Monday, April 26, 2010

Symphonic Animal Sounds

Outside our windows is a good-sized pond, fields, a farm and the woods. We are surrounded by animal sounds night and day. I actually forget how loud some of them are until we have company and they stop short, mid-sentence to wonder at the incredible cacophony from behind the house. They usually look to us with wondering eyes until we explain the mysterious sound with one word - geese.

This weekend, however, we took the animal noises one step further - we attended a performance by the BSO at the Meyerhoff that was all about animals - Carnival of the Animals. It was a wonderful experience. Before the performance, children could get their faces painted, create a paper animal mask, visit with birds from the Maryland Zoo (we saw Candy Crane for the second time this week - she had been at our local library on Wednesday), and visit with some of the musicians to take a sneak peak at the instruments that create the "animal sounds." During the performance, before each piece the narrator explained what we would be hearing. While the symphony played brief pieces of music inspired by different animals, puppeteers acted out that animal in a very imaginative way. Our whole family was delighted, including my five-year-old who can be hard to please in loud, crowded places. We each had our favorite puppet act and piece of music, but I think in general the audience had the most fun with the final performance - "Finale" from the William Tell Overture by Gioacchino Rossini. This had babies bouncing, the audience clapping, and children pretending to ride horses and ponies in their seats.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Prodigious Pollen

My loving husband sent flowers to my daughter and I to cheer us up (she from her broken foot, and I from my slipped disc). He sent a lovely bouquet of lilies. They are fresh, fragrant, and started to open up with vigor on Wednesday. Ironically, Wednesday was the worst allergy day of my life. Several of my girls also complained that their eyes were burning, their noses wouldn't stop running, and they felt sleepy and foggy. Actually, Wednesday was the worst allergy day of my life until Thursday and Friday. Today I finally put two-and-two together and realized it was the lilies causing the enormous reaction. I had no idea I was allergic to lilies. And in their defense, this is a terrible, horrendous allergy season on the East Coast, so it may possibly be that the lilies, in combination with they myriad of other allergens, simply tipped the scale.

Naturally, the idea of composting perfectly beautiful, still healthy cut-flowers isn't appealing, even if they do make me want to scratch my eyes out. I thought about putting them in the bedroom of one of the seemingly unaffected daughters, but then worried that perhaps she is affected but simply not as badly (until they are placed next to her bed). I finally decided on the music room (well, it's actually just the living room but because it is home to a piano, a set of drums, a guitar, a small violin and several wind instruments we've nicknamed it the music room). We do use this room, but in our open-concept house, it is the only room that could even remotely be considered separate. And while it is used during music practice, it is not used for much else. Perfect.

Now I just have to figure out where I can put my eyes until they stop burning & itching...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You know it's bad when...

This article caught my eye. The US military is concerned about the growing percentage of overweight and obese children (and adults) and the quality of school lunches. Sure took 'em long enough. Hasn't this been the headline at least once a week for the past "I-don't-know-how-many" years?

Monday, April 19, 2010


My poor little six-year-old daughter has a fractured ankle! She spent Saturday morning at the hospital getting poked and prodded, x-rays and a cast. Despite everything, still managed to smile for her picture (even wearing the lovely blue hospital pants, which were a pair of adult-one-size-fits-all paper pants, cut shorter so that they would somewhat fit her small frame).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mean Girls!!

The other day, Wendy, over at Athena Academy, had an entry on "mean girls" (to read it, click here). I commented that we've dealt with mean girls at my house. And yesterday, we had to deal again. The so-called "mean girls" are two nine-year-old girls from the neighborhood (one across the street, the other about six houses down). They took the mud cookies and brownies that my 6- and 8-year-old daughters had made off the tray, threw them to the ground, and stomped on them. One of them also called my daughters "stupid heads" among other things. Naturally my girls burst into tears and came to get me. I stepped outside and called the girls over (just to find out what was going on because at that point it wasn't clear). They took one look at me and hightailed it out of our yard and back across the street.

This incident led to a very lengthy conversation with my daughters (and also a conversation with my best friend as we remembered some of the mean girls from our past - and those girls, who might very well be nice people as adults, remain "mean girls" in our heads). See? You don't need to go to public school to experience negative socialization. At least we had a teaching moment (trying to see the glass half-full here...).

My husband arrived home just as this incident was winding down and he met my eyes with a little fire in his own. He turned to my daughters and said, "Well, not everyone is going to like you guys, and not everyone likes mud cookies. Stay away from those girls - why hang out with people that don't like you and don't like mud cookies?"

Why indeed? Good point. Anyone that doesn't like mud cookies can't be worth it. ;)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Weekly Journals

I've thought about using some courses from Connect the Thoughts next year, but in looking over the curriculum I wasn't sure how it would work for my girls. It can be hard to get a good feel for something from a few pages of online samples. I joined the Yahoo group and was pleasantly surprised to find that my questions about the curriculum were answered by the author. I also scoured various online message boards for reviews, and found that the people that have used it have generally positive things to say.

Hmmm. Very interesting. But not interesting enough to make me buy a course simply to 'give it a try.' I wasn't ready to commit to such a big change. Then something wonderful happened - a perfect cosmic coincidence. The author decided to provide one of his courses for free. (You can check it out here.) The course title is Weekly Journal: Where Next Week Lives and it's a bit of everything all rolled into one. Some current events, some history, some music, art, etc., etc., etc. Basically the author has picked key people/events that occurred "on this day" in history, provided some text, some links to computer sites, etc., and asked for written responses. There are also private entries asking the student to reflect on personal thoughts, wishes, questions, etc. Because it follows the same basic format of all of the CTT courses, it gives a good idea of what to expect from other topics (like World History or Science).

