Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Gifts, Take 3

Here is our favorite interpretation of Pachelbel's Canon:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Wedding

This Saturday, a friend of 27 years - since 7th grade, we've been buddies! - tied the knot. It was a great wedding, both because we LOVE the bride and groom, and because so many of us have been friends for so many years. Here are some photos -

From winter 08 09

The Bride. A week or so before the wedding, I had a dream about her, looking just like a princess at her wedding; and so she did!

From winter 08 09

The Groom. Did I mention how much we who have known Debbie for so many years LOVE him? He is awesome.

From winter 08 09

Their first dance.

From winter 08 09

And here we all are! This picture is mostly Clockers - our high school mascot was, oddly enough, a clock - and a few spouses.

From winter 08 09

This Clocker was such a good sport - he got stuck being the sailor for "YMCA" and he totally rose to the occasion.

Here are some photos of wedding-goers:

From winter 08 09

From winter 08 09

From winter 08 09

From winter 08 09

From winter 08 09

From winter 08 09

That last one is Ben and I, after a few drinky-poohs...

I think we all realize how incredibly rare it is to have so many lifelong friends. That rarity makes these friendships all the sweeter; it was wonderful to be all together and celebrate the marriage of a Ya-Ya sister.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Gifts, Part Deux

I know that you, like me, wait every year for this one:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Stone Age Techie is in this week's Carnival of Homeschooling!

I chose the post Hidden Depths to submit, not in small part because I love looking at those pictures of 7 year-old Luke summiting the climbing wall...

And because it's good to be reminded of all the amazing things my boy(s) can do.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Gifts, Take 1

Happy solstice from the Stone Age Techie!

What we're doing here over the next couple of weeks is, we're posting stuff that we like. Here's the first installment:


Monday, December 15, 2008

On Writing

Back before we started this whole homeschooling thing, Luke's anxiety about school was largely due to the copious amounts of writing required of him in Kindergarten, First, and Second grade. We would get notes home about how he was unable to work independently, more likely to be staring off into space than getting his jobs done, unable to get to the "fun" stuff because he couldn't concentrate. For us at home, who could not tear Luke away from projects and books he was really interested in even to come and eat dinner, this was mind-boggling; how could he possibly be unable to focus?

The answer, it turned out, was two-fold. First, he concentrates wonderfully, on stuff he's interested in. Two, he is emphatically not interested in writing.

Our first months of homeschooling passed, with parents making no demands upon his time, and Luke reading anything he could get his hands on, asking questions, exploring, playing, conversing. So long as he didn't have to write, he was happy - but I worried, especially on those rare occasions when Luke would write something and find he'd forgotten how to make, for example, a three. I kept my concerns to myself and gave Luke as much time as needed, mainly because my gut told me to. But sometimes it was hard.

Then, a funny thing happened: he began to write spontaneously. Lists, letters to his favorite Harry Potter characters, an accounting of his allowance money and how it gets spent are all part of Luke's repertoire. Not coincidentally, these are all topics of great interest to him.

Last Friday, I read this great post about teaching writing at my blogosphere-friend Jena's page, Yarns of the Heart. Jena is more towards the graduation end of homeschooling, with one in college and two younger teens, so reading about how she handled 'school' when they were small has been wonderful, and very reassuring.

Jena writes, "Here are some specifics for today's student:

1. Let them read.

2. Let them think and express opinions about what they read.

3. Respect their opinions and insights so they will feel the freedom to talk honestly with you.

4. Share your own insights and wonder at a writer's ability to communicate.

5. Don't kill the fun of writing by pointing out spelling or grammar mistakes all the time."

Since reading this post, I have stopped worrying; this list is, quite literally, how Luke spends his days.

Already, he's a capable, intelligent boy. Our hope is that he will grow up to use writing as a communication tool, a written extension of his voice.

Personally, I don't think he will be able to help it; communication, just like Harry Potter or his allowance, is of great interest to him.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Here are a few fun things to do with homeschoolers when you're sick -

Watch The Princess Bride, possibly the best movie ever made.

