Yesterday we had our Journey North Mystery Class wrap-up party. Huge fun all around: each family revealed its Mystery City location and we celebrated with a feast of dishes from the far-off locales. (Even the one American city in this year’s batch is far-off from us here in San Diego.) I won’t say more about the secret locations, since I know some of you are participating in your own groups and may not have had your big reveals yet. But ohhhh, was the food good.
I’ll give this much away: Beanie’s and my contribution were these Icelandic pancakes (pönnukökur).
(Beloved Carl Larsson print hiding a snarl of electrical cords.)
Here’s the recipe we followed, and here’s a delightful video demonstration by Icelandic cook Margret:
At the end of the video she demonstrates the most common ways to serve the pancakes: sprinkled with sugar (as we did above) or spread with jam and a generous dollop of whipped cream. I didn’t think the cream would hold up at a potluck, but you can be sure we’re going to give that version a go very, very soon.
*My sweet broom is in bloom, lightening my heart not only with its sunny blossoms but also the way it puts one of my favorite Scottish ballads into my head every time I glance its direction.
Tomorrow Jane, Rose, and I are off on a new adventure—a Peterson family first: open house at the university Jane plans to attend in the fall. Talk about blinking. Seems only last week this happened:
Rilla: I’ve been thinking. We should have an art club for kids who want to be artists when they grow up.
Me: I love that idea!
Rilla: I wonder what we should call it.
Me, having a Jane Andrews moment: Um, the Art Club?
(Somewhere, Anne Shirley shakes her head in disgust.)
Rilla: No…I know! How about the Art Bassoon?
Rilla: What is a bassoon, anyway?
Me: It’s a musical instrument—here, I’ll show you. *reaches for Google*
Google, beaming: You’re going to love this.
YouTube, modestly:This old thing? Why it’s just a little something I threw together.
We watch in delight as a bassoon quartet plays a Super Mario Galaxy medley. Rilla’s excitement cannot be described. She marvels over the size of the bassoons, their rollicking sound as they play the familiar melodies.
Rilla: Bassoons are awesome.
Rilla: But on second thought, I don’t think Art Bassoon is the right name for our club.
* The year’s first poppy. Stunning as they are when fully open, this is how I love them best: just peeking out from under their green elf caps.
* Rilla’s first serious horse. She worked for ages, following the instructions in the Usborne Book of Drawing. What I love most here is seeing her several erased attempts to get the legs and tail just so.
* The tulips Krissy brought me back from Amsterdam, that time I couldn’t go. I adore tulips. Growing them this way, all mystery, three mute brown bulbs with no hint of the vivid hues encoded in their DNA, is the best possible fun. Now I want to grow mystery tulips always.
So I was getting over the flu and then I got sick again, just a cold, I think? But wiping. Me. Out. Three weeks post-flu and I was still feeling draggy, and now I’m useless.
Or mostly useless. I just submitted my Downton recap (watched it earlier via DVD), which will go live at GeekMom tonight or tomorrow. [Updated: here it is.] I’d love it if you’d drop by tomorrow and join the conversation there. (Trying to keep Downton comments off this blog because Jane isn’t caught up yet.)
Yesterday, Rilla came to me (lolling in my bed, trying to read, mostly coughing) wanting to play a game. She had two small foam circles, each about the size of a silver dollar. It was a guessing game: what are they now? The child’s inventiveness was spectacular. She started me off easy: boy (one circle) with rainhat (the other circle folded into a tiny triangle). I mustered a ladybug. She countered with an eclipse. My efforts: a taco, some earrings. Child’s play compared to my six-year-old’s contributions.
Once, she rolled both circles into little tubes and held them side by side, bending them a bit with her fingers. I was stumped.
“They’re wavy smell lines!” she explained. “You know, like in comics? How they show you something’s giving off a smell?”
Safe to say I would not have guessed that, not it a million years.
At another point, she held both circles up to her face, pressing them haphazardly against her chin and a cheek.
