26 September 2009

My apologies for the hash

I did my best to clean up up the previous post--but the laptop has decided that it's had enough of me and is refusing to work properly so that it's taking a veeerrrry long time to accomplish anything. *sigh* Back to Clover. ;)

Studying art

Jack and I have been studying art lately. Jack had chosen Van Gogh as the artist he wanted to study. We picked up a bunch of books about Van Gogh from the library, and while we were there, I, knowing no better, picked up a video series about the Impressionists, based on the similarity of the cover art to Van Gogh?s. I thought they might ?have a section? on Vincent.

Of course, since Van Gogh is ?post impressionist (as I learned later) there was nothing about him in that video, but Jack and I were captivated in watching the artists at work. Unlike my beloved Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, this looked like something we could learn to do. Not that we?d ever be mistaken for Manet or Degas?but we might be able to learn some of the techniques they used and be able to create something attractive. So, we pulled out our paints.

To understand the significance of this development, you have to know that Jack had never been happy about painting. Most of his works ended up looking like this:
and he was pretty unhappy about the muddy effect, but when I offered to show him things he?d grumble ?No thanks. I?m just no good at painting.?

So that he was suddenly energized and eager to try his hand at painting again was *amazing* and wonderful!

We had been reading a series of books about ?How to Look at Art?, in which we had seen a colour wheel. We decided to start there, since it looked like something we could accomplish.

Sadly, Mamma is no good at geometry and we couldn't find a compass, so what we ended up with wasn't really a color wheel, but we do what we can.

We traced a circle on the paper using a circular cutting tool from my stash, and then we used a ruler to draw the sections. They didn't come out even, and we ended up with more than we
intended?but we decided it was good enough for now.
Then we put three colors of acrylic paint in each of our pallets, and painted the primary sections. That went well so then we started combining the primaries and putting the secondary colours in place. Since we mixed our own colours, we were amused to see that we came out with different shades of the secondaries and Jack was highly tickled to discover that his shades were prettier! (I also like how the colour wheel Jack made almost looks alive -- like it s growing and moving. Mine was much more rigid and not nearly as pretty.)

Then we mixed all of the colours we had left to see what happened, and we decorated the edges of our paper with that colour.

That worked so well that the next night, after we?d watched Part Two of The Impressionists we decided to work on colour layering.

We chose two colours to work with (yellow and red this time), and painted a yellow background. While we waited for that to dry, we mixed up some orange to layer over it. We talked about a technique to make flower petals, and Jack tried it, and then embellished his flower. We also talked about how he had developed a great deal of texture in his background and that was a very nice effect.
Of course, a flower needs a stem, so Jack got out some green and I dipped a clean brush in it for him. Et Voila! Sunflower!

We had quite a bit of paint left over, so he decided to practice some more with the flower petal technique. (And a heart, which he painted and then I outlined for him)
Last night, we finally got a chance to see a video about Van Gogh. The BBC's Private Life of a Masterpiece had a segment on Van Gogh?s The Sunflowers. That was interesting ? it finally explained the answer to Jack?s big question (Van Gogh shot himself) and it introduced the idea of texture.

We decided, after the movie, to experiment with texture. Jack had a different idea of what that meant than I did, but I have to admit that he got some very interesting effects ? first he did a very watery background and then he layered texture on top. (And because we continue to work with two colours, what could have been more mud, was actually some interesting gradations of green.)
And then, because he had a lot of paint left over, he decided to paint another piece. This one he calls The Battle at the Great Wall of China. The big blue line is the Great Wall. If you know how to look, you can see enemies scaling the wall, you can see caves, and secret passages, and troops on the move and great battles taking place.
I particularly like the cloud effect at the top. I am trying to figure out how he did that so I can use the technique myself!

Anyway, it wasn?t really quite intentional, but combining art appreciation with technique study seems to be working very well ? and starting with the Impressionists seems to be one of the better ways to start.

We studied Pieter Bruegal last unit, and Jack wasn't at all inspired to try to imitate what he saw. Nor did he seem terrible interested. Then again, I am learning "art appreciation" right alongside him, and I may be approaching picture study all wrong. At least -- all wrong to meet our needs. Watching videos of real art historians discussing the paintings works better for us.

