Archive for the ‘Assorted and Sundry’ Category

It’s funny that I am simultaneously a paper girl and a fan of Paperless Home Organization

January 3, 2014 @ 11:13 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Homeschool Record-Keeping, Household, Paper & Desk

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Really really really good tips in the Mystie Winckler book Pamela Barnhill recommends here, gang. I thought I was already using Evernote & Google Calendar efficiently, but I picked up some useful new ideas (including better integrating my systems) in the book. Which is 30% off with the code in Pam’s post. So, like, under $3.

In Paperless Home Organization, Mystie Winckler leads you through the process of using digital applications to build your very own paperless system. She walks you step-by-step through how to use four free apps to digitally store the same information you would normally keep in a home management binder.

Which means if you have a smartphone, or an iPod Touch, or any tablet, then your binder no longer sits cluttering up your counter, but in your hand – at the doctor’s office, the bookstore, even at your school room table.

I’d been meaning to try Remember the Milk—my pal Ron raves about it, and he doesn’t rave lightly—and Pam’s post, and Mystie’s book, nudged me to take the plunge. Last year I relied on TeuxDeux for daily task management, but my free trial period ran out and I decided I wasn’t enough in love with it to pay for it. It’s a really gorgeous, clean layout but too hard to go back to past days. Remember the Milk isn’t quite as visually appealing (its web app, that is; on my phone it’s quite nice) but it is so much more flexible and functional. Thanks to Paperless Home Organization, I’ve now got it talking to my Gmail account (my RTM to-do list pops up in my inbox sidebar) and WOW, this is just right for the way mah brain works.

As for Evernote, I rely on it for everything. Or so I thought. Now I see all sorts of new bits of recordkeeping I can shift over there. Very pleased.

Lots to talk about

November 12, 2013 @ 10:15 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

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I took a little trip. Had myself a perfectly wonderful time. Got home late, late last night…after many days of very late nights. Will catch up soon. Until then, I wanted to point you back to the comments on this post, where thoughtful writers like Erin of Mother Bird are continuing to share thought about blog commenting. Also, don’t miss this lovely rumination on the topic by Lesley Austin at Weaving Wild Simplicity. I’ll be chiming in on both those threads as soon as I get a chance.

This one’s long enough to make up for the two weeks of silence

October 30, 2013 @ 4:10 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Bloggity

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So it seems I hit a little blog lull, quite unexpectedly. I write posts in my head every day, all through the day (it’s why I began blogging in the first place, you know: thinking in narrative is the way my brain has always, always worked)—but lately I seem prone to tossing a thought or a quip or a link onto Facebook instead of chronicling here. And yet I recoil, actually, from the idea of handing over one’s mental activity to the data-miners and the the rushing update stream. I have this looping conversation with myself over and over. If you blog and are also active on Facebook, I bet you know exactly what I mean.

On Facebook, people leave comments: that’s one point in its favor, part of its great appeal. And let me back up and say how much I love certain aspects of Facebook! I champion it often, when people are running it down for being shallow or negative. Facebook gave me what no other medium has: daily contact with my faraway cousins, my old school friends, my coworkers from jobs long past. Very precious contact, actually. Friendships rekindled and deepened. Road trips made merry (and potentially safer) by en route updates, with friends keeping tabs on us and inviting us to stop and stretch our legs as we made our way across the country and back. There are things Facebook can do that this blog cannot.

But: vice versa! Such riches I have tucked into the archives here—family treasures, I mean. Stories I’d certainly have forgotten, had I not recorded them here. A diary of sorts of our homeschooling journey. An annotated reading journal. A commonplace book, with pictures. Oh, I love this blog, what it’s given me. Including the friends: no small matter, that. Facebook reconnected me with old friends. Blogging gave me new ones, and I count those friendships as very real and rich indeed.

