Archive for the ‘Snippets’ Category

Too wiped even to think of a title.

May 2, 2011 @ 6:41 pm | Filed under:

This blog is likely to be photo-heavy in the weeks (months?) to come, and light on words, because I’m immersed in the book.

I love other people’s photo-blogs anyway.

Gratuitous nasturtiums photo.

I really don’t have it in me to craft elegant prose tonight, having spent the afternoon digging through land records and censuses. There is nothing quite like the feeling, I must say, of scanning a census for one particular name and finding another family you recognize, all their names and ages looking right up at you, this young woman you spent last week tracking listed there, twelve years old, living five households away from the boy she will grow up to marry. Five households away!

Other tidbits from today:

More yard work in the morning before it got too hot. The oven winds are blowing; the grass is suddenly crunchy underfoot.

I found a plastic fish in the weeds and Rose cleaned it off and filled a pot with water for Huck and Rilla, and they spent an hour floating their fish in the pond. Bare feet, water splotches on patio, chubby legs crouching. Love.

Rilla wrote a letter today “To the Fairys. A Ladybug or a Fawn.” She was rummaging through the kitchen drawer looking for a stamp when I happened upon her. “Oh good, Mommy. I need you to write the address to mail it. With my pink pen that also writes in pink.”

I’ve been reading mostly nonfiction lately, much of it research-related, but today I wanted a respite from facts and I picked up that delicious morsel of a book, The Uncommon Reader, which I first read a couple of years ago. It’s a quick read and was even more delightful this time around.

I did not plant these. They just grow. Rilla says they’re hers.


April 19, 2010 @ 6:01 am | Filed under: , ,

I have had this post sitting open on my screen all week. What kind of week is it when you can’t even get a snippets post written?

And yet it’s not that we’ve been so terribly busy. Just regular busy.

It’s rainy here and that throws me off in every way. I’m not complaining, mind you—we need the rain. It’s San Diego; we always need the rain.

Out there in the wet backyard, the salvia has erupted into bloom. And suddenly the sunflowers are fencetop-high and fat-budded. The cilantro went and flowered on me again. I can’t be annoyed—I love those flat, cascading planes of white blossom. Little gleaming golden flies love them too, tiny lace-winged things so shiny they could be crafted of metal. Pollinating nanobots? Suppose it comes to that someday!

I got to slip out on Tuesday night and meet Scott and everyone he works with for a screening of The Losers, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The film is based on comics by our pals Andy Diggle and Jock, whom we met in Barcelona two years ago this week. Jock’s got art all through the film: very cool.

It rained most of that week in Barcelona, too. Good art museum weather. But I think today we’ll not venture forth—anywhere. Feels like more of a popcorn-and-movies day. Jane and I are halfway through The Importance of Being Earnest (thank you, Wii-streaming Netflix). The littles are on a My Neighbor Totoro kick—have I mentioned before that I think that is the most perfect children’s movie ever made? Because that’s what I think. We were given a copy on video when Jane was stuck in the hospital for months, around age two. I bet I’ve watched it over a hundred times. (Stuck in the hospital for months.) It’s a perfect movie.

I am looking forward to reading The Day I Became an Autodidact—Jane chuckled all the way through it. But I’ve promised her to read The Perilous Gard first—another Elizabeth Marie Pope novel. An easy promise to keep; you know how much I loved The Sherwood Ring.

I’m also deep into, and enjoying tremendously, Crow Planet, which arrived in a happy bundle with Caw of the Wild and In the Company of Crows and Ravens, thanks to the generosity of a very kind friend and crow lover. Thank you so much, You-Know-Who-You-Are. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Speaking of delightful surprises, how nice is this? Love. That. Ramona.


March 13, 2010 @ 2:26 pm | Filed under: , , , ,

• Rose has taken a shine to the Handbook of Nature Study. Mind you, this is a book I have lunged for on a regular basis throughout her entire life, but this week after we read about crows in it, it was like she discovered it for the first time. I found out the next morning that she took it to bed with her and stayed up late reading about turtles and chipmunks. All day yesterday, she was reading me interesting tidbits about squirrels. And she pointed out that while it would certainly be handy to have an iPod-sized edition to carry around with us, she “wouldn’t have been able to flip through it and find random bits of interest.” Nor, she added as an afterthought, “curl up in bed with it.” She has a point there.

• Remember when the alligator lizard scared the pants off my husband? Yesterday was my turn. I picked up an old plastic pot from the side yard and saw some sidewalk chalk inside. Reached in for the chalk and the pot started violently shaking in my hand—something under the chalk scrabbling around and around. Yes, I screamed. And dropped the pot. And watched the lizard scurry into the grass. And hollered for the kids to come quick before it disappeared. And pretended to be all calm and cool and nature-mama. And lost a year off my life, I’m sure.

