Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blog safety?!!

A friend recently pointed out to me this post over at Islamic Homeschool Diary which links to this post over at Notes from the Trenches... and concerns the issue of Blog Safety. As in, how much information have you really given out on your blog? Enough for "bad people" to find your house? Recognize you or your children on the street?

Apparently this can happen. Easily. And it has given me something to think about.

Bear with me while I take a brief pause and go through my archives to do a little safety check.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Growing a knitter

Moonshine, not to be left out, will officially be kindergarten-age this coming Fall. She learned to knit last summer on a circular needle when she was a mere four-years-old. Again, I think it's part of the monkey-see, monkey-do phenomenon around here.

Her first official project was a doll, knit flat in garter stitch, and sewed up the side.

She gave me her vision (color, stripes, and hair) and I helped her pull it off. While she did a lot of the knitting and told me when she was ready to change colors, I helped her make that color change. I helped her knit. I put her dropped stitches back on the needle and untangled the yarns a dozen times. I did the sewing and the embroidering and the hair. She was four. Even Lance Armstrong doesn't ride alone.

She quickly moved on into a dishcloth, her first solo project. And she knits a little every week, or as the mood strikes her. She declares that she's "Going to finish it today," every time she sits down to knit. She usually manages to get through a row, two at the most, in one sitting. She's learning how to not freak out when she drops a stitch, put them back on, or just sit and wait for help. Important lessons.

She's been working on it for almost a year now. "It's a present for you," I'm constantly reminded, "so just pretend you don't know what it is."

In the past week she finally started finger crocheting (crocheted chain made with fingers.) Sunburst has tried to teach her many times, but it didn't take. Last week she finally grasped the concept and worked steadily (and proudly!) for an hour on her super long chain. If she's interested in the next year we may try to teach her finger knitting (not to be confused with finger crocheting) and how to work a Knitting Nancy to make I-cord.

And here's the knitting song I promised last month. Sorry about the blur. It's from an old public school 3rd grade songbook called Singing and Rhyming by Lila Belle Pitts.

The lyrics read:
Learning to knit is so much fun. You put on two, then take off one.
Missing a stitch and back you go. And then you start another row.

Faster and faster on I go. I love to sit and watch it grow.
Only one thing that puzzles me. When I get through, what will it be?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Knitting Mania

Sunburst has been knitting for a long time-- since she was five. Her first project was a wobbly- looking scarf for her doll. Then she plowed straight into a matching hat, knit flat and sewn up the back. Since then I have let her knit with me, doing a stitch here and a row there, helping me on my projects as her enthusiasm warranted.

Enthusiasm has never been a problem with Sunburst. The girl likes to knit.

Her first grade knitting looked something like this:

She had been rereading the Little House series, and with all sincerity, wondered if Mary could knit blind. So she tied a silk around her head and tried. It amused me to no end to see her patiently sitting like this, feeling out the stitches with her fingers. Since she had just learned to knit with five double-pointed needles the blind-knitting show seemed risky, but she managed to knit a row or two this way.

After two weeks of persistence, she came up with a sock. Size small. Baby small.

She knit the heel flap, turned the heel, and felt really proud of herself. It was completely her idea to knit a sock. I wasn't sure she could pull it off, but when I mentioned that I had signed up for a knitting challenge and talked up my goal of knitting my first ever sweater, Sunburst decided that she should push her knitting to new heights as well. And besides, how hard could one little sock be? She had just watched me knitting my first pair or two.

That seems to be how her knitting projects get fueled. She sees me knitting something, and she wants to do it, too. And of course I can't say no to that. I can't deny knitting. And I don't want to tell her that she "can't"do something unless of course it's something dangerous or totally inappropriate. Knitting is hardly ever inappropriate.

So when I started knitting fruit and veggie hats this past fall, and Sunburst got the itch to make one, too... well, of course I took her to the store and let her pick out some yarn. She was determined to make a strawberry hat for a sweet, little baby friend in our homeschooling group.

It took her awhile, but she did it.

Not bad for a seven year old in second grade.

