Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pond Dipping

We went pond dipping again today. The weather was glorious, hot and bright, perfect for splashing in the cool water.We caught more water bugs and minnows, and a couple pond snails. Our pond guide arrived in the mail yesterday, part of a pond activity kit (more on this in a future post), so we were able to identify some of the pond creatures we caught and learn some useful information. For example, we learned that both water boatmen and backswimmers bite. Knowing that is pretty useful, don't you think?

A fine young gent found some clear slime clinging to a weed, eggs of some kind. He says frogs, I say snails. We'll see in a week or so, as we brought the eggs home in a jar to hatch. Tomorrow we'll make a short excursion back to the pond for more pond water so that we can create a pond-in-a-jar for our soon-to-be hatchlings, whatever they may be.

I forgot the camera, but remembered the paints. Our lovely artistic lady has returned from her summer visit to relatives, and she inspired her brothers to pick up their paintbrushes too. Six-year-old gent sat with his sis and painted his vision of the pond right along with her. Not a bad effort for a gent who, until recently, didn't care to color, draw or paint much at all. As a matter of fact, he even chose painting as his favorite part of today's outing. Then he changed his mind and said it was catching bugs and throwing rocks, but hey, he's a six-year-old boy. That painting even made it onto the list is pretty darn good.

Items to remember on our next pond trip: A trash bag for picking up the trash around the pond (Litterbugs. Ugh!) and a container for blackberries. I got a handful of ripe berries today; by our next visit we'll be able to pick enough for a cobbler.

Lavender Wands

I love lavender in the garden. It smells wonderful, it pretty much takes care of itself, and it's beautiful. Last year I posted a picture of my lovely lavender (here). Mom posted a link to directions for making lavender wands. I found another set of directions here. Yesterday, the eldest lovely lady cut the lavender while I weeded the garden, then we sat and wove lavender wands. The wands are simple and lovely. The woven ribbon encloses the lavender, so that you get the fragrant benefits of a bunch of lavender without the little flowers littering the floor. And if you don't have time to make a wand, a bunch tied with satin ribbon is just as pretty.

Simple. Sweet. Heavenly. Life is good.

Great Read-Alouds, Ages 3-5

I've come up with a personal reading challenge. Every library visit, while the lovely ladies and fine young gents play with the puppets and the doll house, I browse the book flyers. "Ooo, that looks good," I think. "I should look for these books sometime," I tell myself.

Finally I decided I'd better just get on the stick and actually read some of the books I've been "Ooo"-ing over, starting with Great Read-Alouds, Ages 3-5. A few books on the list we've already read together: The Mitten by Jan Brett (I wrote a review of The Mitten here); Corduroy by Don Freeman; a Poohsticks favorite, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats; The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Crockett Johnson who wrote and illustrated the Harold and the Purple Crayon books; and one of my very favorite read-alouds, Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel.

Our first new-to-us book from the Great Read-Alouds list:

The Lion and the Little Red Bird, Elisa Kleven. I fell in love with this story the first time I read it to the fine young gents, and they love it too. A little red bird follows the lion trying to discover why the lion's tail changes to a different color every day. The mystery of the lion's tail has a simple reason that isn't completely predictable. Absolutely charming, The Lion and the Little Red Bird has beautiful artwork-- lovely collage illustrations-- and the story is wonderfully written.

The Paper Princess, also by Elisa Kleven was on the shelf next to The Lion and the Little Red Bird, so this book came home with us too. A little girl colors and cuts out a paper princess and they become fast friends. As the little girl tries to decide what to use for hair for her princess the wind blows the paper doll away. The paper princess finds her own hair and has other adventures as she tries to find her way back to her girl. Another sweet story with a charming conclusion. As in the story of the lion and the bird, the illustrations for The Paper Princess are perfect. The gents pulled both books off the shelf nearly every night. I've enjoyed reading these stories so much that I renewed them both so that we can read them for a couple more weeks.

I'm looking forward to checking out more of Elisa Kleven's books. In addition to being lovely read-alouds, they'd make perfect reading and looking for an art unit on paper art and collage. More about Elisa Kleven, including teaching activities and information about her art and stories at her website: http://www.elisakleven.com/

Sunday, July 29, 2007

In memory

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away.
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away.
I'll fly away, O Glory, I'll fly away.

