Friday, September 28, 2007

Morning Conversation

The following conversation took place this morning.

Me: Guess what Hank! Your class is going on a field trip on your birthday. And guess what else-- I get to be a chaperone!

Hank (with a huge grin plastered on his face): Really Mom? A field trip? And you get to come with?! Yay! (He stops to hug me.) I've never been on a school bus before! Do you think it will be a big one?!

Me: Oh, yes, I'm sure it will. Will you sit by me on the bus, Hank?

Hank: (long pause): Weeeell... (concerned look on face) I might want to sit by Curly*.


*Yeah, so obviously Hank doesn't have a friend named Curly, for pity's sake. It's an alias. A very clever, imaginative alias.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Challenge of Home Schooling

The hardest part about home schooling?  It's not the academics.  Madeleine is only in second grade; I'd be in serious trouble if that were the toughest challenge I faced.  It's not the actual act of teaching; no, that's amazingly enjoyable for both teacher and student (or so Madeleine tells me).

No, the hardest part about home schooling is the realization that no matter what we're doing, how big of a hurry we're in or how bad or well our day is going, we're constantly on display and queried when we're in public during the traditional school day.  I can't blame people, nor do I resent curiosity or questions.  There are days, however, I'd just like to go into a store, find my gallon of milk, pay for it and make it back to my car without having to explain that yes, in fact, we are home schooling and try and parse down our numerous, complicated reasons for doing so into a socially acceptable, quick response.

I understand why things are the way they are; more people utilize local public schools than don't and choosing something else invites curiosity.  However, it occurs to me that when I run into parents and their children in the process of going to or coming from school I don't say to them, "Wow!  What ever made you decide to send your children to public school?"

I guess the moral of this post is this: if you see a home school family out and about and are curious about what they're doing and how they do what they do and why they do what they do and what curriculum they use and question the legality of their actions and ask them whether their children get enough socialization or not and then (hopefully!) wish them luck and tell them you think they're making a good choice, by all means do so.  Just not when they're rushing in for a quick gallon of milk.

Monday, September 24, 2007


My kids will tell you, with rolled eyes and exasperated sighs, that one of my favorite mantras is "haste makes waste." Both older children have memorized the words, if not the more important idea behind the words.

Imagine my glee when Madeleine and I came across the following poem in our grammar text this morning. How many times can I recite this poem to the kids before the eye rolling and exasperated sighs start accompanying it?


Work while you work,
Play while you play;
This is the way
To be happy each day.
All that you do,
Do with your might;
Things done by halves
Are never done right.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Superdad!

Today is the day-- let's all wish Superdad a happy day!

Love you, Sweetie!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Adirondack Trip, Part 3

As our plane descended into Chicago our pilot happily informed us that it was eighty-two degrees on the ground. Eighty-two? The temperature in Albany upon departure had been in the sixties, which was about the norm for our trip. But just let chilly temperatures stop a child with access to water from swimming.

One of my favorite things about making this trip is the house. Not really the house itself, really, though of course it is lovely, but the memories it contains. When I'm there it almost makes me feel close to Grandmommy, my mom's mom, a woman who died mere months before I was born and even though I didn't know her, she's alive in that house. Her pictures are scattered throughout the house along with stacks of letters penned by her own hand. In that house I can almost believe I did know her, along with scores of other relatives who have since passed.

Because of that lolling about the house and grounds is a favorite activity. Whether it's doing housework, knitting or reading a book, quiet time is all the more special when we're at Fish House, the nickname we've given the house, than almost anywhere else.

And now we're home. But on this foggy, gloomy Wisconsin day I'm still there. I can almost imagine sitting on the front steps...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Adirondack Trip, Part 2

Thursday night Sixty-five arrived at the family home and after an evening spent chatting and catching up we decided that we would spend Friday in Saratoga Springs, New York. We lamented the fact that the horse racing season was over and that we couldn't watch any races but we did discover the presence of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Fun museum! The highlight for kids and adults was the racing simulator. The kids each suited up in full jockey gear (silks, chaps, flack jacket and helmet!) and mounted mechanical "horse" stationed in front of a giant screen playing a filmed horse race. Each child got to race three races: a practice race, an apprentice race and a final, real race. Each race would prompt the mechanical horse to move faster and faster and would then elicit louder and more robust shrieks and giggles from Madeleine and Hank.

