The Month That Ate My Brain

June 1, 2015 @ 8:04 pm | Filed under: , , ,


Oh, May. You beautiful, terrible month. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the back of you. Massive workload, plumbing woes, multiple trips to the children’s hospital (which sounds more alarming than it ought to—here in San Diego they send your kids to Children’s for every little thing; for example: a chest x-ray when your child has pneumonia even though there is an x-ray lab RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the pediatrician’s office, AHEM, and a four-hour wait and a three-second x-ray later the radiologist will say, all right, I’ve just sent these to your doctor, zap)…but it’s June now, let’s put all that behind us.


I suppose, though, that May did have its moments. Scott surprised me with a trip to a big art supply story downtown, a wonderland full of pens singing at me. I came home with a metal brush pen, aka my new best friend, it feels amazing when you pull it across the page; and a tube of raw umber paint because I have been unsuccessful in mixing a shade the color of chocolate with my basic color palette. Rilla’s birthday breakfast is still waiting in my sketchbook to be painted. Since April, sheesh.

In May my boys’ writing class wrapped up—this was a group of nine homeschooled boys ages 10-14 whose mothers approached me about putting together an eight-week writing course. We had us some fun, let me tell you. A highlight of my spring was watching our freewrites transform from “TEN WHOLE MINUTES??!!?” to “Oh wait can I please have a bit more time?”

final freewrite

Other highlights:

Huck discovered the delights of the Oz books—specifically the Eric Shanower/Skottie Young graphic novel adaptations that Rilla loves so much. He spends a lot of time like this:


blurry photo but it’s all I got

He’s also enjoying the Magic Tree House books, like so many of his siblings before him. Scott read him the first one to get him started. The corresponding nonfiction volumes are particular favorites, and I am once again being treated to daily factoids about sharks and pirates. Never gets old.

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Penny says:

    That whole xray thing is frustrating. I’m glad all is well.

    I just reread your essay in “A Little Way of Homeschooling”. You are the bees knees you know that? It was just wat I needed to tame the curricula monster so that we can enjoy the tides and not get swept away in a tsunami. Thank you. What a wonderful book that is in so many ways.

    You have inspired me to make drawing my summer project, I hope it lasts forever. My girls are excellent drawers, I want to catch up a little!

    (And if you think of it, and have time, could you please link to the metal brush pen? They are pen crazy at the moment)

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Penny, the metal brush pen was a find inspired by Jonathan Twingley’s (rather amazing) class at Sketchbook Skool. (About which I cannot rave enough. transformative, seriously.) I started a pen post this morning and with luck I’ll get it up this afternoon, but for now, this post offers a wonderful description of this pen and its capabilities. I bought a Speedball metal brush nib and a plastic Speedball pen holder, each about $1.50. Or you can buy a set with different sizes of nibs. These are dip pens so you’ll need a bottle of ink as well. Huge fun. The springy feel of the nib is MARVELOUS. You can use the edge for a fine line or pull flat with the nib for a nice fat line. Lots of possibilities. I’m addicted.

      Here’s an example at Amazon (affiliate link): but don’t buy that one because it is several times the price I paid. A good art supply store will likely sell individual nibs under two bucks. The difference between a steel brush pen and a regular calligraphy nib is the layers of springy metal — hard to explain but the post linked above shows a side view with lots of demo examples. It just has such a great FEEL.

      Something else I’ll add here (and undoubtedly re-mention in my new post later) is how wonderful a time Huck is having with dip pens and ink — he is much more interested in “practicing” handwriting that way than with, say, a pencil. I put “practice” in quotes because I don’t call it that or call his attention to what he’s doing. He’s just a boy dipping a pen in an inkwell and having a fine old time. “Look, I wrote my name!” 🙂 (This reminds me of the astute John Holt quote about “practicing” music–he pointed out that we do it a disservice by calling it practicing. You are *playing* piano, even when you are practicing. I am drawing, even when I am practicing drawing. It’s all the thing itself.

      As for the x-ray annoyance–it’s EVERYTHING here! Your kid needs two stitches, you have to pack up and leave the ped’s office and drive to Children’s. Drives. Me. Crazy. I actually chose our primary doctor because she’s in a clinic with a lab and x-ray on the premises. Hahahaha joke’s on me.