We lost someone dear to us recently, my dad's wife. It wasn't unexpected. She's been ill for a long time, and our sadness at losing her is balanced by our knowledge that she is at peace, no longer in pain, in glory with God. Our six-year-old reminded me of that. "Mom," he said, "I miss Grandma. But I'm happy that she's in heaven with God and she's not sick any more." Sweet words from a sweet boy, and he certainly comforted my heart.

When we first met, I had a hard time believing she was for real. No one is that nice, I'd think to myself. But....she just was. She was one of those rare people who always has a cheerful word to say, is gracious to others, greets life with a smile. What an honor to know someone who, simply through kindness, honesty and being true to herself, blessed those around her. From her example, I learned that one can lead a life of kindness and service to others without being subservient. Grace and courtesy are important. In this let-it-all-hang-out world, we forget sometimes, the value of thoughtfulness and understanding. Life your life with a smile. Complaints are a waste of time. Life is good.

I had a dream the night before her service. A little girl was dancing outside in the grass, wearing a white dress, and I knew it was her. She was lovely, innocent, joyful. It started to snow, but she wasn't cold. She danced and skipped as fat white snowflakes swirled from the sky. Sometimes she'd look in through the glass and smile and wave, but if we went out to play with her she was gone.

I was left with such a sense of peace when I woke. The dream was a reminder to me that not only are we bathed in glory when we move on from this life to the next, but we are also given the priceless gift of peace. Peace and a rest from our sorrows, our pains and suffering, our struggles with our imperfect natures. This life is good. And so is the next.

She'll be sorely missed, and she has become who God has always intended her to be-- lovely, innocent, joyful, full of His peace.

Hallelujah, bye and bye. I'll fly away.
from "I'll Fly Away" (Traditional)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pond box

A few days ago at reading time, I picked up six-year-old gent's science program. I waffled a bit over buying him a science program, as our science kits and interest-led explorations worked really well over the past school year, but in the end the curriculum junkie part of me won out, and I purchased My World Science, the unit covering the African Savanna, Sound & Light, Electricity & Magnetism, and Ponds.

I opened up the book that goes with the pond section, One Small Square: Pond, Donald M. Silver and Patricia J. Wynne.

"What's that?" asked fine young gent over my shoulder.

"A book about ponds," I replied. "It's for your science. Do you want to start by learning about ponds instead of Africa?"

"Can we do it right now, Mom?"

I put together a pond box using the recommendations from both the My World Science teacher manual and One Small Square: Pond, and today we went pond dipping.

We saw dragonflies and damselflies, water bugs and minnows, very noisy crows, a large beetle, duckweed, and a nutria. We learned stuff and everyone got wet, including the dog.

"Can we go again tomorrow?" the fine young gents begged.

How to Make a Pond Exploration Box

You Need:

A large backpack

A clear plastic container with a lid-- large enough to store your other items, small enough to slide into a large backpack.

Nets (I bought ours from the fish section of the pet store for $2 each. We also used a small kitchen strainer, which worked dandy.)

Magnifying glass

Bug collecting jars
Small containers, some with lids if possible (we reuse yogurt cups and small vials from lovely lady's science supplies)

A plastic bag large enough that the whole kit or wet shoes will fit inside

A pond field guide
Paper and pencil

Optional art supplies:
Watercolor paints and paper
Colored pencils

A pond (This item will not fit in the box.)

Tips and Ideas:

The plastic bin doubled as a small collection pond, which allowed us to observe the minnows and water bugs that we caught. The bug that looks like it's floating upside-down in the corner is a backswimmer, a water insect that swims on its back. We read about backswimmers in Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems, which I've written about here.

Don't forget Mom's bag: Drinking water, sunscreen, snacks if you think you'll be out long enough, and a blanket for sitting.

The only items we couldn't do without: The nets, the plastic bin, and the bug jars and other assorted containers. If you've got those three things you're ready.

Bring at least one net per child because they are the item with which to dip.

Be prepared to get wet. Make sure the kids are wearing clothes that can get muddy, and if you're familiar enough with the pond that you're comfortable with kids wading make sure they've got shoes that can get wet and muddy too.

