Thursday, May 31, 2007


Reading is "it" now; Madeleine's favorite activity. This particular picture was taken immediately following a trip to the library. Her nose was stuck in the book from the second the van door closed to later that evening, managing to walk inside upon arriving home without losing her stride.

What's interesting about this development is that I remember doing that as a child. A lot. I remember losing myself to the outside world and not hearing ninety percent of what was going on around me if I was fully absorbed with a book, which I often was. And now Madeleine is the same way, lost in a book and unable to see or hear the world around her.

Don't you just want to jump in after her and see what's so interesting?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves

A friend of mine from Hank's preschool lent me this book awhile ago and even though this book advocates a home schooling style diametrically opposed to the philosophy we plan on adhering to, I was anxious to read it. Its author, Alison McKee, is a home schooling mom from Madison, Wisconsin who has two grown children, both "unschooled" the whole way through.

Homeschooling Our Children Unschooling Ourselves is not a how-to manual or a list of frequently asked questions; I'd be more apt to liken it to a home schooling journal. Since I don't plan on unschooling I wanted to see how unschooling worked, practically speaking, since I'd always been rather skeptical of its efficacy.

I'm still not a proponent of the philosophy. It all just seems to risky to me, and the friend who lent me the book agrees with me that it is hard trusting your child to the point where you believe that they'll express interest in learning everything they need, even basic skills like reading, adding and everything else. However, through allowing me to see into the McKee family and the children's educational progress from birth through college and beyond, the book helped lend me understanding and while I still don't subscribe to the unschooling philosophy, I can see why some do, and I don't think it's as far out an idea as I once did.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nature Preschool Wrap-Up

What a great year Hank had. As I mentioned, Hank's preschool year is over. On his last day we received a CD with over nine hundred pictures on it that his teachers took throughout the year. I've had such fun going through it and thought I would share some highlights (clicking on the picture collage will make it larger).

September 2006: harvesting the garden, making salsa, forming new friendships and exploring Wisconsin wildlife in the fall.

October 2006: chilly, wet hikes, apple harvesting, counting with dinosaurs and collecting falling leaves.

November 2006: raking, lessons on turkeys, duck watching and leaf crowns.

December 2006: snow in the sensory table, visitors from Sweden (and they brought candy--yum!), snake lessons (I believe the snake pictured is a Fox Snake, though you'd have to ask Hank for verification) and sledding (Hank's favorite preschool activity).

January 2007: more sledding, snowshoeing, lessons in animal tracks identification, playing with Spot and Dot, pajama day and snow hikes.

February 2007: making paper snowflakes, building snowmen, a Valentine's Day party (do you see my dad in the background?), a lesson on owls, examining a frozen pond and a touch and feel session with different pelts of fur and animal skins.

March 2007: March is maple sugaring month. The kids tap trees, collect sap, boil the sap (and eat s'mores while they wait!) and make their own maple syrup.

They also go sledding some more, work on their insect identification skills, go looking for birds (clearly a large stick is a necessary tool for all serious bird watchers) and relax with friends.

April: wet, wet, wet spring hikes, climbing trees, learning about eggs and how different animals reproduce, measuring water sources as the snow melts and licking up the last morsels of a favorite snack.

May: soaking wet play times on the playground, catching tadpoles, a Mother's Day party, planting a tree, planting seeds indoors, reading books outside and, finally, time for cupcakes and chatting with other children who are now old, familiar friends.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Life is noisy. Not in a loud, hearing sense, but in the sense that our brains are never quiet. For the majority of us, there's never time to just be alone and think. There are always interruptions: dinner plans, school pick-ups, friends chattering, kids asking questions; the essence of our busy lives these days are noisy.

For my birthday this year I asked for, and was given, time alone. I have not spent it as I thought I might. I imagined I might want to shop, spend time in coffee shops and poke around town. Instead I've spent most of my time reading and in quiet contemplation. I've eschewed leaving my hotel room because it means contact and exchanges with the outside world. Instead I've chosen to hide myself away, emerging only for sustenance.

