Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I Will Not be Posting Until Next Week

A half-bushel each of apples, to be turned into applesauce, and tomato seconds - the sauce is already sizzling!


8 quarts of peaches (drying and jam),


4 quarts of onions (sauce, baby, sauce!),


3 large eggplant to cook and freeze for wintertime eats in our new favorite, spaghetti pie, and finally...


ANOTHER summer cold!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Favorite Joke

This week, the panelists on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me were asked to tell what Michael Phelps will do now that he's had such a successful Olympics.



Here's the response that had me snorting my drink through my nose:



"After the Olympics, Michael Phelps will be returning to his old job... as Mayor of Atlantis!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Day at the Beach





Sand.





Water.





Nature.



Need I say more?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy

Maybe it's because we spent this weekend hanging around the house, playing with friends, picking blackberries, getting odd jobs finished, eating just-picked fruits and veggies and then going out for ice cream, going to a birthday party with a bouncy house and a cotton-candy machine.



Maybe it was watching a 38 year-old woman cruise to a gold medal in the women's Olympic marathon, and then a 41 year-old woman win the silver in gymnastics. Or, maybe it was just that I was so ready to hate NBC's coverage and found I couldn't, because it's turned out to be pretty good, with lots of live events and reporting on events that countries other than the USA won (as a former Canadian, I've always complained about how US-centric the Olympics' coverage is here.)



Or, maybe it's the rush I get as I put up another pint of jam, or salsa, or tomato sauce from the produce that's everywhere right now.





The wonderful, summery, pleasantness of it all this weekend was overwhelming; I felt so happy that I thought I might cry.

Friday, August 15, 2008

All Harry, All the Time

Since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out last summer, I've read and re-read it 3 or 4 times. Of course, you can't just read #7 if you want to do it right. You also have to read #6; for good measure I've re-read #5 once or twice too.



But it's not just me in our family with the illness Pottermania - this time last year, Luke and I had finished #4 and had started #5. And, Ben was on #3, trying to catch up to Luke so that he could read this incredible series to him, instead of it always having to be me.



Our family obsession got so bad that, at one point, when I visited the house of acquaintances and saw that they own two copies of each book, I briefly considered doing the same thing at our house! It seemed so sensible...



I've just finished #'s 6 and 7 again, and find myself in awe of Rowling's ability to make all the pieces fit together over the course of 7 books. Also, I wished (as I do every time) that I hadn't just read it so I could re-read it.



In our home, we have: one copy of the whole series, Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spell book I made for Luke, a homemade Gryffindor cloak, and so many wands I've lost track of them. Think we're a little obsessed?



But here is our new favorite Harry Potter thing, which we watch at least several times a week:





This is the only Harry Potter Puppet Pals that's suitable for children; also, I think it's by far and away the best one. We find ourselves singing all the parts of this silly song of theirs in a sort of round, so it can be considered to further the musical education of our young children. Owen, just 4, can join in now, a skill I find so impressive! But mostly we just love it for its' wonderful silliness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Non-Theistic Spiritualism...

is the 'religion' to which I subscribe, and here is how I know:



Tonight, while on my way out, I saw the most incredible rainbow. I smiled goofily at it, and said out loud, "Oh, thank you!" - and then wondered, who am I thanking for this rainbow? I'm still not sure.



Later, while on my way home, I was treated to an amazing moon high on one side of the sky, and the final embers of a dramatic sunset on the other. And these words floated up into my mind: Everything's going to be okay.



I don't believe in God, at least not the same God that so many of my loved ones, friends and family, believe in. And I know I'm not a Pagan, or a Wiccan, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or any other official religion - believe me, I've tried to find one for myself and haven't succeeded. (I think what finally spoiled my chances was reading Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, and its' sequel, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, two books which made it hard not to think that this has all been tried before... but probably that's a post for another day.)



Yet I feel something, some indefinable gratitude, happiness, contentedness with my life, my husband and children, rainbows and sunsets. Maybe 'non-theistic spiritualism' is really equivalent to 'lucky;' that'll have to be good enough for now.



Monday, August 11, 2008

Bikes

It may not sound like a big deal when I say that my two sons went biking over the weekend. But belive me, it is -





This is a first not just for Owen, who's 4, but for 8-year-old Luke as well. He's always been afraid of bikes, probably because the one we got him first was way too big for him, and we made the training wheels wobbly, I guess so that he'd get used to that feeling. How stupid were we?