After the museum closed our group moved on the main shopping district in Saratoga Springs. We poked around the town for awhile, stopping at fabulous, famous bakery and a Food Network featured restaurant and were sure to inspect as many of the painted horses that were scattered about town as possible.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Adirondack Trip, Part 1

I was going to summarize our trip for my blog in one measly post but while going through my pictures I realized so much happened on our six day trip that surely I could milk our adventures for at least a few days.

First off, here's where we were. My mom's family has lived in that area for generations; ancestors of mine have been there at least since the mid-1800s. In the early 1920s my great-grandfather built a home for his wife and three daughters, the middle of whom was my grandmother on my mom's side. That house still stands and is still in the family. Going there is literally like stepping back in time; re-reading old letters, looking through eighty-year-old magazines and watching my kids play with some of the same toys their ancestors did.

Lots of excitement from Superdad and the kids (and me too!) even before the trip. One of the highlights, especially for little Hank, was the trip there. Even waiting at O'Hare, an awful experience for anyone over four, became an adventure.

The first few days were quiet. We had the house to ourselves and the boys busied themselves with household tasks. Superdad's favorite task was introducing Hank to the woodshed and teaching him to split wood.

We all climbed our first mountain on Thursday. The summit of Hadley Mountain, our chosen destination, is about 2,700 feet. A fun climb, and a great day.

On the top of Hadley Madeleine reminded me that she'd inquired not too long ago if there were any places left on earth were man's presence wasn't visible. I told her I was sure there were, but couldn't pinpoint just where.

Her answer? The top of Hadley!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Au Revoir!

Today we're off. By plane, this time, instead of car, which is our usual way. Assuming, of course, that the cog that is the Chicago Tollway allows us to reach O'Hare before our flight leaves.

Our destination?

Some hints:

We'll be sleeping in the house my great-grandfather built... the house is close to a famous horse race track... we'll see Sixty-five and various cousins while we're there...

Give up?

We'll be in upstate New York, near the Adirondack Mountains (in the foothills, actually).

More to share on our return, I'm sure.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kids' Clothes

Convinced after having Madeleine that she would not be our only child, I dutifully packed away all her clothes that she had outgrown, lovingly washing them and labeling them in various boxes, dreamily envisioning another baby wearing some of my favorite ensembles.

And then Hank was born. The sea of pink clothes I'd so carefully saved for our next baby were pushed aside. Oh, sure, a few odds and ends were salvaged but, on the whole, Hank wore hand-me-downs from boy cousins and friends and, mostly, newly purchased boy clothes. Still a glutton for punishment, I also packed those carefully away once Hank outgrew them. Surely, I told myself if we have another child he or she will be able to wear someone's clothes.

And then we had Elisabeth. I lugged down boxes of baby clothes from our attic, sorted them into gender specific and gender neutral clothes, and patiently waited until my new little girl would fit into her big sister's outgrown clothes.

But it never worked out. Ever. Madeleine was born in August, Elisabeth in October. Madeleine was average to big for her age while Elisabeth has consistently been far behind on the growth charts. Clothes-wise, Elisabeth has always been a good four to six months behind her big sister and all my time, effort and, namely, storage space, has been utterly wasted over the past seven years.

And yet, instead of carting it all off to Goodwill, which is what I should have done, I washed, packed and lugged it all back up to my attic. Including, as you might guess, all the new clothes Elisabeth accumulated.

The moral of this tale, of course, is one I haven't adhered to yet and, that is: don't save all your baby clothes. My attic desperately hopes that one day I'll take this advice.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cat Clean-up

I am not a girly-girl. As a child I remember playing with frogs, scaling trees and walking ridgepoles. I was tough. I was a tomboy.

And then something changed. Suddenly the mere appearance of a frog would send me zipping into the house for cover. Climbing a ladder more than halfway up would make me shake with fear if I dared look down. Still though, I was tougher than most of the Guess-wearing, frosted bang havers that made up the majority of my sex as a preteen.

And I'm still pretty much the same. I don't mind getting dirty. I appreciate camping because it allows me the freedom of not caring what I look like while we're there. I can still take a lump and I'll still dive to catch a line drive headed at me.