And it's been lovely. Instead of thinking about laundry and dirty diapers and appointments I've quietly and peacefully been absorbed with the ideas presented in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I don't have to dismiss her or agree with her quickly and thoughtlessly; no, I can consider the ideas set forth and think about them. In quiet. And in peace.

I find that instead of meditating on one of the kids' latest escapades I'm spending more time in thought over where Ellis Wyatt and his friends have gone off too. And I know that by the time my solitude here is over that I won't want it anymore. I'm a social person by nature. I like people, I need companionship and I enjoy being a wife and mother more than I have any other role I've ever encountered in my life. Still though, this break from that reality is refreshing and much needed.

Thank you, Superdad, Dad and Diana-- what an incredible gift you've all given me for my birthday this year!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Last Day of Preschool

Yesterday was Hank's last day of preschool. Remember how unexcited he was to go on his first day? That didn't last long and, in fact, Tuesday and Thursday mornings have been the mornings he's most eager to get out of bed and get dressed; he loves his preschool that much.

But, like all good things, this too must end.

One last drive through the Nature Preschool grounds keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife while navigating the winding, twisting road.

One last bear hug good-bye for Hank's friend T_____.

One last mad dash for the front playground and one last impromptu, after school play date.

One last trip down the "fast" slide.

And one last trip for Elisabeth down the "slow" slide.

One last assembly under the bridge for rock gathering and digging.

And, finally, one last walk to the car. Good-bye, Nature Preschool. We're really going to miss you next year.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Library Elf

Have you seen the new category I added on the link list on the left called "Education Related Links?" There's one that I've found especially helpful and think many of my readers would too. A home schooling friend told me about it and I just love it.

It's called Library Elf and if you patronize a library regularly you simply must sign up for it, especially if you have multiple library card holders. You can link numerous library cards up to one account and it will automatically email you before your items are due and when you have library items on hold that you need to pick up.

It's really helped us avoid fines, especially since the kids have their own cards and are constantly checking out twenty to thirty books at a time and then some books or movies are due before others, some get returned before others, but it's still listed on my calendar as due later... you get the idea; keeping track of all of those dates and all those books and movies on my simple, paper calendar has been waaaay too confusing.

Anyway. Library Elf has been amazingly helpful and I was so thankful to have it brought to my attention that I can't help but pass the good news along!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Two of Elisabeth's favorite activities are shown in this picture: trying on everyone's shoes and leaving them all over the floor and gazing out the front door watching and dreaming of playing with siblings and neighborhood children.

Look at the sad, lonely figure. It almost makes you want to put down your cup of coffee, turn off the computer and take her outside, doesn't it? Yeah, me too, hence the delayed blogging lately.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lazy Saturday

A Saturday is never typical, at least for us. There's no routine, no structure. Appointments, parties and, most often, our whims, rule the day. This past Saturday? A combination of loafing, yard work and, for me, a night out.

We slept in. I don't think Superdad and I got out of bed until 9 a.m., which is unheard of.

The kids want waffles. They occupy themselves at the dining room table while Superdad and I slave away on buttermilk waffles, bacon, scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.

Following the meal, the big kids head out and join their friends. Superdad is off to a friend's house to borrow their tiller. He has big plans ahead of him. I clean up the kitchen and then head out and watch Elisabeth run up and down the block. Around lunchtime Elisabeth goes down for a nap and the big kids, plus a friend, request a picnic lunch. No problem!

Superdad begins his work. What's his task? Tilling up the backyard, which is one big weed. He wants to use pesticides. I don't. Who knows, he's probably right (that there's no danger in using pesticides) but poor Superdad pacifies me and, morally opposed to his task, spends five hours slaving away in the backyard with a tiny tiller. Isn't he a champ?

And how was Superdad repaid? I got to go out for a fun night with friends. Yes, I'm a lucky woman.