About 2 weeks ago, Owen got on his first bike and since this exciting event he wants to ride all the time. Owen's success (on a properly sized bike, with non-wobbly training wheels) spurred Luke to try again, once we'd made his bike stable on the training wheels.



It's such a good feeling to see them on bikes! Luke realizes how fast he can get places, and every day needs less and less help starting from a dead stop. He watches how Owen rocks his bike back and forth to get started, and then the two of them are off.





This particular trip had an inauspicious beginning, with some rain just as we arrived at the bike trail; however, we persevered.



I had brought my bike, but I decided once we got there that I'd better not ride it. I'm still needed for pushes and helping pick up fallen children. But not riding gave me the chance to snap a few more pictures:







I'm continually amazed at the quiet, beautiful places hidden away in our corner of the world; now that we're mobile, I hope we'll be able to see more.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Busy Building a Net

I don't know if you've heard of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie-Mellon professor diagnosed with terminal cancer last year; he just recently died of what he called his "engineering problem." I've been struck by many things he's said over the last year, but most profoundly by a statement he made on TV, I think on the Diane Sawyer show (I know it's not verbatim, I'm just going to give you the gist - I do that a lot don't I?...):



This man has 3 very young children, and was faced with the task of helping them and their Mom come to grips with his imminent death. When asked about how he handles this, he said, "I know it's sad that I won't get to be around, but it's really them that I feel for... my whole family is perched at the top of a cliff, and I have 2 choices: I can either cry about it, or I can get busy and build them a net."



I like his way of building the net - spending as much time as possible with his family, doing things together that the children will remember. Also, he wrote a book (with a journalist) about life and fatherhood, and referred to the book as a gift for his children when they're older. Isn't that neat?



It got me thinking about the net I'm building for my boys - not because I have terminal cancer (as far as I know), but because someday I won't be around anymore. Two of the best ways I've found: homeschooling and this blog. It's wonderful to be the one to hear their questions, and help them find answers; it's also wonderful to record it here.



I'm really enjoying Pausch's last lecture at Carnegie-Mellon, which he named "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." It's embedded here, so set aside an hour and 15 minutes to watch it; it is not, as I was expecting, a mushy diatribe on living life to the fullest. Instead it's this vibrant, funny man discussing what he learned in the course of attempting to fulfill his childhood dreams ("Being in zero gravity, Playing for the NFL"). You'll be glad you did - yes, Mom, even you! (My mother has a thing about mushy diatribes on living life to the fullest.)





After listening to a show on NPR about Pausch, I asked Luke what he wants to learn about this year. His list is awesome! Here it is:



Bears


Fish


Engines, especially motorcycle and other gas engines


Electrical circuits


Friction


How to stop global warming


How computers work



I think that'll have us going for the coming homeschool year, don't you?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A New Resource for Parents

My friend and editor, Heather Kempskie, and her twin sister Lisa Hanson have a new book out this week, and I think it's going to be a corker. It's called The Busy Siblings Book, the newest in "The Busy..." series. I don't know if you've read any of these, but we have both The Busy Toddlers Book and The Busy Preschoolers Book; I turn to both again and again for fun, spontaneous ideas with my guys. I have no doubt that, when my copy of The Busy Siblings Book arrives next week, I'll do the same!



I'm going to have the pleasure of interviewing Heather in this space in the next few weeks, but today I wanted to highlight their book blog, which I visited last week and was very impressed with.



One page that caught my interest right away was a link to an article by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman. Called 10 Ways to Create Sibling Rivalry, the article has had me thinking ever since I read it. My favorite way to create sibling rivalry is "Buy and play many competitive games where there is one winner and many losers."



When Luke was younger, we played lots of those kind of games, reasoning that he needed to learn early that you don't always win. But now I realize that we would have been better off playing games with Luke where we all worked together to achieve a common goal.



I don't really know how it happened, but since Owen has been able to 'play' games, we've cut down on the comptitive ones, opting far more often to read, or build blocks, play with play dough or throw a ball together. The end result is more of an inclination for the boys to work together, in games and life. It's really nice - and nice to have it validated by Haller and Moorman.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Summer Lull

To put it lightly, I have not been feeling well. Nothing serious, just a summer cold that got out of control, but we are certainly... a bit behind the 8-ball.



Fortunately, the boys have handled it well; it turns out, they are content to watch The Princess Bride every day while I'm sick, too! Here are some other activities that have kept them happy:







Friday, August 1, 2008