Send your 8 year-old to (and then after you kick him off the computer, get hooked on it yourself).

Put the 4 year-old in front of Sesame Street, then pull out all his knight stuff and let him roar his way around the house. Think to yourself, "at least it's happy noise..."

Pull out the play dough. Because you can't talk, which if you are like me creates an intense no-speech vacuum, marvel at the interesting, funny, intelligent things your children say.

Realize how glad you are that you have these little beings to keep you company.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


You may have heard that we're in a recession?

I have been reminded many times over these panicky recent months of a book passage I heard read out over the summer, about a young university professor who cannot make ends meet on her crummy adjunct salary. She'd repeat to herself again and again, as she ate her one solid meal a day or walked miles because she was unable to afford a car or subway fare:

"This is not the face of poverty. I am not the face of poverty."

As the economy has fallen further and further into the tank, and friends and family have barely avoided the pink slip - or not - I think it's safe to say that we are worrying more and more about what the new year will bring.

Which reminds of a book that I enjoyed years ago, Sammy's Hill, by Kristin Gore, about a Capitol Hill staffer. My favorite thing about Samantha, the heroine, had very little to do with the flow of the story, but made her very real to me - it was what Samantha did when she was worried about something.

If she woke up one morning worrying about what it might be like to have an arm amputated, or to be struck blind, she didn't let it bother her. Instead, she tried to find out what it might be like to live like that, if the worst happened. She bound her arm, or covered her eyes and, once she'd determined that she could get by just fine, she didn't have to worry anymore.

As a person who has, shall we say, a slight penchant for worrying, I love that this character embraces her fears, freely admits to them - and then figures out what she can do about them.

Now that fretting about the economy has become a national pastime, I've decided to name my fear and, in the Samantha spirit, see what I can do about it. So, here goes:

I'm worried that we may find ourselves in a big ol' depression.

What I'm going to do about it is, rehearse - practice using limited funds for food, clothing, and shelter. Probably, this will mean more bean suppers, less cash laid down for frivolous stuff, thinking hard about whether or not we really need that new... whatever.

I have a good feeling about this, oddly enough. The upcoming holidays will be no less bright - just more homemade. We put up so much this fall that food in the short term (next several months) is all set; in my new rehearsal mindset, what we have will simply have to do. The CSA is paid for, so we'll have veggies this summer; Ben and I are hellbent on expanding our own edible garden and getting a few hens this spring.

I hope that we will find that practicing being cash-poor will result in enriching us further, that we can be just as happy or perhaps even happier than we are now.

I hope that we will discover that yes, we have the will and the way to get by on less.

I hope that we'll truly be able to say, "This is not the face of poverty. We are not the face of poverty."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend Pursuits

I patched pants:

From winter 08 09

Luke set the dinosaurs up all over the living room:

From winter 08 09

And Owen did really cool things with play dough:

From winter 08 09

I still haven't figured out how exactly he did that with the play dough.

But I know this: it is fun to have kids who can figure out how to play with limited adult intervention and no, or at least few, injuries to people. Or furniture.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Harry Potter

One thing I notice about the way Luke learns and plays is that he cycles through 3 or 4 passions constantly, weaving Pokemon, Star Wars, Harry Potter and the occasional new thing (dinosaurs, perhaps, or Bakugan) throughout his week, or day, or hour.

So when he dropped Harry Potter a few months ago, I didn't think much of it - until Thanksgiving, when we were visiting friends with the familiar rainbow of Rowling's series on their bookshelf. I wondered, why hasn't Luke gone back to HP in so long?

The answer, Ben and I decided later that day, was because we've always insisted on reading these to him, so that he gets the "most out of them." I felt (and it really has been pretty much me, I think) that left on his own he'd miss important points, or skip to the ending, or otherwise mess with these wonderful, perfect books.

But, I realized this weekend, what is the point of wonderful, perfect books that never get read?

So, we told Luke on Sunday that he could read them himself if he wanted - and he finished The Half-Blood Prince by Wednesday. (Well, he finished about the last 300 pages, we'd already read the first half with him over the summer. But still. 300 pages!)