On the pond

Sunday, July 22, 2007

No Spoilers Here

So......yesterday I went to Target to get shampoo, toothpaste, supplies for a pond exploration box for the fine young gents, and...what else? Oh yeah! The real reason I needed all of those other things immediately: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

As I near the checkout, two teenaged girls pick the book up from the end of the checkout lane and....are you ready for this?........flip to the end!

I gasped out loud. (Not really, but I know I can't be the only one who internally gasps at the idea of reading the end first.)

"That is soooo cheating!" I laughed as I walked by. They looked up and laughed too.

Then they ran through the checkout area shouting out to their waiting friends the ending they'd read.


The checker sighed. "I'm on page 40," she said. "I wish people would stop doing that."

I still enjoyed the book.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rainy Day

"It's raining," I said to the fine young gents as I opened the curtains to let in the morning.

"Mooooom," replied a sleepy six-year-old-gent, "It's July. It doesn't rain in July."

Things to Do On a Rainy Summer Day

Play in a Box.

Go for a hike.
Fine young gent, 6, is attending a day camp at Nearby Nature. They went hiking and pond-dipping in the rain.

Go to the library.

Color and put together puzzles.

Cook together. Bean soup is perfect for a damp summer day.

Listen to stories and music. Sandburg Out Loud this week. Wonderful. Fabulous. Outstanding. "If you ask your mother for one fried egg for breakfast and she gives you two fried eggs and you eat both of them, who is better in arithmetic, you or your mother?" (From Carl Sandburg's poem "Arithmetic.") That line makes me laugh every time, and the rest of the poem is just as delightful. If you're a fan of Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, you'll thoroughly enjoy this CD. It's a combination of traditional folk songs, Sandburg's poetry, and several stories from the Rootabaga Stories collection, including two of my very favorites, "The White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy," and "How the Potato Face Blind Man Enjoyed Himself on a Fine Spring Morning." If you've never read Sandburg's delightful Rootabaga Stories, you must. Turn off the computer and come back when you've finished. I'll wait here. Read them out loud, even if you have to read them to the cat. The language is glorious, nonsensical, a treat to roll off your tongue. To read Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories online, click here.

Read out loud.
Childcraft: Animal Friends and Adventures, Volume 4 (Field Enterprises). I found this book, pictured below, at the library book sale. For a dollar apiece, I came away with three of the volumes in this set, a set I spent hours poring over as a kid. At first I had to read with allergy eyedrops and a box of tissue handy, but it's gotten a lot better, and for a dollar each it's worth putting up with the musty smell that still hasn't quite come out.

I don't think we owned this set when I was young. Maybe the books were at my grandmother's house. I still remember some of the stories, especially the one in which a young boy kills a roseate spoonbill. I'd always wondered, "Where did I read that story?" As soon as I saw this volume on the sale table, I knew. The fine young gents are enjoying the stories of horses, bears, dogs, and other animals, as well as the second section about transportation. Most of the stories are excerpts from novels, like Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink) and Justin Morgan Had a Horse (Margeurite Henry). I'm enjoying the different historical periods featured in each story, from pioneer days (and values) to stories that were contemporary when the books were first published in the 50's and 60's. This week we've been treated to stories of three brothers and their ride on the New York subway, a flight on the China Clipper, a trip on an ocean liner, and a steam boat ride on the river. The stories are well-written and engaging, certainly worth reading through the collection if you happen across them at the library or the library sale table.

Clean something. We cleaned the basement playroom, everything in its place. It was spotless. It didn't last long, because while cleaning they all re-discovered the toys they haven't seen for these past sunny weeks outdoors. After lunch, the fine young gents disappeared down the stairs and I didn't hear from them for almost an hour.

I read my book in peace. Bliss. Life is good.

Tuesday Ten

Ten Things I'd Do If I Won the Lottery

1. Build our dream house. In the country, with room for the kids to run, and a place to plant a garden and a berry patch, and space to raise bees and chickens. And trees.