The great thing about knitting is that it's not instantaneous. It takes some time and dedication and focus. If there's one activity that really works on strengthening the will forces, this would be it. Knitting teaches you to keep moving forward-- one row at a time, one stitch at a time. Whatever it takes to get there. I've been working on a lace shawl since last summer (my first lace piece!) and slowly Sunburst has watched it grow at a painfully slow rate under my hands. And hopefully that rubs off on her. I think it does. Afterall, Sunburst did go back and knit another baby sock to make a matched set. Knitting that second sock can be excruciating... there are lots of knitters that succumb to "second-sock syndrome."

As for knitting as school work, I don't really care what Sunburst is knitting, as long as she's happy doing it. Her most recent works--in-progress include mittens, a scarf, and a teddy bear for the Mother Bear Project.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Free Hugs

Sometimes, a hug is all we need!
Check out the Free Hugs Campaign!

This video made me smile! Extra hugs to my sister Junebug in California for sending me the Free Hugs email. I'll be hugging her in person next month, for the first time in FOUR long years! Yay!

Barbara Dewey conference

Exciting news!

I just got word that Barbara Dewey will be doing a conference in the midwest on Aug 25- 26.

It sounds fun! Anyone planning on going?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Date night with Moonshine

Tonight after dinner I had the pleasure of going out on the town with Moonshine, my five-year-old daughter. It's not often I get to have some one-on-one time with any of my three kids, or vice-versa. So this was a real treat!

Actually it was a bribe, if you want the truth of it. The girls had been goading me into becoming a stark raving lunatic at bedtime with all the yapping-pushing-jabbering-pinching needling-banging-shrieking that was going on in the bedroom. All this and they were sleeping in different beds! Inevitably the carnival of noises would begin just as I was lulling Kitty Bill to sleep, and several nights in a row of this nonsense pushed my last button. So rather than beat a dead horse, in my deepest hour of desperation, I offered up a bribe. Go to bed without a hassle, and earn a sparkly smiley-face sticker! Earn ten and go out for a night on the town with the Mom. Alone. My undivided attention! As if that wasn't enough, I threw in the promise of a sugary treat to boot!

My friends, let me tell you how superbly this bribe is working! Twelve nights later, both girls have filled up their little chart with smiley faces and are simmering with anticipation.

So tonight, I took Moonshine out. She gussied herself up in her newest outfit --the glittery silver Dorothy shoes and "beehive dress" that had her squealing in delight at the used children's clothing store. (How can you refuse your child a beehive dress?) And she even brushed her hair!

She was very cute about it. She wanted to bring some picture books along, I guess, in case she got bored. She's so like Einstein! Alas, I talked her out of the books and we headed over to a local alternative coffee shop where they have vegan cookies. We picked out our treats and drinks and she chose a table in the back room near a shelf of books and board games, where upon in a matter of minutes she proceeded to slaughter me in a game of chess. She's five, people. And she had me in checkmate in about 6 or 7 moves!

Moonshine clearly has a few facets that I'm not aware of. This is my dreamy child who chews on anything within reach, wipes food in her hair at every meal, and blindly walks into traffic. The freaky flip side of that is that she memorizes entire plays, has a keen eye for discerning between children's book illustrators, and spends an exorbitant amount of time (and interest!) memorizing film trivia for the numerous old musicals and shows I have let her watch in the past year, such as Mary Martin's "Peter Pan"--"Mom, Maureen really did a good job in that play, didn't she?" Or "The Wizard of Oz," which has developed into some kind of crazy obsession with Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton. At any given time of the day Moonshine will ask me to Google somebody she has been thinking about, which is how we discovered that the Wicked Witch also did a hilarious stint on the Addam's Family tv show in the 60's.

Obviously, there's more to Moonshine than meets the eye. Tonight I got to see a huge glimpse of that, and it was very refreshing. And yeah, she beat the pants off of me in chess. I had no idea how well she played. I don't think she had any idea... because she laughed with delight when I conceded that she had won, and then she modestly offered to take the move back so we could continue playing. I let her keep the win, and we started a new game which she quickly tired of. So instead we let our pawns dance around and gallop across the board on their valiant steeds. This was more along the lines of what I had originally expected, but just when I started getting comfortable in my knowledge of her, she picked up her queen and began speaking for it, with a perfect British accent that came out of nowhere, ordering the pawns around like disobedient children!