Superdad, on the other hand, bathed the children, fed the children, put the children to bed and then did work that he'd brought home. Yes, I'm feeling especially sorry for poor Superdad lately. He's been swamped, both with my silly requests and work.

Still though, it was a fun Saturday. And I think even Superdad would say that too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Night with Madeleine

It was four o'clock yesterday evening when Superdad's cell phone rang. It was my dad telling me he and Diana were only ten minutes away.

"Why?" I wondered.

Then I remembered. I was scheduled to chaperon a field trip Monday morning and Hank and Elisabeth would go to Silver Lake for the next twenty-four hours. I was sad to see the two little ones drive away, but recovered nicely.

"Let's do something extra special with Madeleine," I suggested to Superdad.

Into the house we went and changed into a suit for Superdad and dresses for Madeleine and me. "Lake Park Bistro," I said. In my opinion, it's the best restaurant in Milwaukee. Or at least my favorite, anyway.

Oops. Turns out you need a reservation, even early on a Sunday evening. The host, however, got us a table at Ristorante Bartolotta, another excellent area restaurant and still-- the most important consideration in Madeleine's opinion-- "fancy."

We arrived early; a full sixty minutes prior to our appointed reservation. No problem, a seat was found at the bar and a scotch was ordered (for Superdad), a Pinot Grigio (for me) and a giant, extra fruity Kiddie Cocktail (for Madeleine). Madeleine was the star of the restaurant with employees and guests alike querying her as to what, if anything, we were celebrating. "Nothing," was her shy reply. Nope, just a special night out with Mom and Dad. Madeleine, her shy personality usually eclipsed by her naughty brother and baby sister, basked in the glory of various adults paying her compliment after compliment.

When seated Madeleine continued to be impressed with all the trappings of what makes a restaurant, as she said, "fancy" as opposed to, say, McDonalds: the cloth napkins, the candles, being waited on hand and foot with no need going unmet. Every little detail was ooohed and ahhhed over-- even the food! Madeleine ordered the Polletto al Mattone (chicken, Brussels sprouts and potatoes) and loved everything but the potatoes (I thought they were delicious). She was even adventurous enough to taste Superdad's pheasant (which she liked!).

For dessert we ordered tiramisu and lemon tart and three big forks. Madeleine and Superdad preferred the lemon tart while I preferred it all.

Madeleine, much to my delight, was well behaved and quite chatty the whole evening. I worried she may not like the "weird" food-- she did. I fretted over whether she'd spill her drink-- a dropped fork was the extent of her mishaps. I wondered if she'd be able to sit in one place for a few hours and just talk and eat-- she can!

What an enjoyable time with Madeleine. Spending one on one time with any of the kids is such a treat, and last night was such a perfect evening in every way imaginable.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Seven Years

I'm not a meme type of gal (if you don't know what a "meme" is please follow the link; it will lend understanding to the rest of this entry). I apologize to all my blogger buddies who have "tagged" me in the past; I don't mean to ignore you, but I just enjoy reading memes more than I do writing them.

However, a fellow blogger, Purple Valley, altered a popular meme currently dashing about the blogosphere, and I rather liked the creativity her version allowed. I'm going to participate. My first meme!

Seven Years, Seven Events

2000: Oh, what a year! I got married in February and had Madeleine in August. Superdad started law school in September. A great, great year!

Cutting our cake

Superdad received an invitation to summer (i.e. spend the summer interning, basically) at his first choice law firm. Generally, provided they do a decent job, law students end up working at the law firm they summer with once they graduate. This is the same law firm he's with now, and the same one he identified early in law school as the firm he wanted to work with once he graduated.

2002: In July I quit my job to stay home with Madeleine, and soon to be Hank, after two years of wanting to do so.

In October, Hank is born.

Superdad and his new son

Hank, just hours old, with my mom and dad

Superdad graduates from law school in May and begins work the same firm he summered with the previous summer.

Madeleine and Superdad

We packed up our meager belongings from our apartment in Janesville and moved east, into the house we're in now.