I have to say that even if we don't go a lot further, we have successfully enough experimented that I think Jack will at least feel that he *can* learn to paint if he wants to. We both watched in utter amazement as Rod used two colours to make a very interesting Impressionistic portrait of Voldemort -- we'd like to be able to do that! Maybe someday we will.

The minor joys of a gardener

Yup. That’s a slug. On my kitchen counter. Evidently it was hiding out in the most recent harvest.

See how fat he’s grown on my cabbages?



I have been pondering the irony of happiness lately.

Doesn’t it seem odd that at a time when personal satisfaction and self esteem are the major focus of what we expect to accomplish for ourselves and our children, teen suicide, divorce, depression, and all the woes associated with a monumental lack of happiness and personal satisfaction should be at an all time high?

I have been giving a lot of thought to why that might be.

It seems clear that we have, as a culture, lost track of what happiness and personal satisfaction really are.

The old wisdom tells us, that “Happiness is not a destination, but a mode of travel”. You can’t “finally attain” happiness, and personal satisfaction can’t be purchased. Real happiness is more about the way we decide to see life, how we live and what we expect.

I don’t mean that if you decide to be happy, nothing will ever happen that make you sad, to frustrate you, or to prevent you from doing what you want to do. Of course all those things happen in everyone’s life. What you can change is how you decide to view those frustrations and setbacks.

There are a couple of things I think might make a difference. One is that we are sheltering our children, as much as we possibly can, from failure. Not failing *should* give them better self esteem, right? Well…um…


Actually, surmounting obstacles and achieving things at which we could have (and perhaps have in the past) failed raises our self esteem. Protecting kids from challenges actually lowers self esteem by sending the message that we think of them as incapable of achievement on their own and on their own terms. It also develops in them an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Neither is a recipe for real happiness.

W. H. Auden said “We are here on Earth to do good to others.” It seems that as our society has gotten more and more focused on ourselves as individuals and our own happiness, we’ve become less and less happy.

I’m not under the impression that everyone was happier on some mythic time when we were more focused on contribution to the community, but my on experience suggests that focus on what we can accomplish and what we can contribute to the community does a lot to lead to satisfaction with our selves and out world.

Just a thought. It seemed profound until I wrote it down. Funny how that works.

15 September 2009

Update on homemade laundry and dishwasher soap

We started making out own dishwasher and laundry soap a while back and I wanted to update you on how that went.

Dishwasher soap was a loss. It got the dishes clean, but it left an ugly white film of borax on the dishes. Yuck! Adding citric acid to the rinse was very effective in removing the film…but then the process was prohibitively expensive. We’ve gone back to Trader Joe’s environmentally friendly dishwasher soap, though I may try again if I come across any new ideas for how to make it work better.

The laundry soap worked beautifully…until summer hit. The homemade laundry detergent is good for run of the mill laundry, but it just isn’t up to the heavy-sweating, garden grunged, ‘damp basement with a mold problem’ summer laundry. To be fair, neither is Trader Joe’s environmentally friendly laundry detergent. We’re getting a big bottle of Tide to get the smell and grey out of the clothes, but we’ll go back to homemade once the weather cools off and save the rest of the Tide for next summer. It’s a lot cheaper, and I didn’t notice any difference until we started getting really dirty—which has been an issue every summer of my adulthood. That’s why I keep going back to Tide.

Socca – wheat-free living part 1

Well, it took many weeks to get his heart into it, but Rod’s first foray into wheat-free baking has been a success. As I mentioned, we prefer to seek out recipes that never contained any wheat to begin with, since they taste better and don’t have that unsatisfying “not quite right” effect. (For the most part, Jack and I are joining Rod in being wheat-free at home…except where the gluten free alternative is super expensive. Then Jack and I use the wheat original.)

His first experiment was with socca, a chickpea bread from the Mediterranean – specifically Nice and Marseille, although it is popular under other names all around the region. It is generally considered “street food” and is perfect for snacking, and because it is mainly legumes, it is VERY satisfying. It takes far less than one would suppose to feel nice and sated.

