Topics of discussion on the way to Trader Joe’s with an eight-year-old

February 10, 2017 @ 3:37 pm | Filed under: Huck, These People Crack Me Up

–Did it rain last night or is that condensation
–Wait, I thought “morning dew” meant poop
–Various spellings and meanings of do/dew/doo
–Ice/water/steam, water vapor, why condensation happens
–Is that guardrail crumpled from a car crashing into it
–Why are they called “action figures” instead of dolls
–Where do you think the monkey will be hidden this time
–Are peanut butter crackers sweets
–Sewing, pros and cons
–What to spend birthday money on: probably K’nex
–That bus is too long to be Steve’s
–Why does Steve ride the bus
–What does “qualifications” mean
–Qualifications for being on American Ninja Warrior
–Really nice job parking, mom

tuesday

February 7, 2017 @ 8:41 pm | Filed under: Current Affairs

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Reposted from Facebook, where I have had a lot to say, in these past weeks, about the DeVos nomination.

My objection to Betsy DeVos’s nomination was about, as I have expressed here so often, her absolute lack of public education experience and her shocking gaps in knowledge. Now that she’s been confirmed, you can bet I’ll be focusing on matters of policy. We have some serious watchdogging to do.

And you know what, I know not everyone here agrees with me on all matters of policy. Of course not. I can respect someone who takes a well-articulated, well-considered position even when I believe the position is dead wrong. But I cannot respect a Secretary of Education who doesn’t know the difference between measuring growth vs proficiency, and appears not to grasp what IDEA is and why a federal law protecting the rights of students with disabilities was necessary in the first place.

(That history is sobering. In 1970, five years before IDEA was passed, only one in five children with disabilities was educated in U.S. schools. Many states actually had laws excluding certain students from school, including students who were blind, deaf, or cognitively disabled. Today my son receives excellent, individualized instruction, adaptive physical education, speech therapy, and audiology/hearing aid services in our neighborhood middle school. The intensive physical therapy he received via Early Intervention (IDEA Part C) from age four months on is almost certainly the reason he can walk today.)

I don’t take IDEA for granted. The past two weeks have shown us how rapidly and dramatically things can change. That’s why I’ll be watching vigilantly. And speaking up, speaking out, marching, calling, mobilizing—whatever it takes.

Betsy DeVos, my eye is on you.

day 33: jamestown

February 2, 2017 @ 7:42 am | Filed under: Family, Photos, These People Crack Me Up

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I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that this is a recreation of the Jamestown fort. As my friend Lori said on Instagram, “the Ikea stepstools are a dead giveaway.”

The settlers are getting along all right so far, despite a stagnant water supply and a rather heated dispute about whether the fort should, or should not, have an anachronistic radio tower. I mean, why let a perfectly good tomato cage go unused?

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One young settler expressed consternation over the gap in the walls of the brick storehouse (due to the discovery of a brown widow at the bottom of the old brick pile), but his older compatriot pointed out the storehouse needed a doorway, after all. Crisis averted.

day 32: I didn’t see that coming

February 1, 2017 @ 7:08 am | Filed under: These People Crack Me Up

We’re in the car on the way to piano class. There’s a heavy sigh from the backseat—a bone-deep sigh full of longing.

“Sometimes,” says Rilla, “sometimes I wish I were a mantis shrimp.”

I’ll let you sit with that for a moment. I was baffled by this remark but Beanie knew at once what she meant.

“I know, right? Twelve color rods!”

And then they explained to me that human eyes have three photoreceptors, giving us sensitivity to red, blue, and green light. Mantis shrimp have twelve photoreceptors. Rilla was staring out the window, wishing she could see the world in more colors.

day 31: sandwiches and leftovers

January 31, 2017 @ 4:58 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, These People Crack Me Up

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1.