I don’t comment on your blogs nearly often enough. I’m still probably among your most faithful readers, though, did you know that? :) I find myself reaching for the like button to let you know I’ve appreciated a post, am nodding my head at your insight or smiling at your joke. On Facebook people snark about the superficiality of ‘likes.’ I understand why, it’s quick and glancing, it’s not saying anything meaningful, it sometimes suggests an unfortunate endorsement of the wrong half of a sentence. (“I got an offer on a YA novel today! But then I fell and broke my leg.” Er, like? No, wait!) But that silly like button serves a purpose. I means I’m here, I’m reading this, I took note of what you said, I’m glad you shared. If I could click a button on Feedly to let you know I’d appreciated a post, you can bet I would. Clicking through to actually comment, now…oh, I wish I were better about it. Sometimes it’s captcha that deters me, or login technicalities. (Blogger gets very grumpy with me when I don’t want to comment as Melissa Wiley’s Official Data-Providing Google Account, which I loathe doing on friends blogs because I’m just Lissa to you, right? And I can never remember my WordPress login on blogs that aren’t mine.) But other times, a friendly comment is an easy click away and I still don’t take the time, because I’m probably reading your post on my phone, and I really really hate typing with my thumbs.

A Facebook update is much more likely to generate discussion these days, at least for me. Of course, Facebook is such a combustible stew of people from all one’s different worlds and walks of life—sometimes I cringe, seeing all my people jumbled up together that way. I’ve tried separating my personal and professional worlds there but it’s flat impossible. Colleagues become friends, and then what do you do? Make them switch accounts? Who can keep up with multiple accounts anyway? Not I.

All of this is musing without agenda: I simply thought I’d try thinking aloud here the way I did in the olden days of blogging. You know, way back in 2006.

For my own amusement, a few of the topics I’ve posted about on social media recently:

• geocaching, which has become our favorite pastime, and I could talk about it ENDLESSLY for HOURS (see one diabolically clever hiding place in the photo above—oh how we shrieked!)

• how I’ve started writing serious poems again, and I really miss my old grad-school poetry workshop mates and the close readings we used to do of our own poems and others

• Coursera classes I’m taking (alone or with various kids), and many many thoughts about how we use Coursera—and actually I have a long post half-written on that subject. It began here (is still in drafts) and spilled over to Facebook, and judging from that conversation I actually have a lot of practical information to share on the topic.

• related: gossip as a vital tool for human survival—one of the many fascinating points of discussion in the Coursera “Brief History of Humankind” class I’m taking, about which I have LOADS OF THINGS to say

• also related: the Coursera “Modern and Contemporary Poetry” course is wonderful and is going a long way to satisfy my ache for close readings, since each week’s lesson consists of video discussions (grad students and professor) of several different poems—one poem per fifteen(ish)-minute video, perfect for diving into in small chunks of time, which is all I have

• a mocking gripe about my internet service provider, not worth recording

• links to various articles, all of which I’ve shared in the sidebar here anyway

• my delight over the first sketches for Inch and Roly #3

• a picture of The Greatest American Hero, which generated more comments than anything else I’ve posted this month

• the sudden realization after all these years that in the Magic School Bus theme song, the guy is not actually saying “Make a sacrifice on Mars.”

• and in the comments of the above, the revelation that “the guy” is none other than Little Richard!!!

• an adorable photo of my boys

• Overheard, Rilla to Huck: “I’m going to teach you three things. The first one is Pounce, and it goes like this.”

Which is, it turns out, kind of a lot.

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Catching Up, Catching My Breath

September 23, 2013 @ 6:05 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

The trouble with a gap between posts is that when you come back, there’s too much to catch up on. Especially a gap like this one, such an epoch in our lives! Abridged version: the trip up the coast was incredibly fun, the college is wonderful, she had a great week of orientation, today is her first day of school. As in EVER.

And there’s too much to say, so I’m not saying any of it. Instead: some pictures from the hike Beanie and I took yesterday morning.

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Assorted things:

• I’ve resumed posting at the homeschooling side-blog. If you’d like access, drop me a note.

