Archive for March, 2007
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
—John Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer"
Gorgeous sunny day yesterday, perfect for an outing we’d been planning. We drove out to Cabrillo National Monument, a Southern California landmark perched on a craggy hill on the tip of the San Diego peninsula. The views are spectacular: to your east, San Diego Bay cradling Coronado Island, and on the far side of the bay, the small cluster of skyscrapers that mark downtown San Diego, and the green hills beyond. To your west, the wide-open Pacific.
The peninsula, a long narrow finger of land, is called Point Loma. You reach it by following Harbor Drive past the airport and winding first west, then south through Fort Rosecranz National Cemetery. The rows and rows of white grave markers extending on both sides of the road reminded me of Arlington.
After we entered the Cabrillo site, we parked in a lot at the base of a stubby hill. The western view drew us to the wall for a long look.
That lower road on the left leads to a beach with tidepools. It was chilly and windy on the point, and a few of us were missing jackets, so we decided to save tidepooling for another day.
A path leads up the little hill to an old lighthouse.
The Old Point Loma Lighthouse guided sailors from 1855 through 1891. Unfortunately, the site proved to be too far from the tip of the peninsula, and fog often obscured the light.
Inside, rooms have been preserved just as the lighthouse keeper’s family might have left them. The main sitting room enchanted my girls; we imagined the lighthouse keeper’s daughters collecting the shells carefully arranged on a shelf or writing letters at the old flip-top desk with all the enticing cubbyholes. It’s the kind of place that sends book ideas charging into one’s mind…
We squeezed up the winding staircase to the bedroom level, but the tower level wasn’t open to the public.
Back down the stairs and through the gate, we found ourselves facing the Bay.
Unfortunately the camera battery died before I got pictures of the Bay. The kids loved seeing the gleaming curves of Coronado Bridge, which we’d driven over on a previous outing. (Veronica Mars viewers will remember the bridge as the setting for some significant scenes involving Logan Echolls’s mother and, later, Logan himself.)
A goodish walk or a short drive from the lighthouse is the Cabrillo Visitor’s Center and a large statue of Juan Cabrillo himself. This picture is from his Wikipedia entry; there is a close-up of his face at the monument’s official website, where you can read all about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the sixteenth-century Spanish explorer who "discovered" San Diego Bay.
"Cabrillo departed from the port of Navidad, Mexico, on June 27, 1542.
Three months later he arrived at "a very good enclosed port," which is
known today as San Diego Bay. Historians believe he anchored his
flagship, the San Salvador, on Point Loma’s east shore near Cabrillo
National Monument. Cabrillo later died during the expedition, but his
crew pushed on, possibly as far north as Oregon, before thrashing
winter storms forced them to back to Mexico."
We drove by the Visitor’s Center but tummies were rumbling, and we decided to save that too for the next visit.
Did you know that ears are one of the few body parts that never stop growing? I think noses might be the other. Besides hair and fingernails, obviously.
When you wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, the hearing aids last for years, but the ear molds—the little custom-made silicone or acrylic doohickeys that fits into your ear—need replacing every so often. As your ear grows, the ear mold ceases to fit, and first you get a feedback problem, and then eventually the mold just won’t stay in the ear at all.
So you go to the audiologist’s office, and she makes new impressions of your ears with a quick-hardening goo. You ship the impressions off to a lab, and in a couple of weeks you’ll have your brand new ear molds.
If you are three years old, you may find this process somewhat entertaining, if mildly uncomfortable. If you are six years old and the uncomfortable part is happening to your brother, not to you, you will consider it a ripping good time. Beanie pronounced it “huge fun.”
I get a large number of hits every day from hearing-aid-related searches, including variations of “toddler ear molds,” so I thought it might be helpful if I posted a walk-through of the process. Besides, pictures are always fun.
First the audiologist checks your ears, making sure there isn’t too much wax in there—that might mess up the shape of the impression. Then she carefully inserts a little foam stopper to make sure none of the impression goo goes too far up the ear canal.
Then she pops the two kinds of goo out of their little bubble wrappers, and she mixes them together into a pliable substance that can be squeezed out of a syringe but will harden within a few minutes. Beanie, supervising, thought this mixing process looked pretty nifty and is now wondering how to work “become an audiologist” into her plan to be a scuba-diver with ten children.
The audiologist scoops the goo into the syringe and carefully squeezes it into the ear, sort of like making an icing rose on a birthday cake. Now you have to sit and wait. You can’t poke at the goo, much as you might wish to. Nor can you pull on the string that is connected to the little foam stopper inside your ear canal. Patience, grasshopper.
Meanwhile, the audiologist squirts the leftover goo out of the syringe. This, I am told, is THE BEST PART.
