Even the sick days are pretty darn great.

February 1, 2013 @ 8:08 pm | Filed under: , , ,


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.

Walter Crane illustrationYou 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.

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11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Little Willow says:

    Happy new month to you! 🙂

  2. sarah says:

    That is my copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I grew up with those illustrations! I still have the book, although a couple of pages are missing. How could I not fall utterly into a lifelong love of stories, considering I owned that book since I was five years old?

    I saw that course available and sighed over it as I thought it was too late to sign up.

    I’m sorry you’ve been sick, pineapple is good for coughs, lemon and honey, eucalyptus, a cut onion (pressed against your chest if you can stand it) … I know these things as I still have remnants of my own cough, seven weeks later. Which I suppose doesn’t speak highly for the remedies, but then again I no longer feel like I am going to die from coughing, so that’s something.

  3. Melissa Wiley says:

    Sarah, still not too late!

  4. Tina says:

    I love the colored pencils! Can you post a pic of what last year’s graph looked like? I am reading the info on the website but its not entirely clear to me so I’d love to be able to see how you do it and how you use the different colors? This is all brand new to me but even my 12yr old that usually doesn’t agree with anything I think would be fun, said she thought that sounded like it might be fun. SCORE! 🙂

  5. Melissa Wiley says:

    Here’s an older post with a picture. Click on the picture for a better view. We use a different color for each city, to help keep them straight. The numbers on the side are just our key: which city goes with which color. 🙂

  6. Tina says:

    Thank you!!!!

  7. Sandra says:

    We are looking forward to starting Mystery Class on Monday. Our best year was 2010 when we were one of the Mystery classes. Mr 12 had done the project for the first time the year before and was keen to apply when they asked for volunteers to be a mystery class the following year. Being outside the US was a big help in being selected I think. For a kid who still hates to write he did a great job. His sister – then 9 – didn’t know he was the mystery class and it was hilarious watching her realise one of the classes had a similar latitude to us, and a similar longitude and was in the same country and then was our city. I’m not sure who got the biggest kick out of the big reveal – him because we’d managed to keep the secret or her because mystery class number 4 actually originated from her house!

  8. Fanny Harville says:

    Here’s a wonderful book by a friend of mine about Walter Crane; worth getting from the library or inter-library loan:

  9. Melissa Wiley says:


    USD had a copy—it’s on its way. Thanks so much for the tip. Looks fascinating!

  10. shaun says:

    God bless you for spelling out the Journey North steps! I am not a sequential thinker and cannot quite string together the order on my own. I feel like Joseph Gordon Levitt in The Lookout, but with fewer guns.

    The Eric Rabkin class seems very popular — I have heard of many taking it. That gives me a special thrill — I didn’t know Prof. Rabkin, but he was at Michigan while I was getting my doctorate and was a very popular instructor.

  11. Rachel says:

    Thank you for mentioning Coursera and the Fantasy class. I signed my two girls up and while at 12 and 14 it’s a reach for them, it’s been a good reach. It’s been especially perfect for my 14 year old who’s a voracious reader but cries when you ask her to write. She’s a walking encyclopedia of fairy tales, so having the Grimm tales as the first week’s assignment was a wonderful way to ease her in, and in the second week she surprised me with her detailed knowledge of Alice in Wonderland. It’s still a struggle to get her thoughts down on paper, but the 300 word essays are do-able. We’re all enjoying the lectures by Professor Rabkin, too. Thanks for being such a great resource and inspiration!