Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A basket!

Why, yes, since you asked. I did make that. From willow branches that had fallen from willow trees in my neighborhood. I saw all the willow branches on the ground and thought, "I think I'll try making a basket today." So I did.

Now I have a place for all my onions.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Notes from all over - Nov 2014 edition

When I say "all over," I mean it metaphorically speaking. I haven't literally been very many places in the last little while. I don't want my blog-readers (Like, both of you) to think I'm dead, so here's what's going on:

1) Embarrassing moment #2458: Today was the primary program in our ward. That's when all the kids show the parents what they've learned at Church. I was the Primary Secretary in my ward up until about two weeks ago, so it's become second nature to sing along with all the primary songs. So here I am this morning, sitting way in the back with my two youngest and the Primary kids start singing. I belt out, "How could the Father tell the world/ of love and tenderness?" and it's not until about halfway through the song ("And rise/ with living breath,") that I realize I'm the only one singing. I actually thought to myself, "How come no one else is singing?" Then I realized that it's the Primary Program, DUH, and that the congregation is not supposed to sing.

2) We made it several months with diligently doing work in workbooks every day for the Squeaker's homeschool curriculum. Unfortunately, it has finally dawned on him that workbooks are evil. I've had to be a lot more creative as of late when it comes to educating him. In some ways, we're kind of taking a step back. I've reminded myself that kindergarten is supposed to be mostly playing, anyway. I let him spend a whole morning last week sewing buttons on a piece of scrap fabric. I think he did like nine buttons before he got bored. I don't think I learned how to sew on a button until I was like nine or something, so I think my 5-year-old has definitely got all his button-related bases covered. I know some people in their 20s that haven't yet mastered this skill, so I don't feel at all bad that we skipped handwriting practice that day. Or that week.

3) How cool was Halloween this year? I'll tell you how cool:
You can see the Shieldmaiden's tutued rear end sticking out from behind The Squeaker's elbow. Total money spent at DI for these costumes: $10

Our Jack-o-lanterns. The Squeaker designed both of them himself. What is that small one? Could it be a very small pumpkin?

No! It is a turnip. Did you know the original Jack-o-lanterns were made of turnips? It's true. He carved this without assistance. We put half of a birthday candle in it.

This is a lamassu.
4) Nanowrimo! I'm at 14k words, which is 2k more than I got in 2012, which was the last time I did this. I'm writing about a subject I know a lot about (basically, moving to a new place and being bullied), so this is pretty much writing itself. It's set in a mythical world, however, and there are lamassus in the story.

5) I decided to try my hand at basketweaving on Friday. I have a half-finished basket on my kitchen table, but I haven't touched it all weekend. (This weekend has been crazy. I fell into bed at 9:30 last night, which is almost indecently early for me.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Spinning fiber!

A picture is worth a thousand words. These are my new goodies. Glow-in-the-dark spinning fiber, silk, and specialty wools (Jacob and Southdown!)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Child update, Oct 2014

 My grandmother made this dress for my younger sister in 1990. She and my mom worked on it together, and I remember playing with the scraps of fabric to make a "dress" for my doll. I was seven, so the doll garment in question was rather poorly constructed. Here, it is worn by my daughter, the Shieldmaiden. Like her Aunt, she is full of spunk. She has indeed shown an interest in the color pink, dresses, and sparkly shoes, but still loves playing with her brothers' toy cars and my training swords.

The Cookie turned three last week. Here we are making cupcakes, his requested birthday treat. I forgot to take pictures of us decorating and eating them. My philosophy lately has been to enjoy moments as they come instead of worrying about capturing them on camera.  The Cookie has the kindest, gentlest soul of anyone I've ever met. He is starting to learn his letters and loves telling people what letter his name starts with. 

The Squeaker is quite the artist. He started reading short phonics readers recently. Also recently I started reading him chapter books. He is not confident enough in his reading to get through them himself by a long way, but he loves to hear me read them. Here is a list of the books we've read since August:

The Good Master, by Kate Seredy
The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary
Runaway Ralph, by Beverly Cleary
The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Currently we are reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Next on our list is The BFG by Roald Dahl. Even though he's only five, he asks questions about the characters and about the plot that let me know he is really following the story very well.

I sure love these kids. I do still remember with fondness the days when I could have a decent night's sleep and go more than 2 hours without coming into contact with bodily secretions, but these three little people make my life complete. I'll go ahead and brave the poopy diapers if it means I get to cuddle and read to these guys.

All Children Have the Same Imagination

This post is not in any way meant to belittle or cast harsh judgments on other people's parenting. I imagine I'm still going to get some flak for saying what I am about to say in public, however.

So often these days I find myself being one of "Those Parents." You know - one of those moms who say things like, "you can't have that treat because it has High Fructose Corn Syrup. No chocolate for you. Be careful; I don't want you enjoying your childhood too much." I agonize over it a lot. Am I justified in my concerns? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Am I over-thinking it?

Most of you who know me know that The Husband and I are pretty picky about what we let our kids watch. In the vast corpus of films created for children, the list of what my children have watched is miniscule. They haven't even seen Winnie-the-Pooh! Almost every little boy I know is extremely well-versed in superhero and Jedi lore, except my two boys. Occasionally The Squeaker will say something about Batman, but apart from owning Batman underwear he doesn't actually know who the guy is.

When I expressed concern to The Husband that perhaps in withholding Star Wars from our children that we were stunting their imaginative play, he said, "Our kids' imaginations are fine. The thing with Star Wars and all that pop culture stuff is that it makes all kids have the same imagination."