• I’ve decided an easier way of keeping up with the Huck-and-Rilla book log is to tweet it. Every day, I’m trying to tweet a recap of whatever picture books we read together that day.

• Speaking of picture books! I was on my way up the coast when the announcements came rolling out, so I haven’t had a chance to do more than tweet my excitement at having been selected to serve once again on the Cybils Fiction Picture Book panel, Round 1! Fiction Picture Books was my first Cybils judging experience, back in 2008. I always remember the year because I was very, very pregnant with Huck, and we actually scheduled our big discussion with the possibility of his sudden arrival in mind. Of course, there was to be no such sudden arrival. He was born fully two weeks after our discussion, continuing the family tradition of hopeless tardiness.

Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on several other Cybils panels: Young Adult Fiction (2010, round 1), Graphic Novels (2011, round 1), and Book Apps (2012, round 2). I’m delighted to return to Picture Books—as you know, reading them occupies a significant part of my day—and am looking forward to working with this crackerjack team of fellow judges. Not to mention Pam Coughlan, aka MotherReader, our category chair!

• Her first day of classes!! Did I mention?

Rabbit Trails (and Caterpillar and Crocodile)

September 10, 2013 @ 5:39 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Fun Learning Stuff, Links

Collecting some of the links and detours we’ve explored so far this week.

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(Thank you Wikimedia Commons)

Our Round Buildings, Square Buildings reading took us to the Flatiron Building, which led to the Chrysler Building (cue “Hard Knock Life”), the Empire State Building, the old and new Manhattan skylines, and much discussion along the way. I got a bit homesick for NYC. Somewhere around here I have a copy of a letter I wrote to friends back home during my first year in New York—a long description of the view from the top of one of the Twin Towers. Ouch. It would be a good thing to post tomorrow, if I could find it, but them’s slim odds.

A friend posted a caterpillar pic on Facebook, looking for an ID. Beanie was game, and we wound up meandering around this ID site for a good long while. Didn’t find our friend’s critter, but I learned a whole lot about ghost moths…

Rilla is interested in French, which led to an hour on YouTube this afternoon, listening to French children’s songs (and marveling at their unabashed gruesomeness, some of them). It all began with Alouette:

Little lark, nice lark, I am plucking you?! Who knew? (French speakers, that’s who.) Oh, the belly laughs this generated.

Many videos later, we discovered the Most Persistent Earworm of All Time.

Les crocrocro, les crocrocro, les crocodiles will be haunting my dreams tonight.

Things We Did This Week

August 16, 2013 @ 7:12 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Books, Family Adventures, Fun Learning Stuff

Only some of them, you understand. Most of the game-playing and show-watching and walk-taking happens during my work time.

Wonderboy started back to school on Tuesday. That kicked the rest of us into—perhaps not high tide, but the tide coming steadily in.

We watched the first twenty minutes of that Vermeer documentary I posted a link to the other day. It’s riveting so far. The only reason we didn’t view the whole thing in one gulp was because I didn’t want to overwhelm the kids (especially Rilla, who was entranced) with too much information. We’ll take our time with it…a sort of Slow Reading philosophy applied to YouTube.

(“Master of Light” indeed! I learned a lot in that first third of the video—learned to see some things I hadn’t known to look for.)

Earlier this summer, Jane asked Scott to give her a course in the history of rock and roll. So after our busybusy July was past, he put together a playlist for her and commenced the seminar this week. All three of our older girls showed up for class. :)

Rilla learned a little Latin (dry-erase markers and a whiteboard continue to be a sure-fire way to ensure enthusiastic vocab practice…ditto colored chalk and a little slate). And I love getting to dip back into the stories her sisters loved at this age. The Sword of Damocles went over like gangbusters. And the “Albion and Brutus” opening chapter of Our Island Story, which she’s heard before but likes because mermaids!

whalestampWhich made it extra fun when “the white-cliffs-of-Albion” showed up in our Just So Stories pick today—”How the Whale Got His Throat.” I’d forgotten that bit, and my Mariner of infinite-resource-and-sagacity was an Irishman until he mentioned his natal-shore. Hasty accent-change required. At the end of the tale, Rilla peered closely at the grating the Mariner had lodged in the Whale’s throat (you didn’t forget about the suspenders, did you?) and commented: “So that’s why whales eat krill. They’re filter-feeders.” I’d been prepared to launch into an exploration of baleen, but I’m informed Octonauts beat me to it.