We also spent a long time yesterday—Wonderboy, Rilla, and I—playing with Google Maps, visiting our favorite local park…Grandma’s house…the Eiffel Tower…Australia. The kids’ favorite part was “walking” up our street in street view, trying to figure out how long ago the Google car drove by. Daffodils in the neighbor’s yard and oranges on the tree across the street, which means it was about this time of year. Last year, because the new owner of the house over the way hadn’t taken down the little pomegranate tree yet. (Why’d she do it? We don’t know.) Sometime after Scott and I switched sides of the driveway, because the minivan’s on the right. There’s a smallish window of time there, and it’s a bit creepy to think of all this quiet surveillance. And yet fun to wonder what we were doing right then, just beyond the camera’s reach — reading a book? eating scones? messing around on Google Maps?
This reminded Scott of the day a few years back when he was on his way home from work and found himself driving behind the Google car for several blocks. We looked up the street, and sure enough, there he is—signing “I love you” to me.
spotted on our morning walk (which was very short, because neither of us can walk half a block without coughing) (still)
So maybe this was the actual flu. Whatever it was, Scott and I are both still climbing slowly back to normal. Huck is right as rain already—much to his disappointment, since he loves the taste of Tylenol. “No more medicine?” he asked tearfully. Sorry, pal.
Jane’s up to her eyeballs (and mine) in scholarship applications. Rose made me some Redwall scones. Beanie embarked on a personal mission to study the history of Japan (beginning with poring over any relevant chapter she can find in the Genevieve Foster books, because they were readiest to hand…library trip to follow soon). Wonderboy is writing lots of letters. Rilla nearly always has a crayon in her hand.
Huck spends half his time as a…koalasheep, I think it is? And the other half jumping on things.
music has charms to sooth a savage koalasheep breast
I have completely dropped the ball with Winter Holiday! I should’ve just bought the audiobook when I first got sick. At this rate we’ll still be reading it in July.
Much better today, but still dragging. And the next domino to topple turned out to be Huck.
Still, it was a good day, dominated by much laughter over this Grimm collection we’re reading en masse for Jane’s Coursera class. I mean, “The Death of the Hen,” do you know that one? I know Grimm is grim, but this beats all. All the rest of the day, the girls were walking around going, “And so they were all dead together”—that’s the happy ending, you guys.
Other bits and pieces:
Read more of Hawthorne’s Wonder Book with Rilla, the Perseus story continued, and then coaxed her through a narration. No matter how unschoolish my tendencies, I am always and forever a believer in good old Charlotte Mason-style narration for building really quite remarkable powers of attention and memory. Rilla’s at the bouncy, fidgety, doubtful-of-her-narrative-abilities six-year-old stage, which—now that I know what I’m doing—is quite a fun place to be. She surprises herself, and then beams.
Beanie did a lot of German (I slacked on that today myself, but I’ve been driving pretty hard with it the past few weeks and am thrilled to be able to read, at long last, a little book I picked up ages and ages ago—found it in some German bookshop in Manhattan, I think—called Kleiner Pelz. Anyone heard of it? The author is Irina Korschunow. Quite sweet so far.
I read Ame Dyckman’s Boy + Bot to Huck; he’s gotten almost every one of us to read it to him so far, a tremendous hit this one, and rightly so. Delightful. But then we’re huge fans of Dan Yaccarino’s art around here. Here’s the book trailer if you want a peek.
We listened to more Wind in the Willows while Rilla drew pictures and Huck snoozed…I dozed off myself somewhere in there. Later, walking to pick Wonderboy up from school, I taught Rilla the first two stanzas of “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” and there is nothing quite like the sight of a small girl skipping up a hill, hair swinging, reciting “And this was odd, because it was the middle—of—the—night!”
Jane wrote an essay for her class, Rose read all morning, Huck perked up a little, and Scott concocted a bacon-potato soup for dinner. A much happier ending than that which befell the poor hen.
With Beanie: did our first week’s charting for Journey North. Mystery City #1 has very nearly the same latitude as ours, judging from its photoperiod, and Bean entertained me with a list of the countries around the globe at roughly our parallel. You see why I love this project so?