Lark Rise to Candleford update: We’re a little behind. I didn’t much care for the Harvest Festival episode, the one with the plot about the constable and Pearl (not to give too much away). Didn’t buy it. But—I think this was the same episode—I loved the scene in which Alf respectfully, ruefully tells Robert Timmins why he wants to be a farmer. Loved the warm gleam in Robert’s eye as he recognized a fellow craftsman’s passion for his work, the work he is meant to be doing. But then, I just plain love the character of Robert Timmins, period. Possibly because he is a lot like my husband. Blunt, outspoken, humorous, tender, mercurial, passionate about his craft and his family. Yeah. I know that guy.

• I scored 167 points on a single word—corncrib—in Words With Friends. (Scrabble-like app for the iPod Touch.) I’m just saying. EVERYWHERE I POSSIBLY CAN.

• The crows are discarding their empty peanut shells in our birdbath. Ingrates.

• I may actually have to start a whole blog category here for crows. What’s geekier: that or bragging about a Scrabble word score?

• You don’t really have to answer that.


March 5, 2010 @ 11:39 am | Filed under: , ,

I’ve been writing the occasional “snippets” post for years, when I had a bunch of shortish things to say. But Conversion Diary Jen’s “7 Quick Takes” meme (now in its 71st edition) is much nicer—so pleasantly organized and a nice spirit of camaraderie about it—and I always enjoy reading the quick takes posts on other people’s blogs. I don’t know that I’ll pull it off every Friday, but now and then might be fun.

1. You know one reason I haven’t done a Quick Takes post before? It’s the glitch in my blog layout that won’t let me center properly. I think when I center images, they are centered on the whole page—but the main text column sits a bit to the right of center because of the blue ribbon. So the visual effect is that centered images appear off-center, and this drives me crazy. And every time I thought about participating in Quick Takes, I got hung up by the off-kilteredness of the button. Yes, I know I could simply omit the button. But…but…nope, can’t do it. Ah well, I am decidedly off kilter myself, so I don’t know why I should expect anything different from my blog.)

2. Earlier this week Beanie looked up from a Percy Jackson book to ask what an eclair is. It’s my duty as a homeschooler to show her firsthand, right? You know I’m all about the hands-on learning.

3. Even earlier than that this week, we went to Balboa Park with my parents and 13-year-old niece as a last outing before they departed for home (Colorado) that afternoon. Visited the science museum and had lunch at the Japanese tea house. The rice bowls there are huge and delicious. Later we saw a man in hipwaders in the lily pond. Beanie worried about the snapping turtles. Have I mentioned how much I adore Balboa Park? And also visits from my family.

4. I knew my kids were looking up pillbugs online, but I didn’t see their search term until later: “roly poly food.” I guffawed. (If you’re wondering: “decayed vegetable matter,” they informed me. Which explains why they were harvesting bits of my baby lettuces and leaving them out to decay.) Alice says an old potato makes excellent roly-poly food too. Turns out she is practically an expert on the subject. Many talents, that woman.

5.  New favorite iPod Touch app: Words with Friends, a Scrabble-like game. My teenager is a formidable opponent.

6. Speaking of the teenager, here are some books I’ve seen her reading recently:

• HONEY, MUD, MAGGOTS & OTHER MEDICAL MARVELS (a tome from my Martha-book reference shelf)


• ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card


• MUSASHI #9 (a manga title)

• the latest issues of MUSE and ODYSSEY

• THE HOMESCHOOL LIBERATION LEAGUE (a Semicolon recommendation)

• CHARLES AND EMMA: THE DARWINS’ LEAP OF FAITH by Deborah Heiligman. (I’m reading the latter now myself, and it’s got me working on a post about my favorite literary naturalists—so far I’ve got Dan from JO’S BOYS, Calpurnia Tate, and of course Dickon of THE SECRET GARDEN.)

7. And to finish off, a mini-photoessay about my little bird-lover.

Admiring the dear finches at the feeder. They fill her with wonder and delight and…

…an irresistible urge to practice karate kicks. “To scare them away,” she tells me, aiming another fierce kick their direction and shouting “HI-YAH!”

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.


October 17, 2009 @ 7:56 pm | Filed under: , , , , ,

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!

Tropical-FlowersThe 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.

Here it is on YouTube, performed at the University of Utah. I must say I’m partial to the setting in C major by Charles Villiers Stanford. The Elgar, too, is lovely and stirring.