The one Rod started with is a rosemary socca with fresh-ground black pepper, and it was marvelous! Another recipe suggests that it’s lovely with a little cumin, instead – and I think it would be tasty with just about any warm herb. Be warned, though, that the fresh-ground pepper makes it very spicy. That’s good, as long as you’re not feeding any delicate pallets (like Jack’s) but you might want to use less pepper, or the stuff that comes pre-ground and stale if you prefer less heat.

Now Rod is considering adding things like sun-dried tomatoes and olives and cheese and making a “not a pizza” from it, to have as a lunch or fancy snack. I think it will be wonderful!

I was interested to note that socca may have originally been made from corn, and that variants can be made from any number of flours, so this may become a base for a lot of experiments over the next few months! (I may have him give lentil flour a try and see what happens, sometime when he feels he’s perfected the original recipe.)

Anyway, here’s the basic recipe:

1 cup chickpea flour
1 Cup room temperature water
1/4 cup virgin olive oil, divided into two portions
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
fresh or dried warm herbs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder (this is not a traditional ingredient)

Sift the chickpea flour into a large mixing bowl. (You really do want to sift it.)
Add salt, pepper, and baking powder (if you use it).
Pour in the water, whisking to eliminate lumps.
Stir in half the olive oil and whisk the batter for a minute or two until a runny dough has formed.
Add the herbs and any other ingredients
Cover and set aside overnight.
Preheat oven to very hot (220C-240C or 430F-470F),
Heat a dry, round 50cm (20 inch) pizza stone or clay baking tray for about 5 minutes.
Remove the pizza stone from the oven and spread the remaining oil evenly over it.
Pour in the batter, spread it thinly.
Immediately bake it for 8-10 minutes, until bread is firm and starting to brown.

Remove the socca from the oven, lightly brush the top with olive oil and put it under a hot broiler for about a minute, until the top turns a golden color and there are a few slightly burnt tips.

Slice and serve hot.

Oh, and I wanted to mentioned Gluten free girl – Shauna’s web site comes very highly recommended and by description seems to have much the same approach to food as we do – fresh, wholesome and tasty are the priorities. I haven’t had time to check it out carefully yet, but I figured I’d share anyway.

14 September 2009

A marvelous weekend

Every now and then, we have a weekend that seems darned near perfect. This last weekend was one of them.

We started by doing some really fun school work. The topic was “the first written languages”, and we did some colouring while we talked, then we read a bit, and we experimented with writing our names in cuneiform, making our clay tablets look a little like we each imagined the “receipts” that Jomar receives from Betitta when he delivers her golden straw.

Interestingly, I discovered today that it may be best to to talk too much about what we’re studying with my colleagues. I don’t quite understand why, but it seems to make them very uncomfortable. (Maybe they’re mistaking my enthusiasm for insanity?) Anyway … note to self: shut up, they don’t want to hear it.

When we were done with school, we packed up and ran off to pick raspberries. We got seven quarts, and they were so luscious and ripe that we scrambled back home to freeze them immediately lest they rot while they waited, and then we were back out again to check our e-mail at Café Luwak.

We also discovered on Saturday that a small (but totally unexpected) windfall meant that we could suddenly afford to get my laptop on the net immediately! So, after we checked our e-mail, we went over to Clover Computer and picked up the cards I needed to add Internet access and a USB port. This post is coming from my very own laptop! Hurrah!

Sunday was a little hectic, as we scrambled to get Jack registered for the Sunday School class he’s interested in – and discovered that it requires that we volunteer! Yikes! I was about to call that a deal breaker when I found out that there was a “volunteer opportunity” that involved doing mailings rather than assisting in the classroom. (I think I’ve mentioned how completely unsocial I am becoming. The idea of spending an hour in a classroom full of people was more than I could bear…but organizing a mailing is right up my alley.) Anyway, we got Jack registered and worked out a plan for how to get Rod to church at 8am when he has a performance with the choir and still get Jack to class at 11am. I am having trouble understanding exactly what they’ll be studying, but I think that for Jack, it has more to do with the sweet snack and the other kids than it does with the topics of conversation, so it will probably be fine. Still, it’s going to make for hectic weekends until June.