We left the cafe in a flurry of cookie crumbs and on a whim I took her upstairs to a vintage clothing and jewelry store where she was really in her element. Now, I have to confess that I'm not a clotheshorse or anywhere near fashion savvy... I'm pretty clueless about such things, but Moonshine is a bird of a different color. She immediately began fingering all the clothes and exclaiming over the jewelry. We "dream shopped," and she picked out a full-length gold- sequined coat, an embroidered handkerchief, and a vibrant pink dress with a pink sequin and lace bodice, which she decided was the absolute perfect wedding dress for herself. She's all about the fancy, this one. On the way out she clasped onto a silky black dress in the "Addam's Family section," and swooning, exclaimed that she could "never let go of it again." It was just "too warm." Warm? "Soft," she said. Sensorily complex and fulfilling.

That's Moonshine all over.

We rounded out our evening with a walk over to the library because she wanted to bring home one book for everyone in the family. Ha! Thirty books later we headed home, happy and content. It was such a blast to see her shining in her own light, neither overshadowed by her older sister nor overwhelmed by the screaming needs of her younger brother. I was both surprised and delighted with the person that came bubbling out of that beehive dress.

This is the best bribe yet. I only wish I would have thought of it sooner, and of course I can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Me, a flower?

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"You stand up for what you believe in, even if it gets in the way of what other people think. You are proud of yourself and your accomplishments and you enjoy letting people know that."

Huh? A canna? Spooky! I saw these for the first time today as I was driving Sunburst to camp. They were beautiful and eye-catching and different. That is so NOT me. So I have to laugh at this one. Also the text that goes with the flower... partly true. I'm honest to a fault, and I don't play well at niceties. You will always know where I stand and what I think. Our old ancestral motto (and I'm not making this up) is, "Frangas Non Flectes," which roughly translates into "You may break me but I will never bend." It's true. I'm not one to waiver... that said, it has recently come to my attention that this does not always endear me to people. Who knew?!

But the latter part... accomplishments and all that hooplah? Not so much. Notice that I create blogs and invite people to post on them because I recognize that this life is so not about me. I'm just another weed in the field, really. But together, my friends, we're a garden.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Summer camp

Sunburst left today for her first day of summer camp.

We signed her up months ago, and she has been anticipating this day with great excitement. Since she has been homeschooled, this kind of "away from home" thing isn't something she's had much experience with. I wasn't sure how she'd do, but she has been widely enthusiastic, especially with the knowledge that her best homeschooling pal would be attending camp with her. So today we packed up what she needed and dropped her off at the specified time. The woman that signed her in had the biggest grin I've seen in years-- just the epitome of cheerfulness. I took it as a sign of the good times to come.

Just as I was leaving, they shuffled Sunburst into a different group than her pal. Apparently they were dividing the kids up by grade, something rather arbitrary when it comes to homeschoolers. Sunburst is now considered a 3rd grader, while her pal is technically in 2nd grade. This would never do! Sunburst shot me a look of complete horror. Her eyes got wide and shiny as the bottom fell out of her world. And I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Welcome to Summer Camp!

In the end, it all worked out. Sunburst and NightOwl got to be together, with a heaping thanks to Aleisha's unwaivering people skills. (Always pick her for your team; she's very good at this sort of thing.) Sunburst was pulled out of the older group and happily joined the younger one.-- But that pit in my stomach didn't go away. It just deepened as I went on with my day. I couldn't stop worrying about Sunburst. Thinking about that look on her face. Missing her.

I missed her terribly. And she was gone for all of three hours.

It's a day camp. We'll get up and do it all again, every day for the next two weeks. And I'll probably miss her again tomorrow. And the next day, and so forth and so on. What's wrong with me? It's not like she hasn't been away from us before, right? Right? oh... well, I guess she hasn't really. Just five times in 8 years. Two medical emergencies, two sitters, and one homeschool activity. Is that really it? Have I taken this Attachment Parenting schtick too far?