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.

Like Mother, Like Blogger

September 29, 2009 @ 7:19 am | Filed under: ,

Jane shares my relish for a good little-kid story and often emails me choice snippets of conversations she has overheard. This one made me laugh out loud for real (LOLFR?).

Rilla, AKA ‘mommy’: “I want a lollipop!”

Beanie: “No, you’re too sick to have a lollipop.”

Rilla: “But I WANT one!”

Beanie: “Oh, fine, here’s one.”

Then she pulled out an invisible lollipop.

And Rilla said: “No! I want a RED one!”

Snippets, Because That’s All I’ve Got Brain For

December 11, 2008 @ 9:01 am | Filed under: ,

I’m reaching the point in the pregnancy where if I’m quiet for a day or two people start to wonder if they’ve missed some big news. But no, I’m just sparing you the incoherent ramblings of a scattered mind. Except right now I’m not sparing you. Blame it on the sweet people who’ve written to ask if all’s well. 🙂

All is well. Baby’s still very happy in there, doing a lot of enthusiastic rib-pummeling. Matter of fact, Beanie thinks “Pummel” would be a good name. (I guess it’s a step up from Peccatoribus.) Rose and Bean have already given the child the obligatory superhero name. All children in this family must have one, I’m told. Apparently I am the mother of the mighty “Airborne.” I am not sure what this bodes for the delivery.

The day before yesterday I returned to my car after an OB appointment and discovered a very large pickup truck was parked so close to my vehicle that I could not possibly squeeze my enormous belly into the space between. I had to climb in from the passenger side. This maneuver attracted the attention of a small, amused crowd. Which turned out to be a boon, because it took the help of a small crowd to get my minivan backed out of the ridiculously tight space without scratching the Very Large Truck.

That same day was Wonderboy’s 5th birthday. And Scott’s 40th. I think it’s awfully sweet that my boys share a birthday. And not just because it means I can get away with baking just one cake. Actually, my big girls do most of the cake-baking around here. This year we tried something new: a peppermint cake, because mint is Scott’s favorite. We added a few drops of red food coloring to the white frosting with the intention of making swirly red lines like on a candy cane. But, um. Everyone wanted a turn at the swirling. By the time we got the cake frosted, there was no swirl action left—just a smooth and lovely blending of red and white. Which is to say: pink. That’s right. We gave our boys a pretty pink cake.

Of course they didn’t care what it looked like. It tasted goooood.

We’ve always tended to go minimalist with birthday presents, and this year even more so. Wonderboy’s present from us was so simple and small-scale it will probably horrify some people, but it has been even more beloved than I expected. We gave him a bag of these sweet crayon rocks from Stubby Pencil Studio. He is enchanted by them. I ‘wrapped’ them in a plain paper gift bag, which he immediately set to work coloring with his wayo-wocks. For the past two days, he has toted that gift bag everywhere, pausing anywhere there’s a low, flat surface to take out his wocks and add a few more swirls of color to the bag. This may be my favorite gift I’ve ever given, just because it has brought my little guy such satisfaction.

(Oh, I just remembered Scott’s guitar. OK, then, it’s a tie.)

Twittered Moments

December 1, 2008 @ 7:44 am | Filed under: ,

I’ve mentioned before that what I love most about Twitter is how well it lends itself to quickly chronicling tiny moments of our day: the funny quote, the one-sentence sketch of a moment in time. Days will pass where I have no time to write a proper post, but I can manage a quick tweet about something I don’t want to forget. And I would forget, if I weren’t writing them down. My friends Dave and Julianna used to (maybe still do) keep a piece of paper stuck to their fridge as a place to hastily jot down the hilarious or profound things their children would say. Whenever we visited their house, I’d find myself drawn to that sheet of family treasure. For me, Twitter serves the same purpose.

Here are a few of the snippets I’ve tweeted in recent days:

Beanie: “Mom, if there’s one thing I won’t ever NOT want to do, even when I grow up, it’s play boat in a cardboard box.”

It’s going to be fun to visit her house when she’s grown up.


I ordered Jane some much-needed clothes from Lands End. Too bad I accidentally had them shipped to my parents’ house in Denver. Doh.

A cool thing happened after I tweeted this. I got a follow notice from @LandsEndChat and when I clicked through to check it out, I saw a message addressed to me! The Lands End rep was kindly offering to help me correct my error. I wrote back to explain that it was too late for Lands End to help—I noticed my mistake when I checked the UPS tracking info. The package shipped last week and will likely arrive at my parents’ house tomorrow. But still—I have to say I think that’s a pretty savvy way for companies to use Twitter: track people’s gripes and reach out with proposed solutions. Well done, Lands End.


