29 May 2010

Meet the newest members of my family

This lovely young lady is Lorena, with her son Nikko.
Lorena and Nikko are the newest members of my extended family. They are very dear to my sweet Wanja and her lovely Isabella and Leo, and so they are my family, too!

I am so excited! Three sons, two daugters, and three grandbabies! I am truly blessed!
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26 May 2010

Update May 25

Very, very late.

Linda just left -- we gardened until dark and then had dinner. *bliss*

But now, I'd best leave you to peruse Jack's take on our yard (I hadn't realized how pretty tat spot was!) and my crafting for the last few hours...

Valerie, I wish I had the luxury of feeling violated, really. This has been happening with monotonous regularity since it warmed up. *grrr* Thhe first time, I felt violated. Now I'm just grumpy. I plan to 'get a pit bull'. Duke might give our malicious visitor pause.

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25 May 2010

Arrrgh!


Arrrgh! Another break-in!!
 
We came out this morning to find that we have had another night-time "visitor".  Of course, they rifled through the contents of the car care again; this time there was nothing there to find, but they also found several keys (for the lawn mower and such) and tried them in the car, so they were evidently also trying to steal that.  (This has to be kids looking for a joy ride, because our car is so old and in such disrepair that it wouldn't even bring in much for parts.)
 
I'm exasperated. 

22 May 2010

May 22 update

First off, Connor took these photo of Jack last week -- pretty good, aren't they?

Now that I'm back at work, I find that there is more than enough to keep me busy -- both at work and at home.

It's fun, but kinda cuts into my blogging time. A mixed blessing, I guess. I love to blog -- or any kind of writing, really -- but when life is quiet it's hard to find anything to say. When there's lots to say, I don't always have time to say it. Oh well. Name a blogger who doesn't have that complaint, right?

Lessee.

Karate has come to dominate our lives since Jack's birthday, but not in a bad way. Oddly enough, while I have never been all that enthralled with the martial arts, and the kata don't interest me much, I am not minding the major focus on Jack's new passion.

I think it's because in these days of the Internet, I am able to look into the aspects of it that do interest me -- and Jack is moderately interested, too.

We found a web site that helped us learn to count to 10 in Japanese, which Jack needs for class anyway. We found another web site that has all kinds of Okinawan Japanese words (Jack is studying Isshinryu Karate) that are useful in the dojo setting. Again, he needs many of them in class, and all are useful.

I have been researching the history of Isshinryu and the meaning behind the patch they use.

All interesting stuff.

But even better, I am watching my little boy transform before my eyes in some pretty cool ways!

I won't say much more on that line, but once again, Jack has had what he needed (or wanted very badly) turn up on cue. (My son is uncanny that way.)

We enrolled him in the "easy" class (across the street from home and cheap) while we researched the right dojo for him. We were determined to find a dojo and a sensei who focused on the spiritual, traditional, and self improvement aspects of martial arts at least as much as on the sport and the physical forms.

My research suggests that, in this area, he is already in the best school from that perspective, and his teacher is absolutely amazing with the kids. The dojo is 25 minutes or so from here, so we'll stick with the community center classes for now, but we do go there every other weekend for extra practice and i think eventually we may enroll him there if his interest continues.

In other news, we ate out last night and again I was "poisoned". *sigh*

Not food poisoning, just corn. Since I have come to know just how ubique (opposite of unique) corn is, I have come to suspect that I may be able to eat some grains after all. Rice had become suspect because every time we had a "plain" rice bread, I got sick. Except...oops. That plain rice bread, as it turns out, contains xanthan gum. Xanthan gum isn't corn, but it is grown on corn and it still makes me sick. (Thanks for pointing that one out, Valerie!) I tried rice again when I knew we'd be staying home for a few days, and sure enough, rice is fine. Just not rice bread. Or rather, not *that* rice bread.