Let’s do the other ear while we’re waiting. It’s okay to drool.
Finished! Time to pull out the impression. No need to be suspicious; it won’t bite.
The impressions go into a box and are dispatched to the Lab, that mysterious place where ear molds are born.
Now comes the fun part! (The other fun part, says Beanie.) What color ear molds do you want? The sky’s the limit. No, Bean, your brother isn’t getting the sparkles.
What color did he get? You’ll have to wait two weeks to find out.
March 30, 2007 @ 7:40 am | Filed under: Poetry
Sisters, by Rilla
They scoop me up and say I’m delicious;
They grant practically all of my wishes
(Except when I wish to gnaw on a Lego).
Mostly I wish to go where they go.
Jane is the one who totes me like mother
And won’t let me pull out the hair of my brother.
Rose guards me from anything ‘ticingly teeny.
The one who twirls me around is Beanie.
This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Chicken Spaghetti.
A request from Beanie, uttered with the earnestness only a six-year-old can express: "Mommy, I would like to hear about my past."
…that the thing about having another baby when you have a hard-of-hearing toddler is that at least once a month you will catch yourself trying to put the toddler’s hearing aids into the baby’s ear.
(Amy, consider yourself warned!)
Scott to me, in the car: "Pretty flowers over there. What are they?"
Me: "I don’t know. I don’t know any of this west coast flora yet."
Scott, incredulous: "You don’t??? But that’s your job!"
This is what happens when you are the kind of person who obnoxiously calls out the name of every tree and shrub growing along the roadside for twelve years of marriage and five years of courtship. You build up a reputation, and then when you move away from your zone of expertise, your credibility falls to pieces.
I don’t know any of the plants here. Yet.
The kids and I are on the case. We have found some helpful websites for Southern California plant identification, especially this one, which lets you narrow down by terrain and leaf type, with photos to confirm your ID. We have a rather large photo file of our own by now, but we can’t label any of them yet.
I love this. I will probably keep talking about the bittersweetness of moving for a long time, because it permeates everything right now; every new blossom I spy here reminds me of my beloved garden "back home." But I love the adventure inherent in ignorance, too. I know nothing; therefore I have everything to learn. This is exhilarating. I am the tabula rasa; bring on the chalk!
I have been told by several friends that I will love the books of Elizabeth Goudge. I have not read any of them,* not even The Little White Horse, which is one of Jane’s favorite novels. I own a couple, and I look forward to reading them—so much so that I keep delaying the moment of beginning. I am happy to have before me a whole body of work which will, by all accounts, delight me. Of course it would be beyond foolish to delay the realization of those delights forever; and I won’t. One day, I’ll reach out a hand to that shelf. Maybe this week. Maybe next year. I don’t know.
I did the same thing with To Kill a Mockingbird. Somehow it never made it onto the syllabus of any class I took in high school or college. By grad school, I’d heard enough heartfelt raves to know this was a novel I was going to love, connect with deeply, carry with me forever. I spent years on the verge of reading it. I didn’t delay consciously; I just didn’t read it. Until one day, about three years ago, I did. And the book was everything I wanted it to be and more. Oh, to resort to cliche about such a work! But there it is. I loved it completely, every syllable. I saw in Scout the image of the daughters I hope to be raising: observant, deep-thinking, comfortably impish, compassionate, bright. (Just not the motherless part, please.) I wondered if I would have done anything different if I’d read it earlier. How would the book have changed me? How might it have shaped me, or influenced my choices? How might it be doing so now?
This post is all over the place. So are my children. Quiet time is over and they are turning wild. If I keep writing, we’ll be living Lord of the Flies instead of To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d better get them outside into this world full of things I don’t know yet.
*I was wrong!
March 27, 2007 @ 1:59 pm | Filed under: Carnivals
This week’s carnival is up at Alasandra’s place. Enjoy!
The nice thing about what I call "tidal homeschooling" is that it keeps the pressure off me. By now, I have learned that our family’s life seldom maintains a consistent rhythm longer than, say, four to six weeks. I have learned to enjoy the ebb and flow, the seasonal change. When monkeys toss their fabled wrenches into our works, as those naughty little monkeys are wont to do, I know it’s time to do a little tweaking.
Our "high tide" Charlotte Mason term chugged along nicely during February, but this month we went a bit off kilter. Scott’s back went out; we sold our old house; there were lots of distractions. We stuck to our rhythm of morning read-alouds and narrations, but last week I noticed the kids were squabbling with each other a lot and our lesson time was turning grumpish. That is always, always, a cue for me to shift gears. (And mix metaphors. Good heavens, I am haphazard with the metaphors today. Metaphor soup!)