Breakfast at my house: “Wonderboy! We DO NOT throw whales in the kitchen!”

Wonderboy begs to differ.


Beanie on embroidery: “My favorite part is the pleasant pop!” She means when the eye of the needle pops through the fabric.

When Alice read this one, she IMd me ROFL—it had reminded her of a certain knitting-needle-popping-a-diaper incident from one of our family rendezvous years ago.


I am pretending I didn’t just hear one of the girls scold Wonderboy for licking the cap of the milk jug. Ew.


Oh that was so nice! Cuddling Rilla as she fell asleep in big girls’ room, while Scott read aloud Sign of the Beaver to us all.

I should write more about this. I am loving our new bedtime routine. Scott puts Wonderboy to bed first, and when he’s asleep, the rest of us gather in the girls’ room. Rilla’s new bed is on the way, but for now she is sleeping on that little futon I mentioned last week. By day three of the switch, she was on board and looks forward to her nursing time every night. I curl up on the futon with her, and the other girls are tucked in their beds, and Scott reads aloud to us. It’s been four or five years since I read Sign of the Beaver to Jane. It’s every bit as gripping as I remember. From my nest on the floor I can see Beanie’s eyes grow bigger and bigger as Scott gets to the exciting parts. I know this routine will shift again in a month or so when there’s a new baby in the mix, but right now, I am savoring it like crazy.


Happy little girls: Rose’s fave jeans had big hole in knee. I turned them into shorts and made doll skirts out of the cut-off pant legs.

and the follow-up:

Said Bean: “This skirt is perfect for Kit b/c it’s the same thing her mom would have done during the Great Depression!”


Rilla has spent the past 20 min painstakingly stripping leaves from the ficus & hiding them in the piano bench.

This is a prime example of something I’m glad I wrote down because I would surely have forgotten all about it ten minutes later. It was the funniest sight to behold; she was so serious and focused as she plugged away at this self-imposed task. Yes, I ought to have stopped her from de-leafing the houseplant, but I was having too much fun watching her walk back and forth, stuffing leaves into the bench. It was like she’d found her vocation in life.


Overheard: 13yo: “I wonder why mirror neurons for yawning are so sensitive.” 2yo, shrugging: “I don’t know.”


Oh my heart: Rilla, after oohing over the fleece slippers Jane made me, runs to big sis: “You make some small ‘lippers for me? Pease?”

Needless to say, Jane did. And what adorable lippers they are.


November 7, 2008 @ 7:38 am | Filed under: ,

We have two ripe strawberries on our potted strawberry plant. It’s November. San Diego is a strange place to live after you’ve put in a couple of decades on the East Coast.

Wonderboy had an OT evaluation at the Children’s Hospital last month. I finally got the written report yesterday. It’s full of errors! I’ll have to write a list of corrections and ask for an updated report, because I don’t want inaccuracies in his file. Highly annoying.

But his IEP meeting earlier this week went wonderfully well. I think the school district finally has a read on who we are, this family of mine (especially the obnoxious, mouthy mama), and they’re meeting us where we are, now. Hooray. And oh how I love Wonderboy’s speech therapist. She really is a gem. And I’m not just saying that because yesterday she raved about the progress we’d made at home during the week and told me I should be a speech pathologist myself.

My second-favorite moment from the meeting: when, after listening to rest of the IEP team group-wrangle their statements into educationese for the Official Paperwork, I was asked to contribute the “parent goals” and I figured I’d save time by just uttering it in the IEP jargon to begin with. Moment of silence around the table, then they all burst out laughing. Me, grinning: “Did I nail it?” School district lady in charge of entering everything into the computer: “Say it again, just like that, so I can type it in.” Heh.

Favorite moment from the meeting: leaving, with my little boy’s hand in mine, and his eager voice saying, “We go home now? Go play with my tisters?”

Oh how I love that child.

On Monday, I sat down with a giant pile of picture books to read for the Cybils. Rose and Bean joined me, and we wound up sitting there for hours, reading book after book after book. Passing them around: Ooh, you’re going to love this one! (They know me well: they were right every time.) I’m going to have to write posts about some of them because there are some must-share gems in the stack. Next time you make a library run, look for Chester’s Back! by Melanie Watt. Even if you don’t have little kids. We were crying laughing, even the thirteen-year-old. Especially the thirteen-year-old. The Lucky Star and One Hen just plain made me cry. And Dinosaur vs. Bedtime? Rilla’s new Favorite Book Ever. Bet I read it six times yesterday alone. Roar!

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