It's been the case with an amazing array of foods that seem safe at first glance that they have turned out to be "contaminated" with one form of corn or another. Lots of places are beginning to grok "gluten free", but when I ask about corn I get a lot of very funny looks. Last night's culprit? I had a plain hamburger with no bread and no ketchup, french fries from a separate fryer, and water. At the last minute, and without thinking it through, I made them "cheese fries". The cheese is gluten free...but it' not just cheese. It has corn starch. Oops. (Not up to gardening today, after all.)

As I have cut back on my card making, I have found my interest in scrapbooking returning. I still don't have a lot of photos of my grandchildren, but my interest has expanded to other sorts of pages. Not sure when I'll find time (that project I mentioned a while back is taking on a life of its own!) but it's interesting to finally have real ideas.

Jack has decided that I am the teacher for many of his subjects. That's going to slow us way down ... but it also seems to have a bright side. We have begun to notice that spending months and months on an era makes that era a part of our every day lives in a way that simply reading the stories and moving on wouldn't have done. But I do have to buckle down and make time, if we;re going to do it this way. Less socializing for me, clearly.

Now, I'm going to take my ache-y, angst-y self into the other room and try to convince my boy that it's time to read some Emily Dickinson. Luckily, she writes poetry I *really* like, so it should be easy.

16 May 2010

Lessons Learned

I decorated a shirt for Jack to wear to chess club. I learned a few very important things in the process:
1) Make sure the shirt is done a few days ahead. especially if the shirt wasn't his idea. (You should have seen the *other* expressions I got -- he was impatient to get moving and I was fussing.)
2) Yes, you do have to cut out the pictures. Really. You do.
3) Always print in landscaper format because it *isn't possible* to remove the backing from any picture that doesn't include the middle, where the only score is.

I like the shirt, though.
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14 May 2010

Today's Adventures

I woke up with the insight that the tiny "gardens" in front of the garage need more colour. I decided that, in honour of our furry neighbors (and in hopes that they'd be far more attractive than tomatoes and squash) I'd give red cabbages a try.

They're kind of "blah" now, but if they get a chance to grow, they'll be lovely. If not, they're cheap and the rabbits will be happy for a few days.
We also got three new beds in. Both the strawberry/raspberry/rhubarb permanent bed (at the back) and, after much lively debate and analysis, the two squash and melon beds toward the front. We needed to be sure to get maximum room in the beds while being sure not to crowd the tomatoes or strawberries. We opted for two beds of four plants each. If that actually leaves a lot of room to spare, we can add a bed next year.
Oh, and in other good news, I have been able to stay "clear" long enough to give brown rice a real test. It seems that, at least in controlled amounts and not too often, I can add brown rice to the menu. That means I can have rice bread...and that means that BLTs are OK this summer! Hurrah!!!

May 14

The final digging goes into the garden today. (I hope -- there may be more to do Sunday if I wear out.) I plan to get the strawberry/raspberry patch dug and planted today. If I can find some rhubarb, that will go in, too. Then I'll work on the squash and melon beds.

I started foliar feeding this week. The lettuces, who don't mind the cold, responded imediately. The tomatoes are still unimpressed. (Of the nine we have started, I am only sure that three will make it, but I haven't given up on any of them yet.) Rod and I were talking about the difference between the produce of '07 and last year's. The difference in quality was unmistakable -- that first year, produce seemed to last forever and it tasted amazing. Last year, it was good, but not amazing and it didn't last particularly long. The big difference was that I was too sick to do the foliar feeding last year. I wonder whether this year will see a return to amazing.

Not eating grains has caused both my hearing and my sense of smell to return. I have to say, I now understand why my boys made such faces whenever I foliar fed the garden the previous year. My goodness, that smells bad! I'm thinking that, given their faces when I was playing with cow poop soup, that is probably as bad as worse. I won't know until the days are hot enough to "cook" the soup...something to look forward to. *grin*
Jack has asked me not to speak of his karate yet, so I won't except to say that I am very proud of his progress. (And more impressed with Sensei Hubbard and the dojo of Master White than I expected to be.)

