Things I Say Most Often, the Four-Year-Old Twins Edition

1. Stop touching me.

2. So go potty already! I'm not stopping you.

3. No, you do not need help.

4. Can you stop screaming and tell me what actually happened?

5. Please stop touching me.

6. Who left crayons all over the [insert location]?

7. See, you did it!

8. That is a very detailed picture! I can tell you worked hard at it!

9. I'm coming. Count to twenty.

10. Please, please, stop touching me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

O Christmas Tree

Last year Wondergirl and I made gingerbread cookies with the ducklings and they each decorated a few with the obligatory heaps of inedible candy and then scattered. This year we did it again and they stuck it out to the bitter end. Which means, of course, that all the gingerbread cookies are layered with heaps of inedible candy.  Still, all part of the fun, right? At least I couldn't find the chocolate sprinkles, because those would just be nasty on gingerbread.

Every year since we were first married, DOB has mentioned how he treasures the memory of the large, multi-colored lights on his grandma's Christmas tree. Every year I have ignored this (large multi-colored lights are so tacky!) and put up the tasteful white and gold ornaments I had before we were married. This year, after a friend mentioned that she and her husband have the same disagreement and settle it by alternating years, I realized that it was really most unfair of me to keep monopolizing the Christmas decor. And that the snowflake stuff was getting boring. So the Duchess helped us get colored lights and a few more balls, and my grandmother donated many colorful ornaments from her stash, and we went for full-on, old-fashioned, multi-colored garishness.

And it's beautiful. It's fun and homey and looks just like Christmas trees should look that are meant to serve as Christmas trees and not as decorations in the lobby. There's such a thing as too much good taste. Good thing I like it, because as DOB pointed out, I now owe him nine years of colored lights.

I haven't changed my mind about the candies on the gingerbread cookies, though. But at least I can pick them off before I eat them.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Happy Birthday, Somebody

This is trying not to be a "Snarky Things" post, because I acknowledge that it is unfair to be snarky about people's carefully thought out religious convictions. And I recognize that celebrating holidays is explicitly made a matter of personal conviction. And I also acknowledge that I do not necessarily know why people believe what they do and they may perhaps have very good reasons for it.

However, I note that there are a fair number of practicing Christians who don't celebrate Christmas, sometimes because of its pagan origins, sometimes just because of its extra-Biblical origins. Because somebody made it up once upon a time. Very well. Same goes for Easter.

But then, they notice that their lives and their children's lives are lacking in celebrations. Everybody needs an excuse to throw a party, decorate, dress up, have fun. So they go out and make up a new celebration. (One family always watched The Ten Commandments on Easter. I can only guess that Easter was too pagan, but Hollywood wasn't.)

Or they do up birthdays fancy to take the place of Christmas. So instead of devoting weeks to the contemplation and celebration of the coming of God to the world, they make the big celebration all about . . . me. Yay, me!

And . . . this mystifies me. At least the pagans had the humility to celebrate something bigger than themselves. At least their celebrations were tied to the seasons God made. How is stuff made up today inherently superior to the celebrations that have been held by the saints through the ages?

On the one hand, I can better appreciate the Christians who decide to start celebrating Jewish holidays, because at least they are real holidays. On the other hand, I wouldn't feel too comfortable getting carried away with it because it just seems like poor etiquette--like the Sons of Italy crashing the Leif Erikson Day parade.

No, the traditional Christian holidays are not commanded by God, nor are they untainted by any outside influence. But neither is anything that is going to be made up to take their place. And I, for one, am thankful for the chance to join hands with the saints of all times and places and throw a big party because God came here.