Sprig Box contents, before we devoured them. Rose totally wants a subscription to this.
The Earworms app continues to be a great vehicle for Rose and Beanie’s German studies. They can now order a beer in any German restaurant with complete confidence.
We spent much of yesterday morning cataloguing the contents of a number of monthly subscription boxes for a big GeekMom series I’m doing—services like Knoshbox, Wonder Box, BabbaBox, La Bella Box, and a bunch more. BEST JOB EVER. Rilla spent all afternoon busy with art projects from the various kids’ boxes. I developed an immediate and passionate addiction to the Just Good snack mix in the photo, thanks to Sprig Box. ::shakes fist at Sprig Box:: ::kisses Sprig Box::
Of course the best part of the day, the best part of any day in which it occurs, was the reading of Miss Suzy, which I really think my be my favorite October book. Not that it’s only an October book, but that seems to be when I think of pulling it out. (The best part of my Miss Suzy post is when the author’s granddaughter leaves a comment!)
The girls finished Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (the Wii game) yesterday—a feat years in the making. “I still remember the day the package arrived,” said Rose. “Cold and rainy and miserable. And then suddenly we were in that lovely village, throwing chickens.” (Cue gales of laughter from Bean.)
I grew up in a house that wasn’t comfortable with RPG’s, but I think our boys would love it. Any other suggestions for the 8-12 crowd?
Yes! Do you know the Munchkin game? It’s a card game based on RPG mechanics—a great choice for when you want the fun and flavor of a role-playing game but don’t have time to embark on an elaborate campaign. This just may be my favorite non-electronic game because it doesn’t require elaborate setup and inevitably becomes a total laughter-fest. Like this moment last year:
Playing a lot of Munchkin and laughing our fool heads off. I will long savor that sweet, sweet moment when I demolished my dear daughters by whipping out a Doppelganger card I’d been secretly holding—and thereby destroying the Level 20 Dragon (+5 Intelligence) they teamed up to sic on me. Because nothing says “gentle motherhood” like wielding a Chainsaw of Bloody Dismemberment against the team effort of one’s children.
Okay, so…bloody dismemberment, yeah. The art on the cards is cartoonish, no gore. But the way you best your opponents is by playing weapon cards or casting spells against the monsters they send your way (or that you bump into on your imaginary dungeon crawl). So I know this one won’t be every parent’s cup of tea. But we really love it. Along the way you get cards that transform you into an elf, dwarf, halfling, etc; and there are “class” cards that give you special abilities: wizard, thief, cleric. Standard D&D categories. (Or you can go for the Space Munchkin deck that pits you against aliens, or the Pirate version, or a bunch of other variations. You can even mix and match decks.)
Turns consist of drawing cards, “kicking down the door” to encounter treasure or monsters, and generally trying to throw as many perils at your opponents as possible.
One big caveat for parents: a few of the cards are a bit on the bawdy side. I previewed the deck in advance and quietly disappeared five or six that I deemed inappropriate for my young girls. The game works fine without them.
I’ve also heard great things about rpgKids—a simplified-for-young-children version of a dungeons-and-monsters-based role-playing games. It’s been on my radar to take a closer look at, but I haven’t ordered it yet. Which is silly, because the rule system is only $3 to download. If any of you decide to give that one a try, I’d love to hear what you think.
We spent most of yesterday morning laughing our fool heads off over my pathetic drawings in round after round of Draw Something. It’s like Pictionary on your phone or iPad. Years ago, gosh, maybe as long as TEN years ago, I used to play a lot of iSketch with a group of friends—that too was like Pictionary, but you drew with your mouse. Very tricky. Drawing with my finger in Draw Something is only marginally easier. But oh such fun.
One of the friends I’m playing with happens to be a professional comic book artist. His pictures are, as you can imagine, quite wonderful: comical works of art. I draw stick figures; he produces fully colored masterpieces. One of the game’s best features is that you watch your opponent’s (partner’s? it’s not a competitive game) drawing in real time. I’m sure this becomes tedious for my partners, as they watch me begin and delete attempt after attempt to produce a recognizable “butcher” or “runway” or “Angelina Jolie.” For my kids and me, watching the replay on our end, this game provides a spectacular peek into the mind of an artist.
Speaking of: here’s a clip Scott shared on Facebook today. Delightful and rather dazzling: Chuck Jones demonstrates how to draw Bugs Bunny. “If you’re going to draw Bugs, the best way is to learn how to draw a carrot, and then you can just hook a rabbit onto it. Simplicity itself.” Oh, so THAT’S how you do it.
“The students ranged from gifted to near-drop-outs. They wrote their own curriculum, took no tests, worked independently and collaboratively, and designed from the ground up how and what they would learn for a semester. By all accounts, their efforts were a huge success.”
Another week full of drafts and snippets, words squeezing into the teasing interstices of busy days. Most of what I jotted down had to do with the subjects that got their hooks into us: a chronicle of paths wandered, links explored.
During our Balboa Park day last week, Jane strolled through the Timken Museum of Art. One piece she found particularly compelling was Benjamin West’s Fidelia and Speranza, painted in 1771. West was a friend of Benjamin Franklin (his portrait of Franklin’s famous moment with the key and the kite is a hoot). Jane was struck by the image of the girl (Fidelia) holding a chalice with a serpent looking out from it. A little digging informed us that the sisters are figures from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene: Faith and Hope, who reside in the House of Holiness to which Una (Truth) guides the Red Cross Knight.
Thus as they gan of sundry things devise,
Loe two most goodly virgins came in place,
Ylinked arme in arme in lovely wise,
With countenance demure, and modest grace,
They numbred even steps and equall pace:
Of which the eldest, that Fidelia hight,
Like sunny beames threw from her christall face,
That could have dazd the rash beholders sight,
And round about her head did shine like heavens light.