We've pretty much been on our own since we became parents. When Sunburst was born we lived twelve hours away from our closest family members. Since then we have moved ever farther away, playing follow the job. I can see how things might have been different had we raised our kids closer to home where grandmas and aunts and uncles abound. But our life circumstances have led us into a world of strangers. It seems that just when we got to know people well enough to entrust our kids to them, it was time to move again.

But really though, there's this part of me that's completely confounded by the idea that we're supposed to be okay with leaving our kids anyway. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm confounded. I just don't get how we're supposed to be okay with it.

I mean, we grow these little people up, out of practically thin air, for nine to ten months inside of us. They are so completely a part of us that when we push them out into the bright world they are still attached. They are helpless and smelly, and we are just as wrapped around them as we ever were. Coddling and nursing and catering to their every whim. Snuggling and gurgling and loving. We're designed, from the moment of conception, to shelter them, protect them, nurture them. And not just for weeks, but for years and years... and then one day we're just supposed to watch them walk out the door and be okay with that?

On what planet does this even make sense? There seems to be a great design flaw here. Sure, this is a multi-species experience. I get that biologically it needs to happen, that's it's all part of the process. But emotionally? It's some kind of sick game along the lines of "if you love it, let it go..."

That's crap. I don't want to let my kids go. I don't want to entrust them to the care of complete strangers. Even if they push my buttons some of the time. Even if sometimes it's hard to get through the day without pulling my hair out. I love them. I enjoy them. And it hardly ever occurs to me that being without them is an option. It's not a conscious thought, my brain just doesn't go there. By becoming a mom, this is the deal I signed up for. It's as hard for me to separate myself from them physically as it would be to try to separate my heart from theirs. It's too late for all that. We're intertwined, the kids and I.

But you already knew that. We're homeschoolers, afterall. As for those people who aren't, and watch their kids head off every day for school, how on earth do they do it? They must have nerves of steel!

Sunburst left today for summer camp. She had a grand time, learned a few dances, and played a bunch of games. She's revved up to go again tomorrow and every day hereafter for the next two weeks. She's leaving. She's excited. I'm excited for her. Really. But gnawing there at the back of my mind is the thought that someday it won't be summer camp, and she'll be leaving for good.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Humanoid Toddler

Robo-toddler reacts to human touch.

Fascinating and freaky.

8 Things

Ooh, I've just been tagged by Shukr. And for something I'm an expert on: me! Now you will all find out just what a weirdo I really am.

The rules are simple…Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. I've been vegan for 8 years. I'm not real pushy about it; to me food is a totally personal choice. However, be warned that if you're having a party that features roast piglet on a spit, I'll probably not come. The smell is too much.

2. My childhood hero was Olivia Newton-John. You know, Grease, Xanadu--- the whole nine yards. I used to own every album she ever released, most of them on 8-track. Yeah, I'm old enough to remember 8-track players.

3. When I was 7 and 8 my favorite toy was an Andy Gibb Shadow Dancing doll. I loved it like there was no tomorrow. I couldn't decide if I wanted to marry Andy Gibb or if I wanted him to marry Olivia Newton-John and have them as my parents. With parents like that I thought I'd be a shoe-in as a Solid Gold dancer. ;-)

4. I used to have a thing for memorizing song lyrics. Throughout the 1980's I kept a binder stuffed full of song lyrics of all genres that I had copied down, either from record albums or by playing a song ad nauseum and translating what I heard. Sometimes my translations made absolutely no sense, and once, when I was singing one of my translations in the car, my mother nearly had a conniption fit. Apparently "Hopelessly Devoted to You" does not contain curse words... who knew?

5. When I was 8 years old, and my translating skills had so obviously failed me, I decided that I wanted to be the first woman president of the U.S. Sadly, this goal is still obtainable. Not by me, surely! But by someone....

6. When I was 13 I still had 8 of my baby teeth! --And people say I have a hard time letting go of things... Anyway, the dentist decided to pull all 8 of them out just before my 8th grade prom. Oh, the misery!

7. My first seven boyfriends didn't take, but I married number 8. He once whittled me a number 8 out of wood to represent our infintesimal love. I still have it. And him, too, of course!

8. I was born in the 8th month of the year-- a planned, unassisted homebirth. I was the only one of my 8 brothers and sisters to be born at home. Oh, and I weighed over 8 lbs. Spooky, huh?