Off to the garden, so I'll have time to get to the nursery to get Grandpa John's garden later. That goes in after we go to the dojo tomorrow.

12 May 2010

Almost done and gardening vacation is almost over.

The majority of the garden is in. We still need to put up the tomato stakes so the tomatoes can go in, and we still need to dig the strawberry patch and the squash and melon hills and plant those but for the most part, we're done.

Just as well. It's been a rainy two weeks, and by the forecast, I think some of the digging will have to wait.

But I do have some crafting to finish.

And we're almost done with our bedtime reading for the Egypt unit, so I'd like to start wrapping up the day work for that shortly and get ready to move on. Of course, one thing that is causing me some pause is that Rod would like to study ancient Asia, America, Europe, and Africa. GREAT idea. But I am finding it really challenging to find materials. I'm sure they MUST be out there...but where?

After that, the Classical Greeks, and finding that material is pretty easy. The harder part will be narrowing it down so we don't spent 18 months on Greece.

I have managed to stay toxin-free for pretty much this entire vacation, so last night I felt safe to test brown rice. (Sweet, with an apple, strawberry, and rhubarb compote on top) So far, so good. I may be able to add rice to my diet. That would be nice. I could have either quinoa or rice flours, which would open up quite a few options. (But meanwhile, I have been discarding all of my old vegetarian recipes from the 1980s, since they're all based in grains and beans and that seems not to be a viable option for my middle age.)

Bets news of all: Corey is planning to visit this summer! I am delirious with joy! I have not seen enough of that young man these last 10 years!

11 May 2010

Homeschooling

So ... would it be out of line to call our evening's viewing of Karate Kid (1984) a cultural lesson?
Hmmm. It goes well with the karate lessons, but maybe not quite serious enough to be a lesson.
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Today's progress

Today's projects went pretty well.

We got the tomato trench in. The plants are not big enough yet to withstand "chuck the ground og" and his cousins the rabbits and squirrels, so they'll hang out in pots on the wagon until they're bigger. That also means we can scoot them into the garage if the nigt is expected to be cold. There will be hills of squash and melons along the fence beside the tomatoes, too.
The main garden is completely in. Linda is not just a gardener, but also an artist. and she arranged things so that as the garden matures, we'll have a blended work of art. That serves several purposes: it's lovely! It's maximizes the use of the available sun light, and it mixes things up enough so that a large amount of one plant don't send out a homing beacon to every pest in the county.

The straw in the photo shows the walking paths throug the garden -- we have pretty intensive land use going and our hopes for a big harvest are high.
We got the first extra layer on to the potatoes, too. Not much to see there, though.
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10 May 2010

Happy days

Mother's day was a quiet finish to a quiet long weekend. I got grocery store flowers and a candy bar -- and several hours to craft. (More on that later today.)
The garden out front is looking happier.

The potatoes and lettuces are looking vibrant. We have more tomato, pepper, and eggplants seeds sprouting.

Today, heavy labour as we dig the new tomato and squash (and strawberry) garden and haul bricks. (Thanks, Mark!)
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09 May 2010

Happy birthday, Corey

My beloved Corey. It's been 28 years since I first held you in my arms.

I am still amazed by the wonder that is you.
I love you!
Wishing you a wonderful birthday!


You just keep getting better looking!

08 May 2010

The Book Exchange

Round six of the book exchange has begun. I delivered the tub of infant and baby books this evening.

One thing that splitting the exchanges between baby and child books has made clear is that while there is some interest in baby books, there isn't a lot. Rod suspects that with two exchanges split, we may actually get a lot more interest than we did before.

After all, the period of interest in baby books is very short. If you know that it's been taking 18 months for the books to make their rounds, you pretty much want to join the exchange as soon as you know you're pregnant to be sure you'll still need them when they arrive.

With fewer people interested, the baby books should be done with their rounds within six months. I'll send out a call again when they get back. If I get at least five or six families that are interested, I can continue. Otherwise, I may just donate all the baby books unless someone else wants to take over that side. Every six months is about as often as I can see taking the job on.