I wrote a quickie booknotes post last night in the five minutes between work and family movie time, but I took it down a short while later because it was too quick, too silent about events I actually have quite a lot of words for. Choice words. Not all of them fit for my kids’ ears. I’ve been speaking them elsewhere and seem to have annoyed a fair number of people. Well, that’s too bad. I suspect I’ll be saying more, not less, in days to come. Perhaps not always here, in this space which is a happy little retreat for me. But maybe here too. There is so very much to say.

(Deep breath, fingers twitching.) Not this minute. Right now, I need to work. So I’m going to just open a space for a family story or two. If you want my activist voice, come on over to Facebook or Twitter.

2.

A couple of days ago, a Girl Scout rang the bell. It’s cookie season, as you know. I turned her down with regrets, because, frankly, five dollars a box is too rich for my blood.

An hour later, another ring, another sweet kid, another set of regrets.

THREE MINUTES LATER, another doorbell chime. But this time it was our neighbor, Guy—who seriously is the nicest guy—holding out three boxes of cookies.

“I can’t say no to a little girl,” he said, thrusting Do-si-dos, Samoas, and Tagalongs into my arms. “But I also can’t eat these cookies.”

My children would like to raise a statue in his honor.

3.

My son wrote the following about me in an email to a friend: “She used to cook dinner or all the time until Dad [took over the meal prep] and now she only Cooks now and then. Her Specialties are sandwiches and leftovers.”

I may need to add that to my resumé.

4.

I had garden-y things to add to this post but my five twenty minutes are up. Tomorrow, maybe. And I’m going to re-post the one I took down yesterday (it’s not much of anything, trust me, just disconnected sentences about what we’re reading) now that I’ve had a chance to explain why I was quiet (here) over the (tumultuous) weekend.

day 30: quick book notes

January 30, 2017 @ 8:28 pm | Filed under: Books

Had my brief dip into Martin Chuzzlewit—met the Misses Pecksniff—but have sensibly put it aside until Jamie’s May read-along in favor of Great Expectations, which I need to revisit in February so I can teach it in March. Better get hopping.

Murder for Her Majesty is going over swimmingly. Huck would like to squeeze in two sessions a day.

During our Saturday night art dates, Rilla and I are listening to Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. The library audiobook checkout period is never quite long enough for us to get through a novel. This past Saturday, I was trying to finish something up and told Scott to send Rilla in a bit later than usual. Then I opened an Overdrive tab just to have the book queued up when I was ready for Art Night. And yikes! Overdrive said our loan was set to expire in one hour. So I rapidly scrapped my finish-the-other-thing plans and hollered for my girl. One hour left! Heavens. I hope we can renew it before next weekend. I always try to get auto-renew but our system is cranky about that with digital audiobooks.

 

day 26: booknotes catch-up

January 26, 2017 @ 8:33 pm | Filed under: Books

1. Picture books

    

Today is the 26th and my Goodreads log says we’ve read 23 picture books so far this year. Sounds about right; we’ve missed a couple of days here and there but not more than two or three. I may have forgotten to log something.

Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Until I went to grab the cover from Amazon just now, I didn’t realize this was out of print. The author died not long after it was published—we had the same editor, who sent me a copy, knowing my kids would love it. They truly do. Mrs. Biddlebox turns a grim, gray day around by, well, eating it up, bad mood and all. I hope your library has a copy because it looks like it has become a collector’s item, judging by the resale price.

I Scream, Ice Cream: A Book of Wordles by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Serge Bloch. Lots of punny fun from the always delightful Rosenthal.

Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss.
Diary of a Worm.
Diary of a Spider.  Everyone knows these; everyone loves these. My kids can’t listen to one without demanding all three.

The Lady with the Ship on Her Head by Deborah Nourse Lattimore. A longtime favorite of mine—my copy was signed (and delightfully doodled in) by the author when she did a booksigning at the children’s bookstore I worked at during grad school, many moons ago. Madame Pompenstance can’t figure out what kind of fancy hairdo to concoct for the king’s contest. When she bends over to scoop a few sad shells off the beach to ornament her coiffure, a tiny three-masted ship rows right onto her head. She has no idea it’s there, even though the tiny crew drops anchor below her earlobes, forming cunning little earrings; she only knows that she has a fearful headache all day long. So funny, and the art is lavish and captivating. A big hit with my gang.