2. Start a farm stand. My sisters and I could have a farm stand at the Farmer's Market. Busy Farm sis could get up early in the morning to set up, I could sell the stuff because I don't mind talking to strangers, and Irie sis could give a 5-minute massage to anyone buying more than four dozen eggs. When my farm sister first brought up the idea of a farm stand she said, "We could call it Three Sisters." I'd make fun of her-- I mean, it doesn't get more original than that, does it?-- but that was the first name I thought of myself.

3. Buy books. In my dream house, I'd have a library of my very own, a whole room just for books. Nah, I guess not. Don't get me wrong, I'll bet I'd spend a lot of money on books. But lately I've been wondering....maybe, just maybe, it's possible to have too many books. Regular trips to the library seem to satisfy our craving for new books to read. I can request books from the library so that I don't have to drive downtown to get a book I'd like to read. In the last year or so I've gotten more choosy about the books we add to our shelves.

4. Travel. And with lottery dollars in my pocket I'll bet I could travel with a lot more than a change of underwear and a spoon.

5. Rent a cabin on a lake for an entire summer. I've always thought those old-fashioned vacations where Mom takes the kids to a rustic cabin for the entire summer, and Dad works in the city and comes up on the weekends sound so idyllic. We'd swim all day, roast marshmallows at night. It's probably been in the back of my mind all week because our neighbors went to visit the lakes where the kids' grandfather used to spend his summers. I think I'd rather wait until the kids can all swim well, though.

6. Drive cross-country. We could afford to take our time meandering across the country and still afford to stay in hotels if we won the lottery. Another trip for when the kids are older. Can you imagine trying to take that kind of trip with a kid who's potty training? Eeek!

7. Share. Wouldn't it be fun, just once, to be a kind of wish fairy?

Need a washer and dryer? There you go.

New car? Done.

Let's all go to Disneyworld!

Here's a check, go and spend it on something.

I'd share my winnings with my family. (Unless I actually win the lottery, in which case you all had better keep your greedy mitts to yourselves.)

8. Hire a housekeeper. Someone to come every day to cook and clean. "Aaaah," I sighed to loving husband. "Wouldn't it be nice to have someone to cook for us and then clean up afterward?" But alas, instead of being spoiled and idle, our lives are filled with meaningful work, giving us direction and purpose.

9. And a gardener. Someone to mow and weed, that would be dandy.

10. Give it away. Not all of it, I'm not that selfless. But I've come to realize that we are so blessed. Unimaginably so. We're healthy, we've got food to eat and clean water and a lovely home. When it comes down to it, we don't really need anything more than what we've got.

Not that it's likely that we'll ever win. We don't play the lottery. But still, it's nice to dream, isn't it?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Blueberry Weekend

On Friday, the fine young gents and their lovely young sister piled in the van and we drove up the beautiful McKenzie River Highway to The Berry Patch to pick blueberries with friends. The weather was perfect. The fine young gents helped lovely lady's friend pick blueberries and pretended that they saw bears in the bushes. Lovely lady picked for about 15 minutes, then sat in the car reading a magazine and listening to her iPod until it was time to go. Best of all, I picked a bucket of blueberries, about 12 pounds.

The McKenzie River Valley is gorgeous. After our berry outing on Friday we all drove up to the dam and across to a beautiful park at Leaburg Lake for a picnic. It was one of those perfect relaxed afternoons-- the kids entertained one another, so my friend and I talked and talked about our daughters, about the boys.

We stopped to feed our picnic leftovers to the ducks and geese. On our way back to the car we found our Cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Dear friend down the street went to get cherries, seconds from the cherry orchard for $4/bucket. "Would you like me to pick up some cherries for you too?" she asked when she called on Friday morning. I came home from Friday's blueberry outing to a huge box of cherries on my counter.

On Saturday I went back to The Berry Patch with my sisters. Sisters make the best blueberry buddies, and it's way easier to pick without little boys falling down and eating the berries out of my bucket. We laughed and talked and made fun of Mom (not really, Mom) and told Meg she had earwigs in her hair. I picked 27 pounds of berries with the help of my Irie sis, who helped top off our buckets once she was done with hers. Saturday is Dollar Day at the Berry Patch, a dollar a pound, a fantastic deal, especially considering what you'd pay for a flat of berries once they reach the fruit stands.

Cobbler and jam, and canning cherries.