Anyway, after church, we came home and did some long overdue landscaping. The place was just gorgeous when we bought it, but over the course of three years of neglect, it had gotten seriously shabby looking. I’m not particularly house-proud, but it was even getting to me. Mostly we dug out some ornamental grass to put in flower bulbs, put in a flowering bush to replace one that had died last year, and cleaned up the bed next to the garage, which has disappeared into some shaggy and unsightly grass. At some point, I’ll add another small bed on the other side of the garage for balance, but for now, it was enough.

It had to be, because the garden was in serious need of attention.

This was yesterday’s harvest – and we had to throw away almost as much because it was spoiled by insect damage. We were delighted to be able to share some of this out amongst five friends and still have plenty for us.
Rod and I have noticed a couple of things that we consider very interesting. We didn’t have the money for our usual amendments, so only one corner got the stuff left over from last year. In that one corner, we are getting more produce and losing FAR less of it to insects than we are in the rest of the garden. That tells us that although we *can* garden without all the yummy stuff, it’s probably still worth doing what we can with amendments.

The other thing we’re noticing is that other than getting the garden in, and watering it long enough to get the plants established, the garden has been pretty much left to its own devices this year. I got too sick to get out there at all for almost two months and Rod has been pretty busy, so his tender ministrations have been pretty spotty, too.

Nonetheless, that is *one* week’s harvest in that picture. We have been very consistent about getting at least one of us out there on the weekends to harvest. That tells us that nature is pretty happy to do her thing without the need for constant meddling from us. That’s good to know.

I think that all this means that we’ll probably invest in the amendments a little at a time over the next several months and put the beds “down for the winter” with as many as we can manage, and spread the rest in the spring…but maybe I won’t fret so much if I miss a night hunting for slugs amongst the cabbages and eggplants and maybe I an miss the occasional “cow poop soup” on a weekends without too much guilt.

Oh, another note of interest … out first experience with potatoes suggest that they’re almost all bonus and almost no work. This is excellent! I think we’ll keep them on the list!

Anyway, that’s all the news that fit to report from Chez Smiffy, though I *am* working on the last bit about how to write your own curriculum and some other thoughtful stuff.

11 September 2009

Guy Cards

As I said, I've been working on guy cards ... here they are!

Everyone says it...but it's true...

They really do look better in person. ;)

07 September 2009

Why We Homeschool

School has started again. And again, Jack is being questioned about school at every turn. Leaving the library on Tuesday, he was asked by another library patron why he “wasn’t in school today.” Our answer was, of course, that he is always in school. That caused some confusion, of course, but it’s easier than taking on the assumptions of strangers. I find that non sequiturs are often the best response to a nosy question.

Interestingly, we are starting to discover that many people who surprised us by supporting our homeschooling endeavors have very specific reasons. They don’t approve of homeschooling per se, it seems, but rather they acknowledge that it’s the best choice for Jack because “he’s different”. That’s cool, I guess … at least they support us. I have to say, though, that Jack’s particular nature doesn’t have much to do with why we chose to homeschool him – we knew we would pretty much from the time we decided to have him. There are so many reasons that homeschooling appeals to us for any child!

So, why do we homeschool?

First, we choose home education because we believe that a child’s natural curiosity and excitement about learning are frequently damaged by a group school setting. Schools, pretty much by necessity, discourage curiosity that is outside of the current lesson plan and mostly limit the children’s access to knowledge and experimentation to what can be made accessible to lowest common denominator. That means they work on whatever is on the agenda at the speed of the slowest student and go as deeply as the average child can handle. That’s not always the right speed or level for the specific child and rarely does it match up with the burning passion to know that lives in the heart of a child. It may be just right for some and close enough for many others, but some children will be left behind and others will be bored out of their minds and all will have to postpone learning about what interests them until they get home…if there is time and energy after home-work and dinner and chores.

We want to encourage Jack to follow his curiosity down every rabbit trail, which homeschooling will provide the time to do, but we also want to provide an enriched academic background both broad and deep in its scope to encourage Jack’s very capable mind to stretch, along with the extra support he needs in those areas where he is weak, because we want him to reach his maximum potential in all areas, not just those where he is strongest.

We want Jack to remain excited and involved in his education, a partner with us in determining the goals of his academic career. We can provide the broad academic environment at just the right pace through which Jack can explore the basics of what there is to learn and know, and we will encourage and mentor him in going much deeper to sate his intellectual appetite in exploring those things that truly catch his interest.