But don't ask me to clean up after our cats. Our cats, Maisy and Moppet, are prolific hunters. You name it, they've caught it: birds, mice, rabbits, chipmunks. My cats aren't lazy; they hunt and they hunt daily. The problem is that they don't eat what they kill. The gluttonous little princesses torture their prey, kill it and then leave the carcases all over my yard and driveway. Oh, you think it's gross just reading about it? Right now there are three dead mice in my driveway. Three. And they are, as you might imagine, repulsive, disgusting things to look at.

But I can't deal with them. I just can't. Instead I choose to park my car out by the road and bypass the rodent massacre displayed in my backyard.

Call me a girly-girl. Call me chicken. I don't care. Superdad's cleaning up after the cats.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Movie Review, IX

I feel so on top of things; I mean, really, seeing a movie less than a year after its release date. I am positively cutting edge!

After months and months (I initially had double digit wait list placement at the library), I finally got the call that Notes on a Scandal was in. The acting was incredible and the story engrossing, albeit sad. And did I mention the acting? I can't decide who was better: Cate Blanchett or Judi Dench.

Following is the trailer, just to pique your interest.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Day of School, 2007

Hank is a frustrating boy for a crazed photographer like me. I mean, really, look at his face. Looks at the expression he's giving the camera. And this was the best picture he gave me yesterday morning. Most of them were more like this:

And Madeleine. Oh, Madeleine. If she spots a camera within one hundred yards of her, that teeth barring, is-this-over-yet-Mom? smile is all you're going to get.

So the pictures weren't so good.

But school. Oh, well school is another story.

Hank's biggest complaint about Junior Kindergarten was that it was over too soon (they only went for an hour today so, really, it was very short). So comfortable was he in his new surroundings that he was waving his hand violently within moments of arrival as his new teacher asked for volunteers to compete various classroom chores. She did say she'd choose someone who raised their hand nicely, but apparently Hank's arm-thrashing did the trick and he and his friend T___ (who he'd met and played with prior to today) were the chosen students. Generally, success on that front.

Madeleine had a great first day too. I started assembling materials last spring and a few weeks ago I put together some general lesson ideas for the first few weeks. I am awed how quickly Madeleine and I whizzed through them together this morning. Granted, I didn't have a terribly ambitious agenda today, but we were easily done by noon, leaving plenty of time for the park and Madeleine's highly coveted "alone time."

During our spelling lesson Madeleine got the surprise of her academic life. We were taking a practice test and the words were clearly just too easy for her and she spelled them all correctly, no problem. I told her I thought we should just skip that unit.

"What Mom? You mean just skip it? Like, without doing any of the work for it?"

"Yes, Madeleine, exactly that."

We ended up skipping five other units as well, much to her surprise and glee.

The best surprise, to me anyway, was that Madeleine wasn't in full-on meltdown mode by six p.m., a common occurrence when she was in school full time. So, success on the home schooling front too.

One day down, two hundred eighty-three days to go. But hey, who's counting?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hank's Groove

This is just pure comedy. Pure comedy, I'm tellin' ya.

My kids, like most children across America, are obsessed with High School Musical. They've been beside themselves that their friends have all seen it five million times while they've only seen it once and that it's been almost a year since their first, and only, viewing.

The other night I rented it for them and all the block punks who then invaded my basement for an evening. As you might imagine, there was singing, dancing and a lot of laughing. Laughing? Why laughing, you ask?

Because of my dear Hank. Hank has mastered Roy's dance moves. (Yes, it's Roy, not Troy. Don't try arguing with Hank about it. You'll lose.) He's really got 'em down, I tell ya.

Check it out:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New Links

For those of you not paying as close attention to my sidebar as I do, let me highlight a few recently added websites that I think are worth paying a visit.

1. The Grammar Vandal. This blog is highly enjoyable. It's witty, interesting and educational. How can you top that? It has, however, made me incredibly self-conscious when composing my own blogs. Please, please, Grammar Vandal, don't examine my blog too closely; I'm certain there are mistakes aplenty!

2. Delocator. Enter your zip code and this website will help you find locally owned coffee shops, bookstores and movie theaters. Hey, I like Starbucks just as much as the next girl but I love my local coffee house more, and always like to encourage local entrepreneurs.

3. Mathematically Correct. Lots of essays and links relating to the "new, new math" used in many (most?) school districts across the country. This type of math curriculum, which our local public school uses, was probably the catalyst for encouraging us to investigate other schooling options which eventually led to our decision to home school.