The bigger kids books will take longer to prepare, since there are far more families who want the books, and so making the list will take longer, sorting it by area, so folks aren't driving all over the place to participate, takes a little longer, too. But then I won't see the books again for at least a year and the contents will have turned over almost completely.

I am seeing more chapter books show up now, too, so a chapter kids exchange may replace the baby books (or add another tub) next round. Truth be told, those are the books that interest us most these days, anyway.

Now, I sould be pulling the rotation list together. Maybe after dinner. ;)
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07 May 2010

Friendship

And a youth said, "Speak to us of Friendship."

Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."

And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;

For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.

When you part from your friend, you grieve not;

For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.

For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.

If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

06 May 2010

And the new year begins!

As he has every year since his third, Jack spent the day with Connor.
This year, Jack and Connor chose Jungle Java, an old time favorite, and then we went back to our place for cake and play in the yard.
It was the best of old times to begin the new.

Then Jack went to his first Karate class ever. He was stoked!

It's looking like a very good year. Happy birthday, Jack.
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How have seven years flown by so fast?

Happy birthday, Jack.

The last seven years have been fun, and I'm looking forward to watching you continue to grow into a fine man like you father and brothers.

05 May 2010

May 5 Update

Today was spent almost entirely in gardening.



Linda and I got vast amounts done - two beds are completely dug and the third is started. The potatoes and onions are in, the greens and cruciferous veg are in, the carrots and radishes are in, the beets, beans, and peas are started. We still intend to put in pumpkin, eggplant, peppers, sunflowers, turnips, rutebega, and a host of other things, if we can work out where to tuck them.

We have a plan for the third bed -- tomatoes, squashes, and strawberries.

That will bring the total garden space to about 900 square feet.

I'm pretty excited. I also hope that my avaricious little heart will be content with these gardens next year. Surely, done correctly, 900 square feet should be plenty.

I think part of my eagerness is that some of my favorite plants tend to take over lots and lots of space -- zucchini, tomato, and butternut love to spread out, which has crowded out slower growing neighbors in previous years. With such a long list of vegetables, it's temptiong to keep expanding.

Note to self: For future reference, I am using manure, alfalfa, mushroom compost, Planters II, Azomite, green sand, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, peat, and leaf compost pretty evenly across all the beds this year.

Then, as the storms blew in and closed down our gardening project, Linda went out foraging and brought home a bracket mushroom, which we sauted with onion and garlic to add to our lunch.

I harvested some chives, garlic chives, and oregano to add to the salad while Rod made a lovely, horseradish flower enhanced smoothie with berries, peaches, and kombucha. It was yummy! (though the mushroom was too mature and had gotten really tough.)

But so much healthy food made my hungry for potato chips, so we had that for desert.

Tomorrow is Jack's birthday, so we'll be taking a gardeniong break. Speaking of which, I owe the boy a cinnamon chocolate mud cake.

Good night everyone!
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Homeschooling

Yesterday morning, Jack and I spent all morning playing school.

Rod estimated that we had completed about a week's work! I had a blast and Jack seemed to enjoy himself, too.

Spending all morning at the books isn't what we're used to and it's not really what Charlotte Mason recommends, but I switched up what we were doing every 20 minutes or so and we stopped as soon as Jack lost focus.

We coloured in some Egyptian puppets and read about a kid's life in Egypt. We added some daily life in ancient Egypt stickers to our folder to decorate the inside, we read stories for character development and literature.

We examined the characters on Jack's cartouche and compared them to the hieroglyphics in our book. Some were the same, and some were different, so we discussed how in a recent story from our bedtime story of Egyptian myths and legends a mage had been able to gain great power because he could read hieroglyphics from many hundred of years earlier, and so we know that hieroglyphics changed over time.

We read some Kipling and we laughed.

We read some Shakespeare, which seemed to leave Jack cold. We'll try once more before we postpone it for a year. It may be too soon.

We read and narrated some of Aesops fables (though we didn't use them for penmanship this time.)