      • Penny in vt says:

        Thank you so very much. Love the Holt quote.

        I’m at the dentist right now, waiting for, you guessed it, X-rays.

  2. Emily D. says:

    I love those Graphic Oz novels. Some of my favorites! I wish they’d do all the books.
    That sketch of the boys writing is great! Yay SBS!

  3. Amanda says:

    Melissa, I rarely comment, but read often. You inspire me so with the way you model learning! Your sketch is wonderful! I would really love to hear a little more about how you ran your writing class. My son is almost 11 and with 4 more boys coming up I need your writer/mother/teacher wisdom. 🙂

    I’d love to put together a class like that or find someone who would. It’s just sounds awesome. Thanks for the little glimpses into your life.

  4. maria says:

    Agreeing! Ugh May.
    My sincere empathy about the plumbing issues. May was generous in the same way at my house.
    And it was also a sick month for usas well. No trips to the dr thankfully, but loads of time in bed and on the sofa for all of us. Agreeing, quite glad those aspects of May are done!

    Oh art supplies! *happy sigh* Lets see, book store or art supply shoppe? Book store or art supply shoppe? Love them both so!

    Your writing class sounds so amazing! What a joy!
    Agreeing w/Emily, that drawing is great!

    Okay, those braids! Those eager eyes glued to a book. That wonderful blurry photo, a portal to by gone days of my oldest and youngest at those ages. *sigh* And if that wasn’t enough, you mention the Treehouse Books! Oh be still my memory lane wandering heart. *bitter sweet sigh*

  5. lesley austin says:

    That sketch of “your boys” is just wonderful.

  6. Brigie Mary says:

    see, now THAT’s the kind of post readers just LOVE to wander through – bits we
    can relate to, local atmosphere, Scott gets a nod as per and plenty-o-pictures!
    It could be a timing thing, because the day is only half used out here on the rainy
    East Coast, nevertheless this is an AM shout back of love-to-read-what-you-write!
    Well done! :)!

  7. Tabatha says:

    I like that John Holt quote too — thanks for sharing it. Your sketch is delightful. I’m sorry about the medical run-arounds. They can be so exasperating!

  8. Ellie says:

    Lissa, I cannot imagine having to do that sort of running around with the kids for tests/stitches etc! How awful. Here, I can’t think of any clinic we go to that doesn’t have labs and xrays right there …. Joshua’s got lots of specialists: some are at the Children’s Hospital, others are at different clincis, but you don’t have to go back to Children’s if so&so somewhere else needs an xray … (Getting an arm put in a cast, say, or needing an ultrasound, that’s different). Ugh. I’m sorry. (Move here!).

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      It’s so frustrating. Rady Children’s is a top-notch hospital, which seems to have the effect of discouraging San Diego pediatricians from handling things on their own. Maybe it has more to do with the insurance companies, who knows. But we’ve been with two practices here now and have had the same experience with each. What’s truly maddening is that you drive to Rady, wait forever for your x-ray, and then the tech says “there, I’ve just sent the films to your doctor!” Which means my doctor could just as easily send the films to the pediatric radiologist, if he doesn’t feel capable of reading them himself.

      The worst, the absolute worst time, was when one of the girls fainted in the doctor’s office. She is prone to low-blood-pressure dizzy spells, just like her mother. When she stood up from the exam table, she came up too fast and fainted. The doctor INSISTED on calling an ambulance to take her to Children’s. I protested mightily. I lost. But I did prevail when the fire department showed up, prepared to escort her to the nearest ER (at another hospital, not Children’s). I knew from painful experience that *that* ER would just want to shunt us to Children’s, at considerable expense for medical transport. The paramedics said “We HAVE to take her to the nearest hospital, it’s policy.” I said, “The nearest hospital won’t treat her because she’s under 18, you KNOW they’ll just ship her to Children’s.” They finally capitulated. I followed in my car and by the time I got to the ER at Children’s, they were already prepared to discharge her. “Fainted, right? Probably stood up too fast.”

      • Scott says:

        “I followed in my car and by the time I got to the ER at Children’s, they were already prepared to discharge her. ‘Fainted, right? Probably stood up too fast.’”

        “Here’s your bill—note all those pretty zeros! Have a nice day!”

      • Ellie says:

        Ok, wait. Clinics can’t even handle a faint?!? That takes the cake. Wow.