And then, he and I took turns reading to each other from "Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?," an analysis of the goings-on in the first 6 books with predictions about what might happen in book 7 - some of which were right on! - before he picked up book 7 himself...

... and then the new Bakugan movie came in at the library. So, he's off Harry Potter for a while, but I think he'll be back soon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I'm so excited to share an article of mine recently put up at Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts - it's about homeschooling and socialization.

Here are some pics of my guys, experiencing "socialization":

From The Stone Age Techie

From The Stone Age Techie

From The Stone Age Techie

From The Stone Age Techie

From The Stone Age Techie

From The Stone Age Techie

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beautiful Sky

Going around closing the curtains tonight, I was greeted by this in the southwest:

From winter 08 09

I don't know what it is about the moon, but I always love to see it. And tonight, joined by Venus and Jupiter, it was extra-special.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Dear Lena and Kelsey,

I want to thank you both for getting me through a recent rough night during which, while Ben was away (and had been gone for 5 long days, even during the mice incident) I opted to watch a documentary about faces which scared the absolute crap out of me. I figured I'd be safe with something hosted by John Cleese but I should have remembered that it doesn't take much to freak me out.

If I'd had my druthers, Lena, I would rather that my first conversation with you, my youngest brother's beloved, be about something pleasant instead of a late-night panicky phone call because I am afraid the murderous mayhem that happened to the poor woman in the documentary might happen to me. Yes, the documentary hosted by John Cleese - why didn't I just watch A Fish Called Wanda?.. I don't know.

Anyway, after your admirable reassurance helped calm me down - thank you! - I spent the next 2-1/2 hours on the phone with my brother. I don't know what sort of Saturday night plans you guys had but they most likely didn't include your Sugar Drawers talking the night away to his freaked-out sis. I want to thank you for sharing him with me, though, because a) it really helped, and b) it was a damn good conversation. We ranged from drunken beer stories to When Harry Met Sally to The Grapes of Wrath, and I got off the phone feeling cared-for and protected. As you know, Dave is one awesome brother.

(And, as I hope you'll soon find firsthand, we have a great family that includes our other awesome brother, his Main Squeeze, and their boys, and our folks, and my Honey Buns and our kids... I am a lucky woman.)

So, after Dave talked me down off the ledge, I went to bed - which is where you come in Kels! Fate smiled upon me that day a few weeks ago when you loaned me the book occupying the top shelf of your newly-14-year-old heart, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Kelsey, I LOVE this book and I can totally see why you'd refer to it as your 'bible.' If I was a teenager now, it would be my bible too! You know a book is good when, almost from the first line, you're wishing you hadn't read it yet so that you could experience the fun of reading it for the first time again. Well, that's how Nick and Norah is - as you already know.

But here's the thing, while I was reading I was also thinking about how very grateful I am that you're a part of my life. Without your mom, and the other Ya-Ya sisterhood girls that I had the extreme good fortune to be 14 with, I would not be the happy, strong, lucky woman I am today.

Family and friends, friends and family: you all have bled into each other to form the wonderful rainbow of my life.

And that's something to be thankful for.

Friday, November 21, 2008


All day, I've had this line from the classic SNL skit "Shwetty Balls" in my head:

Margaret-Jo, co-host of the faux-NPR show The Delicious Dish:"Terri, what goodies will you leave out for Santa this year?"

Terri: "I can't leave food out due to my.. excessive rat problem..."

It's about the only thing that's had me smiling since I pulled a sleeve of saltine crackers out this morning and found that it had been nibbled. By, if not rats, mice, and so I've spent the whole day cleaning out cabinets, vacuuming under the stove, putting everything into hard plastic containers, and figuring out how to humanely get the invaders the heck out of the house.


To make me feel better, I found a video of cute mice:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When Dinosaurs Ruled... Our Home

The signs are everywhere: the dino box, open in the living room, dinosaurs strewn all over the house. The dinosaur books, dozens of them, taking up so much library shelf space that they had to be given their own shelf.