The front porch of our "new" house (the ugly black railing is now gone)

2004: Superdad and I, plus the two kids crammed into a minivan with my mom and stepdad and drove out to New Jersey for my cousin's wedding. The affair was small and intimate and allowed a new generation, my children's generation, an opportunity to get to know each other. Madeleine was also quite impressed with New York City (though you can't tell it from this pathetic picture in which she's slouched over, asleep).

l-r Madeleine, me, Superdad, Quantum Void and Bob (I apologize for the lameness of this picture; the ones I wanted to share I apparently don't have electronic versions of, so I'm stuck with this).

2005: October is the defining month in 2005. Elisabeth is born and, days later, my mother passes away.

Superdad, Elisabeth Jane and me in the recovery room, just following Elisabeth's birth

My two girls: Madeleine and Elisabeth

2006: My dad, Elisabeth and I make one last trip to Minnesota, to see my grandfather, in June. He dies a few week later at the age of ninety-two. While there we tour rural southwestern Minnesota and see where my dad was born, visit with various cousins and stop at cemetery after cemetery confirming birth dates and death dates of generations of relatives (I love genealogy; this is neither boring nor morbid to me).

Dad and Elisabeth overlooking the fields my dad farmed as a boy.

2007: With seven months still to go, I suppose it's possible this entry might change. But I can't imagine many things more life altering will happen to us than making the decision to home school Madeleine.

There you have it. My first meme. I know it's the meme tradition to "tag" other bloggers, but I won't do that because I don't know who's interested in memes and who is not. So, if you want to copy, let me know; I'd love to read your entry.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Well-Educated Mind

As you know, I read and loved The Well-Trained Mind. As I mentioned in my post discussing it, I'd recommend it as reading to anyone interested in educational techniques and philosophies, or anyone who has kids and is interested in learning how children learn. It was compelling, to me anyway, and seemed to make a lot of sense.

One of The Well-Trained Mind's co-authors, Susan Wise Bauer, who teaches American literature at the College of William and Mary, also wrote another book, geared for adults, called The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. I don't know if this is a good book or not because I haven't read it (it mostly pertains to how to read a book and how to critically analyze the book), but I did want to see which books she highlighted as "must reads" and thought I'd offer them up for discussion. Keep in mind that the whole premise of a classical education is the integration of all subjects so the books you'd be reading for grammar, spelling and reading would mesh nicely with the period of history you were studying. That said, Bauer tries to recommend books from many different time periods so that the classical model is able to be followed.

She divides her recommendations into five categories: novels, autobiographies and memoirs, tales of historians and politicians, drama and poetry and, as I mentioned, not only makes recommendations on what to read, but how to best to critically analyze it.

Here's the list of novels she recommends. I've read some, but not most. I'll confess that a few I have little interest in, but many I do. Never mind that I forgot my pen and paper the other night at Barnes and Noble, right?

1) Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (she recommends the translation by John Rutherford)

2) The Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan

3) Gulliver's Travels
by Jonathan Swift

4) Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen (I knew there was a reason I liked Bauer!)

5) Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens

6) Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë

7) The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

8) Moby-Dick
by Herman Melville

9) Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe

10) Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert

11) Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (she recommends the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)

12) Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy (she recommends the translation by Constance Garnett, revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova)

13) The Return of the Native
by Thomas Hardy

14) The Portrait of a Lady
by Henry James

15) Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain

16) The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane

17) Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

18) The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton

19) The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

20) Mrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf

21) The Trial
by Franz Kafka (she recommends the translation by Breon Mitchell)

22) Native Son
by Richard Wright

23) The Stranger
by Albert Camus (she recommends the translation by Matthew Ward)

24) 1984
by George Orwell

25) Invisible Man
by Ralph Ellison

26) Seize the Day
by Saul Bellow

27) One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez (she recommends the translation by Gregory Rabassa)

28) If on a winter's night a traveler
by Italo Calvino (she recommends the translation by William Weaver)

29) Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison

30) White Noise
by Don Delillo

31) Possession
by A.S. Byatt

What do you think of her recommendations? I feel there are some surprising omissions but, for the most part agreed with her list though I also realize another scholar might put together a very different list. And since I haven't read most of them, nor am I a great academic, who am I to judge the quality of the list?