I’ve mentioned before that my introduction to the idea of homeschooling was through the writings of John Holt and Sandra Dodd. Sandra is the guru of radical unschooling, and though I don’t agree with her take on everything, I have learned a great deal from her writings. Jane was a babe in arms when I began to ponder Sandra’s ideas about children learning naturally, through life experience, apart from school; and truth be told, it was Sandra who sold me on the lifestyle, way back when I was lurking on the homeschooling boards at AOL.
Now you know that while I have a big streak of unschoolishness in me, I’m not an unschooler per se; the Charlotte Mason method, applied according to her principles, is not unschooling. But Charlotte, too, envisioned the kind of happy and eager childhood that you hear about in the writings of the unschoolers. And that’s my main answer to the question, "Why do you homeschool your kids?" I say, "Because I think it’s a way to give kids a great education and a joyful childhood."
During our low-tide times, which occupy the larger portion of the year, we are like unschoolers. We live and play; we take care of our home together, the children and I; we have adventures and read lots of great books.
During our high-tide times, we keep doing all of the above, but I’m the one picking out the books, and I have the kids narrate a lot of the reading back to me, and we work more deliberately on mastering skills that take practice, like piano and math and Latin.
After the big adventure of moving to California, quickly followed by the big adventure that is Christmas, all of us were ready for some structure, some predictability. Hence our current lineup of studies a la Miss Mason. And as I said, our "term" (the term amuses us, ba dum bum) got off to a terrific start. Last week, when the fun started to fizzle, I gave some thought to what might need tweaking.
The first question I always ask myself when I’m assessing our family rhythm is "What would we be doing if we weren’t doing this?" If, for example, we weren’t spending three mornings a week reading and narrating, how would we spend them? We already have activities the kids love which take us out of the house twice a week, sometimes more; plus I’ve tried to be good about making spontaneous outings to the zoo or the park, exploring this vast new land we’ve moved to. I find that an important ingredient for family harmony is having plenty of mellow time at home. I am not, therefore, inclined to add any more activities to the mix right now.
Home time, then. The kids want to do more painting. Check. I can make that happen. They want to do more baking, and Easter is around the corner…Check. Jane has a flat of herb seedlings going, and all of us are in the mood to do some gardening ("all of us" as in the entire Northern hemisphere), so: Check.
Thus far in my ponderings, I have found nothing that really requires a tweak. We can do all those things any afternoon of the week; I just need to remember to DO them. (Check.)
But the grumpishness of the last week or so, that’s got to go. That’s where the tweaking comes in. What jumped out at me when I gave some thought to the question was that it has everything to do with the challenge of keeping five small people happy at once. (Make that four small people and one medium-sized person; Jane is really getting to be such a big kid.)
I decided I was trying to do too much all together. After traveling in a pack (both literally and figuratively) for the past nine months, my kids are ready for some one-on-one time with me. This can be as simple as making sure Beanie gets to help me wash dishes, or Jane gets me for a few screens of Absurd Math, her favorite online pastime. Rose wants to stretch out on my bed and chatter; she is my most introverted child, and I think she soaks up a lot of observations during the big group activities and wants my ear in which to pour them later on.
This morning I gave Rose a stack of books and helped her set up camp on my bed. She beamed. While Jane read a picture book to Beanie, I spent some one-on-one with Rose. Then I grabbed Bean for some cozy couch time, and we rediscovered Eric Carle’s Animals Animals together. Jane went off to her favorite corner of the craft room and read the books I’d given her; later she came back and narrated to me while I changed a few diapers, nursed the baby, unloaded the dishwasher. It was a good morning. The house is a mess but our moods are tweaky clean.
March 26, 2007 @ 7:11 am | Filed under: Bloggity
Seriously. I’m not for a moment suggesting you should run right over to the Homeschool Blog Awards website and nominate The Lilting House in six or seven categories. Really! That is totally not what I am saying!
I’m just saying that nominations will be accepted now through April 7th. That’s all I’m saying. Also, did I mention how pretty you look today?*
*I’m kidding! With the thinly disguised trolling for nominations, I mean, not about your looking pretty. If I could see you, I bet I would think you are lovely. The readers of Lilting House all have a certain je ne sais quoi,** don’t you think? Anyway, I really am just kidding with the other stuff. I was honored to be the recipient of a Homeschool Blog Award last year, over at Here in the Bonny Glen, and I think it’s nice to spread the honors around. And this year there are so many more new and fabulous homeschooling blogs to enjoy. It’s hard to get anything done, what with all the excellent posts to be read. So go! Nominate your favorites! Have fun!
**Do you have any idea how hard it is to find the correct spelling of a foreign-language phrase you have no idea how to spell? In this particular instance, I recommend Googling as follows: "a certain" French. Voila!***
***Make that "Voilà!"