I pitted the cherries. Sheesh. That's a heck of a lot of work. I didn't have a cherry pitter, so I used a bobby pin. How to pit cherries with a bobby pin: Slide the bobby pin into the cherry through the stem end, hook the pit and pull it out. You get the hang of it pretty fast. Then the dear friend who got me the cherries in the first place finished pitting hers and brought me her cherry pitter. It's a little bit faster pitting cherries with a pitter like this one. The cherries were juicy, dark and sweet. If you're pitting cherries don't wear your favorite shirt. I looked like an axe murderer.

I made the best cobbler ever, blueberry-cherry. The sweet cherries balance the blandness of cooked blueberries, the mellow blueberries smooth the bright sweetness of the cherries. Perfect. (Cobbler recipe here, at the end of the post. I used about 4 c. blueberries and 2 c. cherries, which seemed to create the perfect balance.)

I froze most of the rest of the blueberries.

Then the dilemma. The freezer's getting full, and I still have a huge box of cherries and a giant bowl of blueberries. I decided to can the cherries, even though I've never canned cherries before. Thank goodness for Google, I found step-by-step directions (and other information on preserving fresh fruit too) here. Now I've got several pints of canned cherries in the basement next to all the jars of strawberry and raspberry jam.

Blueberry jam. I've never made it before because blueberry skins didn't seem to be quite the thing for jam. But I had hot jars and lids left from canning cherries, so I decided to give it a whirl. Mashing blueberries with a potato masher, which works dandy with strawberries and raspberries, is awful. A quick spin through the food processor, and not only are the berries mashed, but the skins are no longer a problem. I had just enough berries for one batch of low-sugar blueberry jam. It's nice, a bit bland, good on toast. Next batch I want to try blueberry-lime, with extra lime juice and some lime zest to kick the flavor up a notch.

I'm off to help loving husband polish off the rest of the cobbler!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Walter Was Worried

Walter Was Worried, Laura Vaccaro Seeger.
Part story, part alphabet search, Walter Was Worried is fun to read over and over and over. Look at poor Walter on the book cover. Doesn't he look worried? Now look more closely...can you find the word "worried" in Walter's face? The letter "D" doubles as a mouth, each eyebrow is a tiny "r." If you scroll down the blog a bit, there's a picture of six-year-old gent reading the page that says "Henry was hopeful." (Or follow this link, here.) Not only have I read this book almost every night at story time, the fine young gents take Walter Was Worried off the shelf during quiet time, and they've even enjoyed looking at it while curled up together in the big chair. What a delight to hear, "Ahaha! I found it! I found the 'H'!" One of the most clever and fun books we've read together this summer.

More Caterpillars

On a visit to the river Friday, my most bug-crazy gent found some caterpillars. "Can we take them home? Can we take them home?" he begged, jumping up and down. So I pulled some leaves off the plant, stuck them in a water bottle with two caterpillars, and we brought them home.

After much searching of the bug guides, I came up empty-handed. (Or should it be empty-minded? Nah, let's not go there. I couldn't find out what kind of caterpillars they might be, at any rate.) Here's where my farm-girl background helped. When I was a kid, our 4-H club went on tansy pulls. Tansy ragwort is a noxious poisonous weed, and our job for an entire weekend was to search it out and pull it out of the ground. Our club filled a dump truck with the stuff one weekend. So I knew I'd seen these kinds of caterpillars before, and more importantly, I knew that the plant on which we found them was tansy ragwort. I googled something like "caterpillars eat tansy ragwort" and Voila! Meet the Cinnabar Moth caterpillar.

We thought we'd look at them under the microscope. You can see from the picture how well that went. They're way faster than Painted Lady caterpillars.