Holy Sacred Bovine Batman! It's true! How many young Jedi do you find running around, yearning to become Luke Skywalker? How many girls pretend to be some flavor of Disney Princess? And what else is there? Only variations on the same themes. Yesterday afternoon as I was walking around in the neighborhood I saw three little girls playing together: one had an Ariel doll, and two had Rapunzel dolls. Not that there is anything intrinsically evil about having an Ariel doll. I think I actually had two when I was a child and I did not grow up to be a serial killer. The problem is when merchandizing commodifies children's play: when Disney Princesses become the only thing a girl wants to do; when a little boy interacts with the world soley through the lens of Star Wars. I am sad to say that this does, actually, happen. I have seen it.

I know it sounds like I'm being alarmist and putting everything into black and white. But think about it: when was the last time you saw a kid role play or interact with a toy that didn't tie-in with a movie in some way? Even my kids do it, except that they tend to reenact scenes from Bill Nye or Good Eats or Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon.).

That's why I have decided that I'm not over-thinking it when I decide not to let my kids watch Frozen or Spiderman. The influence media has on kids is pretty powerful. I am perfectly happy to keep that influence to a minimum.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Gilgamesh the King

My History Student and I just finished reading the Epic of Gilgamesh today. I really wanted to cover this with her but I didn't want to just hand her the book, because there are some parts that don't make appropriate reading for a 10-year-old. I didn't want to what my 10th grade English teacher did by blacking out the lines, either. I solved the problem by reading it aloud to her, so I just gently skipped or summarized as needed. There are so many lines missing from the poem, I don't think she noticed, anyway.

This is the second time I've read it in the last month. It's probably the best thing I've read in ages. What a powerful tribute to the human condition! I know Gilgamesh is the main character, but Enkidu is my favorite. I've spoken to The Husband about a lot of my thoughts so I don't really feel the need to repeat them, here. But Uta-napishti is my favorite name.

The highlight of my week - probably the highlight of my MONTH, actually - was when my student turned to me after I had closed the book and asked if there was more epic poetry from Mesopotamia that we could read. There is nothing quite like sharing something you love when it is well received.

I told her about the Oddessy and the Illiad. We are so totally reading those in the near future.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teaching What I Love

Back in May, I got to go to a bo staff seminar taught by on of the Masters in my martial arts style. It was a whole ton of fun! I don't think I am going to dedicate myself to becoming a master of the bo staff, myself - what made it fun was the person who was teaching it. The way he talked about the bo staff and about weapons in the martial arts was really similar to the way I sound when I get talking about the geeky stuff I love, like spinning wheels. After I quit working for Head Start to stay home with the infant Squeaker, I mostly assumed that I didn't really enjoy teaching. That's not really it - I just don't enjoy that kind of teaching. I love teaching when it's something I really enjoy: Ancient History, Arabic, Spinning.

So I have to tell you about the most amazing opportunity that has fallen, plop, right into my lap! A friend of mine decided, on the eve of the first day of school, to pull her 5th grade daughter out and homeschool her. She asked if I would tutor her in history, since I'm already doing some history stuff with the Squeaker along with some other kindergarteners. I said yes.

I gave her an "assignment" prior to our first lesson. I wanted her to write some things about what she most wanted to study this year in Ancient History. Imagine my surprise when I read her composition and she wrote all about wanting to learn Arabic! I said, "Well...that's not Ancient History because Classical Arabic wasn't even in its full form until about the 7th century, but I'll teach it to you anyway."

So essentially, though perhaps not in so many words, my friend and her daughter came to me and said, "Hey, Beth, after nine years of feeling just the tiniest bit like a failure for not getting a job in your field upon graduation, how would you like to use your college education for once?" Yeah, like I'm not going to say yes to that!

We have been studying Ancient Egypt. We've discussed the Rosetta stone, Mummies, mythology, and Rameses II, among other things. We even spun and wove linen. Next week we will try our hand at cooking some Ancient Egyptian food. Week after next, we'll go on to Ancient Mesopotamia, where we will do an extensive study in wool and textile production. I have a whole fleece for her to process with me. We'll also get some clay and write actual cuneiform in actual clay. And we'll learn all about Gilgamesh (in an age-appropriate manner, of course).

I have plans for us to study a wide variety of ancient civilizations this year, including ancient China and India. I don't actually know that much about that part of the world, but I feel we should touch on it because it always gets skipped. In my 10th grade world history class, our textbook had chapters on Ancient China and pre-Columbian America, which we skipped. (Not cool, Texas public education system!). After we do Ancient Greece and Rome etc etc, I thought we'd cover the history of Arabia and the Levant. This will give us an opportunity to cover Dilmun, the Nabateans (can I get a huzzah for Queen Zenobia?!), and the early Israelites. 

Even though my "student" and I have lessons together, there are quite a few differences between what we're doing and a traditional school environment. For example, told her straight out that I am not going to mark up her compositions in red pen and say she gave 85% of a correct answer. She's not going to get low marks for turning something in a day late.There are no academic standards we must follow, there's no one to shake their fingers at us for straying from the curriculum. More than once I've asked her, "What do you want to learn next about Ancient Egypt?" A few days ago she expressed her fervent wish to grind wheat berries in between two rocks. I explained that there is a reason why we don't use rocks to grind our wheat, any more, but that we could probably still find some recipes to try. This weekend I purchased some dates, almonds, and walnuts, which will be used for this purpose.

I am pretty sure the girl I teach is enjoying herself, but I am really having a ball, too.


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