Frog Girl by Owen Paul Lewis. You had me at the bit where the frog lifts the skin of the lake and takes the girl to her underwater frog village.

World Rat Day by J. Patrick Lewis and Anna Raff. A poem collection of made-up holidays. Dragon Appreciation Day is Rilla’s favorite.

2. High-tide companions

We’re still reading The Secret Horses of Briar Hill at bedtime—only a few pages at a time, because Huck is a sleepy guy at the end of the day. We can’t move it to morning because then Stevie would miss out. So I’ve started a new midmorning read-aloud; I was wanting some historical fiction to tie in with our Age of Exploration studies. Beanie suggested one of her old favorites: A Murder for Her Majesty. I haven’t read this one in ages, and possibly never aloud. SO GOOD. We’re only on Chapter 2 so far: young Alice witnessed her father’s murder and went on the run. She’s been taken in by a group of choirboys at York Minster, and they’ve just decided she should cut her hair and hide in the choir. Suspense!

3. My own meanderings

You didn’t think I really meant that Dickens quote the other day, did you? I didn’t look it up to see who said it, but “Let us have no meandering” sounds like Betsey Trotwood. Me, I’m a meanderer. After I finished Ilsa (about which: seriously, more later—not tonight because they’re waiting on me to watch the rest of Fellowship), I found myself in a familiar dither over what of a hundred (a hundred hundred!) options to choose next. Sometimes it takes me weeks to choose. It’s annoying. Just settle down and PICK something! I fight with my brain sometimes. I’ve read the openings of at least five books. One is about King Edward VII and I do mean to finish it. Another is about bees (I know, shocker), and yet another falls into my favorite subgenre: books about books. I keep dipping back into it and will probably curl up with it this weekend for real. And then there’s a (digital) stack of YA novels whispering to me. Also: I did download Martin Chuzzlewit and have chuckled through two chapters so far. I’m arriving too early at Jamie’s May Dickens read-along but her description of this particular novel piqued my interest. Realistically, though, I’ll have to shelve it soon and turn my attention to Great Expectations, which I’m teaching in March.

Oh, and I forgot the three in-progress audiobooks. What is wrong with me? Code Name Verity (edge of my seat; I’ll be recommending to Beanie; and yes I’m very late in getting to this one, which knocked everyone’s socks off a few years ago); Landmarks (still); and A Short History of Nearly Everything.

day 25: birthday

January 25, 2017 @ 9:16 pm | Filed under: Family, Photos

It’s 9pm, I’ve just sent off an assignment that was due, and we’re about to celebrate Beanie’s birthday with a viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring. (Well, half of it. It’s long. It’s late.)

This morning I taught my three local literature classes, wrapping up with a close reading of Billy Collin’s “Marginalia” with the four 7th-8th grade boys in my last class. They loved the egg-salad stains. I love them—all these kids in my little seminar-classes. Beanie’s class is developing outlines for King Lear essays, so that was a lively discussion. We sit at the outdoor tables at a taco shop (ever since our cafe closed down) near a culinary school. Today, a few minutes into our session, the lovely server at the taco shop came out with a plate full of gorgeous little tarts and pastries, beglazed, beswirled, bedrizzled. The culinary students are doing desserts this week and their instructor shares the overflow with the taco shop staff, who in turned shared the bounty with us. And ten minutes later, the chef walked past our table with a platter held high—a few dozen more confections. Into the taco shop he went, and out came our server friend with another plate to share. 🙂 Now that’s how to fuel teenage writers.

Sixteen. The child below is sixteen now, many inches taller than her mother. May her days be filled with lemon-cream surprises forevermore.

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day 24

January 24, 2017 @ 7:46 pm | Filed under: Uncategorized

I would have a lot more time to blog if I didn’t have all these executive orders to read.