I was then required to read “Dingo! Yellow Dog Dingo!” (exclamation points very much a part of the title), which is how she refers to “The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo.” Try as I might, I can’t make that inordinately proud creature sound remotely Australian. Gotta step up my game.

(Tangent: upon reflection, if I absolutely-please-don’t-make-me HAD to choose one single storybook for all future readalouds, I do believe I’d go with the Kipling. Playful language, magnificent vocabulary, surprising and amusing narratives, magnetic subject matter, sense of humor, discussion-fodder, colorful locales, magic, and crocodiles. You really can’t go wrong.)

assembling california by john mcpheeLet’s see, we also spent some time with this book: Assembling California by John McPhee, the fruit of my hunt for something to satisfy the local-geology itch created by our drive to Denver last Month.

First chapter quite promising. Begins at Mussel Rock off the shore of San Francisco, and dropped us right into the San Andreas Fault. Perfect. Then of course we wanted to see Mussel Rock for ourselves. YouTube obliged with this gem:

Those lingering shots on the uneven pavement of the parking lot, and later the cockeyed houses on a San Francisco street, really bring home the reality of shifting plates. And from McPhee we learned that the science of plate tectonics is quite new! Just barely older than I am.

Rilla is learning “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by heart. She had the first three stanzas down last spring but we forgot about it over the summer. She likes to practice when we’re walking around the corner to pick Wonderboy up from school.

There were other things…the visit to the Mammoth and Mastadon exhibit at the Museum of Natural History on Monday (and a carousel ride, mustn’t forget that), and the hopeful rescue of some withering veggies from our sunbaked garden. We relocated the cukes and canteloupe, and both tomato plants, and a poor, parched blueberry bush. Something’s quite different in that corner of the yard this year. Everything’s struggling. Or maybe it’s just that I’m off-season. I don’t usually do much out back during the late-summer months. January’s when my garden really perks up and starts producing. 

We’ve got loads of monarch caterpillars, though. And goldfinches galore.

Rose got her ears pierced. Jane and Wonderboy and I cleaned out a Staples. Her college pile is growing.

Well, I can’t think what else. Oh: Huck’s picture-book picks were Open This Little Book and The Napping House. I finally read The One and Only Ivan, and cried and cried.

   

Assorted and Sundry

August 12, 2013 @ 6:35 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

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Plans are afoot.

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Huck has not yet seen Bambi, but his inflection perfectly mirrored Flower the Skunk when he said, for no particular reason, “You can call me Mechanic if you want to.”

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I have worms on the brain. We had to give up our compost pile a few years ago since it was attracting rats. Not composting kills me. Our town offers coupons for a small enclosed composter, knocking the price down to $40. Or…there’s this. I’ve been interested in vermiculture for a very long time. There are cheaper methods than the Worm Inn; YouTube abounds with videos demonstrating the Rubbermaid bin technique, and that’s probably a better option for starting out. Our favorite local nursery sells bags of redworms for about $15. I’m contemplating.

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Yesterday evening, with little fanfare and a grin bigger than the Cheshire Cat’s, Rilla learned to knit. We were lounging in my room while Scott was making dinner, and she happened to spy a pair of knitting needles in the pencil mug on my shelf. “Oh!” she gasped. “You were going to teach me to knit!” (I think we last mentioned it around Christmastime.) Jane supplied a ball of yarn, and before Scott’s chicken fajitas hit the table, Rilla was purling away. I’m putting it here so I’ll remember the day.