We will work hard to provide the information Jack needs, so that as he matures and is more able to determine his own academic and life paths, he has an understanding of the vast reservoir of possibilities open to him.
We are also concerned that mass-education could damage Jack’s image of himself as a capable human being. That could happen if a teacher chooses to emphasize his ‘failure’ to learn as quickly as others in those areas where he is maturing more slowly than the average or doesn’t seem to value the areas at which he excels. If he’s bad at what matters and what he’s good at doesn’t matter what is he supposed to think?

Perhaps even more important, we want to free Jack to grow up an “unbranded child”, sheltering him from the marketing onslaught that so much of modern life, and especially the group school setting, has become. At home and in the community, Jack will have the opportunity to forge his view of himself apart from consumer culture, based not on ‘the cool brands’ but on his own values, talents, preferences, and goals.

Homeschooling lets us provide Jack with the logical tools he will need to evaluate marketing on his own, but just as importantly, he will be able to think through political, economic, and social issues that he will encounter in his adulthood. He will have the tools he needs to base his opinions on clear logic … and to understand when logical argument isn’t relevant.

We want to nourish Jack’s love for the natural world and the planet. We want to share with him the wonder of the plants and animals that surround and support us, and to see clearly the web of life of which we are an integral part. That can be done best if he gets to spend hours every day outside, exploring and experiencing nature.

We also want him to be familiar with the history and stories of both of his countries of origin and to be aware of the social and cultural web of connections that tie together his world village. We want to show Jack the threads of culture and history that make up the tapestry of world history and share with him other places, other peoples, and other times, so that he can see where we as a species have come from, where we are, and perhaps envision where we can go. We also want him to have the opportunity to be familiar with several languages and fluent in at least two that he has chosen for his own reasons.

We want to allow Jack, too, to avoid the “fast food jungle” of the mass education lunchroom. By teaching him ourselves, we can help to moderate the influence of peer pressure and marketing that make eating poor quality, processed foods seem “normal” and even preferable, and we can ensure that he has access to high-quality, nourishing foods, any time he’s hungry. We can also provide a constant stream of quality health and nutrition information, so that as he gets older, he’ll be in a better position to make his own well-informed nutritional and health decisions, improving the odds of his having a healthy adulthood.

We want Jack to have a well-rounded social network. While he operates from within the family, he can meet people of all ages, cultures, and belief systems within the community and work alongside them as equals. Coming from a broad social environment, he will be more able to see beyond the shallow pool of people his own age and social class to the broad spectrum of emotional, social, and cultural development that is humanity. By being exposed regularly to people of all ages, he can come to understand what it is to grow into an adult, rather than being caught up in the “perpetual adolescence” that is so commonly a result of the relegation of young people to “childhood ghettos” of people from their own neighborhood and within nine months of their own age, for 6 to 8 hours per day for twelve years or more.

We want most of Jack’s early social contacts to be safe ones, moderated by adults who care about him, so that he can learn to socialize comfortably with anyone, anywhere, rather than learning early to be a social victim or a social aggressor. With a loving mentor supervising his relationships and advising him in his early years, we believe he will be better able to create healthy social and emotional relationships on his own, avoiding either bullying or being bullied or being drawn into other unhealthy social dynamics.

We want to share with Jack our own pagan belief system, our philosophy of life, and our ethical values, and teach him about all the ways that people approach these subjects across time and across the world, so that he will be able to develop his own beliefs and understand and accept people’s beliefs without feeling pressured to share them.

Mostly, we want to have the time to spend with Jack and enjoy his company. Jack is our fifth child and we are far too aware of how fast children grow up and go their own way. While we don’t want to keep Jack a dependent child or to control what he thinks, we do want the opportunity to watch him grow, develop, and mature into the fine young man we know he will be. We think the family bond that learning together and growing as a family develops will strengthen all of us, not least Jack.

In these ways and others we want Jack to be adequately prepared to live a fulfilling, independent life as a clear thinker who is able to ask questions, find answers, evaluate arguments, and make up his own mind about his beliefs, values, and actions while enjoying an active, healthy, balanced life.