Ok, so maybe I took that "8" part a little too literally. Apparently you don't HAVE to get all weird and make everything relate to the number 8... but I'm kind of a theme-oriented gal. I'm quirky that way. Anyway, this is the first tag I've actually responded to. How'd I do?

I'm tagging.... MoxyJane, Aleisha, BigKrautMama, HerbalTonya, BirthStudent, Mrs. Darling, Blissful Bee, and... da-da-da-dah.... Mama to the Masses.

Monday, June 04, 2007

School's Out!

There is no music anywhere
Like children's voices in the air.

Like crystal bells they peal and ring
They never really speak... they SING.

But, oh, their cries when school is out--
A song... a cheer... a bell... a SHOUT!

~Mae Winkler Goodman

Last week we decided to be done for summer. I don't feel like I can give my full focus to the task at hand, and Sunburst certainly doesn't want to focus either. We're tapped out. Plus, the pool down the street is open. It's a big one with water slides and kiddie sprinklers. From our house we can hear the happy din of swimmers all day long. Water slides or math problems? It's not really a fair contest.

So we went through our stuff and together figured out what projects we absolutely must finish up in order to have some closure on the school year. There was a lot that I had planned to cover but didn't get around to. And I'm learning to take my own advice and feel okay with that.

Plus Marsha Johnson, of the Waldorf Home Educators yahoo group, said something the other day that really moved me. She said, "You do not have to teach your child every single thing, little tastes, little exposures, little hops on stones in the stream, little meanderings around the meadow, remember........ They already KNOW it. You are simply part of the process where they are waking up and REMEMBERING it.........."

So now that I'm totally off the hook (whew!) in order to feel personally satisfied this is our little list of stuff to finish up:
  • The King Of Ireland's Son --we took a break and are now back, fully entranced, with the story. Sunburst wants to draw a few more pictures and write about them before she shows it off to her dad.
  • Saints and Heroes embroidery --just three more squares to go! And this is no big hurry, except that she's anxious to sew them up into something for display purposes.

Like I said, it's just a wee list unless I've forgotten something, which is entirely possible. I also have a few books that I would like to continue to read to her out of since we haven't finished them. Maybe we will remember to get to these:
  • Jataka Tales
  • Aesops Fables
  • A Pebble For Your Pocket, Thich Nhat Hanh

And all those lovely math stories I didn't get to I will hold over for next year. I'm planning on REALLY preparing ahead this summer for next year. I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants this year (well, since the car accident anyway.) It's not that I don't function well that way most of the time, but I really want to take the effort to sit with the material for longer this time and really contemplate what it is I want to bring to Sunburst.

And Moonshine, oh! She's excited that she's finally old enough for kindergarten this Fall. She DOES realize that she's not going anywhere for this. She knows she's on the homeschool plan. What she doesn't realize, I think, is that she's been doing kindergarten all along. So I will go out of my way to find something novel to bring to her-- the stories and songs she doesn't remember hearing, that sort of thing. Her excitement is awfully cute. She's counting down the days, figuratively, until she'll be old enough to do "that fun picture work" like Sunburst.

I'm starting to understand all that talk about building anticipation.

Friday, June 01, 2007

How many?

How many babies does it take

...to fall out of a grocery cart?
...to run off in the store?
...to disappear at the library?
...to break into a glass cabinet?
...to empty every cupboard in the kitchen?
...to run in the street?
...to thoroughly flood a bathroom and part of a hallway?
...to break a thick, wooden safety gate?
...to climb on a bar stool?
...to pull everything off the counter?
...to sneak into the paints?
...to build forts on the couch?
...to climb partway into the fish tank?
...to fall out of the bed?
...to topple out of the swing?
...to scale the bunkbed?
...to throw ear-shattering tantrums all week long?

Yeah, just one.

Einstein has been gone this week at a conference, and it's been all-mama-all-the-time. Unfortunately, Kitty Bill chose this week to catch a cold and simultaneously make some huge developmental leaps. I'm all for leaps, just not from anything higher than his knees. A little back-up here would be nice. Sleep, too, for that matter.

He's running me ragged.

Einstein, come home soon!

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