I'm looking at the list from a less scholarly angle: I just want to find books to read that I'll enjoy and although Oprah Book Club-ish fiction is, well, fun, I prefer to mix books that are a little weightier into what I read more often than not. Bauer said something in The Well-Trained Mind that really stuck with me, and what she said, basically, was that if you only feed your child Twinkies and McDonalds don't be surprised if they grow accustomed to that food and become overweight and develop health troubles. It's the same with with books. If your child consistently reads books with unchallenging vocabulary and simple sentence structure, don't be surprised if it's more difficult for them to tackle good books when they're adults.

What books on this list did you, my readers, enjoy? Or which ones are you interested in? Why?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Barnes and Noble

Browsing at bookstores with no kids in tow is one of my favorite activities and, to tell you the truth, I can't remember the last time I did it.

Last night I had the opportunity and Barnes and Noble didn't disappoint. I saw lots of things that looked interesting and just being among the stacks and stacks of books was invigorating. I'm kicking myself though, because I'm generally too cheap to just buy tons of new books so I always mean to take a pen and paper with me so I can write down the interesting titles and get them from the library. Guess what I didn't have with me: a pen or paper.

Now maybe in five years or so I'll get back with a pen and paper and create a new cue at the library. *Sigh.*

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Elisabeth Identifies Body Parts

Please ignore the fact that I clearly am unable to differentiate Elisabeth's ears from her eyes. In fact, just ignore me entirely.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

I had big plans for Mother's Day, most of which involved solitude and my gardens.

Instead though, spontaneity ruled the day, and it was wonderful: breakfast in bed (English muffins with honey, coffee and cantaloupe), church, family bike ride to Culver's, lunch at Culver's (think Wisconsin, think butter burgers and calories upon calories upon calories), long bike ride back home (lots and lots of racing-- I'm exhausted!), a spontaneous stop at the local bike shop, a new bike for Madeleine (seeing her so thrilled with her new bike was a wonderful present!) and a little bit of gardening upon arriving home.

I hope everyone else had just as lovely a day as I.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hank's Future Bride

For those of us who know Hank well, it's always been a bit surprising that his best friend is a little girl. Hank likes to wrestle and dig for worms and pretend his plastic dinosaurs are fighting one another. His best friend, L____, likes to play with dolls and put on dress up clothes. Still though, they seem to prefer one another as playmates.

In fact, Hank once told me, "I'm going to marry L____ when I grow up."

"You are? How do you know she'll want to marry you?"

Hank convulsed into fits of giggles, "Mom, of course she'll want to marry me; I'm her best friend."

Hank loves L____; just ask him. If he knew the word fiancée I'm quite sure he'd use it to describe L____.

Yesterday Hank was called upon to defend L____'s honor, and rose to the challenge. Hank's friend A______ was also at the school playground following the drop-off of older siblings at school. Coffee in hand, I was busy chatting with other moms content to have a few minutes of peace as Elisabeth played with her toes in her stroller and Hank ran around with his friends.

All of a sudden though, I heard yelling. It was A______ and L____. Hank was across the playground watching A______ and L____ yell at each other when, all of a sudden I heard A____ yell, "Hank's not your friend, L____!" Well, that wasn't to be tolerated. Hank saw the crestfallen look on L____'s face and the burgeoning tears and he charged across the playground as fast as his little legs could take him and tackled A____ in, what looked like to me, a protective rage.

I asked him later what he'd been thinking and how we don't charge out of nowhere and tackle our friends and Hank said, "But Mom, L____ was going to cry. A____ told her I wasn't her friend and I am."