Not that they're ever on the shelf - mostly, they are currently being read, or have been left open to the page at which they were last read, on the couch.

They are piled on each other, usually with a kid or two nested into the space next to the pile.

Dinosaurs have provided a window into morality and perspective for 4 year-old Owen, trying to wrap his mind around the idea that velociraptors and other meat-eaters aren't necessarily evil, just really quick predators. He shouts at them when he sees pictures of carnivores catching herbivores, or stealing eggs, or hunting birds... he will ask questions such as "Mama, why is that dino eating a bird? He should stop that! Velociraptor, don't do that!" I won't get into the tongue-lashing I got when I suggested that we, too eat birds, but I think Owen became a vegetarian today.

Luke is now a time traveler, and brings back about 10 dinos' DNA each morning (it's his watch, you see, that makes this possible); then, Owen spends the rest of the time before lunch turning into those dinosaurs, curling up and reading to his "dino baby." Or insisting that his T-rex have a chat with Black Bear, a favorite stuffed bear with a French accent - don't ask me, I just live here.

Anyone interested in dino artwork, may I recommend How to Draw Dinosaurs, an Usborne Activity book which we like because of the free-flowing and visually unique images that can be made by even little ones. Our other favorite is Paper Dinosaurs, a book of origami dinos that we had the great luck of finding at the library.

When Luke wants to resarch dinosaur books, he's been going to Better World Books, an organization whose mission is to promote literacy worldwide. They accept donations of used books and then sell them, as well as new books, free of charge in the US. Luke will go the Better World website and write down names and authors of books he wants to own, and usually will shout out loud exclamations like "Mom! This book's only $3.98!" Yes, for anyone who didn't see the significance, Luke actually writes this information down; a breakthrough for a boy who could not be cajoled into writing nearly anything 6 months ago.

Dinosaurs have been good to us in many ways: the boys desire endless facts about them, create dinosaur scenes in pictures and origami, want to hear and read dino stories, incorporate them into their fantasy play, and consider the ethics of omnivorism.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Finally, after three years, I have a relatively permanent sewing spot! I didn't realize how much I'd missed quilting until I could finally get back into it. I've unpacked my fabrics, and sorting through them has brought back memories of favorite past quilts. In the 7 or so years that I've been quilting, I have had some fun! Here are some of my favorites:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

Baby quilts and wall hangings were among the first ones I made because they're fun and quick.

From Fall Blog

This quilted bag, made for a friend around the beginning of the "quilted bag" craze, made me feel so proud - I created something that someone actually wanted to carry around!

From Fall Blog

When Luke got his big boy bed (gosh, that seems such a long time ago now), he needed a quilt, which made me brave enough to venture into the world of bed-sized quilts. Below is the bed quilt I made for my parents' fifth-wheel home away from home; now that I have my sewing stuff all set up, I cannot wait to finish the bed quilt I started in fall 2007 for Ben and I.

From Fall Blog

And here's my most recent quilt, made for friends who just had a baby girl.

From Fall Blog

It feels great to quilt again!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Return to the Time of the Dinosaurs

From Fall Blog

When Luke was about 4, he fell hard for dinosaurs; then he dropped them like a hot potato 2 years later.

But the dinosaurs have returned with a vengeance in the last week or so. The catalyst seems to have been when I pulled out the giant box o' dinos from the basement, mostly, I thought, for Owen's amusement.

From Fall Blog

Suddenly, Luke is flying around like Quetzalcoatlus, using his watch to take him back in time so that he can "research" various dinosaurs, lamenting the lack of dinosaur books in our house for older kids, watching the entire Walking with Dinosaurs series - thank you, Netflix! - spouting facts gleaned from the gazillion dino books we do have (some of which are quite advanced), begging to go on a field trip to a science museum to check out their dinos...

I have managed to squeeze in a little math and writing into this new obsession:

From Fall Blog

I'm the tip of the diplodocus' tail, and my guys are at the tip of its' nose, 82 feet away - or, if you're on a football field, 30 yards minus 8 feet away!