I thought my children would absolutely balk at the idea of writing in their journals every day. We currently do a weekly journal every Friday, and sometimes they whine about that. So I decided to present it to my oldest daughter and tell her it was a trial for next year (she has been very involved in the decision-making process for next year's curriculum choices). But as soon as the 2nd and 3rd sisters saw the journal, they were interested. I read them the beginning pages and they wanted to try to (the course has a lower level available here). I was hesitant to actually print it out and give it to them, but I have to admit that they are thoroughly enjoying the course! I figured that my six-year-old would need lots of help, but that hasn't been true. She does need help looking up locations in an atlas, but for the most part she is capable of going through and writing her responses on her own. The youngest doesn't do the course, but has learned from osmosis when the others read aloud the text portions and their findings from internet searches. And I've been interested in the topics as well. It's been fun to learn "random" bits of history.

I'm not making any promises that the novelty won't wear off, but if you're looking for a change or for something academic to take along on a vacation, break, etc., this is definitely worth looking into - especially given the fact that the price (free) is right!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pain in the Neck

In addition to my planning worries, I now have an actual, literal pain in the neck. Apparently I slipped a disk between my C4 and C5 vertebrae and a nerve is pinched as a result. This doesn't sound too bad, but let me say that the pain is absolutely excruciating. My husband actually came home early today (this is quite rare) to help me with the kids, their activities and the household chores. I am trying hard - very hard - not to be too annoyed, but I am fairly aggravated. I am not someone to lie around taking it easy, resting it up in the middle of the day. I can actually feel my blood pressure rising at the thought.


Hopefully the doctor I see tomorrow will be able to magically push things back where they go and, Voila! - instant cure. Fingers crossed. Wishes sent out into the universe. Positive mental images created....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Cleaning...

... bites this year. Usually I love cleaning and organizing (I know, I'm weird) but not today. I feel overwhelmed by the number of unfinished projects in our home (projects I did not start and cannot finish because they involve framing walls and installing electricity and don't seem to be going anywhere as the "project starter" is busy at work... I'm not bitter). I feel overwhelmed by the amount of homeschool-related paperwork and books I've accumulated over the years and want to re-organize everything. I'm aggravated by the amount of pollen that keeps building up on furniture just after I dust (I suppose I could keep the windows closed but then we'd be without the fresh air!).

I think I'm just having a bad day. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and have felt stuck in a quagmire of cleaning and organizing all day. My plan was to spend most of my day sorting through homeschool stuff, and instead I ended up cleaning out and organizing the laundry room (which is teeny tiny so one has to wonder how it could have taken so much time). I guess I can have a bad day now and then, but I don't have to like it.

I am trying very hard to be cheerful about the fact that my laundry room is now functional, but like I said, I think I'm just having a bad day. Call me Alexander. Everything seems to be a mess today. Which I suppose means tomorrow will be better... (repeating this over and over to myself so that it will be true).

Friday, April 9, 2010

From the Madhouse to Hogwarts

I love the Harry Potter series. We are currently listening to book three in our car, and I find myself taking the long way home so that I can keep listening. I'm even contemplating a long drive to an undetermined destination so that we can finish book three and move on to book four. Maybe camping? And I'm debating about changing our spine in school from History to Harry Potter. Okay, that may be taking it a bit far, but all kidding aside I do think we're going to have to do some school work from the wizarding world. I think we can definitely cook up some cool chemistry and have a Potions Class.

I promise not to be as intimidating as Professor Snape.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

French Revolutionaries

- This is the type of photo to save and use as blackmail when they are teenagers!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Magnolia Monkey

My five-year old daughter, climbing inside a huge magnolia tree, hidden from outside view.

Monday, April 5, 2010


All I can say is that despite the beautiful weather, Monday is off on the wrong foot at our home. I need to find a way to turn it around... and quick!

"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." ~James Dean

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Still Undecided

Today was quite full. We did lots of fun things - science experiments, cooking from Ancient Rome, and art, art, and more art. I could do art projects every day and do nothing else and be happy. Sigh.

But while I was scrubbing paint off the kitchen counters, stools, and from the grout between the floor tiles, I was thinking about next school year. Again. I feel like I'm sick in bed and the only thing on television is the same episode of the same re-run I've seen 100 times before, but I keep watching it rather than turn off the TV. Except in this case it's the same homeschooling questions over and over. I'm bored with it myself. I know that each year I go through a similar deliberation process. Why do I bother? I inevitably end up back where I started. I could save myself the time and just skip it. So what gives?

I firmly believe we do things over and over - even things which upon first glance may seem detrimental - because we get something out of it. Therefore, I must be getting something out of it. If a friend told me this story, I'd tell them something fantastically smart and encouraging, like "Clearly, you go through all the alternatives each year and end up choosing the same as before so that you can see how what you choose actually is the best for you and your family."

That would be so kind. I might even believe it if I were saying to someone other than me. But I am me and I don't believe myself for a second. Nope.

So. What do I get out of this self-inflicted torture? I don't know, but I'm working on figuring that out! Until then, I remain undecided about next year.