Archive for July, 2007

Harry Potter Links

July 30, 2007 @ 11:53 am | Filed under:

Our beloved Virginia pals, the Jones girls, will be pulling into our driveway any minute for a delirious, delightful week-long visit. My girls are beside themselves. Rose has been stationed at the door for the past half hour and may well combust from sheer excitement if they don’t arrive soon.

I thought I’d get a Harry Potter post up during the weekend—a delusional notion, since this was San Diego Comicon weekend and Scott had to work long, late hours every day since the middle of last week. I’ve enjoyed some good discussion about the book, though, in the comments of this Studeo post and also at Kelly Herold’s GoodReads review. Spoiler alerts apply in both cases.

I also wanted to share the link to this very interesting take on the Harry Potter books by another of our former Virginia neighbors, Steve the Llamabutcher (posted before he read Book 7). Steve’s a big fan of the HP books but sees a failing in the wizarding world:

The bone I have to pick with J.K. Rowling—or maybe it’s
intentional, and therefore something to credit her with—is the
complete absence of the humanities from the course of education at her
magical school. The wizarding world as she presents it is completely
bereft of art and music of their own creation which is not derivative
of the creations of the non-magical world. In many respects the
wizarding world—or, at the very least, wizard Britain—is a world
which never really left the medieval: they never went through the
Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the revolutions of capitalism,
industrialism, and Darwinism. Now, I can see how a number of our
readers would probably say a combination of the last three aint bad
(and certainly the Shire of Tolkein was Rousseauian presentation of
Britain minus the last three), how many of us would want to live in a
world without the humanism and individualism and rationalism and
science that were the crowning achievements of the first two? Not me,
for one.

The first book—and I have a gut hunch the last book—pivots on the character never actually met by the reader of Nicolas Flamel,
a historical figure with a long history of being used by authors as a
representative of the obsession with alchemy. To me, the series rises
and falls with the fate of another obsessed alchemist born several
centuries after Flamel lived: Isaac Newton. Newton turned away from
alchemy in the end and embraced science and the scientific method, and
with it the principles of rationalism and free inquiry. Rowling’s
wizards remain profoundly uncurious about the nature of their world,
and the small few who inquire are kept hidden away within the
Department of Mysteries, their work kept secret. The Wizards, from the
fragments that Rowling provide, turned within themselves in Europe at
least at exactly the time the Europeans reached out to understand the
world, the universe, and the place of human beings within it.

Whether intentionally or not, Rowling has shown us a world within a
world free from imperialism, nationalism, capitalism, religion and
industrialism—yet it is a society racked profoundly with racism and
slavery, governed oppressively without any pretense of due process, the
rule of law, equality, or democracy, and in a world without great art,
sculpture, literature, poetry, dance, or music of its own.

They have Dumbledore.  We have DaVinci, Newton, Smith, Darwin, Einstein, Watson, Dickens, and Neil Armstrong.

Compelling perspective, and I’d love to comment but can’t just now because Rose is chanting "Aretheyhere? Aretheyhere?" ad nauseum and I can’t hear myself think. Posting will probably be light this week because we will be running around town keeping up with the Joneses!

A New Season of Brave Writing

July 28, 2007 @ 1:05 pm | Filed under:

I’m passing along the latest Bravewriter newsletter for anyone who may be interested in some fun writing and book discussion opportunities:


The Arrow and the Boomerang are now enabled for automatic monthly deductions.

Brave Writer language arts programs are for busy moms who want to execute
their best intentions, but don’t have time to craft lessons that tie
together dictation, copywork, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, literary
style and literature into a neat bow. We use passages from classic
novels to teach things like dialog punctuation, spelling rules (and
exceptions), the power of an opening hook, the beauty of a well-crafted
description, new vocabulary words and grammar conventions.

arts shouldn’t require a slog through artificially created sentences to
"teach a point." Rather, there should be some way to maximize the
novels you enjoy to do that teaching for you. An editor I admire once
said that the only way to grow in writing syntax (how we put words
together) is to sit in a parlor chatting with great writers. I like to
picture E.B. White, Ernest Hemingway, Sandra Cisneros, Jane Austen,
Laura Ingalls Wilder, William Shakespeare, Bette Bao Lord, Lois Lowry
and Charles Dickens all sipping tea together, with me in the center of
the group. Unfortunately, most of them are dead. The next best thing is
to hang out with their writing… consistently pondering it, copying
it, reading it, discussing it.

That’s what the Brave Writer Language Arts Subscription programs aim to do!

The Arrow (4th – 6th grade) book list is brand new this year. A sample issue can be viewed here. It’s yours to print and use, if you like.

The Boomerang
automatically subscribes you to both a forum for the book
discussions and the monthly issue, as most of you have indicated that
you prefer. (However, for those who wish to receive the digital monthly issue
only, you may order these for a reduced rate without participating in
the book discussions.)