We think we can do this better with our one beloved child than any teacher, no matter how gifted, can do for the 30 children of strangers in her care for one year each.

06 September 2009

Another Update

Well, the height of summer has come and gone, and autumn lurks just out of view. The chicory and Queen Anne’s lace are blooming and crickets are everywhere.

It's been an interesting summer. Because I was off work and without pay for much of the summer, I have been able to spend a lot more time with Jack, and we have had time and good reason to look for foraged foods. Our freezer is now full of blackberries, mulberries, and raspberries that we have found growing wild. We also bought 10 pounds blueberries in bulk to freeze, and have gone to a "U-pick" farm to pick our own 10 pounds of strawberries. It's funny that berries are some of the most expensive foods to buy, and yet they are also some of the easiest to get free! This weekend, we’ll be getting some more raspberries and then we’ll be watching for u-pick pears and apples.

We planted a very large garden this year! Rod and Jack were a lot of help, which was wonderful because it was really too much garden for me to do alone. The spring lettuce is finished and the autumn lettuce and greens are planted and thriving. So far we've had huge numbers of tomatoes, a few cauliflower, a few cabbage, and boat-loads of eggplant and sweet peppers. We’ve only had one zucchini so far and little sign of any other squashes and melons, so it’s just as well that the eggplant and peppers are going gangbusters! I am delighted to learn that eggplant is every bit as adaptable as zucchini – and Jack loves it! Between that and tomatoes, we’d been very well fed for the last few weeks and we have discovered myriad recipes to which it can be added with excellent results!

I am watching my first experiment with kale grow now. I figure that I can freeze it and throw a little into soups and stews, along with the lambs quarters, even if I can never convince Rod and jack to eat it as a side. (I made a few sides of curried lambs-quarters only to have to eat them all myself. I like it, but not enough to eat 2 quarts before it spoils!)

Our education program is going pretty well. Jack has just finished "Unit 3" in which we learned about the Neolithic period and learned how the first farmers learned to plant food and domesticate animals... an excellent coincidence for the summer in which we expanded our garden and made feeding ourselves a "do it yourself" project.
Jack even grew some wheat, although we lost most of it to the birds because we were too slow to get out and harvest it. (It got ripe at about the same time as I got so sick.) That's OK; we like to share and, as it turns out Rod is very allergic to wheat. More on that later.

We have just begun our study of ancient Mesopotamia – Sumer, Babylon, Akadia, Assyria, Ur, Ashur, Nippur, Nineveh and the Hittites. We have explored how the first villages grew into cities. One fun thing we will do is to plan and prepare a "feast" based on the foods common in that time and place and then eat it while we listen to folk music from modern Iraq, which is what we call the area now. We will also be making some pseudo-cuneiform clay tablets like the receipts Jomar receives from Bitatte in The Golden Bull, which we kicked off the unit with. Another project that may not be as successful is that Jack wants to learn some of the languages spoken in Mesopotamia. I'm not sure how much we'll be able to find out, but I guess we can try to find something...or maybe we can learn a few words of the language of the modern Iraqis.

I am hoping that Rod can help bring the battles and heroics alive for Jack... that's the part of history the little guy really cares about right now. If they can focus on the heroes and their exploits, this unit could take quite some time and they should come away with a really good understanding of the first civilizations. (...and then, on the Egypt!)

As I alluded to before (had I posted about that yet? I can’t remember and I can’t check…) Rod has learned that he is allergic to wheat. Very allergic. One lettuce wrap that contained coleslaw and he was sick for days. Who knew coleslaw had wheat? But it does…in the dressing. Anyway, clearly Rod can no longer make his beloved bread, …or eat crackers, cakes, pasta, or cookies anymore unless we make them. The search is on for good recipes, but for the most part we have found that we’re a lot more successful when we stick to recipes that never had wheat in the first place. (Corn tortillas, dosas, puris and the like.) The “replacements” we have found so far just don’t taste very good, though Rod has found a brand of bread he can toast up for things like egg sandwiches and BLTs when he just has to have them. One thing that has taken us by surprise is just how much of our kitchen we need to replace because of gluten contamination -- the healthier he gets, the less contamination he can tolerate -- but we are still recovering from the furlough, so it's been happening a little at a time. I hope it's fast enough.