Here are some museum photos, from our visit today:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

The museum of science in Boston is good for more than dinos, though, and we found lots of other cool stuff - Luke, up top, is stopping the spinning discs by spinning his own the other way. Owen, below, is learning how sound vibrations can make a pattern. Well, sort of...

From Fall Blog

Here's the skyline as seen from the museum:

From Fall Blog

I'm glad to be back in the world of dinosaurs; if the fad continues, I'll post some of our more educational activities and resources.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Late Fall Amusements

With a turn of bad weather upon us recently, we have been more indoor creatures more than outdoor ones. We've found several ways to keep busy, luckily.

First of all, I've got a place to quilt again! After so many non-sewing months, I can finally stretch a part of my imagination that I'd nearly forgotten about. Also, for the first time since we moved into this house 3 years ago, my fabric is out of boxes and set up so I can find what I need to make stuff... and so can my guys:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

In case you were wondering, Owen is making a blanket for Darth Vader. Because you just never know when an evil Sith lord might need a cozy blanket, do you?

At the world's best thrift shop, I found one of those paint-flinging-spinny-whizzy-things for 75 cents! Only instead of paint we've used markers (saving paint for a day when poor Ben's not home to see the disaster until we have had a chance to clean it up). Luke and Owen love this thing:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

It makes really cool pictures, no?

I've saved my own current obsession for last: The Twilight books. I borrowed the first one from my sister-in-law, waited for a whole month for the second from the library (torture, extreme torture), and borrowed the third and fourth from a 13 year-old friend.

Because the thing about this series is, it appeals to girls young and... well, not so young, I guess. They are so well-written, and funny, and poignant; they make me remember what it was like to be in love for the first time.

I cannot stop reading these books, and even when I do I still end up in them - while teaching an aerobics class this morning, I told the ladies that I was there physically, but otherwise still in the little town of Forks, WA, with the vampires and werewolves.

And I got a good laugh when I realized that a high percentage of them were right there with me!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Holiday Appeal

This post is about the way my family - my extended family - will exchange gifts this year; nobody has any money, which got me thinking. (Actually, it got Ben thinking first... I admit to stealing his idea!)

If we don't have any money, we who can pay the mortgage or the rent, who can afford groceries, clothes, and the odd treat or meal out, what must it be like to really not have any money?

Once I put myself in the shoes of those who choose, every day, among which bills to pay, or between food and heating oil, or between a shelter and the street, I must say it made my holiday wish list look pretty sad. Hmmm, which should I ask for, a subscription to Home Education Magazine or a mandoline?... Tough choice, no?

So, instead of buying each other wish-list stuff, the adults in my extended family will contribute $25 each to a to-be-determined charity. That will make for a sizable donation which can then be used to help families, or homeless veterans, or low-income women who want to become entrepreneurs, or whichever charity is chosen.

If you want to help us decide where to contribute, you can - by voting in the poll at right.

But I hope you'll do more.

I hope that you'll read this and then convince your family to do something similar; each individual person need only contribute a small amount in order to have it count big in your extended family.

Or group of close buddies.

Or friends at your workplace.

Or members of your church.

"You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is it a Bird?... A Plane?... No, It's....

... SuperBarack!

We keep watching this, and watching, and watching.

And thinking that this is a story with a fantastic ending:

"And so it came to pass that on Nov. 4, 2008, shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, the American Civil War ended, as a black man — Barack Hussein Obama — won enough electoral votes to become president of the United States." - Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times.

On second thought, a story with a fantastic beginning:

"I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." - President-Elect Barack Obama, November 4, 2008

We're ready to get to work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote First, Ask Questions Later

The first time I ever heard of Tim Robbins, in 1992, he was playing a Pennsylvania conservative Senatorial candidate in the fantastic mockumentary, Bob Roberts.

The movie bowled me over; I think of it often while thinking about politics - and who's thinking about anything else right now?

The preview above, while funny and engaging, does not do the movie justice.