So we looked at them the old-fashioned way.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is marvelous. It begins with the story of Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a rich man, raised in isolation at the edge of town with only her mother's company, and eventually forced to marry a much older man. The tale switches to the story of Laila, raised by a loving father and a distant grieving mother, and Laila's relationship with her childhood shadow Tariq. Eventually Mariam and Laila's lives become linked, and the story of the two women, one who has never had a daughter, the other in need of a mother, and the relationship that they build with one another. It's really a story about finding unexpected love and strength, how it helps to heal them and fill the empty spaces in their lives.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a wonderful book, well worth reading. Mariam and Laila stuck with me for a few days after I'd finished A Thousand Splendid Suns, particularly Mariam finding her beauty and worth in the lives of those who loved her. In the end the sacrifice that she makes for her loved ones both redeems and repudiates her own mother's death. And at times I felt that the characters weren't quite as convincing as those in The Kite Runner, Hosseini's previous novel, particularly before their lives are joined. As I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was struck by the accounts of daily life in Afghanistan for the women. Hosseini manages to weave the details of war, destruction, cultures and religion, and abuse into the lives of his heroines very convincingly. I looked up from reading several times to look at my children and feel immensely grateful that we do not know what it's like to live in fear, to starve, to have no rights. Hosseini's gift, both in A Thousand Splendid Suns and in The Kite Runner, lies in making such details a seamless part of the story in such a way that they still stand out and strike the reader.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Do I Look Nice?

Seriously, do I look like a nice person?

"Sure she does," you're thinking to yourself. "She likes like a nice enough gal."

But do I look like super-nice, like the kind of person you must stop in the aisles at Target and tell me all about your life?

This evening I popped out to run two quick errands for my about-to-turn-twelve lovely lady's birthday. No makeup, my hair is just twisted up any old way with my very last cruddy hair elastic that I found in my pocket, face just a tad shiny because it's sticky-humid out. This is what I looked like. I grabbed the camera when I got home. "Do I look extra nice tonight?" I asked loving husband. "Like a good listener? Take my picture, will ya?" So he did.

Between errands, I stopped for a coffee. The girl at the counter told me all about trying to get her work finished quickly so that she could go on a big date with this cute guy she'd met through friends. They're going to a late movie. "Have fun," I said.

I hit Target, birthday list and coupons in hand.

In the underwear section an older lady told me how hard it is for her to find underwear that fits. I found a few different kinds of underwear while I looked for some new underwear for lovely lady (not for her birthday), but the woman had tried those kinds. So I was stumped too. "Good luck," I said.

In the hair aisle, a woman told me how amazed she was that there are so many choices for rubber bands for our hair. "I can't decide. It's been a long time since I bought these and there are so many colors and shapes," she said. "I know what you mean," I said, as I reached for a jumbo pack of plain ol' hair elastics. No fancy colors or rubber no-slip grips for me. I know what she means, which is why I only buy a jumbo card of plain hair elastics now, so I don't have to stand in the hair doodads aisle paralyzed by the number of choices.

In the checkout line, a woman noticed that I was buying diapers. "I don't buy that size yet," she said. A new mommy I'll bet, I thought. Any excuse to talk about her baby. I took the bait, "Oh, you must have a little one," I said. She told me about her five-month-old baby girl and how she could half-roll her way around in circles, all around the room. "Enjoy your little one," I said as I left.

And my favorite, the guy in the toothpaste aisle, after underwear woman and before hair-elastics lady. A fairly nondescript normal-looking fortyish man. As I reached for a toothbrush, he looked up from reading a toothpaste box. "Too many chemicals. We're poisoning ourselves." Did I say, "Oh my, yes," toss my toothbrush in the cart, and run far far away? Nooooooooooooooooooo. I have to ask, "You mean the toothpaste?" I was treated to a little mini-lecture:

Americans are poisoning themselves.

Our country is about to implode anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

I must watch the movie Sicko. (I've been wanting to see it. And he said it was good.)

A woman he knows moved to Canada 35 years ago and thinks America is terrible, and the corollary (somehow), all Canadians are healthier. (Do Canadians not use Crest? Just curious. That's the brand of evil poison toothpaste he was brandishing all the while.)

He does surveys for a living. Usually only educated people listen to him, like people with master's and PhD's. Uneducated people are so rude. (Apparently all of you with mere bachelor's degrees are uneducated. Sorry.)

Did you know that in Oregon there was a mini-recession in 2001 and tons of people drove to the coast to commit suicide? Really. And they're hiding it because they only want people to see the pretty green state.

I should tell ten people about Sicko and make them tell ten people and they should tell ten people. He's in networking and teaches people how to make money, and that's how it works. Apparently if we all tell ten people about the movie Sicko, then George Bush won't be president any more.