The Boomerang
offers dictation passages, notes and "think piece" questions to help
your kids explore the novels in greater depth. Once they’ve read the
books, students come to a specially created forum for kids just like
themselves to discuss the "think piece" questions. That discussion is
led by me, Julie.

A sample issue of the Boomerang can be viewed here.

The Boomerang’s first book for August is The House on Mango Street. We begin discussion on August 13. If you subscribe to the monthly payment plan between now and the 13th, we’ll rebate $9.95 of your first month’s $24.95 subscription price!

Live honestly, write bravely,


P.S. The Arrow and Boomerang are now open for registration and subscription. Check out the Arrow (4th-6th) and Boomerang (7th-9th) for more details on year-long enrollment. For monthly subscription information, go to our order page.

The Platinum Package offers The Writer’s Jungle and your choice of the Arrow or the Boomerang for a savings of $27.00! Check it out.

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Last Call for Giveaway Entries

July 27, 2007 @ 1:47 pm | Filed under:

As promised, I’ll be drawing the name for the winner of our Amo Amas Amat & More giveaway at 3pm my time (Pacific). Jane has already prepared the slips of paper for our drawing, but there’s still time for us to add any last-minute entrants.

Back soon!

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In Which I Relieve My Feelings by Posting a Timeline

July 27, 2007 @ 12:05 am | Filed under:

Today was doctor appointment day. Pediatrician checkups for Wonderboy and Rilla (including vaccinations for both, which made me smile in connection to the comment thread on yesterday’s post), and then Wonderboy’s annual cardiology checkup to monitor a narrow valve.

9:30. I drop the older girls off at Chez Lickona, where warm-hearted friends have offered the entertainments of their pool, their five children, and a pile of origami paper as an alternative to hanging around in waiting rooms all day. My girls are immensely grateful, and that’s before any of us knows just how much waiting-room-hanging-around there is going to be.

9:55. We arrive at the pediatrician’s office a few minutes early; I’m so proud. Both appointments go well (although Rilla, who is highly offended by needles, would beg to differ).

10:50. Since I have a little time to spare before we need to head to the next appointment, I swing by Target to pick up some deeply discounted moss roses I’ve had my eye on.

11:20. We run by home to park the posies in the shade, and I grab some lunch for the little ones. I decide against grabbing any lunch for myself, a decision I will come to regret.

11:45. Back on the road. We’re going to be early for our 12:45 check-in time at the Children’s Hospital, but experience has taught me to allow lots of cushion room in the schedule. Last time the boy had an appt here (that time it was neurology), we got stuck behind an accident on the freeway and—despite my panicked phone call to say WE ARE ON OUR WAY, ALMOST THERE!!!!—arrived twenty minutes late for our appointment to discover the doctor had given our slot to the next patient and then moved a meeting to that patient’s time slot, so: "Sorry, you’ll have to reschedule."

12:10. We arrive at the hospital and actually find parking on the first pass through the garage. We are somewhat less successful at finding the cardiology suite on our first pass through the hospital. It’s a large medical complex with four or five buildings. Two of them, according to the giant map out front, contain rooms devoted to cardiology. I decide to try "Cardiology Clinic" first, as opposed to "Cardiology Offices."

12:20. I realize I was kidding myself about the likelihood of finding either one.

12:25. No, wait, here it is! And I guessed right about needing the Clinic, not the Offices. I sign Wonderboy in.

12:32. We are taken to another room for the check-in paperwork. I am impressed by the cheerfulness and efficiency of the receptionist. This office runs like a machine. However, I’m surprised by the news that Wonderboy is being sent to Radiology for a chest X-ray before we see the cardiologist. I had expected some tests after the cardio consult—an EKG, an echo—but no one had mentioned anything about an X-ray.

12:44. We are sent back to the waiting room, but only for a few minutes. A nurse takes us across the hall for the EKG. Then she sends us to Radiology for the chest film and says to check back in at Cardiology Reception when we’re finished.

1:20. We do just that. Wonderboy was great in X-ray, and Rilla never even asked to get down from the sling. The cardiology receptionist says to have a seat, the doctor will be with us shortly. I know perfectly well that "shortly" is hospital code for "sometime this century," yet everything has happened so efficiently so far that I actually allow myself to believe shortly might mean "shortly."

1:21. Rilla slips out of the sling, ready to roam a little. Wonderboy supervises as she flirts with other patients and explores the corners of the room. She steals another baby’s hat. Wonderboy rats her out. Everyone laughs.

1:33. Ha ha, it’s not so funny the third time. Or maybe I would think it was funnier if I hadn’t skipped lunch. Wonderboy, too, is finding the waiting room less entertaining than it once was.

1:40. Rilla, searching for new ways to delight her admiring public, plants herself behind the door where she is certain to be smushed when the next person walks in. I retrieve her some seven or eight times. She is not amused. I stick her back in the sling. Wonderboy begs to go hoooome.