Yes folks, that's my Hank, the defender of his girlfriend's honor and feelings at the ripe old age of four. I wonder what he'll be like when he's fourteen.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Vegetable Garden

I love to garden. I love digging in the dirt, planting things and watching them grow. I probably prefer my flower gardens to my vegetable garden because I love to enjoy looking at all the beautiful flowers and smelling the varying fragrances, but I also love my vegetable garden because my little Hanker will help me take care of it. Madeleine runs screaming in terror at the mere sight of a worm and Elisabeth isn't big enough yet, but not my Hank.

Hank says he wants to be a farmer when he grows up. And a cowboy (how 'bout a rancher?). He also possesses an amazing ability to concentrate and take his time with a task. The vegetable garden is our thing, just my little Hanker and me.

Yesterday we worked the fully composted compost pile into the garden. Hank was a real work horse and shoveled (almost) as well as I did, but with much more effort.

Then it was time to plant seeds. Hank pondered what to plant first.

"Salad!" He decided.

"Um, don't you mean lettuce, Hank?"

"Yeah, you know, salad."

First up, butter crunch lettuce.

See what I mean about patience? He was so careful to make sure each seed went exactly where I said it needed to go. Even trickier, if you think about it, for light, tiny lettuce seeds which need to be sprinkled ever so carefully.

Last chore, watering the seeds in. Hank now knows the definition of the word germinate.

Next up was green beans and then a play date. Today we hope to get the carrots and beets in. We'll see if Hank's social calendar permits it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trip to Sears

Our dryer is broken. For those of you with kids, you understand what a calamity this is.

The situation had to be remedied immediately. So, upon our return from Oshkosh, we climbed into the van and headed over to Sears. Our mission should have been easy and quick. Our washing machine is so fantastic that we just wanted the cheapest functioning electric dryer we could find. That took two minutes.

Next we decided that as long as we were there we should finish off the kitchen and get a new dishwasher. With a recent issue of Consumer Reports in hand, we headed over to the dishwasher aisle. That took a bit longer, but not much; I pretty much knew what I wanted.

But the paying, argh! Printing off different receipts for this, arranging delivery for that; it was dull, dull, dull. Superdad won the prize of dealing with two different salesmen, a manager and a cash register and I headed off to the furniture department with the two big kids.

I'm fairly certain seeing Madeleine and Hank in action prompted the furniture department manager to call the appliance department and ask them to hurry up already.

They didn't.

Madeleine and Hank migrated to greener-- or shall I say softer -- pastures.

The kids, well they had a great time. The staff at Sears? Not so much, I think. But I count the trip as a success: we got our new appliances, the kids were occupied and nothing was broken or ruined. In my book, it doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ten Things I've Learned About Keeping a Pesticide-Free Lawn

1. Corn gluten meal doesn't really seem to stop weeds from germinating.

2. Dandelions seem stronger and tougher than grass, even though everything I've read suggests otherwise. So maybe they're just stronger in my yard.

3. Superdad hates dandelions.

4. I don't mind dandelions.

5. There's nothing more aggravating than seeing two four-year-old boys blow white dandelion fuzz across your lawn at the same time you're getting blisters on your hand from pulling other dandelions out on the opposite end of the yard with the weed hound.

6. Neighbors who use pesticides will laugh at you and make fun of you. To your face.

7. Dandelions like the sun. A lot. Apparently they like it better than the grass. My yard is almost all completely in full sun.

8. I like the way a perfectly groomed yard looks better than ours, but I like how my daughter can shove dirt from my yard in her mouth and I don't have to worry about her. Well, other than the obvious worry of an eighteen-month-old eating dirt.

9. Grass grows better where you don't want it than where you do (like my flower garden, for instance).

10. I don't mind a good, stiff cocktail.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Doctor Madeleine

The evening was cool, pleasant and peaceful. The big kids were outside with Superdad. Superdad was setting up his new lawn edger and trimmer and I was doing dishes with only one child making noise and messes (yes, all you non-parents; that is peaceful). I was absorbed, physically, in bubbles and plates but mentally I was dreaming of our academic goals for next year.