My own health has been difficult, too. As I mentioned, toward the end of July, I got very ill very suddenly and was in bed and mostly unconscious for 6 days. Yuck! Once I could get out of bed, I wasn't able to stand up or walk without a walking frame for another month. I’m on my own feet now, but still wobbly, so I’ll be seeing the doctor in mid-November. Oddly enough, I have been mostly deaf for many years – but while I was so ill, a lot of my hearing came back. Instead of being unable to hear Rod when he had his back turned to me in the same room, I was able to hear Rod and Jack conversing in the parlour downstairs! It was astonishing! Some of my acuity has faded again, but now I know that the ears are functioning, so it’s a matter of finding out what the problem is. I am thinking congestion in the inner ear, but we’ll see. Another remarkable effect was that the aches and pains I had attributed to arthritis over the last few years were also completely gone when I got up again. A month later, I am starting to have a little of the aches and pains again…but just a little. That doesn’t sound like arthritis…so again, I need to investigate further and find out what’s causing it so I can get rid of it.

Did I mention that Jack has discovered Harry Potter? And become completely obsessed? Yes, well, he has. I like the books a lot myself, and my first reaction was one of pleasure to share the stories with him. Unfortunately, the obsession got so bad that I had to hide the books, because his studies just couldn’t hold a candle to Mr Potter’s exploits. As it was, I had to declare that book two would come at the end of the current unit and further readings would come as he progressed through his lesson, because Jack would have read them through non-stop until he finished every book we own, and the stories just get too dark for a six year old by book three or four. (I don’t remember the details…I haven’t read them in years.) But he was reading book one over and over and over and over … and refusing to cooperate with school lessons because they were too boring. *sigh* I hid the books and we had a nice discussion about how school is his job, just as going to the office every day is mine. I also pointed out that putting the books out of sight wasn’t punishment, but was to help him to concentrate since they were disrupting his ability to focus on anything else. He’s not terrible happy, but he is resigned and seems to understand. His cooperation has gotten much better, anyway.

It looks like I may be back to somewhat more regular posting after the 25th. Hurrah! No, no, we’re not getting Internet at home again. But a long time ago, Mark gave us an old laptop he wasn’t using anymore. Mostly, we used it to watch movies as a family, because it wasn’t able to talk to the outside world anymore, except in playing DVDs. But a few weeks ago, mark mentioned thought that it probably could if we bought a new USB port for it…so we took it over to Clover Computer and they told us that for a very modest cost, they could get that computer up and on the net! So, on the 25th, we’ll take it over and get it all dolled up. Then I will be able to download my mail on my way home and upload my responses the next day when I download again. While I’m at it, I hope to be able to upload more regular posts here (though as you can see, I have been better about writing than about remembering my thumb drive when we go out to the café.)

On the other hand, we are now down to one camera in the family. My beloved Kodak, which has served me well for a number of years is now getting very finicky about starting up. I wanted to think it was the batteries, but no, brand new batteries, freshly charged, and it was still reluctant to start. So, the photos may not be as good for a while, as I learn to use Rod’s tiny snapshooter. Thanks for your patience, everyone

04 September 2009

Card Making

Not having the Internet has left me a lot more time for crafting! That’s a good thing because I am sending out about 7 cards a month to honour birthdays this year. (I will probably be cutting way back next year. This has been fun, but it’s a lot of work, and a little disheartening to wonder if any of them have arrived as intended.)

I posted as one of my lasts posts before the Big Change that I wanted to experiment with a tri-shutter card I had found online. I have been working with the template for several weeks, and have made three versions of it. I’m pretty happy with how it’s come out. As you can see, I favour the romantic effect that first got my attention.
I have even started to experiment with the alternative template for a flat front card, and then I want to see what I can do with more modern or more masculine effects. (Guy cards are one of my biggest challenges. Most of my relatives are men and boys, but only rarely do I come up with a guy card I really like.)
Blogging from a Mac with no mouse and a teeny laptop keyboard is taking some getting used to -- but I will keep trying. Never fear -- I am still here and I am getting better at this stuff. I hope soon to have the last part of the curriculum series done and posted. Maybe by Tuesday...