I think he wanted to tell me all about how George W. is running this country to hell in a handbasket, but really I'd had enough. I'm not saying that he didn't have some valid points somewhere in there. But it's one thing to have a serious political discussion while you're sitting down over a cup of coffee, discussing one issue at a time, and it's an entirely different ball o' wax when your conversational partner is a stranger waving a tube of Crest and leapfrogging from topic to topic. And I'm not really sure it counts as a conversation when the only words you can get in edgewise are things like, "Oh," and "Yeah, I'd like to see that movie."

When he paused for a breath I thanked him for the movie recommendation, and I meant it. He was a nice enough guy and it wasn't unpleasant talking to him. As I left the tooth products aisle, he reminded me to tell ten people about Sicko.

Why do people do this to me? I'm just going about my business trying to buy toothpaste and underwear. Oh, all right. I can hear you now. They talk to me because I listen. I engage in conversation. To be truthful, the toothpaste guy was kind of interesting, but like I said-- stranger, toothpaste, monologue. Besides, starting about halfway through, he kept glancing at my boobs. It was like talking to a teenage boy back when my boobs were teenaged too. Now my boobs are forty just like the rest of me, and believe me, they're not that interesting.

I really need learn to perfect the noncommittal "Hmm," and get the heck outa Dodge. Or maybe I should walk around looking like this. Now I don't look nice. I look weird. And weird is scary. Folks don't talk to weird scary people.


In case you've been wondering what I look like....a picture of me.

It's always interesting to see oneself through another's eyes, isn't it?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday: Summer Colds

Going to: Swim lessons and gymnastics. Some of us, anyway. I woke up with a nasty summer cold yesterday, and by last night it was clear that a couple of the fine young gents are following in my snuffly achey footsteps. I left the younger gents at home this morning and took their brother to his swim lesson. My sister wasn't able to take her kids to the pool, so on the way I stopped to pick up three fine young cousins and a dozen eggs. Let's just say that I'm glad we've just got colds instead of falling victim to bad pizza. "I was going to go into the bathroom to throw up," said ten-year-old cousin, who apparently threw up down the wall and into the window cracks (poor kid), "But there were too many people in there." Yikes. They all swam happily and returned home, and no one threw up in my car, thank goodness.

Later, six-year-old gent went to his last gymnastics class of the summer. I like taking the kids to the gym, but it's dark and smells like socks and old cheese. I'm glad for the break.

Listening to: Mozart's Magic Fantasy, a Classical Kids CD. We own a few of the CD's in this series, and Mozart's Magic Fantasy is the hands-down favorite, particularly for four-year-old gent. Very loosely based on Mozart's opera, The Magic Flute, the story of Mozart's Magic Fantasy begins when young Sara visits backstage on the set on opening night, looking for her mother, who sings the part of Queen of the Night. Sara suddenly enters a magical story in which her own flute is magical. She meets the dragon (shrunken rather than slain), Papageno the bird man in search of his Papgena, the prince and princess, the evil sorceror Sarastro and, of course, the Queen of the Night. The tale features the major arias composed by Mozart, with child-friendly lyrics to fit the story about Sara and her own magic flute. On a quiet afternoon I pop Mozart's Magic Fantasy into the CD player and put Legos and craft supplies on the table-- instant peace.

Watching: Bill Nye the Science Guy. This time, Ocean Exploration. The Eugene Public Library carries the entire set of Bill Nye educational videos, and my guys are hooked. So am I, because we can watch them for free, they're educational, and when we're not feeling up to par it's nice to pop in a video and veg out for a while. The DVD case says that the movies are for grades 4 and up, but four-year-old gent absorbs quite a bit, and six-year-old gent does pretty well on the quiz at the end of the DVD, so younger children definitely benefit from watching. I can't tell you much about Ocean Exploration because I haven't watched it since the first time we checked it out. It's about exploring the ocean, that's all I remember.

And Dumbo. The younger gents and I are so snorty and snuffly that I made an exception to the 5:00 rule, and we watched a movie in the middle of the day. I love parts of Dumbo: The stork, the parade, the song "Baby Mine," which makes me cry a little, especially this part: "From your head to your toes, You're not much, goodness knows, But you're so precious to me." I am a big sap.