All of a sudden my reverie was shattered by the front door slamming shut and Madeleine tearing up the stairs at top speed. "What are you doing?" I called after her.

"Getting a Band-Aid!"

"For what? What did you do?"

She came racing back down the stairs, wild-eyed, with a box of Curious George Band-Aids, a quarter full. "Daddy cut himself!"

Oh. OK. Superdad had probably cut his finger or skinned his knee and needed a Band-Aid so he wouldn't get blood all over everything and had asked Madeleine to run in and get one. Madeleine ran out and a few seconds later came frantically running back in again.

"What is going on," I asked again.

"Daddy cut himself," was Madeleine's explanation.


"With the lawn edger!"

"With the edger?!" Now I was concerned.

To shorten a rather lengthy story which involved different children telling different tales, Superdad was setting up his new edger and trimmer, excitedly playing with his new toy so that it would be all set for its first trip out when Hank became interested in what he was doing. Hank walked up to Superdad, and the edger, and before Superdad could see what Hank was doing, Hank simultaneously asked, "Daddy, what does this button do?" while actually pressing the button in question. Wouldn't you know it, the button he was so curious about was actually the "on" button and Superdad's calf was treated to its very own edging.

Superdad is fine. All his cuts were surface cuts and although he's sore, there are no big problems.

But there were numerous cuts in a rather large area and, when Madeleine saw his leg (she witnessed the incident), gushing blood. And her solution? Curious George Band-Aids. An almost empty box of two-inch long Curious George Band-Aids.

Rain Walk

What's a rainy day for?

A rain walk, of course. Under Madeleine's leadership, Hank and Madeleine gathered their rain boots, raincoats and their "daughter" Molly and her stroller. Madeleine outfitted Molly in her raincoat and boots, found Molly's stroller and gave up her own favorite umbrella for the sake of her "daughter."

What a selfless mommy, no?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Home Schooling Convention, II

We're back from our first foray into home schooling, and it was very, very interesting. A lot of it I'd already learned from various books, but we also gleaned some interesting tips (like how to get a World Wildlife Fund approved backyard habitat; a project we're interested in attempting this summer) and learned about some great local clubs, like a young writer's club, where the kids work on their compositions, read them aloud and critique each other (actually there's a lot more to it than that; I'm trying to simplify, but it sounded incredibly, incredibly appealing) and a chess club, divided by skill, not by age.

I can't do the conference justice in one short post, but if I wasn't excited before (which I was, ridiculously so), I am now. Every time I hear or read about home schooling, the more I learn and the more excited I get about the opportunities we're going to have.

On the way home from Oshkosh this afternoon I was sitting in the back of the van reading Madeleine and Hank a newly purchased "textbook" about the Ice Age and Madeleine and Hank kept yelling, "Keep reading, keep reading!" and about halfway through I said to Madeleine, "This is a lot of what 'school' is going to be like for you next year. This is one of the texts we're going to use next year for ancient history." Madeleine's eyes practically popped out of her head. She was astounded to realize she could learn history sitting on the sofa while reading a story. She had interesting, insightful questions but, best of all, she was excited about the book and all the interesting things she was learning.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Home Schooling Convention

Today begins a new era of my life: the home schooling era. Oh sure, we made the decision awhile ago, but after we got over our initial reservations and somewhat less than confidently spread the word (what will people think) I sort of forgot about it in terms of how it will actually affect my life.

Yes, I've been reading a lot about it, and I've been getting ridiculously excited about the opportunities we're going to have but I haven't been living it. Madeleine is still at school and home schooling seemed far off in the future.

Until today, that is. In a few short hours Superdad and I are joining the home schooling mix; we're heading off to a home school conference in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where we'll join eight hundred other home schoolers, from across the home schooling spectrum, coming from all over the state to take part in workshops and a curriculum fair.

This weekend we'll have a chance to put our new ideas and theories to the test as we pour over math and history texts. Tomorrow we will learn the how-tos of home schooling, legally speaking. This weekend we'll be jumping in. This weekend we'll be home schoolers.