(FWIW, here’s how I described it to my local homeschooling list this morning, wanting to make it clear you don’t have to be some organizational goddess to pull this thing off: “If Mystery Class sounds daunting to you, let me just add that I forgot all about it until this morning and am sitting here in my pajamas, coughing my lungs out, hair not yet brushed, huddled on the couch calculating photoperiods with [Beanie]. A few simple math problems—she’s doing most of the work. [Huck] is climbing on the back of the couch. Scott’s got Elvis playing. I’m checking Facebook while [Bean] does the next calculation. In case you were picturing some super-organized activity requiring a ton of preparation and concentration—this isn’t that!)
With Jane and Rose: watched the first video lecture (very short) for a Coursera class we discovered yesterday, and which Jane has signed up for: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. (I loved the reading list. Some great stuff there, and a number of things I’d been meaning to read with the girls this year anyhow.)
The first text is the Lucy Crane translation of Grimms’ Tales, available for free download at Project Gutenberg. The instructor (Professor Eric Rabkin of the University of Michigan) mentioned the intriguing fact that the illustrations (beautiful, just my cup of tea, see below) in this edition are by Crane’s husband, Walter Crane, who wrote about book (explained Dr. Rabkin) about the role of illustration in books. Which! Got! Me! Very! Excited! And when you put ‘Walter Crane’ into Google it autosuggests ‘Walter Crane arts and crafts movement’ Which! More! Excited! Still! My cup of tea? More like my bathtub of tea, my swimming-pool of tea. And now (having spent a bit of happy, albeit sniffly, time on teh Wikipedia and other avenues) I have added Yet More Things to Read to my impossible list.
You see what I mean?
So we zapped the Lucy Crane text to the Kindle, and I read the first story aloud to Rilla—”The Rabbit’s Bride,” which I didn’t remember at all, though I thought I’d read Grimm backwards and forwards, including some of it in German. (Digression: true story: my friend Caryn and I got banned from the high-school library for a full semester in tenth grade due to uncontrollable outbursts of giggling over an assignment for our German class. Look, you spring the original version of Rapunzel on a couple of unsuspecting sophomore girls and what do you expect? Suddenly she had twins! Zwillinge! So that’s how the witch knew she was entertaining a visitor!)
(Thing is, I fervently believed I loved that library more than anybody in the whole school. Me. Banned from a library. I couldn’t believe it. My intemperate book-hoarding habits probably spring from this brief and interminable period of deprivation.)
Anyhow, “The Rabbit’s Bride.” I did not see that ending coming. Nor the middle, for that matter.
At Huck’s naptime there was cuddling (cautious, on his part: “I don’t want to get sick, Mommy”) (sigh) and at his request, another round of the much-loved Open This Little Book, which gem I’ll be reviewing for GeekMom one of these days. (Talk about illustrations to swoon for. Delicious.)
Then lots of Japan Life with Rilla and Beanie—a game we like to play, which involves massive amounts of casual math and spatial reasoning, but of course they aren’t seeing it that way, it’s just fun.
I missed out on some of my favorite parts of the day—walking Wonderboy to school and back; my long morning ramble with Scott—but by mid-afternoon I was feeling better than I have all week, and I got outside to water my neglected garden. Was relieved to see my young lettuces are looking spruce. So are hordes of weeds.
A hummingbird, a funny solar-powered grasshopper, a cup of mint tea with honey. “I can’t believe how much I’m not sick of you,” says the mug, a gift from Scott.
Two very dirty children scrubbed clean after concocting Mud Soup or some such delicacy in the backyard.
Tonight I’m missing the much-anticipated reception for the San Diego Local Authors Exhibit at the downtown library, very sad not to be there but it wouldn’t be nice to carry this cough out in public. But I’m sure there will be something nice on TV with Scott later (he DVRs the best things) and I have two compelling books in progress on my Kindle at the moment: a gorgeous collection of Alice Munro stories given to me by one of my favorite people in the world, and a review copy of a book called Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever—how’s that for a title that grabs you and won’t let go? So far, so gripping. The levee just broke in Dayton, Ohio. Entire houses are floating away with people on the rooves. (Roofs? What are we saying these days?) I’m chewing my nails off.