(Tip discovered by chance: Use variegated yarn for teaching beginners. The color changes make it easy for newbies to distinguish the different loops on the needle. Rilla got the hang of it much more quickly than her sisters before her, and without the learning-curve frustration. I remember prior first lessons ending in tangles and tears.)

And here we are in August.

August 1, 2013 @ 4:08 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Events, Family Adventures

I was going to say July was a month like we’ve never had—on the road almost the whole time—but I remembered that’s not true, of course; three summers ago the kids and I spent three weeks on that cross-country trip from San Diego to Virginia and back, and a few years before that was the grand expedition to our new home, which also took the better part of a month. I guess that’s our pattern: hardly any travel for three or four years, and then something epic.

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We drove through Utah and across the Rockies to my parents’ home in Aurora, Colorado. Spent the 4th of July in St. George, UT, where our hotel parking lot afforded a view of six separate fireworks displays across the valley. Spent hours goggling out the van windows at spectacular scenery: so much beauty none of us remembered to read the books we’d brought, or to fiddle with the iPads.

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Spent a week in Colorado visiting with my old friends and family. A whirlwind week, full of chatter. At the tail end, I gave three talks at a homeschooling conference and (so very marvelous) spent a series of evenings sitting up late with my pal Karen Edmisten and her husband, whom it was high time we met in person. A very good week. A full week, capped with a wagon ride to a buffalo herd on the prairie I love so much.

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Then we drove home just in time for Comic-Con. Had a family playdate with Jenni Holm and her gang—one of our favorite families on the planet. Spent the next four days in the usual blur of crowds, meetings, lunches, dinners, late nights gabbing at the bar. More good time with faraway friends. These conversations with our writer and artist pals are why I love conventions. That, and the panels—I’m an oddity there; few of my pro friends spend much time at other people’s panels, but for me it’s a highlight of the summer. This year I hit Graphic Novels and the Common Core (illuminating; perhaps more anon); Graphic/Prose Hybrid Works (delightful, and dangerous to my reading list); Today’s Kids’ Heroes…and Why They Don’t Wear Capes (featuring my hubby, among other stellar panelists—a most excellent discussion); and a Prismacolor Shading Workshop, which included to my delight and surprise a handful of Prismacolor brush pens and markers. Heaven.

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And then! Because that wasn’t enough! The college I attended for my freshman and sophomore years—before it was sold out from under us and we all had to transfer—has never had a reunion, for obvious reasons. Until last week. A number of my theater classmates converged in Denver, and Scott and my mother conspired to send me back out for the fun. The photos tell several thousand words of that story. I’m so glad I went.

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All of it, each day of July, merits a post in itself. But here I am back at home, slipping back into routine, and I find that mostly I want to write about my garden. It suffered less than I expected during the month of neglect, but still there’s a lot of cleanup to do. I’ve spent the past two days digging out bermuda grass and planting a few new natives in the butterfly garden. And the new veggie garden is in. Pole beans, cucumber, cantaloupe, tomatoes (I had one good plant in already and expected to find it withered upon our return, but instead it was green and happy and loaded with ripe tomatoes!), strawberries. I’ve ripped out a lot of ice plant and took at least a dozen cuttings off a geranium gone haywire. The red rose bush and the yellow one each presented a single blossom upon our return. The salvia was limp as old lettuce, but perked up after a good soaking. The goldfinches are having a field day with some giant dandelions gone to seed in my absence. The scrub jays have returned to their favorite perches, where they harass us until we’ve filled the birdbath. Home sweet home.

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Look, it’s early here

July 1, 2013 @ 6:33 am | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry

Scott: Did you know that [sitcoms] are 50 years old today?

Me: Wait, what? Sitcoms are only 50 years old? That can’t be right. What are they counting as the first sitcom?

Scott: No, ZIP CODES. Zip codes are 50 years old today.

Me: Wait. So sitcoms are older than zip codes?