I had a blast -- I hope to find time to do this again before my vacation is over!




03 May 2010

Genius...

Everybody is a genius. Einstein quote at DailyLearners.com

Why this homeschooling family favours public schools

We're avid home schoolers. (Yeah, like that surprises anybody...)

Sometimes I am surprised, though, that people assume that being an avid homeschooler automatically means that we are "against" public schools.

That's not the case at all.

Actually, we almost always vote yes on education millages and more resources for the schools. Public schools aren't the best option for our family, but we consider them to be of critical importance to our culture on the whole. I wouldn't want to live in a place where education was reserved to the wealthy and well connected or even reserved to those whose parents had a burning love for knowledge.

While I do think that all children could, theoretically, benefit by the advantages of well done homeschooling
  • some families don't have the resources to dedicate to keeping one parent at home educating the children
  • some families don't *want* the responsibility for educating their children
  • some families don't have the 'culture of curiosity' that makes homeschool successful, and
  • some children will, unfortunately, find school a blessed respite from completely horrible, abusive, and dysfunctional home lives.
Public schools offer the opportunity of a basic education to everybody, regardless of who their parents are or how much money they have. Homeschooling was the original form of education, it's true -- but the only people who were being educated were those whose parents had the education to share and the luxury of time to share it or the resources to hire a tutor.

Today, every child, from any neighborhood, who is sufficiently curious and determined can get a basic education and learn what they need to know to continue to pursue education on their own terms.

Honestly, the public schools have made the current popularity of homeschooling possible. In the days when homeschooling was the norm, it was only the wealthy who had the basic education they needed to educate their own. In other families it was likely that both parents would have been illiterate. Thanks to the public schools, now any parent who is inclined to homeschool is probably well enough educated to learn what they need to know to teach their own children.

Public schools offer a reasonably uniform standard for education across an entire community, so that one can reasonably assume most people in a community will have a basic understanding of the essentials and will understand what they need to know for society to operate efficiently. That basic education of the majority of the citizenry has allowed developed countries to lead the way into the 21st century.

Public schools offer the to the community a citizenry armed with the tools with which to inform themselves, so that it is harder to "pull the wool over the eyes" of an entire community. An uneducated population is entirely at the mercy of those who speak well and can rouse a rabble. Educated citizens are still susceptible to an emotional argument, but with a basic education, a few can check the facts from which a loyal opposition can be born. This helps to keep our leaders honest.

There are many reasons to be thankful for public schools, and we would not like to live in a society where they were not supported and valued.

02 May 2010

This weekend's project

I have long been dismayed at the effect of our front yard -- not unlike Dorothy's place after Oz, someone seems to have just dropped our house in a field.

One of our first projects when we moved in was to do something about the front yard.

Of course, being a rose lover and an absolutely novice gardener, my first thought was roses. Sadly, roses love attention and sunlight and our house faces north. Four of the six bushes died of neglect and lack of light over the next few years. And our house still looked...barren. Somewhat less tidy than before, but still boring.

Rod and I are both feeling a little bit better. Better enough that when I heard that it was supposed to rain all weekend, I decided to start moving things around and make a flower garden at the front of the house, since I can do that in fits and starts and if it got rained out, it wouldn't be a problem.

I had been stymied for a couple of years trying to decide *what* to put there. I had just about decided that anything blue, purple or pink that could tolerate shade was going to be better than an eternal blank ... and then Valerie gave me some lovely forget-me-nots! (Thank you so much, Valerie!) Now, I decided, was the time.

We moved all the roses to the East side of the garden, where the healthiest rose was already living, and then we hunted through the yard and found lots of violets in blue and white. We moved some of those in and rescued an absolutely gorgeous lambs ear that had taken up its post in the drain out by the road. Then bought a few other plants to fill in.

And there we go.

It is busy drinking up in a well-timed thunder storm. It doesn't look all that great yet, but it's better -- and with any luck, I hope it will fill out as the summer progresses.

Now, I'm whipped. Good night!
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