She was araied all in lilly white,
And in her right hand bore a cup of gold,
With wine and water fild up to the hight,
In which a Serpent did himselfe enfold,
That horrour made to all that did behold;
But she no whit did chaunge her constant mood:
And in her other hand she fast did hold
A booke, that was both signd and seald with blood:
Wherin darke things were writ, hard to be understood.
Her younger sister, that Speranza hight,
Was clad in blew, that her beseemed well;
Not all so chearefull seemed she of sight,
As was her sister; whether dread did dwell,
Or anguish in her hart, is hard to tell:
Upon her arme a silver anchor lay,
Whereon she leaned ever, as befell:
And ever up to heaven, as she did pray,
Her stedfast eyes were bent, ne swarved other way.
Well, that led to a lot of Spenser-related digging. We can’t undertake to read much of Faerie Queene right now; we dove into The Odyssey this month and I think one epic poem at a time is enough!
The week’s other big research project (for various children) had to do with Tamagotchis—the craze has resurfaced here, after a year of dead batteries. Growth charts, game strategies, daily logs: it’s like living in a research lab. One of the sites that turned up on our search was this critical analysis of Tamagotchi use, which I found quite interesting, especially this bit:
I was reminded of Professor Ken Goldberg’s Tele-garden, a web-based project where users can plant and water seeds in a small garden through the use of a remote robotic system. In a presentation on the project, Professor Goldberg mentioned a shift from the Paleolithic Hunter/Gatherer state of the World Wide Web (brief forays into the world of technology for the purpose of apprehending some piece of information) and the Neolithic Husbandry model supported by the project (where users must devote sustained interest and effort to foster growth).
The Tamagotchi is indicative of a similar shift in video game modeling. The majority of video games (especially popular video games) hinge on a model of conquest and succession – temporally limited tasks with set goals attainable through skill and reflexes. Key examples range from Pac Man and Galaxians to Super Mario Brothers and Mortal Kombat. Player/users identify with the “main character” of a simple narrative – “destroy or be destroyed”. Having completed a set amount of destruction, the player/user rests for a moment before taking on a progressively difficult level.
Notable exceptions exist. The most popular of these is the Maxis line of Sim- products, including SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimEarth, SimAnt, and others. Here we see the stirrings of the “Neolithic shift”. The user is responsible for the growth and maintenance of a town (or world, or ant colony, or whatever) and the ultimate goal is to simply “flourish”.
What do you think? Do you prefer Hunter/Gatherer internet experiences, or Neolithic Husbandry?
Speaking of hunting, I fell into a research project of my own last night, as you know if you’re my friend on Facebook or Twitter (which seems to be a synthesis of the hunter/gatherer and husbandry models, if you ask me). For fifteen years I have wondered which version of the Te Deum was the one referred to by Sheldon Vanauken in A Severe Mercy. Vanauken writes:
St. Ebbe’s sang the Te Deum to a setting that made a triumphant proclamation of the line: “Thou art the King of Glory, O-O-O-O-O Christ!”—the O’s ascending to the mighty ‘Christ!’
St. Ebbe’s is the Anglican church in Oxford the Vanaukens attended around 1950. Between YouTube and ChoralWiki, I have investigated, well, scores of scores (ba dum bum), looking for that particular setting of the Te Deum. A commenter at the MusicaSacra forum suggested it might be Benjamin Britten’s Festival Te Deum: that’s the only score I’ve found that has ascending O-O-Os, so perhaps he is right.
But most lovely and stirring of all is this piece a Twitter responder reminded me of: not the Te Deum, but rather the Non Nobis. I remember how I was moved to tears by this music (and this scene) when I saw Branagh’s Henry V several years back. I meant to buy the soundtrack (score by Patrick Doyle) but forgot all about it. How is that possible? This—this is unforgettable.
This quiet blog must make it obvious I’m still taking it slow and easy after last week’s excitement. We’ve kept mostly to home, except for piano lessons. Our old high-tide mood is upon us, has been for a couple of weeks, so there are lots of read-alouds and lively discussions going on (this I can do from the sofa!), and Jane is in love with a giant tome on chemistry, and Beanie and Rose are elbowing each other for FlashMath turns on my iPod Touch, unaware that this game is nothing but math drills. I guess if it’s on the Touch, it’s automatically fun?
Yesterday Beanie asked for a turn on the computer to play “the typing game,” which means the Mavis Beacon typing tutorial CD-rom. Jane hunted it up for her. But I think she might enjoy this new discovery even more: the BBC’s online Dance Mat Typing site. I found the link at Educating Emme. Personally, I’m a little mixed on these lessons—the whole rock-and-roller goat thing wears thin very quickly. I mean, he’s a goat. On the other hand, I love his Scottish accent. On his tongue, banal phrases like “use either of your thumbs on the space bar” become delightful dialogue.
On the other hand, he’s a goat.
(And his cartoon hands—a goat with hands?—in the keyboard demos: shudder.)
Originally published in November, 2005 as “The Purple Cow Hula-Hooped Boisterously.”
This is a game we played in the car yesterday, all the way to town and back. I assigned each of the girls a part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb (one girl had to take two parts in each round). From there it went something like this:
Me: Miss Noun, what is it?
Beanie: A giraffe!
Me: Miss Adjective, what kind of giraffe?
Jane: A hungry giraffe.
Me: Miss Verb, what did the hungry giraffe do?
Rose: It bounced!
Me: Miss Adverb, how did the hungry giraffe bounce?
All together: THE HUNGRY GIRAFFE BOUNCED ENTHUSIASTICALLY!