But it does end with the interesting tag line, "vote first, ask questions later" - perfectly expressing the whole point of the movie.

And to find out more, you'll have to watch it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

We made a friend to watch over our house (and enforce the take-only-two-pieces-of-candy-from-this-bowl-rule) while we're out trick-or-treating:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

Owen is very taken with our scarecrow, and has enjoyed much conversation with him today.

Here's some food for thought (ha, ha) about the whole poisoned candy phenomenon at Free Range Kids.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Still Letterboxing after All These... Months

We've been letterboxing for about a year now, and it's still as wonderful and exciting to follow the clues and find the hidden stamp out somewhere in the wide world as it ever was.

Here are some photos from a recent trip:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

Letterboxing beats just going for a walk - at least, with our two boys - because it gives us a reason to be out in the woods. Instead of whining "when are we going to be done?"... Luke is up front, reading the clues, finding the landmarks, really into being part of a team.

Plus, we all tend to notice our surroundings a bit more with letterboxing; on our weekend excursion, we walked on a lovely old railway bed that runs parallel to a road we've been on dozens of times, never realizing this piece of history - complete with "sheep tunnels" for driving animals safely under the railway - was just into the woods.

From Fall Blog

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sun Catcher

We went on a fall trip with Grandma and Grandpa this weekend, meaning I went cold turkey - completely! - on my computer usage. I was kind of dreading not being plugged in for 4 whole days, but actually it was a nice break.

And now I'm back, but with a bit more perspective on the Internet. Meaning, I don't stay up until 1AM on the computer, get 5 hours' sleep, then spend the next day griping at my children and husband about every little thing... now, that only happens every other night.

We found a roll of contact paper a few weeks ago, and oh my has it been fun! We've made an Elect Obama sign, a Giant Die, and most recently:

From Fall Blog

Yes, a suncatcher. Possibly the easiest way to bring nature into your home; just go choose some fall-y type leaves, flowers, seedheads, etc., place them onto the sticky side of some clear contact paper, and then cover with the sticky side of another piece of clear contact paper. We tried sealing the yarn hanger into the contact paper, but it slid out, so we got out the stapler and used that instead.

And now, it really feels like fall - my favorite season. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Can't Add Anything To This...

...So I'm just going to go straight to video.

Thanks to Jed Lewison for this incredible montage!

Monday, October 20, 2008

One Year In

It was November of last year that Luke left school, because the academic pressures of 2nd grade made him so stressed and sick.

Now that he learns in ways that are fun and interesting to him, Luke happily writes, uses mathematics skills, and reads voraciously. In fact, his writing has improved even though he doesn't spend nearly the same amount of time doing it as when he attended school. The skills he employs now are a means to an end, instead of being the activity's focus - as it was in school.

Here is a case in point. Last week, Luke recieved a watch as a gift, spent half an hour learning to use it (reading the pages of small print to find out how to set the alarm, use the stopwatch feature, change the time, etc.). Now, he uses it to remind him what time dinner is, when he can have screen time, even when to pick up the veggies at our CSA.

But when he was given the watch, the early childhood teacher in me saw, not so much the watch, but the plastic cube it came in; "hey, we could make that into a die," I thought - and today, that's just what we did.

From Fall Blog

I started the project, but Luke took it over, deciding how the die would look and making it so - it ended up with dots just like a regular die, but each side is a different color. He even helped come up with a non-competitive game we could play with the die, that would keep young Owen's interest. We each took turns rolling the die for 6 rounds, at the end of which we figured out who had rolled the most of which color; that way, we could all "win" a color without competing with the other players.

My masterstroke, though, was sitting away from the score card - Luke sat down near the card and happily kept track of all our rolls. Even better than the fine-motor work this entailed, he kept noticing patterns in our rolling, and made some interesting connections for himself that he may not have noticed were he not keeping score - "Hey Mom, that's the first red you've rolled."

So, one year in, we've got a boy who is learning the skills in order to learn something else, and not just for the sake of learning the skill.

For Luke, it's made all the difference.