Weeding: The weird little area in the back yard next to the house. I've been trying to decide what to do with it for a while. Maybe a rock garden, something easy to care for.

Reading: Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science books from the library. This is a great science series. We've checked out several books in this series, and we're never disappointed.

Fossils Tell of Long Ago (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science), Aliki.
Aliki is a favorite author-illustrator here at Poohsticks. The pictures are simple and clear, fun for the fine young gents to look at, and the text is also simple and clear. Fossils Tell of Long Ago tells about different fossils and how they are formed. For a great companion to Fossils Tell of Long Ago, try Digging Up Dinosaurs, also by Aliki. As with many books in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, Fossils Tell of Long Ago includes a simple activity related to the subject matter of the book, in this case how to make a fossil-like imprint in clay.

Ducks Don't Get Wet (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science), Augusta Goldin. Illustrated by Helen K. Davie.
Four-year-old gent requests this one over and over. On a recent trip to the park with friends, six-year-old gent explained to them exactly why ducks don't get wet. There's lots more information about ducks, and the illustrations are wonderful. Tomorrow, we plan to try the feather experiment at the end of the book.

How Mountains Are Made (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science), Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.
One nice thing about the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science books is that the title tells you exactly what you'll learn from the book. This book, obviously, is about how different kinds of mountains are made. I learned quite a bit from this book myself. My favorite page is the last one with a map of North America and its major mountain ranges, and information about types of mountains on our continent. Another good solid science book for my science fans.

Decluttering: Nothing. I have a headache.

Eating: Ribs, cheesy mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, green salad. Loving husband is a darn fine cook, and he makes fabulous ribs with to-die-for barbeque sauce. Six-year-old gent must be growing because he ate five ribs, two ears of corn, two helpings of cheesy mashed potatoes, a helping of leftover coleslaw, and green salad.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Saturday Review Book Challenge

Sherry at Semicolon has posted a book challenge:

"It’s called the Saturday Review of Books Reading Challenge, and it’s very simple. Read six of the books that have been linked to reviews at the Saturday Review of Books in the past year. Read the six books by December 31, 2007, review them at your blog, and leave a link to your reviews at the Saturday Review of Books."

Like Sherry, I'm not much of a book challenge joiner. I always think, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice? What fun!" but I never get off my duff to make a list, mostly because the challenges have a time limit. And what if I didn't finish in time? (Gasp!) But I enjoy reading as many of the Saturday reviews as I can, I like the idea of actually reading some of the books I've seen reviewed, and the December 31st deadline works for me. Surely I can read 6 books by the end of 2007. Here's my list, in no particular order. (Not true, the list is in alphabetical order, which is really neither here nor there.)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan.
Reviewed by Kathryn at Suitable for Mixed Company.
I've had this on my to-be-read list for quite a while. Loving husband snatched it up first, then my sister had to return her library copy before she'd finished, and once I got it back I was reading another book. I'd like to read this book before December.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, Jeanne Birdsall.
Reviewed at Wisdom Has Two Parts and by Sherry at Semicolon.
I keep seeing this at the bookstore, intending to pick it up "sometime." It looks like it belongs on the Poohsticks bookshelves, doesn't it? The UPS guy will be delivering The Penderwicks to my door, probably on Wednesday. I'm putting it on my list so that it doesn't disappear in plain sight in the to-be-read pile.

Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O'Hara, written by Elvira Woodruff and illustrated by Adam Rex.
Reviewed by Nina at one of my favorite blogs, Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea.
Nina reviews such interesting and lovely picture books. I often make library requests based on her recommendations, and I've never been disappointed. The gents and I will enjoy reading this together.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson.
Reviewed by HeidiJane at Adventures in Bookland.
I've wanted to read this for quite a while, but I keep putting it off in favor of more flashy read-me-now books. If it's on my list maybe I'll finally read it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini.
Reviewed by Carol at Magistra Mater.
I'd intended to read this anyway, then my mother loaned me her copy. Is it cheating to put it on the list if I'm already reading it? I just started.

Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech.
Reviewed at Framed and Booked.
Another children's lit award winner that I've always wanted to read. We have a copy that I picked up for $2 at a used bookstore, but I've never read it.