2:05. One of us is lying on the floor, sobbing. No, not I—I’m not that far gone yet.

2:10. I ask the receptionist how much longer she thinks the wait will be. "Well," she says brightly, "your appointment time wasn’t until 2:00."

"No," I say. "We were told to be here at 12:45."

"That was for check-in. And you had the chest film. Your scheduled doctor time is 2 p.m."

I sputter. "I wish I’d known that! We’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes. I could have taken them to the cafeteria or something." (Translation: I could have been eating pudding. I adore hospital cafeteria butterscotch pudding, and I don’t care who knows it.)

Receptionist: "Well, you know, you did check in early."

Me: "Right, but if I’d known we couldn’t see the doctor until 2, we wouldn’t have sat here all this time."

Receptionist: "If we tell people their doctor times, they come late, and it backs us up. But you came early; that’s why you’ve waited so long."

Me: "But if I’d known—never mind. Anyway, it’s 2:15 now."

She glances at the clock and furrows her brow. "Hmm. Well, go back and wait until 2:30, and if they still haven’t called you, let me know."

2:25. Wonderboy is quietly moaning. Rilla, in the sling, has collapsed into a sweaty, snoozing lump on my chest. I am thinking about eating her.

2:29 and 59 seconds. A nurse calls Wonderboy’s name. The receptionist beams at me: I’m someone else’s problem now. The nurse takes us across the hall to a small suite containing three exam rooms and a door marked HOSPITAL PERSONNEL ONLY. She settles us in one of the exam rooms and takes Wonderboy’s vitals. The doctor, she tells us airily as she departs, will be in any minute.

2:35. Not this minute.

2:39. Nor this one.

2:42. I am eyeing the Purell dispenser, wondering if that stuff is edible. Don’t they say little kids can get drunk from licking it? I pass the time by speculating about dosages. Wonderboy, meanwhile, has given up hope of ever seeing his sisters again and is now writing out his last will and testament on the back of an immunization brochure.

2:49. I notice that Rilla is wearing someone’s watch around her thigh.

2:55. I open the door and peer into the deserted suite. The other two exam rooms are empty. The PERSONNEL ONLY door is closed, and a steady, murmuring voice can be heard from inside. The nurse bustles through, and I stop her and ask how much longer.

She glances at the PERSONNEL ONLY door. "Any minute."

"It’s almost three," I say. "Our scheduled appointment time was 2:00." I stare pointedly at the other, empty exam rooms.

"The doctor is just dictating notes," the nurse says, somewhat reluctantly. "She’ll be in as soon as she finishes."

"We’ve been waiting for an hour," I say, but she has already darted away, leaving me alone with my hunger, my slumbering infant, and my weeping, despairing son. Through the door, the murmuring continues.

3:00. I am still standing there, staring at that door.

3:01. It opens! The doctor emerges! She enters our room!

3:11. She leaves!

During our ten fabulous minutes together, she has taken a complete and thorough family history and listened to Wonderboy’s heart. Of course, she tells me, he’ll need an echocardiogram before she can make a real assessment. "Can we do that today?" I ask, even though we’re already past the time I told the Lickonas I’d pick up the girls. They’re wonderful people; they’ll understand.

"Oh, no," says the doctor, visibly surprised, as if I’d asked for a table in a swank restaurant without a reservation. "You’ll have to make an appointment and come back."

She whisks away, presumably to dictate our notes in the special room. Patient’s mother has air of quiet desperation symptomatic of lunatic fantasies involving billing medical professionals for time wasted. Patient was cooperative but depressed, as indicated by his repeated requests (via sign language) for me to sign his will as a witness. Patient’s 15-month-old sister is adorable but displays tendencies toward kleptomania. Refer entire family to psych.

Links During Breakfast

July 25, 2007 @ 8:50 am | Filed under:

Thought I’d share a quick link we made use of yesterday…Rose wanted to learn to make friendship bracelets, and we couldn’t find our copy of the Klutz book. This site has instructions for beginners, including a how-to from the very same Klutz book!

Meanwhile, did you see this on BoingBoing? A version of Tetris that uses the United States. We are soooo going to be late for the next thing we have to do. I must dash. I had no business turning on the computer this morning. The girls are eating breakfast but the boy is still in bed and did I mention we’re going to be late?

Karen understands so very well

Our Big Cross-Country Trip, Scrapbooked

July 23, 2007 @ 12:29 pm | Filed under: ,

Mostly for the enjoyment of my own family, I have collected all my Bonny Glen and Lilting House posts about October’s road trip from Virginia to San Diego right here on one page. Even better (as far as I’m concerned), I have interspersed Alice‘s posts about the trip—she very kindly kept a sort of running travelogue for us, capturing the highlights of our many Bluetooth-enabled phone conversations during my days on the open road.

At some point I will probably add more pictures, but this is a good start for now.