In addition, all three kids are staying with my in-laws and Superdad and I are staying in a hotel with a pool for two whole nights.

I'm excited about what we might learn and meeting other home schoolers. It should be a great weekend.

Oh, and did I mention we'd be child free more almost forty-eight hours?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nate the Great

Do you remember the Nate the Great detective stories? I do. I remember reading them in grade school and enjoying the mystery and the climax, when the mystery would finally be solved.

Earlier in the week I was helping out in Madeleine's classroom and the kids were taking turns reading to me. I was excited to see that one of the books assigned was a Nate the Great mystery. After reading me one section of the book I commented to C______, one of Madeleine's classmates, "You know, C______, I used to read these when I was in school."

C______ looked at me incredulously. "Really? That must be why the pictures are all black and white," he responded.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Yep, " I said. "Must be."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Northwoods, III

I hate really, really long posts, so this is a continuation of yesterday's post, Northwoods, II.

Smack dab in the middle of one of the family's fields were train tracks. Superdad's grandmother would tell stories of hobos coming up to the house and asking if they could do work in exchange for food. Apparently this was a common enough occurrence that it was prepared for. Expected, even. There was always wood to be chopped or something to be fixed and a meal was a fair bargain in trade for finished work.

Those train tracks are now gone, but the land on which they sat is still a clear path, perfect for walking and biking. About a mile in, and not accessible by roads, is an old train trestle. That was our destination Saturday afternoon. Superdad's brother loaded up all the kids' bikes (five, in all: my two kids' bikes [Elisabeth was carried], my niece and nephew's bikes and my brother-in-law's girlfriend's daughter's bike), I made sure my camera had fresh batteries and a fresh memory card and Super Grandma made sure there were enough water bottles to go around.

The walk to the trestle took awhile since there was lots to stop and look at. Hank found a turtle, Elisabeth insisted on walking and Cody, my nephew, got stuck in some mud and when he was pulled out his shoes stayed in the mud--yuck!

Eventually we arrived, and it was beautiful.

I just love old barns. Don't you?

The kids, naturally, wanted to make their way down to the river bank. Superdad and I obliged and took the herd, minus Elisabeth, down the steep embankment.

It was a perfect, perfect day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Northwoods, II

Superdad's family has, in some incarnation, owned the same plot of land for four generations. His great-grandfather came over from Norway with his family (father, mother and brothers) in the early 1900s hoping to be lumberjacks as they were in their home country. In Norway at that time farming was for women or sissies, not men (the reason for this being that farm work was simply something that had to get done along with the lumber jacking so while the men cut down trees, the women farmed).

Upon arriving in Northern Wisconsin they built a lean-to into the side of the hill and since it was more important to protect the animals from the elements than the humans, a barn was built first (three houses on various plots would come later). In that barn Superdad's grandfather was born, the first male Olson born in America.

The family cleared all the trees on the land they'd claimed but without buying more land with money they didn't have they were forced to turn to farming.

Superdad's grandfather eventually farmed that land, as would Super Grandpa and his brother (Superdad's uncle). Superdad lived on that farm for the first few years of his life in two of the three houses that were eventually built. In fact, he used the same nursery in the main house that his father had used before him and his father before him (the house was finished shortly after his birth in the barn).

Now most of the farm has been sold. The original homestead was bought by a questionable lot who later burned the house down. The barn, however, still stands.

The second house that was built, which was across the street from the homestead (and is also where Superdad lived) was torn down when the land was bought by another farmer so that a larger field of corn could be planted.

The third house, along with forty acres, is still in the family and is owned by Superdad's aunt. It's in the picture below, far across the field.

Superdad's grandparents lived in the homestead (the one that burned down) while raising their family (one girl, two boys) but moved down to the smaller house, the one owned now by Superdad's aunt, when their kids started reproducing (one son had four children, the other son had two).

To be continued...